conscientious consumers

September 30, 2011

family life

We are trying to make the boys conscientious consumers. I grew up with the motto “live simply so that others may simply live”. We are always talking about and demonstrating…

– buying fruit and vegetables that are in season for our area, as it means they have not been transported far and this reduces the carbon footprint;

– turning out lights to reduce consumption of fossil fuels;

– conserving water;

– buying products made locally as much as possible;

– walking to local events rather than driving;

– reducing waste, and recycling.

A few years ago we were watching a documentary series about orangutans. From that series we learnt that the producers of palm oil are tearing down the forest to grow palms. The orangutans can’t eat the palms and they are starving to death. Straight away, we resolved not to consume palm oil.

Photo from

Easier said than done. Palm oil and palm based ingredients are in a lot of products. To my horror, I purchased a packet of biscuits the other day – made in Australia and listed as containing vegetable oil – but I didn’t read the fine print which said that the “vegetable oil” was actually palm oil.

The boys have wrestled with this decision at times, they absolutely love instant noodles and scour the shelves looking for a product which doesn’t contain palm oil. Unfortunately many of these products are made in Asia, and although the packaging may say it contains vegetable oil, you can bet your bottom dollar that it is palm oil. It’s always an interesting conversation when they are weighing up direct (taste) over indirect (survival of a species) consequences. They ask why the palms can’t be grown commercially so the forest and thus the orangutans are not affected, and then comes a conversation about economics, exploitation, and population pressure. How complex can a simple little packet of instant noodles get? Apparently some palm oil is being grown commercially and sustainably in South America, but packaging usually does not communicate this.

Apart from all of the above, palm oil isn’t all that great for us, containing over 50% saturated fat.

Thank goodness, I found a website which has listed products in Australia which do not contain palm oil.

Maybe you have a similar website for the area where you live?

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About hakea

groupworker, parent educator, therapist, mother of three boys.

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12 Comments on “conscientious consumers”

  1. eof737 Says:

    Palm Oil is a popular product on the African continent and in Nigeria where it’s used in a popular soup and no Orangutans have to lose sleep or their lives… Pity the source of the palm oil is not identified on packages as not all are sourced in the area you mentioned… :-(`


    • hakea Says:

      If only we could rely on manufacturers to tell us the truth.

      In this part of the world, much of the palm oil would be sourced from Asia.

      I’m happy to buy the products which are said to be free of palm oil, or even better to make our own biscuits etc. Then we know what’s in them and the boys get to play in the kitchen. Win-win.


  2. cjdwhite Says:

    I’m impressed that your boys are able to stick to their convictions. You are setting a good example for them.


  3. Team Oyeniyi Says:

    Great information. I love the motto too. I will be paying a lot more attention to ingredients from now on. I always read labels, but wasn’t aware of the palm oil situation.


  4. InsideJourneys Says:

    Wow, I had no idea palm oil was vegetable oil! How deceptive.
    Palm oil is used widely in West Africa…didn’t realize it was so high in saturated fats. Thanks for this information, Narelle. I’ve been moving back to coconut oil


    • hakea Says:

      Hi Marcia

      The website I mentioned says that palm oil is also disguised as…

      “cocoa butter equivalent (CBE), cocoa butter substitute (CBS), palm olein and palm stearine. In non-food products like soaps and detergents, the list includes elaeis guineensis, sodium lauryl sulphate, cetyl alcohol, stearic acid, isopropyl and other palmitates, steareth-2, steareth-20 and fatty alcohol sulphates”.

      Even good old peanut butter isn’t safe. The manufacturers separate the peanut oil and replace it with the cheaper palm oil. How slack is that?


  5. Yulia Says:

    Hi Narelle, you told me before about palm oil in my post, and I really try to avoid it, I think I have already avoided it 🙂
    and I agree with your motto, I also love to have a simple life. I always read the details of a product before i buy it, but sometime I miss it.
    Thank you for the six points that you share here.



  6. lifewithgoblins Says:

    First, I LOVE the new look of your blog! Beautiful! Second, thank you for the information. I had no idea about the palm oil. I find it so frustrating how much we harm the earth with everything we do, and then you watch a documentary, and discover information like this! I wish we could find ways to “live” and not destroy so much. I have hope.


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