The Palm Oil Scandal Everyone’s Talking About

Palm oil, the cause of all shame this winter. Who remembers Sustainable Struggles? Back in August I wrote about all the things I was finding difficult about shopping for sustainable fashion. Little did I know that the challenge of sustainability wasn’t entirely limited to this…

The Palm Oil Scandal Everyone’s Talking About

Has anyone seen the Greenpeace palm oil film that Iceland wanted to run as an advert? It’s difficult to avoid such a huge publicity scandal but if you did miss it, here it is.

This advert was banned on the basis of being too controversial and political. Despite this, it’s gone viral and has a really powerful message. I didn’t realise that palm oil was such a huge contributor to environmental damage. Nor did I realise that 50% of food products on shelves in the UK contain it. This is huge!

Palm oil contributes to deforestation and therefore the loss of wildlife, as well as global warming. Recently I have been studying climate change and it’s shocking to learn about what we have done to the earth.

Not Just Plastic

It’s seems as though we are finally leaving plastics behind and recycling more. But what about palm oil?

The problem is that choosing to go palm oil free is easier said than done. Not only is palm oil an ingredient in around 50% of products, but it also has many different names. Brands disguise ‘palm oil,’ with variable names (that don’t even contain the key word, ‘palm’), making it more difficult to spot. I’ve been familiarising myself with these names lately – here is a helpful guide.

Three weeks ago I naively sat in my flat and declared to everyone that I was going palm oil free. What a challenge! It’s definitely not a quick switch.

Sustainable Struggles 2.0

When I food shop, I check the ingredients in everything and am left totally perplexed… It’s impossible to remember all the names for palm oil! Often shops don’t stock a lot of palm-oil-free options and if they do, they are expensive so I have to go without – student budgets don’t go very far.

I have found that a lot of Sainsbury’s own breads and snacks either don’t use palmitate or at least claim to use a sustainably sourced palm oil (better, but not perfect.)

Tis the Season

At this time of year, the palm oil ban is really getting to me! I just want to eat all the chocolate and Christmas goods I can; except most brands use ridiculous amounts of palm oil. I failed to find an advent calendar that was palmate-free and even if so, it would have been made entirely of plastic. I ended up hunting the Sainsbury’s aisles, searching for a palm-oil-free chocolate and could only find Lindtt. Thankfully, it was on offer so I stocked up and did a bit of advent diy!

Palm oil isn’t just found in food. It wiggles it’s way into beauty products, shampoos, soaps, detergents… It’s in these cases, when the names tend to be very confusing(cue – ‘hydrated palm glycerides,’). I used to think that buying cruelty free products was sufficient, but no! I have since switched to buying The Body Shop’s eco-friendly range, or even better, purchasing shampoo and conditioner bars (Zero-waste and package-free).


Essentially, I’m still very new to this palm-oil free life. I am still failing in many areas but I’ve made a positive start. I really challenge you to think about the products that you buy. Yes it might mean giving up a few things, but hopefully brands will start to catch on – look how far we’ve come on the plastics front!

Once again I’m totally confused about it all and just wandering through life trying to do my best!

The world is ours to look after. Let’s take care of it!

Who else gets a little angry every time they see “palmate” written on a label?

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