Friday, June 28, 2013

TGIF! Eat Earth Friendly

Thank goodness it's Friday! 

It is the last Earth Friendly Foods Friday of the Be the Change Eco-Challenge.  I wanted to thank everyone who read last week's EFFF blog on Palm Oil.  This is a serious issue that not many are aware of and that needs our action NOW.  If we linger and wait to change what we purchase and eat, these producers will continue on their path of destruction, affecting the rainforest, the inhabitants, and the ecosystem.

You may have even seen the Huffington Post article that came out late last Friday on the pollution that was reaching Singapore from the burning of rainforests in Indonesia to make way for palm plantations.  The fires last week were set illegally by eight companies and caused the worst smog in Singapore's history, reaching a high of 401 on the Pollutant's Standard Index.  Laurel Sutherlin of the Rainforest Action Network stated, "The recent smog is just the most visible part of the serious deforestation and human rights crisis sweeping Indonesia."

Palm oil is now the largest traded vegetable oil commodity in the world and the demand continues to rise, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  

There ARE palm oil companies that are producing sustainably, so I want to make sure you all are aware that there are additional choices.  One of my readers last week had questions about red palm oil that was produced in Ecuador.  After almost returning the product to the store after reading last week's post, I reassured her that the Ecuadorian palm oil is not harming the ecosystem like the palm oil produced in Indonesia and Malaysia.  It is important to note that Ecuador, RIGHT NOW, is not causing harm to the ecosystem.  This is not to assume that greed will take hold and that they won't begin to have unsustainable practices like the companies in Indonesia.

One of the best resources I have found this far is Green Palm, endorsed by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).  Their website has a lot of great resources for finding companies that are producing palm oil sustainably.

What must a palm oil company do to be called sustainable?  "Certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO) and palm kernel oil (CSPKO) is produced by palm oil plantations which have been independently audited and found to comply with the globally agreed environmental standards devised by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). These stringent sustainability criteria relate to social, environmental and economic good practice" (GreenPalm.org)

Here is a great infographic from Green Palm, showing where palm oil is produced, where it is consumed, percentage of sustainable production, etc.

Purchasing sustainable palm oil is one option, but the best course of action is to avoid palm oil all-together.  Gemma Tillack of the Rainforest Action Network has some strong thoughts on boycotting all palm oil and compelling claims against the RSPO (read at her article here).

Make sure you take everything you read with a grain-of-salt.  Read all sides of the story and make your own conclusions.  

I say this because many environmental organizations are known for only seeing one side of the story and can cause social damage from their conservation efforts, especially on indigenous peoples.  BINGOs is what indigenous leaders call the "big international nongovernmental conservation organizations."  Read more about this here.

For the last Earth Friendly Foods Friday I want to reiterate (and slightly restate) my important message from last week.

No one is perfect.  Don't be hard one people who are trying to be conscious about their dietary choices.  

I see so many posts on Facebook with people scolding others on for their choices.  For example, a post by Food Inc. yesterday on grassfed milk.  Rather than saluting this company and the consumers that are spending the extra $1-2 dollars on this milk versus conventional, people are scolding people for drinking milk at all.  These strong words of hate and nonacceptance aren't going to change the milk-drinkers into vegans.  These harsh words just push people away and make them question why they try to change their food habits in the first place.

What we need is gentle persuasion and education.  Reward and commend people for making a step in the right direction, no matter how small it might be.  

Encourage.  Don't discourage.

We can't expect everyone to become a vegan, or expect you to never consume one single product that it is harmful to the environment or harmful socially.  It is nearly impossible (in this day in age & in America) to avoid GMOs 100%, to not slip and consume meat that was raised UN-sustainably, to not consume some chemicals in the food we choose, etc.  

Most us have full time jobs and busy lives, so we can't stay at home and cook everything from scratch so we know exactly what is going into our food.  And we all can't afford to shop at Whole Foods every week to buy the most sustainable products 100% of the time (me included).  

Tell yourself that "this is okay, I will do the best I can with the resources I have."  

But never forget: educating yourself is the best resource you have.  After that, start with small steps in changing your food choices and focus on one or two goals per week (don't try and change too many things at once).  

Also, as general rules of thumb for sustainable eating: try to cook as many meals yourself as possible and avoid processed foods.

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