Will boycotting palm oil save the Orangutans?

If you don’t know what palm oil is, it is an oil extracted from the pulp of the Elaeis Palm Tree (found native in Africa and Southeast Asia). Palm oil is widely used around the world in food and biodiesel because of its low cost and high oil yield. Due to palm oil’s high demand, Indonesian farmers have cleared acres of forests for palm tree plantations, and is the main reason for deforestation in Indonesian rain forests.

Video of an Orangutan fighting off an excavator. Relatable. Isn’t it?

Besides deforestation and loss of natural habitats, the clearing of rain forests also contributes to carbon emissions. But since palm oil can also be used as a biofuel and in turn replace the diesel fuel used at these plantations then that should be fine, right?

According to a 2015 European Commission study, the production of palm oil as biofuel, when factoring in deforestation and peatland drainage, ends up being three times worse than the production of regular old fossil fuel diesel.

That’s why I decided to boycott using all products with palm oil in it and made it clear amongst my peers that palm oil containing products are truly bad for the environment.

But does that really solve anything?


Boycotting palm oil products will not change anything and the Indonesian government has made it exceptionally clear that they will aggressively market palm oil…at least until they are banned in 2030. Given the palm oil demand spike since ‘97, they shouldn’t have that much of a problem.

An infographic showing worldwide consumption of palm oil from 1996-2017

So why is it that I continue to boycott palm oil even though my efforts are futile? Purely out of principle but also health. Palm oil is exceptionally high in saturated fat and for you nutrition buffs out there you should know that saturated fats kick up your LDL cholesterol and triglycerides (bad stuff for your body). So for all of you using palm oil for food, I would recommend looking into extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil. At the very least, the switch will help your health.