Making Progress on Palm Oil

October 27, 2023

The 37th Annual Spooky Zoo, hosted by the Auxiliary Board of Lincoln Park Zoo, took place on Saturday, October 21. New this year, the Auxiliary Board and Development team worked closely with the zoo’s Green Team and the PalmOil Scan app to make sure all donated product distributed at treat stations was made with either no palm oil or only sustainably sourced palm oil.

This effort is part of Lincoln Park Zoo’s commitment to becoming more sustainable, one action at a time. By using PalmOil Scan, an app developed under the aegis of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) and regionally managed by Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, we are adhering to and supporting guidelines created by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). The RSPO has developed a set of criteria that requires companies to adopt more environmentally and socially responsible practices in their palm oil production.

Palm Oil, Wildlife, and Us

Palm oil comes from oil palm trees, which grow in tropical climates—the same climates that support essential rainforest habitat. Historically, tropical forests around the world have been burned and cleared to make way for palm oil plantations. This massive deforestation destroys critical habitat and harms endangered animals, including primates like western lowland gorillas, chimpanzees, golden lion tamarins, and orangutans. The palm oil products we buy have a direct link to the wildlife that are deeply affected by these choices.

If you go to the grocery store and start looking at ingredient lists, you’ll find that palm oil is included in a lot of products we buy every day, from shampoo and toothpaste to pet products and candy bars. In fact, palm oil is the most-consumed vegetable oil on the planet. Some experts say that palm oil can be found in more than half of the products you see on grocery store shelves.

Check out the products in your house—you’ll find that palm oil is found in surprising places under a plethora of names (around 600!), from glyceryl and palm kernel oil to sodium lauryl sulfate and palmitate.

Your organic Costco Kirkland milk, which is labeled “Animal Welfare Certified,” likely has a palm oil derivative in it that fortifies the milk with an important vitamin. Your Seventh Generation multi-surface disinfectant has it because it helps cleaning products foam up more effectively. Pick a product in our bathrooms and we’re almost bound to find some form of palm oil.

But we don’t have to completely avoid products made with palm oil. Palm oil can be grown without damaging rainforests, and there’s an easy way to make sure the products we use are made by companies that are producing palm oil sustainably. And the best part is we can remove the guesswork in figuring out if we’re making the “right” purchases. With the PalmOil Scan app, there is relief in knowing we don’t need to do a lot of our own research to decide what is and isn’t “palm oil-friendly.”

The app provides a trustworthy, quick, and easy way to learn if a product is made with sustainable palm oil. Users can scan the barcode or search the name of a product to find out if it’s rated “No Commitment to sustainable palm oil,” “Poor,” “Good,” or “Excellent,” based on the company’s production standards. For example, Kirkland and Seventh Generation are both members of the RSPO, leading the way in responsible palm oil use.

RSPO-certified palm oil does not contribute to deforestation, requires producers to protect primary and secondary forests, pays workers a decent living wage, does not employ forced or child labor, and peacefully coexists with wildlife.

Take Action With Us: Tap the App

This Spooky Zoo, the Auxiliary Board, Development Events team, Green Team, and all of our event participants helped endangered animals by prioritizing Halloween treats made with sustainable palm oil. You can join us in championing sustainable palm oil that benefits wildlife, people, and the planet by using the PalmOil Scan app while shopping.

The PalmOil Scan app is a great tool to empower you to find sustainable candy this Halloween season.

If you’re looking for an even easier way to do that, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s annual candy guide provides a yearly snapshot of some of the most popular candy brands that are committed to using certified sustainable palm oil.

Access it here.

By evaluating the products we use and opting for sustainable alternatives one product at a time, together we can leverage our daily purchasing decisions to protect endangered wildlife and the rainforests they call home.

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