Thursday, November 12, 2009

Soap, biofuels, food and the rain forests

Everyone reading this blog, including yours truly, is contributing to the destruction of rain forests in Indonesia -- yes, even if you (like me) buy shade-grown coffee. The culprit now is palm oil and palm kernel oil. Apparently, the demand for palm oil is so high that rain forests are being leveled to make room for palm plantations. How are we all contributing? Because, we buy food, soap, and cosmetics made with palm and palm kernel oil, which is also being used to create biofuels in some parts of the world. I recently came across this disturbing information when researching the benefits of various oils in soap.

Although I love my soap, there is always room for improvement, and I know some oils have various healing properties, which was why I started searching for more information. Among the changes I'll be making with my soap, I'm going to create a new recipe that includes avocado and castor oils, and when my current supply of palm and palm kernel oils run out, I won't be buying more. After reading several articles on the topic, my conscious does not allow me to continue using something that is not being sustainably produced -- especially when I purchase a 50-pound block -- and ultimately I have options. I can use other oils to make my soap.

Learning about palm oil and rain forest destruction has make me realize another important aspect of buying locally as much as possible. If Indonesia were not half a planet away from Illinois, I'd have known about this a long time ago. Illinois does not produce a lot of high-quality oils (corn and soybean oil don't make great soap), but I'm going to look into the possibility of using lard from our pigs, since I know its history. That's not as simple as it sounds, because it would involve rendering the fat, which I've never done before -- however, as you all know, lack of experience has never stopped me from trying anything. I've also decided to start using organic oils when I can find them. So far I've found organic olive, sunflower, and coconut oils, which are three of the most popular oils used in soapmaking. As they say, back to the drawing board!

If you'd like to learn more about palm oil and the rain forests, you can read The guilty secrets of palm oil by a UK newspaper or The cost of the biofuel boom by Pulitzer-winning author Tom Knudson or The Palm Oil Crisis by the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado.

6 comments:

kstrating said...
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kstrating said...
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kstrating said...

Deborah, I'd have to drag out my recipes, as I haven't made soap since we sold our goats & moved to town - :-( , but memory served that I never went the palm oil route. Mainly lard, with additions of other oils for lather, hardness, etc. (coconut oil, olive oil, etc). Did a quick search in trying to jog my memory & ran across this regarding peanut oil: http://www.soap-making-resource.com/soap-for-dry-skin.html Hmmm, might have to get my hands on some milk & get some made for Christmas!

Deborah said...

Thanks so much for posting that link! It looks like an excellent resource!

Twwly said...

I had no idea. I'll definitely stop using palm in my soaps, thank you!

hippygirl said...

Our farmer calls rendered pig fat "Illinois olive oil." :)

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