December 7, 2009

Save The Pandas

In the grocery store I made an ecologically responsible decision. For some reason peanut butter has been sounding good lately so I grabbed a loaf of bread and checked out the PB on sale. Skippy has a "natural" PB, so I peeked at the ingredients to determine just how "natural" it was. It didn't matter; it uses palm oil.

If palm oil were a fish it would be on the Environmental Defense Fund's "eco-worst" list. The countries that produce palm oil (Malaysia, Indonesia) destroy the natural tropical forests to plant the oil palm, thereby causing several species to become even more endangered, most notably the Sumatran tiger, greater one-horned rhino and orangutan. The demand for this product is also causing global climate change to speed up due to the loss of forests.

So, right there in the bread aisle, I checked every packaged item in my bag for palm oil. Disappointment. I got all excited that Nestle cookie dough was 2 for $4, but the margarine it uses contains palm oil. (FYI: Pillsbury does not use palm oil, but it uses something even more disturbing, chocolate flavored bits.) Dammit, Nestle. Now I can't buy your delicious cookies anymore.

Yesterday, while shopping for an ugly Christmas sweater, I discovered one of those WWF panda t-shirts. They usually go for $30 and $1 goes to the WWF (that is, when you buy it at Nordstrom, not off the WWF website). This one, being in a used clothing store, was just $6 and red with a bunch of pandas on it. So I bought it, and felt good not only about buying a used clothing item but that whoever originally bought it paid the dollar donation. Win win win.

All this brings me to an interesting point. With all the effort to conserve species and habitat these days (from recycling to not buying products with palm oil), pandas do nothing to help their species survive. Seriously. Pandas are carnivorous bears, but they eat pretty much only bamboo, a nutrient deficient weed. They live in frickin' freezing climates and not only don't bother to hibernate or migrate to warmer temperatures, but they can have their young during the coldest months of the year. Oh, and their babies look like something a marsupial would give birth to and then store in a pouch for a few months. They're just not built for survival, yet people are so fascinated by them and floored by their cuteness that they became the symbol of the WWF.

Part of our problem as a modern planet is we got used to things like processed foods and convenience (this will make you cry). I'm going to make a more conscious effort to check my food and make-up purchases for palm oil so the tigers, rhinos and orangutans can live another day. And one day I'll even have the ability to make time and financial contributions to the conservancy charities I believe in.

1 comment:

  1. When I was in Australia I did a lot of research on what third world countries were exporting palm oil and the devestating after effects palm oil production can have on land. Usually palm oil is grown in places like Papua New Guinea and South East Asia, where rainforests are being cut down to make room for the palm oil plants. Unfortunatley these 3rd world countries have a very high demand for palm oil and little incentive to stop production. So good idea, if we can somehow manage to stop the demand, eventually the rainforests will be spared. eventually...