By Sister Karen Donahue 

Palm oil has emerged as an ideal fat for processed foods because it is cheaper to produce than other fats and oils. But it comes with deep environmental and social justice costs. 

Palm oil trees, which are native to West Africa but now grow throughout the tropical areas of the world, produce oil from both the fruit and the pit to yield multiple crops each year. Large tracts of tropical forests are now being cleared and burned for palm oil plantations, harming indigenous communities and ecosystems. These tropical forests rest on peat bogs; when this carbon-rich organic matter is burned, astronomical amounts of carbon dioxide are released into the atmosphere.  

In addition to serving as a cheap fat for processed foods, palm oil is also a significant component in many toiletries, cosmetics and other personal care products. 

Green tip: 
Install an app on your phone or tablet so you can assess products with palm oil when you go shopping. This is for Apple products, and this for other devices. As you consider your purchases, refer to this list of products certified by the Rainforest Alliance as environmentally and socially sustainable.