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Some Updates! for your viewing and informing pleasure

Hi friends! So I know it’s been quite a while between posts, but I just wanted to give a bit of an update on the palm oil front, in terms of both globally and personally!

Cargill has responded to the allegations that they were buying illegally harvested palm oil, by saying that it was not the Australian branch of the company that was involved in the illegal activity.  I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sit well with me at all. “It wasn’t me, it was them who did it!!” Really? You can read more about the parts they have played in this issue here.

I’m yet to hear back from Macro Wholefoods about their corn chips, which is a little disappointing; I don’t know how good they will taste after about three months of sitting in my pantry :/

Personally, I’ve been able to steer clear of all the major palm oil ‘evils’; I was telling someone just yesterday that I hadn’t had an a Tim Tam or Mint Slice Biscuit for almost three months, and it was in that moment that I realized that however trivial it may sound in the grand scheme of world problems, that’s a pretty big deal for me! Yay me!

I also found this in the fridge yesterday.


It really is the small things that make me really happy. My mum bought this rice bran spread, without any prompting from me (to be honest, I didn’t even know this existed. I don’t know what excites me more, the fact that there is a clear ‘no palm oil’ label on the front of this packaging, or the fact that mum made a conscious decision to buy a palm oil free product on her own accord! Either way, it’s a big win in my book, and it tastes pretty damn good on English muffins alongside my organic peanut butter!

And finally, I am sad to say that I will be ceasing updating this blog as of the 11th of October; my boyfriend and I are heading to Europe for a couple of months, and I want to be away from my computer as much as possible! I will keep all the information and past posts available, and if you would like to stay updated you can always follow me on twitter at @homey_activist. I will be blogging about these issues when I come back, but under a new project umbrella that I will be launching in the new year! I really really excited about this, it’s inspired partly by most on on Lily’s fabulous artworks! But more on that later, I’m still gathering ideas and mapping out layouts and things! If you would like to stay updated with that, you can follow me on twitter! *hint hint* ni It’s ok, I promise I won’t ask again 🙂

I’ll do a big farewell post closer to October, but I will say a quick thankyou I everyone who has read, followed and commented on this blog! Interacting with all of you like minded environmentally conscious souls has been wonderful, and strengthened my resolve against the issue of palm oil!

Ok I think that’s all! Have a wonderful day!


Thin Green Line: Rockers Raffle

Do you love music? Are you the kind of person who still buys CD’s, collects back catalogues, concert ticket stubs, and all the information you can get your hands on about your favourite bands? Or is that just me?

Well, if this pretty much sums you up, you can now use your love of music to do good, instead of using it to cultivate dark, obscure, and potentially violent thoughts (cos that’s what happens when your listen to the rock and roll,  impressionable youth of today), and help save some of the most remarkable human beings on the planet.

The Thin Green Line is a fabulous charity organisation that champions the Park Rangers of various reserves and national parks across the globe, providing support for them and their families as they carry out the highly dangerous and sometimes fatal yet necessary task of protecting the wildlife that reside in their parks from poaching, illegal deforestation and the like (I am assuming this is something you also care about if you’re interested in the impacts of palm oil consumption on the environment.)

Their mission statement:

“To provide vital support to Park Rangers on the frontline of conservation, predominantly in developing nations and conflict zones. Protecting the protectors of the world’s wild places – The Park Rangers – along with their families and the communities in which they work, is a critical conservation concern.”

There are many ways you can support The Thin Green Line, but I’ve chosen the Rocker’s Raffle. This is backed by some of my all time favourite artists, including Gotye, (who I assume you would have heard of if you have even been in the vicinity of a popular radio station in the last year), and they have quite the selection of prizes up for grabs.

First Prize is a Signed One off Guitar,painted by Indigenous artist Colin Wright, and signed by Gotye, Led Zepplins John Paul Jones, Crosby Stills And Nash, Wolfmother, Earth Wind & Fire,Trombone Shorty, Sublime and Rome,John Butler and many more!

Dude!!!Want!!! I’d be happy to just donate to be honest, but the promise of such a unique and valuable prize is too great for me to ignore!

Tickets are $2o each, or if you want to get a little more involved, you can buy a pack of ten tickets to sell to friends, family, people in your Chem tutes or just lovely generous strangers.

The Raffle will drawn on the 7th of September, with all proceeds going to the Rangers! Huzzah!
To learn more or to donate you can visit there website, or head to the Rockers Raffle Page. Although maybe you should just donate, cos if you buy a ticket then I’m less likely to win that beautiful guitar!*

*I’m just joking, please enter the raffle!

Won’t Someone Please Give Us The Choice? Or At Least A Straight Answer

As much as I would like to carry on the positive theme of the previous post, I have some rather troubling news.

You may have head last week that Cargill, a major palm oil company and supplier to many large food manufacturers, admitted to purchasing a shipment of palm oil from Indonesian company PT Best in 2011.

What’s that got to do with the price of margarine, I hear you ask? Well, not too much, but it does have a large impact on the palm oil status of all the companies they supply.

Let’s break it down; PT Best Agro International Group owns a large number of palm oil plantations throughout Indonesia, and as a result has been involved in illegally clearing thousands of hectares of orangutan habitat. They were investigated extensively by the Environmental Investigation Agency, which found them to be violating many of Indonesia’s laws, by clearing and developing a 23,000 hectare concession of rainforest into a palm oil plantation.
Last week, Cargill admitted to buying at least one shipment of Palm Oil from this very company last year, and this has stirred up further speculation that this is not the only time they have purchased from PT Best, and it is possible they still do to this day!
They’ve also been accused of having connections within their palm oil supply chain to the destruction of the Tripa rainforest! Talk about Emperor Palatine levels of nastiness!

Cargill has previously commited to implementing ‘a 100% sustainable supply chain’ for the palm oil it purchases, yet this is clearly not being enforced, and is quite frankly the part of this fiasco that makes me particularly angry. When questioned about it’s connections to PT Best in an interview with Reuters UK, they staed that they will stop buying from the company if any ‘illegality is proven’.

Um, hello? If a 23 year old retail worker can have access to information and evidence of their ‘illegality’, surely they, a customer of the offending firm should be aware of this?

Regardless of whether this is a deliberate act of deception or a just ‘turn a blind eye’ attitude towards PT Best, the actions of Cargill are not only dragging their reputation as a company committed to environmental sustainability through the mud, but their also dragging all the companies they supply to along with it, companies like Unilever, who are the word’s largest palm oil buyer, and who have also committed to switching to 100% Certified Sustainable Palm Oil.
The fact that companies are relying on the Round Table of Sustainable Palm Oil status, which we have already determined does not guarantee that they are doing the right thing, of other companies in their supply chain is quite frankly disturbing.

This incident with Cargill has made me increasingly uneasy about the whole palm oil industry, sustainable no; there are no easy answers, no black and white good or bad, and honestly I’m getting quite tired of all the smoke and mirrors. If anything, this is a perfect example of their needs to be not only a labelling system for all products that contain palm oil, but a proper set of checks and balances that are properly enforced across all members of the palm oil supply chain. Of course I understand that it’s not going to be so easy, but surely it would be easy enough to at least list palm oil as a separate ingredient on packaged foods?

I want the goddamn choice, and until it becomes properly available, it looks like I’m going to have to try to avoid as many foods that contain ‘vegetable oil’ as I can.


Rainforest Action Network: Cargill Admits Buying Palm Oil from Illegally Cleared Orangutan Habitat, Chelsea Matthews

Environmental Investagtion Agency: Testing the Law

Reuters UK: Environment or profit: palm oil firm tests Indonesia


Art Attack: Lily Perthuis

So this is a little bit of a different post, but I wanted to write a little bit about some of the more unconventional ways that people are raising awareness for our world’s most endangered species. The consequences of food production does not resonate with everyone, especially with today’s ‘Milk and Bread comes from the Supermarket’ mentality, and lecturing someone on how they should live seldom sticks. Yet there are other, more popular mediums such as music, film and art, that can be used to pass a message on to people who are not always so environmentally inclined (not to mention being extremely easy on the eye for those of us who are!)

I am of the belief that if you want to change the world for the better, the best way to do it is to use whatever talents you have at your disposal. You don’t have to be a vet or a scientist to save an animal’s life, and these artworks by LilyArtist are doing just that!

Both these fabulous art collections have been put together by the enviously talented Aurelie (Lily) Perthuis. The first collection features Lily and two collaborators, Joe Bramwell-Smith and Portia Rudd, who have created a  series of artworks depicting some of the worlds most endangered animals; subjects include the Giant Panda, the Mountain Gorilla, and the Bluefin Tuna.

Giant Panda, by Lily Perthuis, Joe Bramwell-Smith and Portia Rudd

EndCount is an art project that aims to bring attention to species on the brink of extinction by creating flash generative artworks.
We created a flash application that create artworks using the current species population. The numbers are dropping each year, unless we do something about it. Buying a poster will help us to make a difference and hopefully help to protect the species. – Lily Perthuis on her EndCount art collection.

The second is a collection of intimate yet vibrant portraits of three critically endangered species, the Mountain Gorilla, the Polar Bear and the Tiger, whom we know is in grave grave danger of becoming extinct, due to poaching, deforestation, and of course, the palm oil industry.

Baru the Tiger, by Lily Perthuis

It depicts their emotions through pop-infused colour palette. The subjects appear almost human, expressing emotions and facial expression – each of them have a name, a DNA. –Lily Perthuis, on her Portraits series.

I love these artworks so much; not only do they highlight the dire need for these animals to be protected from the looming threat of extinction, they’re also beautifully executed! I’m a serial art appreciator, in that I spend hours trawling the plethora of artistic content available on the web, but I buy very little of it (mainly because I can’t afford it! I wish I could). But for this, I think I’m going to be able to make an exception. You can see the rest of her work, and maybe even order youself some  here

Myths of the Round Table: Just because they’re a member doesn’t mean they’re a knight

Hello friends!

I really hope this is what RSPO meetings look like

If you’ve been reading my most recent posts, you may have noticed that I’ve been trying to figure out who to trust in determining what contains Certified Sustainable Palm Oil, and what does not. Well I don’t know if it’s fate or serendipity or just plain luck, but something seems to be trying to help me along.
Whilst casually trawling through my twitter feed, I noticed a tweet posted by the Ethical Consumer Guide. It linked me to an article published on Rainforest Action Network titled The Great RSPO Membership Myth: Why Buying from RSPO Members Is Meaningless.
Although published in March 2011, this article cleared up a lot of things for me. Not only does it highlight the major difference between those who use Certified sustainable palm oil, and those who are members of the Round Table of Sustainable Palm Oil. It seems like companies, such as Wilmar, are using this to appear environmentally credible.

Here’s a letter written by the Rainforst Action Network to the CEO of Girl Scout Cookies America, who has been using their membership to gain environmental credibility.

Although Girl Scout cookie bakers have RSPO membership, RSPO membership does not provide any assurance that palm oil supplied by member companies is sustainable. Member companies have been documented clearing forest, peatland and critical wildlife habitat while ignoring human rights — all of which are prohibited in the RSPO principles and criteria. In essence RSPO membership does not ensure that deforestation, orangutan extinction, and climate change are not found in Girl Scout cookies.

Who would have thought those bite sized treats distributed by overly adorable girls abounding with freckles and pigtales and good intentions, could be causing so much harm!

This inspired me to have a look at some of the companies on my Products List, and try to figure out if they’re talking the talk.
Wilmar: Member of the RSPO. Doesn’t use CSPO

Fonterra: Member of RSPO. Doesn’t use CSPO

Kraft: Member of RSPO. Doesn’t use CSPO

Mars: Member of RSPO. Doesn’t use CSPO

Goodman Fielder: Member of the RSPO. committing to be using CSPO by 2015

Arnott’s Australia: Member of RSPO.  ommitting to be using CSPO by 2015

Unilever: Member of RSPO.  ommitting to using CSPO by 2015

Well, I certainly won’t be taking ‘But we’re members of the Round Table’ without the appropriate grain of salt.

Although this has made me a lot less confused, it is still a little worrying that the RSPO allows members that are still destroying rainforest and causing the deaths of thousands of Orangs. I know it is important in this kind of organisation to have members from all sides of the industry, but surely companies that are illegally logging protected forests, such as Wilmar, or are using their membership status to try and confuse consumers into thinking they are ethically sourcing palm oil, should not have a place at the table.

What are your thoughts on this issue? Do you think the RSPO should be more strict about who they give membership to?

I have since been informed that both Mars and Kraft have sustainable palm oil plans in place, and will hopefully reach their goals of using 100% certified sustainable palm oil by 2015.

I did a little more research and found this statement made by Mars. Although they do talk a lot about buying palm oil off members, which we know to be irrelevant if it isn’t certified, at least they have acknowledged this too. Let’s hope they can walk the walk.

We use only 0.2 percent of global palm oil supplies . However, it is present in many of our products, and we are committed to sourcing it more sustainably.

Mars is a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a nonprofit membership organization that promotes the growth and use of sustainable palm oil. Through the RSPO, we are working to reduce the impacts of palm oil production and address concerns about the industry. While some environmental organizations have questioned the effectiveness of the RSPO, it is the only body that brings together all the relevant industry players, and we are committed to helping it create significant and lasting long-term change.

Currently, we only source palm oil from other RSPO members, although their product is not necessarily certified. We have begun purchasing certified palm oil for our European business and have set a target to use only 100-percent RSPO-certified sustainable palm oil by 2015 

Kraft also appears to be implementing changes to its palm oil supply chain; the Kraft Board has been requested by the shareholders to compile a sustainability report by December 2012. Hopefully, all of the following factors that were lacking from the current sustainability policy will be met.

• A company-wide policy on deforestation
• The percentage of purchases of Palm Oil, beef, soya, sugar and paper that are sustainably sourced, with clear goals for each commodity
• Results of audits to ensure that suppliers are in compliance with Kraft’s forestry goals  
• Identifying certification systems and programs that the company will use to ensure sustainable sourcing of each of these commodities. 
We shall see.

Thankyou Andy for pointing this out to me! This is one of the reasons I’m writing this blog, to learn these things and to keep the discussion going.

Tripa Update

I decided to do a little bit of investigating of the Tripa situation whilst at work the other day, and was almost serendipitously presented with an email doing just that! An email had been sent around highlighting ways in which we could help the cause, and I found two petitions it mentioned particularly interesting.

Currently there is a petition circulating on, urging the Indonesian government to properly protect the Tripa Peat Swap Reserve, and the orangutans who call it home. I was particularly moved by the description of the

Over the last week a man made firestorm swept through a huge area of the remaining peat swamp forests of Tripa, devastating Critically Endangered Sumatran orangutan (Pongo abelii) to the very brink of extinction, possibly within months.

Critically important, the Tripa peat swamp forests of Aceh, Indonesia, have long been recognized as a UNEP/UNESCO Great Ape Survival Partnership Priority Site for Great Ape Conservation.

In the early 90’s these forests are estimated to have contained between 2,000 and 3,000 but today only a few hundred survive, and if the current rate of forest destruction and burning continues, even these will be gone completely within a matter of months.

All the result of the illegal activities of a small number of rogue palm oil plantation companies.

Of one of these companies, PT. Kallista Alam, is actually right now being challenged in court, as it clearly contravenes National Spatial Planning Laws and the Indonesian President’s moratorium on new permits in primary forests and peatlands, supported by Norwegian taxpayers money.

The whole of the Tripa peat swamps lie within the Protected Leuser Ecosystem, a National Strategic Area for Environmental Protection in Indonesia’s National Spatial Plan established in 2008.

If this legal initiative fails, and if the current rate of destruction is not halted IMMEDIATELY, there will be no more forest and no more orangutans (and many other legally “protected” species) in Tripa by the end of 2012. This represents the death nell for this important orangutan population, the final nail in the coffin.

An Illegally Lit Fire in the Tripa Peat Region
Photo Courtesy of The Guardian UK

Sounds awful doesn’t it? They still need quite a few signatures to reach their goal of 15,000, so if this causes you to feel any of the countless negative emotions it evoked in me, please, sign the petition! You can already see how much it is helping on their update feed.

The second petition is one that targets palm oil buyers, specifically Goodman Fielder, and although it’s outcome has already been realised, I think it deserves a mention because of the clever name, and the incredible back story of its instigator. “Meadowlea, We Don’t Think You Ought To Be Congratulated”, a Community Run petition, is aimed at Goodman Fielder, Australia’s leading importer of fats and oils, to commit to 100% certified sustainable palm oil in their products by 2015. This petition was created by Chloe Nicolosi, who, at the tender age of twelve, stood before the Senate Committee at Parliament House and stated her case for why the Truth In Labelling Bill should be passed. I don’t remember what I was doing at twelve, but it certainly wasn’t campaigning for the protection of rainforests and the survival of an endangered species (I’m pretty sure I was watching NickCartoons on ABC and writing passionate love letters to Zack Hanson. I all of a sudden feel very much behind the eight ball).

Photo Courtesy of

Chloe currently has 428 signatures, just 72 shy of her 500 mark. However, Goodman Fielder released a statement on their website in February this year, which states:

Goodman Fielder Limited shares community concerns regarding the ecological and environmental impacts of palm oil production in some areas of South East Asia, such as Borneo and Sumatra, and is pro-actively responding to these concerns.

The company supports the production of sustainable palm oil and is a member of the industry group, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). Goodman Fielder commenced purchasing Green Palm certificates in September 2010, and intends to cover all palm oil used in the company’s Australian and New Zealand retail branded products by 2015. Our Integro Foods division has established a sustainable palm oil working group, which is investigating the feasibility of sourcing and supplying certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO) through alternative RSPO-endorsed supply chain models, such as Mass Balance and Segregated CSPO (see

To the best of the company’s knowledge, any palm oil contained in our products in Australia and New Zealand is sourced from legally developed plantations and not from any party that, as far as we are aware, has engaged in illegal deforestation.

This is great news! The only thing that worries me about this statement is the “best of the companies knowledge” part. If you read my post that features the “Sustainability Lie” video, you would have read how Wilmar is claiming to use Certified Sustainable Palm Oil, whilst illegally clearing prime rainforest for palm oil plantations, and lots of other nasty things. Wilmar currently owns 10% of Goodman Fielder; perhaps this “to the best of the companies knowledge” part is a way to cover their butts on this issue? I guess it’s something to think about.

Photo Courtesy of

So please, if this is an issue that concerns, upsets, or angers you, please sign the petitions and help these fabulous people in their fight to save this beautiful species from extinction!

A Response from Arnott’s Australia!

So I’ve got some great news guys! I received a letter from Arnott’s! They were the first of my letters to respond in fact, which is great because this was one of the hardest companies for me to give up.
Here’s what they had to say

Hi Tegan

While Arnott’s Australia New Zealand (ANZ) uses only a small amount (less than 0.05%) of the total 40 million metric tonnes of palm oil produced annually, we are committed to playing our part by sourcing sustainable palm oil that avoids deforestation.

Arnott’s ANZ believes the most effective way to do this is to:
1. Reduce overall usage of palm oil
Since August 2010, we have decreased our current palm oil usage by approximately 25 percent by replacing palm oil with alternative oils across a number of products. The Company will remain committed to identifying opportunities to further reduce usage of palm oil on an ongoing basis.

2. Source certified sustainable palm oil
Working closely with its palm oil supplier, who is an active member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), Arnott’s ANZ is targeting the use of 100% certified sustainable palm oil, if available, by 2015. We’re getting there by shifting around 20% of our supply each year to certified sustainable palm oil. We currently source from peninsular Malaysia only, from land which has been used to produce palm oil or other agriculture crops for decades.

You may also be interested to learn that Arnott’s commitment to sourcing sustainable ingredients goes beyond palm oil. Recently, we started working with Fairtrade Australia New Zealand to source only Fairtrade-certified cocoa from West Africa. Fairtrade-certified cocoa prohibits the use of the worst forms of child labour and empowers cocoa producing farmers to build a better and brighter future for themselves, their families and communities.

How great is this?! I’m going to write to them again and see if they have a list of the products that are already using sustainable palm oil, and then I’ll post it up on here!
This just goes to show that the consumer can dictate the choices that large companies make! It gives me so much hope! Sure, they aren’t there yet, but at least they taking the steps to get to a more sustainable future! Let’s just hope the palm oil they’re using is actually sustainable (I’m looking at you, Wilmar).