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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.

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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.

Sources:

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?
*EDIT*

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.

Day Twenty Eight

Hello friends! Welcome to the second last day of my official no palm oil challenge! I would say that I could almost see the finish line, but to be honest with you, I’m not feeling like I’m going to be hitting the wall anytime soon ( that’s what they call it still, yeah? I’m terrible at sports).

I’d like to say a another quick Thankyou to Lesley Carter for all her likes on my various diary posts, and to Milk Relief Soap for the nice comment you left on Day Twenty Five! Thankyou so much! I’m very impressed with your product and all the information on your site! People, you should definitely check it out, and get yourself some awesome palm oil free soap while you’re there!

Breakfast: Organic white tea with vanilla

Lunch: Two of my gourmet PB and J sandwiches. Mmmm

Dinner: Amazing homemade Kangaroo burgers with mushrooms, onion, bacon, egg and baby spinach. Last night, Kyle, his workmate Dan and I went to see Busby Marou at the Corner Hotel, and Dan was ever so nice as to invite us back to his place for dinner! Roo burgers and red wine were the perfect pre cursor to an amazing gig (seriously, If you get a chance to see these guys play, do it! It’s worth it for the uke shredding alone).

Day Twenty Three and some more reflections.

Hello Friends. I would like to share with you some more reflections on this past month, now that it is drawing to a close; with work quieting down during the winter months, it has given me a lot of time to think and contemplate. Once again, if this isn’t your thing, please skip down until you see what I had for Breakfast. I bet you can guess what it is!

One of the many things this challenge has made me realise is that I am completely unaware of my own capabilities. The desire to live a cleaner, greener lifestyle has always been there, hiding in the darker corners of my brain, but I guess I’ve never really believed in myself enough to put them into practice. I guess I’m still holding onto a lot of fear; fear of what people will think, fear of what I might have to give up, and most of all fear that I might fail. I suppose I’m finding it harder to make the transition because I didn’t grow up around particularly eco centric people or an eco centric household. I don’t hold any of this against my family, not at all, I guess it’s just meant that I have to fend for myself in terms of gathering information and making my own changes; I’ve had to force the idea into the forefront of my mind.

I’ve been trying to do this for a good year now, and yet not of eco practices I’ve taken on have stuck. Finally, I know why! It’s because I was trying to take on too many things at once; I tried to cut out palm oil and all products that test on animals, to only by ethical cosmetics and fair trade coffee and clothes that don’t violate human rights or harm the environment. I know now that for me, becoming a fully fledged ethical consumer is going to take time if I want everything to stick, because I’m going to have to re learn all my old habits.

Giving up palm oil was difficult at first, but over the past couple of weeks it has become easier, so much so that I found the limit I thought I had reached could be stretched even further, given more patience and time.

From this, I guess you could say that I’ve formed my own little philosophy on become an ethical consumer; I sure do admire the people who can drop everything unethical just like that, but that’s not me. So this is what I believe: Don’t let the idea of not being able to do everything you want to scare you away from doing what you can. Spend some time at the edges of those limits you set yourself, and then see if you can push past them. You never know what you’re capable of, until you try.

Breakfast: Organic white tea with vanilla

Lunch: Hot Chocolate and a Raspberry Muffin. The line at the Thai Kiosk was too long for my half hour lunch break 😦

Dinner: Today was another of those ‘you have to do all this and be here and you only have this much time to do it’ days. Thus, I had to wolf down a simple meal of pasta and parmesan cheese whilst changing from work clothes to party clothes and packing more work clothes for tomorrow and doing my hair and finding my shoes and  *collapse*

Dessert: Lick Pier Alcoholic Ginger Beer (my most favourite drink) and assorted housewarming party snacks. Sadly, no chips for me, but they did have little Lindt Chocolate Squares, and some delicious homemade brownies. And I got to play with a kitten