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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.

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Day Thirty!

Friends!!! Day Thirty has arrived!!! Hooray!

When I first embarked on this quest to give up all products that I knew were labelled with palm oil, I wasn’t sure if I could actually do it. However, creating this blog has done so much to bolster my resolve, whilst simultaneously opened my eyes to a plethora of incredible, ethically produced, delicious food products (and the clever people behind them).

First and foremost, I must say thankyou to all you lovely people! You have kept me accountable through this whole thing, and your support advice and kind words have kept me from reaching for the biscuit tin. A lot has been said about the negative aspects of an online community, what with all the spam hackers and twitter trolls out there, but I really think that when used properly it can be an indispensable support system and can provide a lot information and opportunities that I wouldn’t have known about otherwise. So thankyou, thankyou, thankyou!!

Today was a wonderful day; what better way to celebrate getting through a whole month without eating palm oil than going to OzComicCon !! Ok, it’s not at all related, but it was still great! I’m going to do a full follow-up post on my personal blog, but I will say this; although the fact that it was very badly organised meant that we missed out on seeing Patrick Stewart(:(:() I did get some pretty sweet art, and we got to see the Stan Lee panel which was AMAZING! He’s everything you want out of someone you admire, and more!

Breakfast: Tea. My most beloved beverage, where would I be without you to sedate my poor neglected stomach in those hours before lunch time

Lunch: With all the havoc of ComicCon, of navigating crowds of Cosplayers and stalls of comics and merchandise and two incredibly long lines (one to get in, and another for the Stan Lee panel), we didn’t get to have lunch until three thirty that day. By the time we got to Melbourne Public House, a simply chic yet warm restaurant and bar on South Warf, I was as ravenous as a Dire Wolf (I’ve just started watching Game of Thrones by the way. I know, I’m very behind). We ordered a bowl of wedges and some Pumpkin and Feta Aranchinni balls to share, and they were really tasty! The perfect meal for us to wind down from the chaos of ComicCon; I’d really like to go back there for a drink soon, when I’m not so hungover that is.

Dinner: After meeting up with Eleanor for a couple of ciders at the Brunswick Cider House (I can’t say no to a pot of Cheeky Rascal), we headed to our friend Anne’s for a girls night in. We had piles and piles of food, yet none of them were used to make a meal; salt and vinegar Pringle’s, pumpkin and basil dip, hommous, an amazing raw Vegan dip that Eleanor had made using a special kind of vegan cheese, Natural Confectionary Dinosaur Jellies (they’re owned by Cadbury, and thus are involved in using sustainably sourced palm oil), and Ben and Jerry’s Phish Food Icecream. Thank god they used Coconut Oil, or I might have cried, or worse, thrown in the towel. And then wiped all the chocolate icecream off my face with it.

In the midst of this Saturday Night food orgy that could have put the Romans to shame, we watched one of the most amazing movies I think I’ve ever seen; honestly, I don’t why I haven’t seen it before now, I really have no excuse. For those of you who were like me up until last night, and have never seen WALL.E, stop what you’re doing… wait no… finish reading this post, and then stop what ever else you are doing and get yourself a copy, either physical or digital, and make yourself a hot drink, and then watch it. It is the sweetest, most beautifully shot, most adorably thought provoking movie, and really it was the most perfect way to end this part of my journey to minimising my impact on this planet I call home. This is the first movie I’m going to show my children, (when they’re old enough of course) in the hope that like a single plant growing out of a pile of trash, they will grow with the understanding of the importance and the wonder of life on earth planted firmly in their minds. And at least it will tide them over until they are old enough for me to show them the Lord of the Rings. And then Star Wars. And then Studio Gibli. Oh god, my poor children.

Although this is technically my last day of the challenge, the fight is far from over. Palm Oil is still not labelled properly on most packaged foods, and something still needs to be done! I am currently drafting a letter that I will send to my local MP, asking him to back this legislation and force it through Parliament; I will certainly keep you updated on how this goes, as well as the responses from the food companies that I have currently contacted, and more developments on the sustainable usage front.
Although the month has ended and I’m ceasing to record my daily meals, I will still be updating this blog frequently with more recipes, news, and projects. I am by no means going straight to Coles and filling my basket with every type of Arnott’s Biscuit I can get my hands on. Now that I see all the amazing paths I can take in terms of what I choose to consume, and now that I know the effects it has on the world around me, there’s no way I can go back. For me, this is incredibly exciting; for what I have lost, I have gained so much more. And I’m going to continue to push my limits, and learning all that I can, until I reach my goal of being the most ethical consumer I can be.

As for my once beloved mint slice? Well, I still do find myself longing for that sweet kiss of dark chocolate and mint creme, but the difference is that know it can be reduced to a mere whisper with all the knowledge I have gained over the past month. And who knows, if Arnott’s do end up coming to their senses and start using sustainable palm oil, we may not be separated for too much longer.

I’ve learnt a lot of things this past month, I could go on about it for pages and pages, but I’m sure you have much more important things to do than read any more of my ramblings, so I’ll keep it short.
In the end it comes down to the fact that there is only one planet, and we should not let ourselves be so blinded by our own arrogance to declare that we own it; instead, let’s treat it how we would like to be treated. I know that I am not where I want to be yet, despite my best intentions, but I can’t wait to see what I discover on the way to getting there.

Bake Off: Caramel Crowns vs Caramel Slice

Welcome to my second bake off! I’m sorry there haven’t been more of these over the month, but I promise that there will be many more to come! This week, I’ve decided to try and find an alternative to another beloved sweet treat, The Caramel Crown. It doesn’t seem that long ago, that I was living out of home, almost flat broke and standing at the register of my local IGA with one serving of mei goreng, a bag of peanuts and a packet of Caramel Crowns that I had chosen for my lunch. And dinner. I know, I know, I’m surprised I’m here at all.

Those days are all but gone, and yet I still can’t help but think, no, long for them if I’m ever in an IGA, or even in the biscuit isle of Coles (which I’m not allowing myself to visit anymore because it just makes me sad). So, in order to curb this craving, I went in search of a suitable replacement. And it didn’t take me long to find something I liked (and could cook!)!

This recipe for Caramel Slice comes from the lovely Humble Habit! Once you’ve finished reading this, and making your own caramel slice, you should go and check it out!

I’ve made Caramel Slice a number of times before, but I’ve always used crushed Marie Biscuits for the base. However, although delicious, they do contain palm oil, so I had to find another, more suitable base recipe! I love that this one uses desicated coconut as the crunchy element.
Also, this recipe is actually for salted caramel slice, but I decided to leave the salt out, so I could make a proper comparrison to the Caramel Crowns. If you would like to make the original with salt, you can check out the original recipe here.

Ingrediants

Base
1 cup plain flour, sifted
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 desiccated coconut
125g butter melted
Filling
400g can sweetened condensed milk
2 tbsp golden syrup (we didn’t have any golden syrup, so I used honey instead, which worked well, but I’d really like to try it again with the syrup)
60g butter melted.
Topping
200g good quality plain chocolate (I used Lindt 70% cocoa Dark Chocolate
To Make The Base
Preheat oven to 180 deg c. Line a 3 cm deep, 28x 18cm (base) lamington pan.
Combine all base ingredients in a bowl.
Mix well.
Press into prepared lamington pan.
Bake for 15 to 20 min, or until lightly golden. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
To Make the Filling
Melt the butter slightly in a pan over a low heat for 2 minutes.
Add the condensed milk and golden syrup. whisk the mixture well till butter is thoroughly incorporated.
Cook for 8 minutes stirring constantly, until thickened and light golden in colour( never take your eyes off it, it will burn very easily. Mine turned out to be very light, but I think that’s because I used honey.)
Pour over the cooled base.
Topping
Break the chocolate into pieces and place in a microwavable bowl.
Microwave for 1 min 45 sec on high, or until fully melted. Leave to cool slightly, then pour over the caramel.
Refrigerate to set. Cut into squares to serve.
The verdict: They don’t look as pretty as the caramel crowns, but taste wise, this slice is pretty gosh darn good. And the best part is, I can cut as big a piece as I want, and the only thing it’s going harm is my hips and posterior! Winner!

Pantry Raid! The First Assault

The Unusual Suspects

In order to properly weed out the palm oil from my diet, I took to the pantry this week, in search of the elusive palm oil. Because I’m still living at home and thus do not control what is bought at the weekly supermarket shop, I asked my dear mother why she bought the products that she did. After some confusion and wariness to my intentions (I had in past asked her to stop buying Nestle products, to no avail), she came up with two reasons.

I know that I like them
They were cheap/on special.

These are both very reasonable responses, and I’d imagine also very common ones. It is clear that most supermarket shoppers love a bargain, myself included, and both supermarket chains have picked up on that, offering a plethora of special deals on popular products every week, not so much to please us as to make sure they’re outdoing each other.

With this in mind, I pulled out all the products that a) had made it onto my list of products containing crude unsustainable palm oil, and b) had vegetable oil listed in the ingredients.
Here’s what I found!

Coles Corn chips

Status: Banned
I love my corn chips. Nachos are one of my favourite foods. Give me some salsa or some avocado dip and I could go through this entire packet in one afternoon. But before I do,  let’s have a look at the ingredients.

Palmolin!

Well done Coles, you’ve made it super obvious that there’s palm oil in this one! Palmoelin! It’s Palm Oil with a few extra letters!

Sorry Coles brand Corn Chips, it’s been swell, but now we must part.

Greens – Sticky Date Sponge Pudding.

Status: Unknown
Yum! But the ingredients listing says

VEGETABLE FATS & OILS {EMULSIFIERS (471, 477), ANTIOXIDANTS (320)}
So…is it palm oil, or not?!
I searched around on the internet, but could find no straight answers, so I have decided to write a letter to Greens, asking it to tell it to me straight: are you using palm oil, and is that palm oil sustainable. Until then, no sticky date pudding for me, at least not from this packet. Damn.

 Kraft Peanut Butter

Vegetable Oils
Status: Banned.
I love my Peanut Butter, yet this is not a heavy blow as I first thought, because both Dick Smith and Sanitarium have provided Palm Oil free alternatives. Sorry Kraft, you’ll have to clean up your act to steal my heart away from these guys.

Philadelphia Cream Cheese (?)
Status: Banned
Now this is a difficult one. I love cream cheese, especially Philadelphia cream cheese. It stood out as a big no no on various lists that I cross referenced ,and this is what the ingredients read

Milk
Cream
Salt
Locust Bean Gum (what is that?)
Starter Culture
35% Milk Solids

Nothing. Not even a Sodium Isostearoyl Lactylaye. Is it in the Starter Culture? The Milk Solids? The Locust Bean Gum? What is Locust Bean Gum, anyway? And does this mean that there’s a whole bunch of foods in my pantry that I’ve missed completely because it’s so unclear as to what is actually in them?
Another perfect example for legislative change, I think. Looks like I’ll be writing another email.

Saladas

Vegetable Oil
Status: Allowed: Not Palm Oil

Hooray! This is the first one that has been confirmed not to contain palm oil at all! Too bad I can’t put Philly on them anymore, though.

Rice Puffs

Vegetable Oil
Status: Unknown
I had one of these the other day, and I’m really not a fan. However, I’m still going to investigate as to where this vegetable oil is coming from.

Be Natural Trail Bars

Vegetable Oil
Status: Unknown
Although Be Natural Cereals contain no palm oil at all, nothing is said about their trail bars.

It’s great to see that Be Natural are getting involved with environmental organisations like Landcare, I just hope that they come back clean on the palm oil front too.

Woothworths Select Choc Honeycomb Hard Tops

Vegetable Oils
Status: Allowed

It’s almost as good as Ice Magic! Although Coles brands have been rejected for their use of Palm Oil, their main competitors, Woolworths, are choosing to back CSPO! Hooray! I know whose side I’ll be on for the supermarket war.

Damora Rice Crackers: Seaweed (These were eaten before I could get a photo)
Vegetable Oil
Status: Allowed.

Fantastic Rice Crackers: Original Flavour

Vegetable Oil
Status: Allowed

Trident Rice Crackers: Plain
Vegetable Oil
Status: Banned


I thought it quite hilarious that we have three different brands of rice crackers in our pantry. At least I can eat two of them. Now to find some palm oil free dip…

The Pancake Parlour: Buttermilk Pancake Mix


Vegetable Oil
Status: Unknown
This is a particularly sad one for me, as I am yet to find a supermarket pancake mix that is as good as this. Fingers crossed that the results come back positive.

Praise Caesar Salad Croutons


Vegetable Oil
Status: Allowed (CSPO)
Excellent! Although croutons are not essential to my diet, I do quite enjoy them and look forward to continuing to do so when I don’t have time to make my own!

Continental Cup A Soup
Status: Allowed! Although I much prefer real soup.

Classic Cream of Chicken
Creamer (Vegetable Oil)
Tomato
Beverage Whitener (palm oil)
Lotsa Noodles Cream of Chicken
Creamer (Vegetable Oil)

What on earth is beverage whitener? Although I do enjoy a cup a soup from time to time, nothing beats real and homemade!

Mighty Soft: Thick and Fruity Café Style Raisin Toast

Vegetable Oil

Status: Unknown
Not sure about this one, could not find any straight answers as to whether Mighty Soft uses palm oil in the breads. Another email to my long list.

Pringles: Original


Vegetable Oil
Status: Allowed (CSPO)

Pringles! I love Pringles. Not only are the addictively delicious, they’re also completely vegan! Who would have known?
Pringles are owned by Procter and Gamble, and I was super happy to find they fell into the ‘Switching to CSPO’ category. Hooray! The Pringles can stay.

Arnott’s Caramel Crowns

Vegetable Oil
Status: Banned

Another delicious Arnott’s sweet treat that I must bid a hopefully temporary farewell.

 

And finally.

Arnotts Mint Slice


Vegetable Oil
Status: Banned
Goodnight, sweet prince.

This is just a snap shot of what is coming and going through our pantry each week; who knows what kinds of tasty treats might arrive next? It’s made me realise that not only will I have to stop buying these products myself; I will also have to keep myself from being tempted to eat these kinds of things when I open the pantry.

Stay tuned! In my next post, I’ll be writing about some of the products I found to replace these. I don’t want to give anything away, but there will be baking involved! Hooray!

How my addiction to Arnott’s could be destroying the planet.

How my addiction to Arnott’s could be destroying the planet.

And other reasons I’m feeling guilty about gorging on Tim Tams

I’m sure a lot of you have been in this situation before; you open the cupboard, looking for that healthy afternoon snack to go with your cup of tea, only to find a full packet of Tim Tams just sitting there. You don’t know how they got there;  they could be your mother’s, your sister’s, or your housemates. They haven’t even been opened yet.
You look over your shoulder, checking to see whether the owner of said Tim Tams is around, before picking up the packet. There’s no sign of any note, saying ‘Please Do Not Eat! These are for my How To Host A Murder Party.’ They must be meant for everyone.
And before you know it, you’re two thirds through the packet, and you’re feeling sick from the gorging and the shame. You wipe the chocolate from your lips, and shake the crumbs off your jacket before heading out to Woolworths for a replacement packet. No one will ever know.

We all have our vices. Yours might be Tim Tams, or Royals, Caramel Crowns, or Iced VoVos. Or it might not even be chocolate biscuit related. Mine is Arnott’s Mint Slice.


Until recently, the only regret I felt about doing something like this with a packet of Mint Slice was for the icky feeling in my gut from consuming all that chocolate, and the shame of having to explain where the all but two remaining biscuits have got to. I did not realise that there are ethical issues tied to popular consumer brands, such as Arnott’s, that are much bigger than me.

Oh, Tim Tam’s, why do you tease me so?

The issue that stood out the most for me, however, was the rampant use of unsustainable palm oil in many pre-packaged supermarket products, many of which I had been eating since I could independently shovel food into my mouth. The thought of how many countless animals, including flagship species such as the Orangutan and Sumatran Tiger, die each DAY because of my addiction to chocolate biscuits has added another even more sever regret to my list.

So from the 1st the 31st of June, I’m giving up all products that I either know, or suspect have unsustainably harvested palm oil in them, in protest of the devastating deforestation of South East Asian rainforests and its consequential impacts on biodiversity. I will be writing about my experiences, what I learn and how I cope along the way, to share with you, dear reader, and to prove that you don’t have to stop shaving, showering or convert your wardrobe to solely hemp based garments to join the ranks of the eco warrior (although if you have opted for this kind of approach already, I whole heartedly salute you). As much as I would like to, I cannot physically defend my dear orang-utan friends (an animal that I am often compared to because of the colour of my hair), but like nearly every opinionated twenty something, I have a blog, and the determination to see this through to the end. And hopefully beyond…

Don’t give me that face