Feb 27, 2009

No orangutans were harmed in the making of this blog

Earlier this afternoon, a concerned email dropped into my box. Well, the email itself was rather indifferent, but the author, whom I'll call Ms. A, had a troubling issue to raise, see below:

"I have purchased your products the past couple of years at Newport News fall festival. This past year I looked at the ingredients on one of the soaps and was sad to see Palm Oil listed. Your products are wonderful but as an orangutan advicate [sic] I am trying to cut this product out of my purchases. Please take a look... "

Ms. A is not wrong in worrying about the orangutans because according to the WWF (the animal one, not the wrestling one):

What is the connection between orangutans and oil palm?

* Orangutans live in areas that are favoured for establishing oil palm plantations: fertile lowland soils close to rivers.
* The orangutans’ forest home is being converted into oil palm plantations at a massive scale. This conversion is being driven by growing global demand for palm oil, which is pushing up prices and hence encouraging the development of more plantations.

Impacts of oil palm development on orangutans

* The development of oil palm plantations causes the fragmentation of forests, which reduces the natural habitat of orangutans. There are about 25,000 km2 of oil palm plantations in Borneo, and the area is ever increasing.

* Where forests are being converted for oil palm plantations, poaching of orangutans for the illegal pet trade is more prevalent. This corresponds with reports from WWF and TRAFFIC that show an increase in the trade in baby orangutans over the past decade.
* Forest fires are set deliberately to clear land for plantations. Not only do fires destroy vast areas of orangutan habitat, but thousands of these slow-moving apes are thought to have burned to death, unable to escape the flames.
* In some areas of Borneo and Sumatra, orangutans are shot as pests by plantation owners or farmers.

I, too, was shocked and dismayed to learn that I might be contributing to the deaths of our fuzzy, orange cousins and set to work immediately researching my ingredients in depth. With much relief, I discovered that I've been using Malaysian palm oil since the inception of my business and that Malaysia has worked for sustainable palm oil farming for over twenty years. In fact, no rain forest land has been converted to palm oil since 1990! 60% of the country is rain forest and must remain so under national law. For more details on Malaysian palm oil, click here.

Remember, we list the ingredients on all of your products, in the brochure and on the website. If you ever have a question or concern, just ask!

*Alternate titles considered: 'Have you hugged your Orangutan today?' and 'The wild man of Borneo says 'it's okay to buy soap'.

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