• Chelsea Greene

Take Action on Palm Oil ~ Borneo's Vanishing Tribes

Updated: Mar 2, 2020

It's been an honor for Borneo's Vanishing Tribes to be a part of film festivals across America, starting with our World Premier at the Carnegie Institute for Science at the DC Environmental Film Fest. We were featured at American Conservation Film Festival, Environmental Film Fest at Yale, Cinema Verde, and Eugene Oregon's Environmental Film Fest. A distribution and release plan is underway. Watch the film on PBS:

Now that we've hosted some interesting discussions and been able to connect with people personally about the issue of industrial palm oil destroying Borneo's forests and the home of the Dayak, it's clear what needs to be more clearly communicated.

The most important point to get across is that the palm oil industry is driven by global demand, and we are all a part of that demand.

The best thing any of us can do right now, is speak out online or write to the companies, saying we only want to buy products that are deforestation free.
We should talk to our local store owners and ask them to not stock deforestation palm oil products.

With enough pressure and public outcry, we can make these companies pledge to move their supply chain out of deforestation. A boycott will not be effective, as the forests continue to be destroyed at a very fast rate. Consumers should not boycott palm oil,

they should boycott unsustainable palm oil. Katie McCoy, head of forests program at CDP says: “Palm oil is an incredibly high-yielding vegetable oil, which means that anything replacing it will have to use more land - that does not solve the issue of deforestation and associated land use change. Better to get palm oil production ‘right’ to avoid leaking the issue elsewhere to another commodity.”

We need companies to take action immediately to source palm oil sustainably.

> video: Borneo's Vanishing Tribes clip; fires and palm oil


  • Write to your representatives to create and support legislation to ban imports of palm oil and other deforestation products. Ask them to take action to convince the Indonesian and Malaysian governments of the need to protect the forests of Borneo. Use this link to find your elected official

  • VOTE - Cast your vote for green candidates who will support action on climate change. Get to know the positions of the people who represent your district in Congress.

  • Sign Greenpeace Petition: Tell big companies to drop dirty palm oil

Info on Palm Oil

New studies show palm oil is responsible for higher risks of cardiovascular diseases and ischemic heart disease deaths. Read more

Unfortunately, palm oil is found in a variety of products, ranging from candy bars to toothpaste to makeup, and rarely is it clearly labeled. Even health food brands like Earth Balance vegan butter contain deforestation palm oil.

In fact, there are more than 170 different names that manufacturers use on their packaging to avoid saying the words “palm oil." That may make purging palm oil products from your cabinets and shopping list sound overwhelming, but I’ve rounded up some easy tips for doing so —

Here are six reliable ways to avoid palm oil:

  1. The most common name palm oil is disguised under is “vegetable oil.”

  2. Most prepackaged snack foods made by corporate giants (Nestle, Unilever, etc.) contain palm oil. Examples are Oreos, Pop-tarts, and biscoff cookies.

  3. If a product's saturated fat content makes up more than 40 percent of its total fat content, it will almost always contain palm oil.

  4. Ingredients with the word "palm" in them are palm oil or are derived from the oil palm fruit.

  5. If you’re not sure whether a product contains palm oil, either type the product name into your search engine along with "palm oil" and scan the search results, or contact the company and ask if they use palm oil.

  6. To avoid palm oil, choose products that contain clearly labeled oils, such as 100 percent sunflower oil, corn oil, olive oil, coconut oil, or canola oil.

Sustainable Palm Oil?

10 Things You Need to Know about Sustainable Palm Oil

You may well wonder, “Is there such a thing as sustainable palm oil?” Unfortunately, less than seven percent of the total production of palm oil is certified as sustainable, as most companies refuse to pay the premium associated with less-destructive farming practices.

Furthermore, many sources involved in the palm oil controversy regard sustainable palm oil as an unreliable and unenforced classification, a disheartening claim that we have heard all too often when it comes to other certifications such as “natural,” “free range,” “humane,” and "organic."

RSPO - the certification you may see on products - is "greenwashing:" allowing companies to use their label while still carrying on with destructive practices.

Researchers found no difference in orangutan decline between certified and non-certified plantations.

Greenwashing RSPO- ABC Science

Research - Evaluating the effectiveness of palm oil certification in delivering multiple sustainability objectives

RSPO not good enough - The Guardian

More ways you can help:

There are lots of things you can do! The Dayak tribes need help with education programs. You can donate to our Dayak activist production assistant Meta Septalisa's Kubung Kids Learning Space, to help children learn to speak and read english, learn about the ecological impact of monoculture palm oil plantations, and how to respond when approached by palm oil companies.

You can also donate your time to Borneo Nature Foundation, if you want to visit Borneo and get your hands dirty, they need volunteers to repair the hydrology of degraded peat swamp forests by damming canals. It's fun I promise!


What products and companies source palm oil from deforestation:

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