Tuesday, 29 September 2015

What can I eat? - Palm Oil!!

It has been a few weeks since I first posted about my campaign to cut out Palm Oil from my diet and after some investigation and changes to shopping I have started to settle into a new pattern.
After deciding to give up palm oil I first went through my cupboards to find out which main products were palm oil or palm fat/shea free. The list of convenience foods was frighteningly small.

The extent of Palm Oil exploitation

My Hovis loaf, Cadbury’s Twirls, Iced Buns, Digestive biscuits, Jammy Dodger biscuits and most bizarrely my Bisto gravy all contained the dreaded additive. These are several of my staple food products; please no comments on the healthiness of my diet.

I decided on further investigation that I needed to set some ground rules for what I could and could not eat. Palm Oil is only effective as a cash crop if cultivated as a monoculture in large plantations hence the large loss of rainforest and their impact on orang-utans. Of course the human side of this product is that the trade gives local Asians gainful employment in otherwise poverty stricken countries.  So how do you balance out the environmental impact with social impact? I have decided to plant my flag in the sustainably produced crops. Palm oil is such a vast industry and in so many products that my individual protest is unlikely to have little effect. Campaigning for an outright ban is like trying to move a mountain, instead I think it is more prudent to ensure that any palm oil I buy can  be traced to have been sourced sustainably. This means that my palm oil’s impact has been mitigated.

Global Forest Watch have excellent maps showing the extent of palm oil plantations follow this link to compare sustainable and non-sustainable plantations.

By far the most useful website I have come across in researching the companies using palm oil is the site for the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil.

Using this website I quickly discovered that the best companies are actually the supermarkets. All of them have signed up to try and reach 100% of own brand products being sustainable by the end of the year. Some are doing better than others.

The table below shows the percentage of sustainable palm oil used by the main retailers using ACOP reports on the RSPO website.

% of own brand goods using renewable Palm Oil
Joint 1st
Waitrose and Marks & Spencer’s
Couldn’t be found on the RSPO site

Having done this work I now know that my best approach is to swap to own brand products, luckily I shop mostly at Sainsbury's and so they have a good score. I can also go back to my Co-op Iced Buns.

However all is not as good as it seems, Cadbury's United Biscuits, Mars and Nestle, large multinational brands do not seem to as good at sourcing their palm oil. So as of last week I have started to boycott their products and will start to look into their policies on the issues. More news as and when I find it.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Bunny Rabbit Bunny Rabbit Bunny Rabbit

After a year and a half of camera trap observations a Rabbit has finally been seen on film.

I have recorded Rabbits on  the site several years ago but recently there has been little evidence of them. This is in part probably due to the Fox den on the site last year. There was no evidence of breeding this year and Fox frequency seems to have reduced perhaps allowing Rabbits to recolonise the site.

It is possible that the Rabbit is a lone individual and only further records and study will establish the extent of the population.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

And so it begins

This week’s blog post is not covering my patch but looking a little farther afield. Earlier this week a friend pointed out to me how bad Cadbury’s were as users of Palm Oil in their products. Those who know me know I have a penchant for chocolate and I was quick to do some research.

You may wonder what the issue with Palm Oil is. Palm Oil is an edible oil produced by the nut of the tree species – Elaeis guineensis. Demand for the oil has increased since the 1980’s and can be found in a vast range of household and supermarket products. The oil can be used as a simple frying oil, a biofuel and an additive.

As an additive it can be found in margarines, chocolates, shampoo, soap, ice cream and lipstick. It is a highly productive crop with a greater yield that than other vegetable oils.

Palm oil only grows in the tropics and mainly in Indonesia and Malaysia even though it is native to West Africa. Today it is grown mostly in vast plantations as a monoculture crop. Huge areas of tropical rainforest have been converted to palm oil production resulting in habitat loss, species loss, soil erosion and air pollution. Species especially affected by the Palm Oil industry include the Asian Elephant, Orang utan, Sumatran Rhino and Tiger.

In the case of the Orang utan their numbers have plummeted from around 230,000+ in 1900 to an estimated 60,000 today. They exist in small populations few larger than 200 individuals and are fragmented. They are unable to live in Palm Oil plantations and face threats from habitat loss and the pet trade on the plantations.

It is easy to sit here and condemn this trade but we are the main consumers of this product and so we have a responsibility to act. Palm oil is ubiquituous and having done some research I have found that many of my favourite foods, chocolates and iced buns contain them, something I was aware of before but am now more concerned about the more I research.

To this end I have decided to start taking action. Firstly by raising money for Act for Wildlife and secondly by changing my buying habits. I am not going to out right boycott palm oil. It is too widely used and native communities do rely on its income, instead I will only buy sustainably produced palm oil, thereby helping local communities and encouraging sensible production.

I do not think this will be easy and I hope to chart my progress on this blog as I work towards this goal. 

Monday, 7 September 2015

Weasels, Buzzards and Woodpeckers

Just a short round up this week.

First off is an exciting sighting  from my Trail Cam - A Weasel. Well you have to trust me on this a little. The footage is very brief. I have cut the clip and duplicated it a few times to make it easier to see...

Look at the bottom left just after the Bushnell Tag. It will pop out a a bunch of sticks and then run off towards the camera.

I have recorded Weasels twice before on the last time I saw one at the same location - the same tree and got this picture:

Elsewhere on my patch I saw my first Bullfinch of the year, which is very late and I had up until now assumed they had gone!

The buzzards were in fine voice confirming the presence of three individuals one of which was a juvenile. One of the adults was chased off by a pair of crows and was even buzzed by a swallow.

To add to the noise a fine Great Spotted Woodpecker tapped away happily all morning on an old decaying branch filling up on grubs.