Snacking to Save the Orangutans


By Kate Krader Posted July 28, 2016

How to choose snacks that don't contribute to rainforest destruction.

Summer time is, of course, snacking prime time. For most people that means healthier choices with an eye towards bathing suits and hot weather wardrobes.

I'm also making changes to my snacking habits, but they're not based on the beach attire trauma. Instead they're all about the use of sustainably-sourced palm oil. That's because palm oil, a type of vegetable oil, has become a key ingredient in so many foods. To produce it, many companies are burning down rain forests, in places like Indonesia, to grow oil palms. It's devastating the animals that live there, including adorable orangutans as well as leopards, Asian elephants, bears and tigers. (It is, after all, the eve of Global Tiger Day and they're my fave animal.) Palm oil is also linked to human rights violations.

Food & Wine: Sustainable Palm Oil

© AbuIrfanOutdoorgraphy / Getty Images

I could go on; instead, I'll just tell you that I decided to read ingredient labels, especially on snacks like chips, chocolate and instant noodles. If it contains palm oil, I tend to put it back.

However. There's an argument to be made for supporting companies that are using sustainably sourced palm oil. A growing number of them are; happily for me, a lot of them produce treats that I want to snack on. Here's a list of chocolate and ice cream that rank relatively high with the Rainforest Action Network (check out their Snackfood 20 Scorecard). And thanks for helping to save the rain forests.

Ben & Jerry's, Magnum and Breyers Ice Cream. Of course I'm eating a lot of/too much ice cream this summer. Unilever, who produces a bunch of excellent brands, including those awesome, thickly chocolate-coated Magnum ice cream bars, is at the forefront of groups recognizing the conflict palm oil issue. Their goal is no rainforest destruction in high risk regions by the end of 2017.

Snickers, M&M's and Dove Chocolate. I've consumed a lot of M&M's in my lifetime; additionally, there's an M&M dispenser in F&W's snack area that often figures in my lunch routine. So good news for me that parent company Mars, who also produces Starburst and old school favorites like Altoids, Life Savers and Double Mint gum, rank high on the sustainable palm oil spectrum; they are requiring their suppliers to comply with strict sourcing standards.

Nestle Crunch, Baby Ruth and Butterfinger. The Nestle brand—which, besides those iconic chocolate bars includes Toll House chips, Willy Wonka candy and Dreyer's ice cream, all of which I love—is using sustainably traced palm oil. That's notable given that Nestle uses 1 percent of the global supply. Nestle is also working towards zero deforestation by 2020, yay for them.

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