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As you no doubt know, conservation is an increasingly important part of life. We have to change the way we use the planet's natural resources to allow humans to continue to live in the numbers that we have amassed. As a Western consumer you have a lot of potential power for good. The smallest changes to your life and patterns of consumption can make a very real difference to the state of natural spaces and environments both locally and globally.

In Asia, Africa and now South America rainforests are being cleared to plant oil palm plantations. This intensive use of the land and destruction of whole ecosystems is unsustainable. Besides the untold damage of wholesale destruction of natural environments that have taken several 1000 years to create, the loss of individual animals and whole species may have impacts that we do not understand and cannot anticipate.

Palm oil is used in many different kinds of products from chocolate to shampoo, cakes to toothpaste. Here is a list of the products that can be bought knowing they are palm-oil free or from sustainable palm-oil plantations. As a consumer, the more informed you are the more you are able to make a positive difference. By avoiding products that have palm oil in you can encourage companies to have ethically sourced palm oil or to use an alternative such as sunflower oil or rape seed oil.

Palm oil in products is often not listed as such, it is called vegetable oil or fat in food and Sodium laurel sulphate in cosmetics (for a full list of the euphemisms used for palm oil click here). As a result of a campaign run by the Sumatran Orangutan Society among others the law has been changed by the European Parliament making it a legal requirement to label the source of all oil by 2015. To thank MEPs with an email or postcard click here.

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