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How to: Protect rain forests while holiday shopping

Posted by: Bridget Dunn, Public Affairs

As a little holiday gift from us to you, here’s our official Woodland Park Zoo Shopping Guide to Certified Sustainable Palm Oil products to help you have a sustainable holiday season and a renewable new year!

The guide provides an easy way to identify products that contain palm oil which has been grown and manufactured in a way that is safer for rain forests and their inhabitants. Choosing products that are better for the environment helps keep the holiday season bright for animals around the world.

Protecting tiger forests is a gift that keeps on giving. Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.

It is vitally important to support certified sustainable palm oil agriculture that is deforestation free. In Malaysia, Indonesia and Borneo, conventional palm oil agriculture is decimating tropical rain forests and their inhabitants, including orangutans, tigers, hornbills and Asian elephants. Old growth forest and peatlands (also known as tropical swamp forests) are being burned and illegally logged to make way for both small-holder and industrial palm oil plantations. These practices not only eliminate tropical rain forests and displace animals, but they also impact human health. Fires and logging displace indigenous populations and the smog created by illegal burning causes respiratory distress for people and animals across Asia. Destroying tropical old growth rain forests and peatlands also releases massive stores of carbon, contributing to global climate change.

Palm oil is an ingredient in many common holiday purchases, including packaged foods and gift items such as soap, bath products and lotions. There are safe ways, though, to pick out holiday gifts without contributing to tropical deforestation. Some companies have made a pledge with the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)  to source only certified sustainable and deforestation free palm oil. Many of the most popular RSPO brands and parent companies are included in our shopping guide. If a product’s brand or parent company is listed, you know that the company has committed to changing palm oil production for the better.

Be aware though—palm oil isn’t the only rain forest product driving deforestation that you might come across this holiday season. Habitat loss also occurs for the sake of harvesting non-essential products such as agarwood, used in higher end perfumes, and to clear land for other crops including sugar, rubber and cocoa.

Hornbills—keeping all our days merry and bright. Photo: Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

This may seem overwhelming, especially at this joyous time of year, but there are many sides of these issues to consider. In many cases, livelihoods and complex international relations have to be taken into account. But you can make a difference this holiday season for orangutans, tigers and people alike—be alert, be informed, and look for “certified sustainable” and “fair trade” products.

Learn more about the zoo’s journey toward certified sustainable palm oil that is deforestation free.

Between gifts and holiday feasts, the holiday season sees the highest rates of consumption all year. But by being mindful of where your food and gifts come from, you can help ensure that this “most wonderful time of the year” is also a gift for animals and their habitats.

The orangutans were nestled, all snug in their burlap. Photo: Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.


Great ideas for your Holiday shopping list.