Friday, 19 November 2021

Deforestation, Palm Oil and Black Friday

Do you remember/know that in 2018 an advert by the UK supermarket chain, Iceland, was banned.  It outlined the plight of orangutans in the face of increased deforestation for palm oil plantations but was considered too political to be aired.  If you don't know the advert and want to read up more of the story or you just want to see it again click HERE

Are you outraged at this type of censorship?

Now let me ask you 2 more questions ...

  • Are you planning to buy anything in a Black Friday sale event, either in a shop or online?
  • Are you busy wondering what Christmas gifts to buy all your family and friends, searching online lists of what to buy a difficult teenager or elderly relative etc or grabbing the latest "must have" ideas after seeing some other slick TV advert?

Consumerism fuels deforestation

At COP26 in Glasgow it was agreed to stop deforestation in the next decade but this is nowhere near soon enough and way too many trees and irreplaceable forests will be lost before the deadline. Also you can't just replant a rainforest and expect to get the same diversity back in a few years as it takes centuries, if not millennia to reach the same richness. Some species will never return and others will be made extinct by the original felling. 

Now whilst it is all very well to be angry at those undertaking the deforestation and at Governments for not acting sooner but it must be remembered that we are part of the problem through our insatiable appetite to buy more and more things, many of which we don't actually need and many of which can be directly linked to deforestation.

Quote from WWF Global:

What is causing forest conversion?

  • Rising demand for soy, palm oil, cocoa and coffee is translating into expanding plantations for these crops worldwide. Many of us unwittingly contribute to forest conversion in our consumption of everyday products. For example, palm oil is used to make a whole range of cosmetics, detergents and food products including shower gel, margarine, and ice cream. Soy beans are used to make cooking oils, bread, puddings and sweets and are used in the manufacture of paints, adhesives, fertilizer and insect sprays. And for paper products, pulpwood plantations clear acres of forest to satisfy demand. This human 'footprint' on the Earth shows how our behavior in one part of the world can have negative impact on tropical forests and the people living in other part of world.
Rain forests are not only being cleared for palm oil plantations.  It is used to grow things that we all buy on a regular basis and it is used to rear cattle for beef and other related products.  Then along comes Black Friday with its associated frenzy of consumerism and for me it encapsulates everything that is so wrong with our consumer led society.  Leather goods, spice racks, bags of nutty sweets, new clothes and toiletry packs, the list goes on and on - we may buy them and think we are doing so well because they are palm oil free but in reality many can be directly linked to deforestation.  We may not actually have taken the chainsaw, ourselves, to the rain forest but we are all responsible for the loss of Rang-Tan's home.  We could plead ignorance (fair to a point) and we could say we had no choice but in truth we do have a choice. The choice to reject a culture of "Stuff".  It is not possible in either the short or medium term to put back the forests that have been cleared but we can strive to prevent further deforestation.  Now is the time to accept that we must all make some big changes to the way we lead our lives.  Changes that mean:

  • we must reject a lot more than just palm oil.
  • we move away from buying single use products and things we don't need.
  • we must question the effect our purchases have on the environment
  •  we must actually buy a whole lot less of everything and that what we do buy may be more expensive .... but better quality and longer lasting ie sustainable.

Advertisers would have us think happiness is born out of shopping carts full of the supposed best new products promoted as the best thing to make your life more convenient, the latest fashion, the newest phone or some fancy foodstuff from a far flung place.  May I beg to differ and say it probably isn't.  Short term happiness perhaps. Possibly ... but long term happiness? I don't think so. So before you grab those so called bargains on Black Friday or panic buy online on the last delivery day before Christmas stop and think about the effect of your actions.

Maybe together we can change the fact that on Instagram #buy appears over 10 million times (as of Nov 2021) but #buyless is only there 99,000 times.  Be a part of the #BuyLess culture.

The link between shopping and deforestation


  1. I’m all for taking a step back from consumerism. Not even just for the environment, for ourselves. We’ve lost touch with the important things.

  2. With every year that passes, I am increasingly horrified by the video footage of rabid shoppers at Black Friday sales. I am all for saving money, but not at the expense of sleep, civility, sanity, and the environment. We favor experiences over material goods for presents in our home, and try to spread that sentiment to others through our example. I think this awareness is slowly growing, but there's still a long road ahead!

  3. I don't understand the Black Friday mania. My family has never participated in it and it wasn't until I reached adulthood that I realized what a frenzied thing it is and how much of a following it has. Horrifying. The drive to consumer is so deeply rooted in our culture, it's just terrifying.

  4. This connection is so on time and on point! People really need to see that our actions, such as buying up lots of stuff we don't really need, has terrible consequences. It's also ridiculous that they banned that ad. It shows where their interests really lie, and that's not with protecting the earth.


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