I am going to assume that soap makers use palm oil because it's uber cheap. Otherwise I'm not sure why they would use it, since soap can be easily made (as we've demonstrated) without palm oil.
Why "palm oil" (or "vegetable oil" or "palmitate") as an ingredient in your soap (food/cosmetics) is a bad idea:
- The harvesting of palm oil in Indonesia and Malaysia has directly resulted in the deforestation of thousands of hectares of rainforest.
- These monocultures destroy soil fertility and critical conservation rainforests and wildlife habitat.
- These rainforests have a high number of species of trees and biodiversity per square hectare.
- In 2007 the United Nations Environment Programme acknowledged that palm oil plantations are the leading cause of rainforest deforestation in Indonesia and Malaysia.
- Although not a huge user of pesticides, palm oil plantations rely heavily on rat poison, which pollutes soil and waterways.
- For every metric tonne of palm oil produced, 2.5 metric tonnes of effluent (polluted runoff) are released into waterways and local soil.
This results in an easy solution: try not to purchase products with palm oil as an ingredient. Before purchasing, read the ingredient labels of soap or cosmetic products. I know it's awkward, but most locally sold handmade soap in Halifax has "palm oil" as an ingredient. If the soapmaker is present, explain why you're trying to avoid palm oil. Some soap makers claim that their palm oil is sustainably sourced. If you trust the soapmaker, go for it.
However, since sustainably sourced palm oil would be more expansive, I'm not sure why it wasn't substituted with a more sustainable oil alternative (such as coconut oil).
(Andrew being all "I am a soap making fool!" and helping me with the lye instead of studying for his final exams...)
Or... make your own soap! :) Today, Andrew and I took 40minutes to make gingersnap cocoa butter soap that will be cured and ready to use in two short weeks! All for about 2$ a bar. Easy!