What’s The Real Price Of Your Groceries?

How Taronga Zoo is saving the endangered Sumatran Tiger.

Wednesday night and it’s that time again. There’s nothing but lemons left in the fridge and the pantry contains only lima beans and some very questionable cans of tuna.

Which means it’s time for the dreaded Wednesday night grocery run.

As you walk down the crowded aisles of your local grocery you reach for familiar products, perhaps some peanut butter here, some corn chips there and maybe even a cheeky tub of ice cream.

But what is a seemingly mundane, routine visit to the grocery shop for you has far greater implications elsewhere in the world.

The weekly Wednesday shop may cost you 70 dollars, but what is the real price of your groceries?

Palm oil is a hidden killer of some of the world’s most biodiverse rainforests. It’s found in almost everything from chips, to chocolate and ice-cream. In fact, there aren’t many products that don’t use it in some form or another.  It’s favoured over other oils as it holds colour well, doesn’t melt at high temperatures, makes things taste creamy, is free of Trans-fat and is extremely cheap to grow. According to Belinda Fairbrother, Community Conservation Manager at Taronga Zoo:

“It may be a surprise to know that palm oil is found in over 50% of everyday products on your shelves, in everything from treats like ice-cream and chocolate, to shampoo and even lipstick.”

We all know the importance of using environmentally-sustainable products and luckily palm oil is no different. The oil itself is not the problem – the problem lies with how and where it has been produced. When palm oil is produced sustainably,, it can benefit local communities, and help to protect valuable species and forests.. When it’s unsustainably sourced it leaves the rainforest, the community and the wildlife inhabiting it, in disrepair. No better example of this is Indonesia’s rainforest and home to the critically endangered Sumatran Tiger.

Indonesia’s rainforest is one of the most biodiverse ecosystems in the world, supporting some of the rarest and most exquisite species on the planet. Though it covers just 1 percent of Earth’s land area, it’s home to 10 percent of the world’s known plant species and 12 percent of Earth’s mammal species.

Producing or sourcing unsustainable palm oil tears down this crucial ecosystem and places animals such as the Sumatran tiger in danger of extinction. We’ve already lost the Balinese and Javan tigers to deforestation and poaching and if things don’t change now the Sumatran Tiger will follow suit. Currently there are fewer than 400 hundred Sumatran Tigers left in the wild and if they continue to lose habitat through deforestation, this number is expected to drop.

But the future's looking brighter. With your help, we can stop the unsustainable production of palm oil and help save the Sumatran tiger. The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm oil (RSPO) is an international not-for-profit committed to making sustainable palm oil the norm, The RSPO has developed a set of environmental and social criteria which companies must comply with in order to produce Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO). In order for the palm oil to be certified, the producers need to be transparent, comply with regulation and laws, be environmentally responsible, conserve natural resources and wildlife and be considerate of the local community and employed workers.

Taronga is helping conserve the Sumatran tiger by protecting them in their natural habitat, breeding the critically endangered tigers and importantly, inspiring community action to support Australian companies who use Certified Sustainable Palm Oil.

Image: Taronga Zoo

Their new Tiger Trek exhibit educates guests about the harmful impact unsustainable palm oil production is having on the habitat and its ecosystem. Visitors walk through a replicate native home for their four tigers and cubs whilst learning which products contain sustainable palm oil and which don’t. Miss Fairbrother explains:

“We hope to raise awareness that Australians can be part of the solution for Sumatran Tigers by supporting companies to transition to a future with sustainable palm oil, to conserve forests, protect species, and secure livelihoods.

With Taronga’s help, we are one large step closer towards saving the Sumatran Tiger. In exciting news, Australian companies have really led the way when it comes to transitioning to sustainable palm oil so we have a lot to celebrate.

So when Wednesday rolls around again and you find yourself in the crowded aisle of your local Woollies or Coles, you can embrace your favourite products knowing that they won’t cost the earth, but will give the Sumatran Tiger the chance to make a comeback.

Lead image: Taronga Zoo

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