Coconut Craze

Not that long ago (June 14 to be precise), I published a post about the palm oil industry. I try to be a careful and considerate consumer. I have years of thoughtless buying to make up for! Nowadays, rather than simply saying, “Okay, it’s organic and it’s vegan, that’s all I need to know”, I’ll research the company and even contact them if I have questions. I’ve learned that just because a food product is vegan, it does not mean the making of that product is safe for animals. http://www.onegreenplanet.org/lifestyle/guide-vegan-products-and-palm-oil/

It’s why I stopped using Earth Balance Organic Traditional Spread.

I’d e-mailed the company, after reading on their site about their “by the end of 2015 plan”, and heard back almost immediately. I’m always very impressed with speedy replies. However, I was given regurgitated information and it wasn’t the answer I was seeking. I e-mailed a second time, rewording myself much more specifically. I didn’t receive a speedy reply or an answer I was satisfied with. They were unable to tell me how their “plan” was progressing. What sounds, and looks, fabulous in written form on their site is just words. Not good enough for me. Or the orangutans! Less than 6 months away from their goal, they should have definitive answers for their customers.

Palm oil production has a very real, devastating impact on the orangutan population and I want no part in it. Although I’m a vegan, I went back to using cow’s butter. I easily justify it by saying it’s organic, made here in Canada and only 2 ingredients. Sounds good, yes?

I’m certain NO orangutans were harmed, or killed, in the making of it. These brilliant creatures are facing extinction!

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Of course, like any subject you delve into further, it’s more complex than that. Even organic dairy cows eventually end up “6 feet under”. I have to ask myself if I’m okay with that, just to satisfy my desire for butter? I don’t think I am. I don’t need butter in order to live, it’s purely a taste thing, a habit that can be broken.

So, I’m currently butterless, non-dairy or otherwise. I’m researching how to make the animal-friendliest version at home. Or do without. It would require some adjusting but I’d survive. I’d definitely learn to eat less toast.

In my recent post, I also mentioned the coconut industry.

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Coconut is everywhere these days. In hand and body lotions. In shampoos and conditioners. In water. As flour, flakes and chunks. Coconut oil. Coconut butter. Coconut milk and cream. Coconut aminos.

The list is far longer than this. I’m really only referring to items I’ve experienced.

My personal fave is coconut oil. Coconut flakes and then milk would be next. As a vegan, I’ve learned to use these extensively in the kitchen. Plain, old oil as a moisturizer is amazing. Coconut and baking soda make the best deodorant! I couldn’t say enough good things about coconut.

But I’ve often wondered how the increased demand for it is effecting the environment. Similar to the palm oil industry, coconut is grown and produced in a tropical climate. Wildlife we never see here in Canada is at risk from unsafe and careless production. This insatiable love for everything coconut eventually has to exceed the supply.

According to one article I’ve read (and it was written a year and a half ago), http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/14/coconut-demand-production_n_4276372.html, it already has. Surely this means more farms, which means more deforestation, which means more harm to the environment and the wildlife.

It bothers me.

So, similar to my recent decision to stop using Earth Balance Organic Traditional Spread, I’m going to begin removing coconut from my home. It won’t be easy may be easier than I think. Despite purchasing strictly organic, anything not also marked ‘fair-trade’ is an automatic toss (No, I won’t really toss it. I’ll use it up and won’t buy again). Although this isn’t enough to ease my mind 100%, it does offer me a small measure of comfort.

Unfortunately, organic and fair-trade or not, the “cost” of bringing coconut products into Canada and the US will never go away. I read about this in an article I’m sharing with you. I encourage everyone to be more conscious of how our food choices effect this planet we live on. Future generations depend upon us..

http://www.onegreenplanet.org/environment/is-your-obsession-with-coconuts-harming-the-environment/

All of this leads me to more questions. Sure, I can give up palm oil and coconut but where do I stop? I also eat mangoes, pineapples, bananas, avocados, Spanish almonds, Brazil nuts and cashews (to name a few). Obviously, none of these are grown in Canada.

Is it simply the world we live in today, where we eat food from every continent, and don’t think twice about how it arrived upon our plate? Or do we omit the foods we can manage without and keep the ones we can’t? Are we hypocrites for choosing one over the other? Should we to be applauded for being conscious of these issues and at least trying? Isn’t partial success better than none at all? Or is it pointless trying to make a “dent” in such a massive industry? Do we ignore matters unless they’re in our very own back yard?

I told you, any subject you delve into further, invariably becomes more complex. I guess, in the end, we make decisions we can feel comfortable with and that will differ from person to person.

I also stopped using my favorite brand of peanut butter. Peanuts can be, and are, grown in the US. The pb I like is from a US company. I e-mailed to ask if it was made with US peanuts. You’d think it would be! And it should be! They couldn’t say for sure as they use both domestic and imported peanuts. I was disappointed to learn this. Now I need to find another brand. It’s not daunting actually. It’s very similar to my conversion from conventional food to organic.

One step at a time, one food product at a time. I’ll get there 🙂

** Here are some other articles I found interesting. Just remember to take everything you read with a grain of salt:

http://business.time.com/2012/12/05/why-the-coconut-craze-isnt-helping-farmers/

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/24/coconut-oil-teff-and-quinoa-increased-superfoods-demand-hits-the-south-in-the-guts

http://www.cnbc.com/id/101870661

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