Published on: August 28, 2021
EACH MONTH WE DELVE INTO A NEW STORY INSPIRED BY OUR SCENT OF THE MONTH. THIS MONTH, IN HONOR OF THE BRIGHT GLOW OF GRAPEFRUIT + YUZU, WE EXPLORE THE BURGEONING REGENERATIVE ECONOMY WHERE EVERYTHING WE PRODUCE AND CONSUME LEAVES A POSITIVE IMPACT ON THE WORLD.
About 40 billion tons of carbon dioxide are pumped into the atmosphere every year; its impact on the global ecosphere is well documented.1 Lesser known is the fact that you are responsible for roughly 24 billion of those tons.2
Well, not you personally of course, but “you” the average consumer in aggregate with all the other average consumers. According to a somewhat startling study from Norwegian University of Science and Technology, consumers account for 60 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and 80 percent of the world’s water use. And it’s not because the collective “you” drives a gas-guzzling SUV or doesn’t own a low-flush toilet — it’s actually because they own a car or toilet in the first place.3
According to the study, only 20 percent of a consumer’s environmental impact comes from their direct actions, like heating a home or leaving the lights on in an empty room. The remaining 80 percent is the consumer’s “secondary impact,” which refers to the energy and resources that go into producing the goods a person buys or uses.4
Even some of the goods responsible for some of the worst environmental havoc can be produced sustainably with the proper regenerative approach. Take palm oil, a widely used raw material for shampoos, soaps, cosmetics, and even biofuels.17 The traditional cultivation of oil palms has been considered one of the worst culprits behind deforestation and habitat destruction, and palm oil production has been directly responsible for the death of more than 100,000 orangutans since 2004.18
It’s not that palm oil is inherently unsustainable — it’s that companies in the palm oil trade have chosen to apply a destructive process. Serendipalm, a sister company of soap company Dr. Bronner’s, has found a way to produce palm oil without clear-cutting forests. Instead, Serendipalm works with small-scale organic farms that use holistic, regenerative techniques like pruning, weeding, intercropping, and strategic harvesting to ensure high yields.19
Natural Habitats, another organization in the business of producing sustainable palm oil, has launched the Palm Done Right campaign to educate the broader public about the benefits of organic palm oil sourced in an ethical way. Palm Done Right illustrates the fact that transitioning to a more regenerative economy will involve a cultural transition, too. So many of the products we’ve come to see as harmful — like palm oil — aren’t harmful at all by nature. It’s the processes we use to harvest them that do the damage. By changing those processes, and using regenerative design principles like cradle-to-cradle, we can enjoy all the benefits without the environmental injury.
Words by Matthew Kosinski
All other credits noted.
Palm can be grown for good, bringing benefits to:
Together, we can influence change for: