"PALM OIL is one of the largest causes of rainforest destruction," says Laurel Sutherlin, a Rainforest Action Network spokesperson. According to RAN, U.S. palm oil use has ballooned by 500 percent over the past 10 years—it's now in about half of all packaged foods. Christy Wilhelmi, author of Gardening for Geeks (Adams Media, 2013), points out that this oil can be produced only in tropical areas—so huge swaths of ancient rainforest in Indonesia and Malaysia have been bulldozed to plant new palms. "Eight million acres have been cleared and burned already," Wilhelmi says, "and as a result, the orangutan is on its way to extinction." In Indonesia, deforestation-related carbon emissions—most of which are from expanding palm plantations—surpass the amount of pollution caused by all U.S. cars, trucks, planes, and ships. To avoid palm oil, read the ingredients on packaged goods, especially cookies, crackers, and instant-noodle soups.
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