Being an environmentalist can be tricky. Do you use bucket loads of water to clean out that plastic peanut butter jar for recycling, or toss it in the trash and save the H20? It’s a win-lose situation no matter what you choose. Yet every once in a while there are those public enemy issues—like coal or aerosol cans—that are crystal clear. We see palm oil that way.
Palm oil is the most widely used vegetable oil in the world. Cheap and versatile, it can be found in everything from beauty products and cleaning supplies to ice cream, packaged foods and biodiesel. And it’s destroying the planet at Mach speed. Here are four big reasons to give it up.
1. The rainforest
Indonesia and Malaysia produce 90 percent of the world’s palm oil, and they’ve cleared 3.5 million hectares of ecologically diverse rainforest to produce it.
2. Orangutans, elephants and tigers
The Indonesian and Malaysian rainforests are home to endangered species found nowhere else on Earth. And deforestation for palm oil decimates their habitat. If it continues, scientists estimate the orangutan will be extinct in 10 years.
3. Global warming
Tropical rainforests store massive amounts of carbon. When they’re burned down, that carbon is released into the atmosphere as C02, the leading cause of global warming. Indonesia currently ranks fifth in greenhouse gas emissions.
4. Human rights
Investigations have uncovered severe human rights abuses throughout the palm oil industry, including forced labor, child labor, physical abuse and debt bondage.
Giving up palm oil is easier than you might think—except when it comes to Nutella. Thankfully, this homemade version from the Splendid Table is equally delicious.
- 1 cup hazelnuts
- 12 ounces milk chocolate, chopped
- 2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil, such as canola
- 3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
- 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3/4 teaspoon salt, more or less depending upon your preference
Preheat the oven to 350°F (176°C).
Spread the hazelnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven for about 12 minutes, until they’ve browned a little and the skins are blistered a little. Wrap them in a kitchen towel and rub vigorously to remove as much loose skin as possible. (Some skin will cling to the nuts when you’re done. It’s okay—not to mention inevitable.) Let cool completely.
Melt the chocolate in a saucepan over gently simmering water or in the microwave. Stir until smooth. Let cool completely.
In a food processor, grind the hazelnuts until they form a paste. Add the oil, sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla, and salt and continue processing until the mixture is as smooth as possible-or as smooth as you like. Add the melted chocolate, blend well, and then strain the mixture to remove any chunks of hazelnut that remain. The resulting homemade Nutella will be thin and somewhat runny and maybe even a little warm but it will thicken as it cools.
Scrape your homemade nutella into a jar or other resealable container and let it cool to room temperature. Cover the container and store at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.