The demand for palm oil is too high. But there's an extremely reasonable solution.

We need to talk about palm oil.

And I know what you're thinking. "But there's already so many highly saturated semi-solid vegetable fats that I care deeply about! Why should I add palm oil to my long list?"


A worker inspecting palm fruit in Indonesia. Photo by Chaideer Mahyuddin/AFP/Getty Images.

Well, for one thing...

Palm oil is in everything.

Palm oil is a highly stable, low cholesterol vegetable oil that is extracted from the pulp of oil palms native to Africa, though it's produced in Southeast Asia and South America. It's used as a cooking ingredient in many cultures and can be found in many commercial foods and products.

Including products that you probably love a lot: like some flavors of Ben & Jerry's ice cream, Dove soap, many protein bars and soy milks, as well as Girl Scout cookies and Kit Kat bars.


Honestly, I thought the only ingredients in Kit Kat bars were "happiness" and "wafer." Photo via Evan-Amos/Wikimedia Commons.

So, yeah, palm oil is everywhere. Which also explains why the farming and processing of palm oil is expected to be an $88 billion industry by the year 2022.

Palm oil is cheap, easy to produce, and employs people all over the world. Sounds good, right?

Unfortunately, meeting the demand for palm oil can be highly destructive to the environment.

In order to grow enough oil-producing palm to meet demand, large swaths of tropical rainforest in Southeast Asia (where 85% of the world’s supply is produced) have been cleared for farmland.

A patch of peatland forest being burned for a palm oil plantation in Indonesia. Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images.

Rainforests are a key element in healthy biodiversity worldwide, and losing them has historically been a tragedy with very real consequences. The slashing and burning of these forests can release millions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere and can cause millions of species of plants and animals to lose their home. This includes already endangered species like Sumatran orangutans, elephants, and tigers.

So ... should we just stop using palm oil? How do we fix this?

Unfortunately, it's not as simple as a product boycott.

"No other crop [besides oil palms] can yield even a third as much oil per acre planted," writes Joe Fassler in Smithsonian magazine.

Basically, palm oil is incredibly efficient. So efficient that boycotting it would only mean that another less efficient vegetable oil would have to carry the burden, meaning more farms would end up slashing and burning the rainforest to create space dedicated to a different, less efficient crop.

A man attempting to extinguish a peat forest fire. Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images.

Another option is that we could all learn to live without Kit Kats. But that's just not something I'm willing to accept.

If a boycott doesn't solve the problem and we refuse to live in a world without Kit Kats and Dove body soap, then what can we do?

Well, generally, the best thing a company can do is find a way to work with the planet that produces their materials, instead of against it.

A palm fruit worker in Indonesia. Photo by Chaideer Mahyuddin/AFP/Getty Images.

Companies that use palm oil are going to have to find a sustainable way to keep farming it.

The good news is this isn't impossible and is already being done by many companies.

For example, The Body Shop, a popular health products company, has been sourcing 100% sustainable palm oil since 2011. They also recently announced a sweeping commitment to work with the planet by protecting forests, reducing energy use, and establishing healthy relationships with the communities that farm their ingredients.

Some of the biggest food companies are also already ahead of the curve when it comes to sustainable farming of palm oil. The Union of Concerned Scientists' 2015 Sustainable Palm Oil Scorecard shows strong commitments from brands such as Dunkin' Donuts, Nestle, Kellogg's, and General Mills to move toward more sustainable and "deforestation free" palm oil use.

This isn't just good business practice. Finding ways to sustainably produce palm oil may be essential for our future.

Photo by Adek Berry/AFP/Getty Images.

We can't just suck materials out of the Earth forever in order to make more Cheetos.

If we want to keep the planet healthy and maintain our quality of life, yes, some things need to change. Otherwise, eventually, the scale, speed, and demand for processed food production will reach a breaking point. The planet's ability to supply us with these raw materials is not without limits.

When you're surrounded by the trappings and conveniences of a modern lifestyle, it's easy to forget that everything, even the most seemingly unnatural things, like your DVD of "Shrek 2," is made of raw materials that can be traced back to nature.

Things like palm oil can and should be produced sustainably. But the lesson to learn here is that all products should be produced in a way that works with the planet's natural capabilities.

Because when we keep our planet healthy, it lets us keep living here. And that's a pretty solid exchange of favors.

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

Photo by R.D. Smith on Unsplash

Gem is living her best life.

If you've ever dreamed of spontaneously walking out the door and treating yourself a day of pampering at a spa without even telling anyone, you'll love this doggo who is living your best life.

According to CTV News, a 5-year-old shepherd-cross named Gem escaped from her fenced backyard in Winnipeg early Saturday morning and ended up at the door of Happy Tails Pet Resort & Spa, five blocks away. An employee at the spa saw Gem at the gate around 6:30 a.m. and was surprised when they noticed her owners were nowhere to be seen.

"They were looking in the parking lot and saying, 'Where's your parents?'" said Shawn Bennett, one of the co-owners of the business.

The employee opened the door and Gem hopped right on in, ready and raring to go for her day of fun and relaxation.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."