Coconut oil is praised for its moisturizing, skin soothing and antibacterial properties. Coconut oil is perfect for dry, sensitive and acne-prone skin and it can also be used for thin and damaged hair. There is an endless list of amazing benefits of coconut oil in skin and hair care. No wonder why coconut oil is a very popular ingredient in many cosmetic products.
The popularity of coconut oil skyrocketed in recent years, not only because of its benefits for the skin, but also for health reasons and because of a rising awareness about the massive negative environmental impact of palm oil. Of course, a fastly growing demand for coconut oil may also create problems. So is coconut oil still a sustainable choice or is it following the same pattern as palm oil plantations?
If we want to compare the productivity of coconut oil and palm oil plants, coconut is well behind, but this is not a very accurate way to judge the environmental impact of coconut oil production, because usually coconut palms grow together with other crops, such as bananas, cocoa and coffee. Also, coconut fruits not only produce oils, but also many other products such as coconut milk, water, dry coconut, sugar and more. Coconut palms are still primarily grown by smallholder farmers, together with other crops, so it has less negative impact on biodiversity in comparison to palm oil. But growing demand starts pushing away the farmers from the traditional way of cultivating coconut trees and towards monocultures which increase deforestation and reduction of biodiversity. Recent studies show that coconut oil plantations are causing a big threat to many species in Southeast Asia.
That is why it is very important to make sure that the coconut oil we buy comes from sustainable sources, where the rights of workers are not violated and the health of the local ecosystem is not threatened by quick-profit monocultures.
It is very difficult to go around without using solid oils when making soaps or other cosmetics, if you want to avoid animal fat or palm oil. That is why we choose coconut oil in our product formulations. Before we were always sourcing certified organic coconut oils from the Philippines, but this was not enough for me because I was not sure if the workers who produce that coconut oil are paid a fair wage and have decent work conditions. But we finally found ethically sourced organic extra virgin coconut oil from Ghana!
This is how its production is described on their website butterwise.com:
“The production of this community based coconut oil is focused on empowering women and protecting biodiversity. The production is part of a project that aims to curb deforestation and to durably manage natural resources, by and for the most vulnerable communities.
The community based organic coconut oil production in Ghana is focused on protecting The Kwabre-Tanoe forest (14500 ha) which extends on both sides of the Tanoe River, in south-western Ghana and southeastern Ivory Coast. The forest is home to an exceptional biodiversity; it is the last habitat of the Roloway monkey (Cercopithecus roloway), one of the 25 most endangered primates of the world, as well as the White-Naped Mangabey (Cercocebus lunulatus), and Miss Waldron’s Red Colobus (Piliocolobus waldronae) which may already be extinct in the wild.
Because this coconut oil is a Fair For Life product, the community in Ghana receives a higher margin and income. This eliminates mining, poaching, cutting down trees, and extracting wood from the forest to supplement poor income. Saving these trees and nature will contribute to the conservation of the forest and help the endangered primates that need the forest to live in and eat from.”
/ Coconut oil making workshop with Filiana in Yogyakarta, Indonesia /
I am personally very proud to finally switch to using fairtrade and organic coconut oil whose production does not cause negative environmental and social impacts, but the opposite!!!
Even though it costs more than I used to pay, it is absolutely worth it! We westerners like to take the wealth from developing countries without paying the fair price. It is time to change this attitude!
Please try to buy organic, fairtrade coconut oil and products which contain it, to avoid repeating the mistakes made with palm oil.
Note: we are not affiliated with the supplier of this coconut oil, ButterWise, but we just genuinely like it a lot.
/ Pictures by Greta Germanavičiūtė /