Preserving the Environment

Eating That Doughnut Could Cause Rhinos and Tigers to Go Extinct

September 22, 2014
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Eating That Doughnut Could Cause Rhinos and Tigers to Go Extinct
Palm oil, used for frying donuts , is a major contributor to deforestation and pollution. Phil King/Flickr
Dunkin' Donuts and Krispy Kreme are filling an environmentally irresponsible hole with a new sustainable strategy.

How much does a doughnut really cost? The person behind the register might know, but you should actually ask critically endangered Sumatran rhinos, tigers or orangutans for the price instead.

Many doughnut companies fry these deliciously fatty treats in unsustainable palm oil, which is cheap to ship and produce but is absolutely no good for the planet. Besides emitting tons of greenhouse gases, the burning of forests for palm oil plantations are a leading cause of deforestation, air pollution and destruction of wildlife and natural habitats in southeast Asia.

But it doesn’t have to be like this. Palm oil can be made without destroying forests or killing animals, and that’s why major doughnut companies are filling their environmentally irresponsible hole (pun intended) with a new sustainable strategy.

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Dunkin’ Brands (the parent company of Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins) announced it will now only buy palm oil from companies that protect forests and community rights for it U.S. stores. A day after Dunkin’s announcement, Krispy Kreme went a step further by committing to a 2016 deadline of sustainable palm oil across its global operation.

The move has been applauded by some environmentalists. Laurel Sutherlin of the Rainforest Action Network praised Dunkin’ Brands when they first announced their green initiatives a year ago, but she adds to NPR, “There’s still an issue that ‘sustainable’ means many different things to many different people.” Sutherlin means that there’s a proverbial gray area with the word “sustainable,” similar to how some “free-range” chickens might only have a shoebox to run around in or some “all natural” foods are made with artificial preservatives. In other words, how do these doughnut companies exactly know that their palm oil sources are entirely scrupulous?

Additionally, are these efforts even big enough to address a global environmental crisis? Calen May Tobin of the Union of Concerned Scientists calls Dunkin’s move a “half-measure” because it “needs to address the 59 other countries in which it operates, too.”

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To Krispy Kreme and Dunkin’ Brand’s credit, they’ve promised to commit to the following principles, according to Forest Heroes:

– No Deforestation: Suppliers must protect forests, endangered species habitat, lands with high carbon stock, and peatland of any depth.

– No Exploitation: Suppliers are required to protect human and worker rights, and obtain Free, Prior, and Informed Consent from communities for all development on their lands.

-Traceability: The companies are working with suppliers to trace all palm oil back to the preliminary plantation sources

What these doughnut companies seem to demonstrate is that the environment needs to be taken seriously. Other major brands and corporations would be wise to follow their lead because this very common vegetable oil isn’t just used for food. Palm oil is also found in 40 to 50 percent of household products including toothpaste, shampoo, cosmetics, cleaning products, detergents and more.

There’s always room for improvement when it comes to protecting our fragile ecosystem, but let’s hope these are steps in the right direction, and not just a greenwashing scheme to sell more doughnuts. The tigers, rhinos and orangutans definitely wouldn’t want that.

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