Pop-Secret Is Top Secret On Its Palm Oil Sources – A Short Story

IMG_2003The environmentalist was in a hurry. He was binging “House of Cards” on Netflix. But something was missing. “Popcorn!,” he blurted out, way too melodramatically for anybody’s own good , racing for his new all-electric Chevy Bolt — you know, the one that now gets about 235 clean energy (in the Bay Area) miles on one charge!

When he arrived at the supermarket, its aisles teemed with products that contained palm oil. And the popcorn aisle specifically? So much popcorn that it almost makes one guilty that starvation still exists in the world today, he considered thoughtfully, The environmentalist also knew first hand that some popcorn producers sometimes used palm oil. But he’d done his research in the past, so he’d been down this road before. Or so he thought. He reached for a box that looked safe, familiar, and beckoned with its pleasant blues and yellow hues. Ah, Pop-Secret!

Home, he charged. Back to Netflix, raising his popcorn box like a sword through the hot summer night. But the environmentalist was wrong. He was too bold. He was too brash. He thought he knew his palm oil products. But when he got back to his kitchen (his new Chevy Bolt not requiring any charge for the third day in a row now!), the environmentalist to his shock and horror caught a side-long glance at the Pop Secret’s ingredients panel as he ripped open the box to discard properly in the recycling bin. What’s that,” he quizzed?


Palm oil

Damn. Palm oil! There it was — like the ever-present sun on his all-solar-powered California home (he could dream, couldn’t he?). Palm Oil! The scourge of the Earth! The second fucking ingredient by volume in this very product!  Hell, second only to the actual goddamned popcorn itself, his righteous indignation rising. “I’ve failed,” he muttered defeatedly to himself. He purchased a product not knowing its palm oil sourcing policies. This was not like him.

So he got an idea. Like he did before. The next day he wrote to Pop-Secret, sending them his usual “death and destruction” email, begging to know from where they source their palm oil.

Quicker than expected, Pop Secret wrote back:

Thank you for contacting us.  Please accept our apologies for your experience with Pop Secret that was not to your liking. We do appreciate your feedback. Your comments are appreciated and will be useful in future work on this product.

What the hell did that mean?, the environmentalist thought to himself.  Just another boilerplate customer service response sent by a harried, overworked, underpaid customer service drone, he guessed.

So the environmentalist queried further.  From where do you get your rainforest-destroying, orangutan-killing, people-displacing/enslaving, global-warming exacerbating palm oil?, he pleaded, hoping to hear good news. Why didn’t you answer my question?, he prodded.  From where do you get your palm oil?, he poked.

The cold, calculating, clinical response from Pop-Secret said it all:

Thank you for your email. I did not answer that previously as we do not disclose our vendor information to consumers.

Really? “Seriously?!” the environmentalist belted out in the cubicle of his office (to which he drove in his new all-EV Chevy Bolt).  This isn’t a state secret, you know!  (Well, actually, it IS a trade secret, but that’s beside the point here.) The environmentalist had a pretty good track record of getting such info before from even the biggest of evil corporations (can anybody say, “Pepsi”?). Ninety-five percent of the time a company reveals it’s palm oil sourcing policy proudly, as if they’re a good actor. But he also knew that most of the time they hide behind those infernal greenwashers, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), which wasn’t much more valuable than the paper upon those sustainability certificates were printed.

But not this time.  This time Pop-Secret — probably the most secretive of all popcorn manufacturers, I mean it’s right in their freakin’ name! — refused to divulge a thing.

Refused to divulge, the environmentalist ruminated. He wrote back again. Who the F are you that Pop Secret’s sourcing policy is so top secret (see what I did there?) that it cannot be divulged to us, the mere mortal consumer?

Well, hell, he thought. Well, hell, we’ll boycott! “Yes! Boycott!,” he screamed at work, his workers looking quizzically at this madman suddenly bolting above the quite din of his cubicle work environment. Seeing the weird looks his way he inspired, the environmentalist shrugged and sat down silently. His crazy environmentalist reputation at work had already preceded him. So no harm there.

The moral of the story:  stay vigilant my friends, look at labels. Write manufacturers. The fate of the world only hangs in the balance.


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180 Degrees — Its Silence Shows It Hasn’t “Come Around” (See What I Did There) On Palm Oil

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Another day, another trip into our palm oil-invaded workplace kitchen. This time the insidious creep of palm oil snuck-in in the form of a bagged Trojan horse called “Nutty Rice Bites”, from a company called something like 180 Degrees (I can’t make the superscript “O” easily in this text), located in Anaheim, CA, home of Disneyland, and near the neat, tidy middle-class inland Orange County bedroom community where I lived my first ten years.  (I used to say, “I grew up in the shadow of the Matterhorn.”)

Well this tale is all too familiar:  they use palm oil, their ingredients panel shows.  So I wrote to them. then I wrote to them again. Then again.  And Again. Finally I called today and had to leave a voicemail. Four separate emails (one sent through their customer inquiry page on their website) and a personal call to their HQ, and STILL NOTHING.  Note: the phone number on the back of their bag contains a typo — too many digits, maybe that tells you a little something about their quality control.

Not a good sign. Either this is a mom-and-pop shop with nobody available from their over-taxed, undera-manned assembly line factory to answer customer inquiries — or their silence on palm oil sourcing is loud and telling. Personally, I hope the former.

For now, I boycott.  And I will ask my employer — and their vendor — to cease stocking our kitchen with this product.  I’ll post their response if and when I get it (but I will not hold my breath)….

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Now THIS is How You DO It – Ben & Jerry’s Goes Palm Oil Free!

I always knew that Ben & Jerry’s had a palm oil issue.  But not all their flavors. So I looked for those flavors that didn’t contain palm oil, or palm oil codewords, knowing the company was working toward the goal of being palm oil free, and also believing in their overall social-business ethics.

Well, that time has arrived:




It’s clear that businesses can be both responsible and make money. They are not mutually exclusive.

Go Ben & Jerry’s!  F-palm oil!

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Kar’s Nuts – Contains Palm Oil But Is It Sustainable?

IMG_1544 I needed some candy at work the other day, but reached for a Kar’s Nuts “Sweet n Salty Mix” bag instead of candy. While chomping away somewhat guilt-free, I read the ingredients. Uh oh. Palm oil.  Now I feel really guilty. I quickly wrote them, espousing the evils of palm oil as a scourge on earth. Here’s their response:

The Palm Kernel Oil in Sweet N Salty Mix is Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) Certified. The RSPO is a “not-for-profit association that unites stakeholders from seven sectors of the palm oil industry to develop and implement global standards for sustainable palm oil.” They work to minimize the negative impact of palm oil cultivation on both the environment and communities in palm oil-producing regions of the world. For more information, please refer to http://www.rspo.org.

Our Certified Palm Kernel Oil must originate from a plantation managed and certified per the principles and criteria of the RSPO. For us to claim its usage of RSPO Certified sustainable palm oil, our entire supply chain (producers, refiners, processors, traders, distributors and manufacturers) are required to be RSPO members and RSPO Certified. (There must be a full compliance from the plantation all the way through to the final product in which the palm/palm kernel oil is used, in this case the chocolate gem candy.) Additionally, RSPO members undergo a rigorous initial certification and annual re-certification process which includes onsite audits as well.

Kar’s Nuts takes great care to ensure that our products contain ingredients that are both delicious and sustainable. We have a very detailed ingredient and supplier approval process and many other controls at various steps in our process to ensure that products produced at our facility are of good quality as well as sustainably and ethically sourced.

Quality Assurance Manager
Kar’s Nuts

Well, this certainly sounds amazing!  It contains all the right buzzwords, i.e., “from plantation all the way to the final product.”  Great for Kar’s Nuts!  Sounds like they’re aware of the huge, soul-sucking palm oil problem.

But then I despaired. Why? Because RSPO.  So I wrote them back this morning, telling them that oftentimes RSPO certification isn’t worth the paper it’s written on (for instance, if it’s pursuant to the Green Palm certificates or Mass Balance scheme).  I’ll post their response when I get it.

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Environmentalists Aren’t Perfect – But At Least We Try.


(Photo credit: @altUSEPA on Twitter. “The Unofficial “Resistance” team of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Not taxpayer subsidized! Environmental conditions may vary from alternative facts.”)


Thought for the day:

“Hypocrisy is the gap between your aspirations and your actions. Greens have high aspirations – they want to live more ethically – and they will always fall short. But the alternative to hypocrisy isn’t moral purity (no one manages that), but cynicism. Give me hypocrisy any day.”


A great article from a year ago in the Guradian:

How I deal with the unbearable hypocrisy of being an environmentalist



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EO’s Face Exfoliate – An Environmental Double Whammy?

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My girlfriend bought this product recently. Seeing it in the shower, I used it, being the completely confident, comfortable metrosexual that I am. As I scrubbed away on my face, I got that sinking microbead feeling. What the hell!? They’ve been made illegal under H.R.1321 – Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015.

As Popular Science pointed out:

[M]icrobeads are “adept at killing marine life and bringing harmful chemicals into the food chain. Since 2012, when researchers searched the Great Lakes for small pieces of plastic and found high concentrations of microbeads, environmentalists have campaigned to ban them.”


So I checked the ingredients and don’t speak chemistry so that wasn’t much help to me. But I also caught numerous palm oil code words too.  Uh Oh, a dreaded environmental double whammy!?  Microbeads and palm oil?!  In the same product! Two Earth-destroying ingredients in one needless luxury cosmetic?  I had to find out, so wrote them an email.  Here’s their response:

Thank you kindly for reaching out to us and voicing your concern on behalf of the environment. We’re always thrilled to hear from conscientious consumers, so we appreciate your efforts of this research and questioning.

Our everyone™ Exfoliate is made with the wax from Candelilla plants, shown below:

Image result for candelilla plant

Brad Black, one of the co-owners of EO Products, fought tirelessly to push this legislation of ridding the cosmetic industry of miscrobeads, knowing the environmental and ecological impact they caused. A product can have the same semi-rough scrubbing ability while using sustainable plant sources.

As for the two Palm Oil ingredients within some formulations, the Ethyl Palmate and Vegetable Glycerin, are sourced from sustainable organic palm grown in Brazil. This organic palm oil is from a company that is RSPO approved. We are not at liberty to disclose the name of our supplier but their company does appear as a member on the RSPO website (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil): http://www.rspo.org/. The other “palm” ingredients you may see are not actually Palm; Palmarosa Essential Oil from the lemongrass family, and then palmitoyl tripeptide is an amino acid used for its anti-aging reduction of wrinkles effect.

At EO we recognize the interdependence of all living things and we take great pride in creating products that are good for both people and the planet. That philosophy is at the core of every aspect of our business, from developing our formulas to sourcing ingredients to manufacturing and operations. For the past 20 years we have been creating body care products using the cleanest ingredients available that are also safe and effective. Hopefully this helps in deciding if our company/product is a good match with you. Please feel free to reach out any time!

So good for EO!  Although I have serious doubts about the RSPO, and harbor more than a heavy dose of skepticism of their organization — and lets hope the Brazilian rainforest isn’t implicated in deforestation here — but we know it’s not from that hotbed of illegal deforestation, palm oil greed and hands-out corruption that is the palm oil (banana) republic of Indonesia.




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Girl Scout Cookies – Still Bad – Still Avoid

It’s that time of year again — friends, family and co-workers pushing Girl Scout cookies, those little, barely-average morsels of palm oil and fat that I don’t think anybody ever liked.

Nowadays, I just avoid certain supermarket entrances to keep from having to have sweet, well-intentioned girl scouts ask me if I want buy their shitty cookies. Rather than give them a whole spiel on what “Mass Balance” RSPO palm oil means, that they won’t necessarily understand anyway (without them thinking I’m some old cranky crackpot), and how it’s killing orangutans, among other serious environmental crimes, I just avoid them all together. Better not to crush young, idealistic minds just yet. That’s what religion and adulthood is for.

At any rate, Little Brownie Bakers, who bakes the Girl Scout Cookies, use “Mass Balance” palm oil.  Here’s the absurdly obvious and simplistic infographic from the RSPO website.


That’s literally mixing shitty, bad palm oil with less, shitty, less bad palm oil.

Enough said.  Boycott them — and if you have the sort of disposition to politely educate the young scouts, please do.

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