Sometimes a little bit of exaggeration can be a helpful tool. In the spirit of helpful exaggerations, I have coined two terms: orangutan blood and redwood tears.
Orangutan blood is what I call palm oil. Palm oil is a very pervasive ingredient that is linked to major deforestation of the orangutan ecosystems (see my earlier post for more details). If you tell people you don’t buy some brands of butter/ peanut butter because they contain palm oil, most people won’t really pay much attention. But, if you tell people you avoid a certain brand because it has orangutan blood, they will probably ask you a follow-up question and have a better chance of remembering what you tell them. I’ve written to many companies to inform them that I no longer buy their products because the products contain palm oil. All of the companies respond saying that their palm oil is sustainably harvested and is not contributing to deforestation. Since I have no means of evaluating their claims, I avoid palm oil as much as I can.
Redwood tears is a general term referring to excessive, useless paper products. A stack of unused paper napkins in the garbage at a restaurant is redwood tears. A ream of paper at work that someone accidentally printed is redwood tears. Endless amounts of junk mail are redwood tears. Redwood trees are not actually used to make paper products. However, it was the redwood trees that inspired me as I traveled through the beautiful forests in Northern California. At the time, I was reading The Story of Stuff which taught me that “about 40 percent of the stuff in municipal garbage is paper”. I thought of the wasted paper products, and I imagined forests everywhere crying. We use paper without even thinking of the trees used to make the paper. Referring to needless paper products as redwood tears gives us a reminder of where that paper originated.
I hope that these exaggerated terms encourage people to buy fewer products containing palm oil and reduce their paper consumption. But, if nothing else, I smile every time I use the terms.