3809578364 27385f45ca m LUSH Cosmetics has a new soap for orangutan fans: Jungle soap. This green, tree-shaped soap’s made without palm oil — a widely-used soap ingredient that companies have been producing by clearing rain forests in Malaysia and Indonesia where endangered orangutans live.

Buy a 3.5 oz. bar for $5.95, and all proceeds will go to the nonprofit Rainforest Foundation, which works with indigenous people to protect their forest homes from expanding palm oil plantations.

Jungle’s part of LUSH’s bigger campaign against palm oil, currently used not just in soaps but also in food products, biofuels and other cosmetic products — including some of LUSH’s own stuff. “Small traces of palm oil still exist in some LUSH products, but the product creators are working to find creative ways to remove the oil altogether,” announced Lush’s press release. Lush has vowed to become a palm oil free company and thus far, has gotten palm oil out of its soaps.

3808747587 0604e2e6a9 m As part of this campaign, 48 LUSH shops across the U.S. have put up “Wash your hands of palm” interactive window displays. Until Aug. 28, customers are invited to drop in, dip their hands in green paint, add a palm print to the display, wash up with LUSH’s palm-free soap — and get a free soap sample. LUSH is also writing to the top 300 companies that use palm oil, “asking them to reformulate their products to no longer include this rain forest-destroying ingredient.”

LUSH’s campaign, however, makes me wonder if getting rid of palm oil altogether’s the answer. Conservation groups like World Wildlife Fund, for example, are calling not for an end to palm oil production but a move to sustainable palm oil. In fact, WWF recently pointed out that “only 1percent of the sustainable palm oil available on the market has been bought.” The nonprofit’s now trying to create a bigger market for the more eco-version of the now vilified oil:

WWF asks all companies buying palm oil to make public commitments that they will use 100 percent certified sustainable palm oil by 2015; to make public their plans with deadlines to achieve this goal; and to begin purchasing certified sustainable palm oil immediately.
To that end, WWF’s going to create a Palm Oil Buyer’s Scorecard, “highlighting companies that support sustainable palm oil and exposing those who have not fulfilled their commitments to buy it.” Once that comes out — which won’t be for about another six months — customers will be better able to pick products that don’t destroy rain forests and orangutan habitat, whether that product’s a palm-free soap from LUSH or a sustainable palm-oil soap from other companies. I do like LUSH’s efforts to educate people about environmental issues — as well as the the minimal packaging used for LUSH’s products — but LUSH does also use fragrance and other eco-controversial ingredients in its products.

Images courtesy of LUSH Cosmetics

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