Beryl, bleach, and the year I gave up Tim Tams

It started, as all good children's books do, with a trip to the zoo.

When I visited Melbourne Zoo for school trips in the 1990s the orangutans were slumped sadly in an awful, caveman-style plastic shell. But by the time my now husband and I visited in 2009, the cage had been replaced by a lush jungle island and the red-headed giants lounged on timber pylons, poking happily at a selection of fresh fruit. The zoo had also put in a display about palm oil. It took a lot of my money that day.

The next few years were spent diligently reading the back of packets and working through a series of remarkably bad hair products in an effort to avoid the oil that had caused the destruction of so much Malaysian rainforest. Unfortunately one of the products on the ban lists was Arnott's Tim Tams  fellow Australians will appreciate how painful it was to give that up.


Four years after that zoo trip, my sister and I drove past hectare after hectare of palm plantation on our way to Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Borneo. The 43 square kilometre patch is one of the few safe places left for the great apes in Borneo - and other areas are disappearing fast. We sponsored one of the Sanctuary's orangutans, named Beryl. But donations are only an emergency response. We need a solution.

I've never considered myself an environmentalist or a hippie (I have 30 pairs of shoes, after all). But it frustrates me that Australian consumers make daily decisions that needlessly burden the planet, just because they don't think or don't know the full impact of their choices.

I decided to start this website to provide (hopefully) easy to understand information about how to avoid palm oil in everyday life. I'll also provide a few non-hippy-feeling shortcuts for more sustainable living, because hey  we've only got one planet.