Sunday, February 1, 2015

The palm oil industry of Indonesia

A question of economic against environmental sustainability

Here are the facts. Palm oil is widely regarded as the most versatile oil, with its applications ranging from cooking oil, margarine, cosmetics, detergents, industrial lubricants and even biofuels for cars and power plants. Compared to other oil, palm oil is the highest-yielding vegetable crop, needing less than half the land required by other crops to produce the same amount of oil. This makes palm oil relatively cheap compared to other vegetable oils such as rapeseed and sunflower oil. In addition, palm oil is superior health-wise as it contains more vitamin A and vitamin E compared to any other edible oils and helps reduce the risk of a variety of diseases such as Alzheimer’s or cancer. Bearing all these environmental and economic benefits in mind, no wonder the demand for palm oil, and its level of production have increased significantly in the last few years.

Indonesia tops the list by providing more than half (85%) of the world’s supply of palm oil

As an edible vegetable oil, palm oil represents the largest share of worldwide edible oil production, at more than 30%, followed by soybean and rapeseed oil at 28% and 15% respectively. And among all other palm oil producers, including Nigeria and Malaysia, Indonesia tops the list by providing more than half of the world’s supply of palm oil. In fact, palm oil is a very crucial part of this G20 member, accounting for 11% of its export earnings of 5.7 billion USD. The industry has also helped Indonesia to relieve its unemployment problem by giving jobs to about 3.2 million people. Not just that, but the worldwide demand for this so called “sacred food” has increased so much that the growth of palm oil production in Indonesia alone averaged up to 8.1% per year from 1987 to 2007. This in turn will bring even more revenue and job employment for Indonesia. So as you can see, it is obvious how important Indonesia’s palm oil production is to the world and to Indonesia’s own economy.

The deforestation of Indonesia’s valuable rainforests accounts for the loss of 8 million hectares of forest land in Borneo and Sumatra

However it’s not all good news in the palm oil business. There have been a lot of critics and protests on how this particular industry impacts the environment, animals and ultimately the people of Indonesia. The most common criticisms are directed at the weak law enforcement in forestry management, which is causing the deforestation of Indonesia’s valuable rainforests, accounting for the loss of 8 million hectares of forest land in Borneo and Sumatra. This loss of biodiversity and ecosystems is so bad that a third of all mammal species in Indonesia are considered to be “critically endangered”. One species in particular, the orangutan, had become an icon of deforestation in Borneo and Sumatra. Around 2500 orangutans are killed each year and 90% of orangutans’ habitat has been destroyed in the last 20 years due to the development of the palm oil industry. This has alarmed the UN so much that it has started an “emergency conservation” programme in Indonesia’s rainforests.

It seems very heartbreaking that such an important part of Indonesia’s economy is stabbing itself in the back by destroying its own very valuable resource. Efforts have been raised to create a sustainable way of developing palm oil production. The “Roundtable on sustainable palm oil” for example has committed to preserving 50% of all the rainforest in Indonesia and utilize the palm oil plantations as a carbon sink. Several NGOs like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth continually protest and raise awareness of the destruction of Indonesia’s rainforests while promoting a sustainable way for palm oil production.

The numbers are there. Indonesia clearly needs all the economic drive the palm oil industry is providing for them. And the numbers are there again. Indonesia cannot afford not to act upon the rate at which their rainforests are being destroyed. And so the questions remain. For how long can Indonesia maintain their current practices? At what cost? Ultimately, to what extent can the importance of economic sustainability surpass the importance of environmental sustainability?

-Adhitya Prayoga



    Phytoplankton absorb Carbon Dioxide and release Oxygen. They produce as much Oxygen as all the trees in the world, and they remove 3 billion tonnes of Carbon Dioxide every year. – SAHFOS

hytoplankton are microscopic algae found floating and drifting in the upper layer of the oceans. They perform the very essential task of preparing food for those organisms which don’t have the means to do it by themselves. Phytoplankton achieve this by following the process of photosynthesis, in which they utilize sunlight and carbon di oxide to create food for themselves and for other marine organisms as well.
Ever wondered what the consequences will be if there were no phytoplankton left on earth!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Green consumerism and ”Case Christmas”
by Krista Haapamäki

While (grocery) shopping, customers face several choices - of produce and products – which are more or less ethical. There's the regular product, the cheap product, the luxurious more expensive product, the ethical product (organic or Fair Trade, or both) and the product manufactured nearby. Which one to choose? Let's take ”Case Christmas”.

Christmas time is a holiday season when consumerism is almost unavoidable. Everything is consumed – food, presents and gift cards, festive clothes and decorations, and of course gift wrappings. Christmas and the tradition of exchanging presents place a huge demand on Earth's vital, limited resources. Christmas also depicts our generation, as consumers.

 But: it does not have to be so. Christmas can be a wonderful opportunity to spend time with family and friends without all that consumerism. Or at least, the money could be used for a cause! Small choices in a better direction, every now and then, can make a difference on a larger scale; choices such as buying less or buying better (ethical, organic or sturdier). After the present, another choice concerns gift wrappings – one could try e.g. not to pack their gifts at all, avoid individual wrappings, prefer recycled gift paper or even utilize newspaper.

To provide alternative Christmas choices and raise awareness among consumers, an event ”Vihreä Joulu”, ”Green Christmas” was organized on 13th of November in Tampere Hall by TAMK’s Proakatemia entrepreneurship students. The idea, or motto, behind the happening is ”You're going to buy anyway, so choose better” - this is a great idea!

The event Vihreä joulu was supported by Ruohonjuuri, Cabassi (bag, in the picture), and Ekona. 

In the event there were approximately 15 stalls which were full of recycled products, organic products or “green” cosmetics. (e.g. no synthetic ingredients in the D-vitamin tablets). Some of the products were recycled for example from bicycles' inner tires or silver spoons (see the picture, Retonki, SusannaN Design). The jewelry made from the tires was mesmerizingly beautiful and the silver spoon jewelry was jaw-droppingly delicate and luxurious.

“Green Christmas” is an excellent pioneer idea. One way to ”lighten the load” is truly opting for better products! Yet even better is to opt for services such as a massage gift card, a movie ticket, or donate something to charitable organizations. The best choice is not to buy anything, and just enjoy the company of family and friends during the holidays. 

Anyhow the goal is to buy less, or at least buy better – when possible. Whether “better” means domestic or Fair Trade products, is up to You!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Recycling on construction sites in Finland

By: Oskari Mäkelä

Construction sites are a very common view everywhere. There is always a demand for building new or renovating old ones. The waste materials that are created in these processes should always be recycled, yet this is not always done. On every construction site there should be separate collection points at least for wood, metal, plastics, glass, and hazardous waste.

Green building: goodbye to the concrete jungles!

By Paola Israde Burrola

Nowadays becoming “green” has gained popularity among designers and builders, since the needs of the housing market are continuously changing. Sustainable design covers a building’s impacts holistically, from the planning process to the deconstruction at the end of the building’s useful life. It is necessary to consider all the impacts a construction may bring, since wrong planning might affect the tenant’s health as well as the surroundings: ecosystems, air quality, animals and plants among others.

The aim of a sustainable construction project is to enhance the quality of life for the building occupants. People were not designed to live in an asphalt jungle, surrounded by traffic jams and having to breathe polluted air. It is necessary to implement projects, which allow public encounters with convenient access to public transportation, and natural spaces that promote walking instead of driving. Simply by incorporating natural features such as windows that permits natural light into the building or by adding some plants, the occupants’ experience can be transformed from just living in the building to enjoying their lives.

And what else makes this kind of building so attractive? It’s energy use. High-efficiency buildings use natural means for power generation, for instance solar and wind power, and they include as well the use of some principles which tends towards minimum performance standards such as:

  • 1.     The use of materials with efficient thermal mass and insulation: materials that readily absorb, store and release heat, such as concrete, bricks, stone and masonry.
  • 2.      Orientation of the building to take advantage of natural shading and solar heat gain.
  • 3.      A compact design, which can optimize the use of the heat trapped within the building.
  • 4.  A highly sealed and insulated building in conjunction with a mechanical ventilation system incorporating heat recovery.

However, what is usually thought about green building is that by implementing this kind of practices, the cost of the project will increase and result in more work. This misconception is far from reality. In terms of the construction process, sustainable practices are not very different from traditional procedures, but they result in a different and a more efficient construction. Green projects are demonstrating that many of the fundamental principles of sustainable building can be applied without increasing the project price and they also allow savings in terms of operating costs.

One model of a green building project is actually very near Tampere. The Vuores area is a typical ‘greenfield’ development in a woodland area to the south of the city of Tampere, which by 2020 will become an ECOCITY. This project is trying to incorporate all the fundamentals of green building construction with an optimum urban structure that takes into account the conservation of the natural environment, social issues, an efficient public transport system and of course, for the energy supply the use of renewable energies.


Image: Kubina, J. 2007. Technische Universität Darmstadt - Solar Decathlon 2007. Solar energy, Wikipedia.last modified on 10 november 2014. Accessed 10/11/2014. 

Letcher, T. 2008. Future energy: Improvised, sustainable and clean options for our planet. China: Elsevier.
Yudelson, J. 2009. Green building through integrated design. USA: Mc Graw hill.

Bose, R. 2009. Energy efficient cities. USA: The World Bank.