How orangutans influenced our business decisions

Every choice has its consequences. Even when you think you’re doing the right thing, there can be hidden effects, happening in ways you didn’t see coming, in parts of the world that are a long way from home.

That’s the story of Kids’ Tummy TLC, palm trees and how orangutans changed the way we do business.

Let’s start at the beginning. Liquid plant extracts have two main ingredients. The liquid and the plant. The basic recipe is simple too. Chop the plant into tiny pieces. Soak it in liquid. Wait, stir, wait some more, stir some more. Then press out the liquid through a fine filter so all the solid bits are left behind.

Understandably, our plants get a lot of attention. That’s why we have our organic farm in Oregon. And why we spend so much time and effort investigating potential sources for herbs we can’t grow ourselves. (Maybe the herb only grows in the arctic, say, or on top of South American mountains.)

Of course, the liquid matters too. We extract most of our herbs with organic cane alcohol. But alcohol doesn’t work for everybody. That’s why we make alcohol-free products. For example, all our kids’ products like Kids’ Tummy TLC are alcohol-free.

For these, we use something called glycerin

It’s a thick, syrupy liquid that is sweet on the tongue. It’s usually made from palm trees. And it’s versatile. You can find glycerin in all sorts of other products from toothpaste to cookies to soap. But that versatility is where the problem starts.

Demand for palm glycerin has drastically increased over the last few decades. But to meet that demand, farmers across the world have been clear-cutting huge swaths of rainforest, and in their place, planting massive palm tree plantations. This is especially true in Southeast Asia. In Indonesia, for example, palm oil production is the largest cause of deforestation.*

This deforestation is putting countless species at risk from rare plants to small bugs to big, hairy orangutans. The loss is not incidental. Some estimates say endangered Indonesian orangutans have seen their populations halved in recent years.*

So what’s the ethical choice here?

How do you create alcohol-free herbal products to help kids and at the same time, not contribute to a process that endangers the lives of the animals kids love?

Suddenly the plight of orangutans was impacting business decisions in Oregon. (Of course, the animals are not the only risk. Deforestation has numerous other consequences from flooding to soil depletion to global warming.) So, we did what we always do. We found an ethical alternative.

Palm glycerin dominates the market. But when we looked hard, we found a vendor selling organic corn glycerin. The only problem was price. It cost ten times more than palm. We bought it anyway.

Now, we use 100% non-palm Certified-Organic glycerin. In the years we’ve used it, the price has fallen. It’s now only 4-5 times more expensive than palm. We probably spend more on glycerin than any of our competitors. But it’s the right thing to do.

So the next time you’re in the herbal aisle and you spot a bottle of Kids’ Tummy TLC, think of the Indonesian orangutans. We do. And it makes a difference.

 

*Source: (2010, September 16). Science News, Articles, and Information – Scientific American. Is Harvesting Palm Oil Destroying the Rainforests? – Scientific American. Retrieved February 18, 2017, from http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/harvesting-palm-oil-and-rainforests/


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