Environmental Impact of Cooking Oils (And Is Palm Oil Bad For the Environment)

Imagine what life in the kitchen would be without cooking oil. Not impressive, right? We thought as much.

This is why many people do many things just to have cooking oil as part of their food ingredients. Asides this, some foods cannot get cooked without cooking oil.

Cooking oil is a fat-derived substance from plants, animals, or synthetic sources. Generally, cooking oil is a liquid substance at room temperature. However, some oils are solid at room temperature like coconut oil, palm oil, etc. Cooking oil is used to impart flavor to the food or transfer heat from a pan to food.

So, cooking oil is important in the kitchen, and you can’t possibly keep it out of your kitchen for now. However, beyond how useful cooking oil is in your kitchen, do you ever pause to ask yourself some critical questions?

Of course, not all cooking oils are advisable for our health, but do we know what each of these cooking oils do to the environment? How about the proper way to dispose of them when they have served their purpose?

We bet these questions and many others have got you on your feet. Well, we won’t leave you hanging. In this article, we will address the environmental impacts of cooking oil.

Dive in!

Environmental Impact of Cooking Oils

In today’s world, hardly would there be anything that won’t affect the environment. The only difference is the measure of the impact they have on the environment.

With cooking oil, the narrative is not different; they also have impacts on the environment. Are you wondering what they are? Let’s consider these impacts.

However, just before that, you should know that there are some regulations concerning cooking oil. In some countries, the law regulates some cooking oils because they have similar content and some petroleum oil materials.

Guess what; these materials have been a significant cause of some physical and environmental unfavorable conditions.

Some of the damage cooking oil does include:

  • It coats plants and animals and depletes their oxygen. When this happens, the plant and animals may suffocate and die.
  • It pollutes the environment with an offensive odor. In real-time, cooking oil has a way of adding some unpleasant smell to the environment; this could contribute to pollution and reduce the quality of the air we breathe in.
  • It can be toxic materials for the environment. Asides from being toxic to plants and animals, they can also be harmful to the environment. For instance, when oil meets water, they tend to soil the water. And where we do not act fast, aquatic life may suffer and die from such.
  • They can also hamper the reproduction rate of plants and animals. This would undoubtedly affect the sustainability of these plants and animals. Before long, humans would start feeling this scarcity on the food supply chain. This does not sound good for anyone of us.

How Does Cooking Oil Affect the Environment?

Cooking oil affects the environment in different ways; we probably cannot exhaust everything at a go. But, let’s look at the obvious ones.

Every year millions of acres of forest are cut down across the globe to give rise to different oil plantations. This causes the destruction of the habitat of different species. Many oil plants are sprayed with pesticides that contain different toxic chemicals that pollute soil and water. The usage of fertilizers in the oil plantations leads to eutrophication.

Eutrophication is the excessive presence of nutrients in water bodies. This leads to the formation of algal blooms that deplete oxygen levels and harm aquatic life. This, obviously, would displace and endanger different species of plants and animals. People destroy their natural habitat to make room for cooking oil plants.

Also, as farmers clear the tropical rainforest for cooking oil plantation, local inhabitants become more prone to natural disasters.

The process of planting, harvesting, and processing these cooking oil plantations requires giant machines’ operation. Because of this, more fossil fuel gets into the atmosphere and pollute it.

The fertilizers and other chemicals used for planting may be washed into the river and harm the fish and different aquatic life.

Many animals lose their habitat due to the clearing of forests for oil plantations. These species either relocate or reach the verge of extinction. This is also linked to soil degradation as loss of flora and fauna in any area depletes the soil quality.

Lastly, some of these cooking oils come in packaging that is not readily biodegradable. Before some of the packagings decompose, they may have caused great harm to the environment.

Is Vegetable Oil Bad For the Environment?

Vegetable oil often gets tipped as a viable replacement for palm oil. Still, researchers have found that vegetable oil would have an even more significant impact on the environment than palm oil.

Its plantation would offer an adverse effect on the environment. Beyond this, its mechanical extraction and the other processes it undergoes also pose a considerable threat to the environment

In short, different vegetable oils impact the environment in different ways. The degree to which the environment is affected varies from oil to oil. For example, sunflower oil leaves higher environmental impacts as compared to other oils like coconut oil, palm oil, or rapeseed oil. This means sunflower oil yields less per hectare as compared to other oil plants.

Different impacts of vegetable oils include deforestation, water pollution, greenhouse gas emission, etc. Vegetable oil plantations also cause soil pollution due to fertilizers and pesticides. 

Is Canola Oil Bad for the Environment?

Canola oil is a non-organic type of oil. In most cases, they are genetically modified for planting. Asides this, farmers often spray fertilizers and pesticides on non-organic canola oil. This could be washed away by rain into the marine environment and harm aquatic life.

So, yes, it isn’t good for the environment.

Is Olive Oil Bad For the Environment? 

Olive oil is considered the king of cooking oils. There is no doubt about the culinary and medicinal benefits of olive oil but on the other hand, it might spark environmental degradation. The production of olive oil has rapidly grown in the past few decades. The production of olive oil is not environmentally friendly and has negative impacts on nature.

Olive oil seems to be one of the most preferred cooking oil among people. However, this does not suggest that it does not have any environmental impact. The impact that olive oil production leaves on the environment depends on the size of the plantation.

First, sustaining olive oil plantation on a large scale requires a lot of water every day. This puts more demand on the already scarce water available.

The apparent result is that as the need for olive oil continues to rise, there’s more pressure on the water in the plantation area and its localities. If this continues for long, it could cause drought in volatile regions.

Also, there are concerns about the fertilizers and other plant sprays used on the olive oil plant. When there’s flooding, the chemicals often get washed into the water and could cause grievous harm to fish and other aquatic life.

A variety of pesticides are used in olive farming. These contain different chemicals that are bad for the environment. Pesticides along with modern farming techniques decrease biodiversity.

Olive oil plantation pollutes surface water due to fertilizer run-off. Olive cultivation also leads to pollution of groundwater due to nitrogen leaching. Olive oil plantation also leads to water scarcity owing to its high water demand. In addition to this, extracting olive oil from olives is inefficient.


Is Coconut Oil Good for the Environment?

Coconut oil is known to have great health benefits owing to its unique combination of fatty acids. It is known to boost fat loss, heart health, and brain function. The environmental impact of coconut oil is low as compared to other cooking oils but it is not negligible. Its impacts are low because it uses a lesser amount of pesticides.

People offer coconut oil as better than most other cooking oils. However, it still does not mean that it does not have its environmental effect.

Many have linked coconut plantation to the extinction of many animals like the Marianne white-eye bird and the Ontong Java flying fox.

Again, because coconut plant is planted majorly on tropical islands, researchers have linked it to hurting biodiversity preservation.

As there is a boom in the demand for coconut oil, the land across the globe is cleared for coconut monocrops which are low in biodiversity and deplete the soil quality. Several steps are involved in the process of obtaining coconut oil. Coconut is first dried and then refined using chemicals like hexane which are harmful to the environment as they cause air pollution. Also, coconut trees are grown in tropical regions that are home to several remarkable species. Coconut plantation is known to pose a threat to tropical biodiversity.

Is Palm Oil Good for the Environment? 

Indeed, you may not need a lot of palm oil in your kitchen. However, that doesn’t mean they are not relevant to your cooking. Even when you don’t directly use it, some of the food products you buy have the palm oil label on them. This suggests that they used palm oil in processing them.

Whatever part you fall to, the important thing here is this. Palm oil is causing a lot of damages to the environment and its inhabitant. And even faster than we can all think of.

First, palm oil is a vegetable oil extracted from fruit and seeds of the oil palm and requires a large plantation to grow the seed. In the reality of land scarcity, people tend to cut down trees of rain forest yearly to make room for the palm oil plantation.

The ripple effect of this on the environment is alarming. Many significant species of plants and animals become more vulnerable in the process. Worse, some get destroyed.

Another is that as deforestation moves closer, many local people begin to lose their villages and means of livelihood. This is thanks to erosion and flooding that occurs due to deforestation.

Palm oil plantations release carbon dioxide in the air as rainforests are cleared. This leads to deforestation and also leaves the planet more vulnerable to global warming. Many animals lose their habitat due to deforestation which puts their lives at risk. Some animals start relocating due to this reason and are unable to adjust to the new habitat.

Species like orangutans and Sumatran tigers are on the verge of extinction due to palm oil plantation. Forests are cleared by burning timber and trees which releases a significant amount of smoke into the atmosphere. Palm oil plantation also contributes to the loss of biodiversity. These plantations speed up the process of a rise in global temperatures.

Beyond this, while creating land for palm oil plantation, there is a considerable carbon release into the atmosphere. In turn, this contributes to global warming.

Besides, the rainforest trees that palm oil planters are felling absorb a considerable amount of carbon globally. By felling them for palm oil plantation, we reduce the rate at which carbon gets eliminated from the environment.

We don’t need an environmentalist to explain that these pose significant damage to all of us.

Which Cooking Oil is the Best For the Environment?

Relax, we know you are already worried about which cooking oil is the best for the environment or the most eco-friendly. We thought you would also, that is why we have researched the answer just for you. Let’s get to it.

Primarily, there might not be an absolute answer to this question. This is because so many factors come to play when deciding the best, environmentally friendly cooking oil. And there is no one type of cooking oil that checks the boxes for all these considerations.

So, it depends on considering their production factor, packaging, and health benefit before choosing.

Overall, however, organic cooking oil seems to be the better choice for you and the environment. You may want to try it out today. Not only do you protect the environment, but you also enjoy a high-quality cooking oil.

How You Should NOT Dispose of Cooking Oil?

You will probably be having difficulties on how to dispose of it. While we will still get to how to dispose of it properly, here’s what to avoid.

First, don’t think of pouring your cooking oil directly into your waste bin. And that’s even if your waste bin has a base below that will stop the oil from leaking. The problem is that it can render all other materials useless for recycling, especially paper materials.

Secondly, don’t pour used or old cooking oil down the drain. The thing is that when the cooking oil cools off, it can begin to solidify and gather some materials in your pipes. In turn, this can grow in no time to clog your drain. You don’t want that.

Also, don’t pour cooking oil inside a compost bin. This is because excess oil can stop proper airflow. Then, this would hamper your efforts to make a compost pile for your little garden.

Lastly, do not pour oil around the environment. This would make a mess of your surroundings. Then, you are unknowingly sending the oil to the sewage system. It can also escape to the marine environment and cause harm to aquatic life.

How to Dispose of Cooking Oil?

The part that people often shy away from is how to dispose of cooking oil properly. We know that they can make a lot of mess in your kitchen. And, of course, you can’t use them forever as they become old after use.

But how should you properly dispose of them? Relax, let’s walk you through it.

After getting the best of your cooking oil, it is best if you allowed it to cool before attempting to dispose of it. Since cooking oil is usually very hot, you don’t want it to spill on your skin or any other surface while it is still.

After it has cooled off, and it begins to look like what can solidify, it is safe to dispose of then.

What you need is an air-tight container to pour the used oil in. After this, you can firmly cover the container and put it inside a paper bag or polythene bag. Seal it and place it inside your waste bin.

In a short note, that’s how to dispose of your old and unused cooking oil.


Now that you know the implications of your cooking oil on the environment, we hope you would do everything possible to limit the impact.

However, don’t just stop at this; it would be best if you took the message to your family and friends. Or you can refer them to read up this article themselves here.




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About Rinkesh

A true environmentalist by heart ❤️. Founded Conserve Energy Future with the sole motto of providing helpful information related to our rapidly depleting environment. Unless you strongly believe in Elon Musk‘s idea of making Mars as another habitable planet, do remember that there really is no 'Planet B' in this whole universe.