It never ceases to amaze me when young people become passionate about a subject and take action to change things. It was recently reported in the Wall Street Journal, that two teenage girl scouts, Rhiannon Tomtishen and Madison Vorva, from Michigan have done just that.
The girls were working on their Girl Scout Bronze Award, the highest honor a girl scout may earn, on the topic of endangered orangutans. Their research revealed that the threat comes from the disappearance of the orangutan habitat, partially due to the clearing of rain forests for palm oil plantations.
Ever since they realized that palm oil was an ingredient in all of the varieties of Girl Scout cookies, the two girl scouts have been petitioning Girl Scouts USA (GSUSA) to remove the palm oil from the recipe, or use sustainably raised palm oil. The reply from GSUSA is that there is not enough sustainably raised palm oil to supply their needs. Sustainable palm oil accounts for only 6% of the total palm oil sales.
In March 2011, Rainforest Action Network (RAN) announced a partnership with these Girl Scout Activists. Apparently, the two teens approached RAN after being frustrated by the lack of response from the Girl Scouts leaders. RAN is proud to be supporting the efforts of the two and hope that GSUSA will mark the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scouts with products that reflect their values.
The campaign’s goal is to raise public awareness about the effects of rainforest destruction on the orangutans and other rain forests inhabitants, as well as to pressure Girl Scout executives to respond to this concern. These rain forests are among the most biologically diverse forests on earth and need to be protected.
The Girl Scouts did respond to concerns about using trans fats in their cookies in 2007 and made the switch to palm oil. Unfortunately, their supplier is Cargill. This company is the largest importer of palm oil to the United States, and is partially responsible for the deforestation of rain forests, climate change, as well as human rights violations in Indonesia and Malaysia. Palm oil cultivated in Indonesia has been added to the US Department of Labor’s global list of commodities linked to slave labor and/or child labor.
Kellogg’s, which owns one of the two companies that actually produce the Girl Scout cookies, recently announced that they would invest in “Green Palm” Certificates. However, according to Vorva (one of the scouts) this tactic does not guarantee that the palm oil used in the cookies is free from rain forest deforestation and the consequences of that on the orangutans and other animals.
Perhaps they could switch the palm oil in some of the cookies to sustainably raised coconut oil, another healthy oil. While I’m not a fan of Girl Scout cookies because of the numerous additives and artificial ingredients in them, I wholeheartedly support these two young women for their leadership, perseverance and insight into this problem. Please show your support by signing their petition.
Rainforest Action Network runs campaigns to break North America’s addiction to fossil fuels, protect endangered forests and Indigenous rights, and stop destructive investments around the world through education, grassroots organizing, and non-violent direct action. For more information, please visit: www.ran.org