2 Smart Cookies, Making Girl Scout Cookies Forest-Friendly
We’ve been proud Girl Scouts for the past 11 years and have sold (and eaten!) lots of cookies. Imagine our shock when five years ago we discovered that palm oil, an ingredient in Girl Scout Cookies, is contributing to rainforest deforestation, the endangerment of thousands of species and contributing to human rights abuses.
In 2007, as 11 year olds we decided to work together to earn our Girl Scout Bronze Award which required us to advocate for an issue we were passionate about. Inspired by Dr. Jane Goodall’s selfless efforts to protect the chimpanzees, we decided to raise awareness within our local community about the endangered orangutan. While doing research, we discovered the production of palm oil is destroying the orangutans’ rainforest habitat. The clearing and burning of these forests, and carbon-rich peatland have made Indonesia the 3rd largest emitter of greenhouse gases, behind China and the United States. Unsustainable palm oil production is a human rights crisis too: the US Department of Labor links its production to child and forced labor.
After scouring through our pantries and shelves, we couldn’t believe how many products we use every day contain palm oil. In fact, palm oil is used in about half of the products in the grocery store. It was Girl Scout Cookie season and out of habit we checked the ingredients label for palm oil. We were shocked that an organization who teaches millions of girls the importance of environmental stewardship and whose mission statement includes “to make the word a better place” would be contributing to such grave social and environmental issues by using palm oil in their cookies. So, we founded Project ORANGS (Orangutans Really Appreciate and Need Girl Scouts) in an effort to convince our organization to make their cookies rainforest-safe!
We started small, with a letter writing drive and a petition (which was later signed by our hero Dr. Goodall!). In addition, we developed a puzzle piece campaign which allowed past and present Girl Scouts to decorate blank puzzle pieces with why they believe it was important for Girl Scouts USA (GSUSA) to protect the rainforests and have designed a “Rainforest Hero Badge” for Girl Scouts to earn in positive support of our campaign. Our most recent online petition has received the support of over 70,000 Girl Scout Cookie Consumers and Girl Scouts.
We’ve become advocates for rainforests on a variety of national media outlets including the Wall Street Journal and the CBS Early Show. Recently, we were honored by the United Nations as North American Forest Heroes. The success we’ve achieved has been a direct result of the support from thousands of consumers across the country as well as our partnerships with a variety of organizations including the Union of Concerned Scientists, Climate Advisers, Orangutan Outreach and Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots.
Last May, we met with Girl Scout Executives at their headquarters for the first time. This past September they announced their new palm oil policy.It’s a great step in the right direction, but we’re looking forward to continuing the dialogue with them in order to ensure that Girl Scout cookies are truly rainforest-safe. To stay involved with our efforts, check out the work we’re doing with the Union of Concerned Scientists.
So while the most high school students are looking forward to summer break, we’re looking forward to Palm Break! Through this exciting initiative, everyone has the opportunity to show their support for forest-friendly products. If your favorite products contain palm oil, write a letter asking the company to use deforestation-free palm oil. Also please take action now by participating in the campaign asking Coca Cola to adopt a rainforest-safe palm oil policy.
Join us in our fight to protect rainforests!
To learn more about our campaign check us out on Twitter (@girlscouthonor), Facebook (Project ORANGS) or on our website (www.projectorangs.org)