Citizens of the United States of Girl Scout Cookies, take note. Those
Samoas Caramel deLites you’ve been considering stuffing into your face are a little lot more sinful than you realize.
In fact, Girl Scout cookies, along with many other products sold by Kellogg Co., are made with palm oil. Palm oil production, as Rhiannon Tomtishen and Madison Vorva can tell you, is a major environmental threat.
In 2007, Rhiannon and Madison did a report on endangered orangutans for their Girl Scouts Bronze Award. They found that Indonesia, Malaysia, and other parts of Southeast Asia were undergoing massive deforestation, much of it for the purpose of producing palm oil. That deforestation destroys the habitats of orangutans, Sumatran tigers, pygmy elephants and other endangered fauna.
Soon, the girls discovered that the Girl Scout cookies they were selling contained the same palm oil. That’s when they became activists.
They stopped selling the cookies, made their own website and started trying to convince the Girl Scouts to stop using palm oil. Madison and Rhiannon’s efforts were eventually noticed by Dr. Douglas Boucher at the Union of Concerned Scientists, who wrote to the Girl Scouts and cc’ed Kellogg. The story got picked up by Grist, the girls were asked to join the Rainforest Action Network, and a few days ago:
Kellogg Company Takes Leadership Stance in Support of Sustainable Palm Oil
(press release, add salt)
That’s a big step forward, but it isn’t enough to satisfy Rhiannon, Madison or their environmentalist cohorts. In fact, Kellogg’s “leadership stance” merely involves choosing companies that “work towards the use of” sustainable palm oil.
Meanwhile in the UK, the Girl Guides have stopped using palm oil completely, and since 2008 have been offering to help Girl Scouts USA do the same.
Surprise surprise: cutting out palm oil reduces the cookies’ saturated fat content by 60-70 percent.
But Chris Bergerson, Project Manager for the cookies, told blogger nothoney that palm oil’s evils were partly due to greedy consumers:
“The US consumers demand for “more and more” and “better and better” at a lower and lower price is a contributor to the deforestation of the rainforest and other environmental concerns around the world. The result is that people in places like Indonesia have to clear more and more land in order to have even a barely sustainable existence.”
For Madison and Rhiannon, the issue is bigger than Thin Mints. They want to draw attention to the harmful effects of palm oil production, and companies like Cargill that finance rainforest destruction. But they’re just two girls, and they’re up against people like Ron Judd (quoted at right). [EDIT]: Ron Judd is a satirist and the quote is meant to be sardonically funny. Phew.
It’s a worthy cause. Want to support these girls? Start by sharing this post to spread the word. Then visit Project ORANGS on Facebook, and join the Rainforest Action Network to make your voice heard.