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Madison and Rhiannon vs. the Girl Scouts

Madison and Rhiannon vs. the Girl Scouts

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.

Large tracts of forest are slashed and burned to make room for palm oil plantations

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.

“Hello, girls. We heard how you’re refusing to sell Girl Scout thin mint cookies because they contain palm oil, the production of which might destroy habitat for orangutans in Indonesia. That’s sweet. But listen, you little do-gooders: These are decisions best left to adults. It’s not our fault your big sisters got us hooked on these things a long time ago.

Know this: We’re going to get our thin mints one way or another. You can sell them to us and let the orangutans take their chances. Or, we can procure them from shady Chinese cookie merchants who harvest their palm oil in the habitat of those cute little cuddly panda bears.

And how would you feel about that? Hmm?

That’s what we thought. We’ll take four, please.”

Ron Judd, Seattle Times

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.

Photos: Jasleen Kaur, Madison & Rhiannon, LeRoc


  • Gah! So incredibly awesome! Now I won’t feel the least bit guilty for turning them down.

  • Yeah, Rod Judd is a satirical columnist who uses sarcasm to make a point. He does a weekly round-up of local and national news, all written like that.

    And I would buy way more Girl Scout cookies if they responded a little better to consumer concerns.

    • Precisely what I needed to know!! Thanks Emily.

      I think the next thing we need to do around here is find a good homemade recipe for Thin Mints and Samoas.

    • Hmm, I’m on it… as soon as the oven parts guy calls me back (the igniter is out).

      Here’s the recipe I’ll be starting with: http://www.food.com/recipe/girl-scout-thin-mints-recipe-33998

    • RIGHT ON EMILY RAE. Keep me updated and we’ll post it on Love&Trash for sure!

  • Oh my lord… I’m not going to lie to you but that sorta killed my soul a bit. As someone who ALWAYS buys girl scout cookies I never thought to read THIER labels too!! Well at least I can say “I’m sorry they contain palm oil. If you would let your troup leaders know that if the US followed UK Girl Scouts role in stopping the use of palm oil in their cookies I would support again. Although, some of those bitchy moms probably stopped listening after “I’m sorry…” But YES! Jessica! Let’s get our own recipes going for a “healthy” Samoas!

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