Nearly every college student eagerly anticipates the beginning of Girl Scout cookie season. While some wonder what kind of new flavors there will be this year, and if the Girl Scouts will be dropping some of the less desired flavors, I wonder one thing – Why has Girl Scouts not made it apparent that palm oil is one of the main ingredients used in all of the popular Girl Scout cookies such as Tagalongs, Thin Mints, and Samoa’s?
The Girl Scout cookie funds many things, including teaching girls about money management, helping to fund summer camps, Planned Parenthood, and welcoming transgender children into the Girl Scout ranks, but there is one incredibly negative thing that the Girl Scout cookies do – help the destruction of Orangutan populations and their native habitat.
Palm oil, a plant that is used in many products, is one of the leading causes of deforestation in countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia. Thousands of acres in the Southeast Asian rainforests are destroyed to make way for palm oil plantations, and the Borneo Orangutans that reside in the rainforests have been pushed to the brink of extinction due to the overwhelming amount of deforestation.
An article on MongaBay says that, “Relegated to ever smaller fragments of forest, wild orangutans began to face starvation as their food sources were depleted, forcing them to venture into newly established oil palm plantations where they feed on the young shoots of palms, destroying the tree before it produces any oil seeds. Viewing the wild orangutans as pests, plantation managers started paying $10 to $20 for each dead orangutan — a strong incentive for a migrant worker who may earn just $10 per day.”
For the most part, Girl Scouts USA kept the use of palm oil in their products under wraps; however, two senior Girl Scout members, Madison Vorva and Rhiannon Tomtishen, discovered this tragedy and brought the issue to the masses, as well as the members of Girl Scouts USA. The two girls began campaigning to try and get the Girl Scouts USA to stop using palm oil in their products and after months of being ignored and even being censored on Facebook, Girl Scouts USA finally addressed the issue by initiating a policy.
The policy says that beginning this cookie season (2012 – 2013), Girl Scouts USA will be purchasing Green Palm certificates to offset the use of the palm oil in the cookies. Girl Scouts USA also says that they will be letting their customers know that they are purchasing these certificates by telling them on the box.
Girl Scouts USA also has a plan to get their licensed cookie bakers to pledge to use certified, sustainable palm oil by 2015, and Girl Scouts USA has also told their bakers to “use as little palm oil as possible, and only in recipes where there is no alternative.”
All of these policy ideas will certainly help the orangutans and their native habitat, but this doesn’t make up for the continual loss of the old-growth rainforest that orangutans used to live in, nor does it help any of the new growth rainforest that still has the potential to be destroyed to make room for more palm oil plantations. However, anything helps, and Madison Vorva and Rhiannon Tomtishen have started a petition to help get palm oil out of the Girl Scout cookie recipes as quickly as possible, and they have also started a Facebook page where those interested can join together. Boycotting the cookies, which is what I will be doing until at least 2015, is another way to help support making Girl Scout cookies a palm-oil-free reality.
Follow Laura at @LMLundberg