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How Girl Scout Cookies can Save the Planet

After scouring our pantries for products containing palm oil, we were surprised to find that the Girl Scout cookies we had sold since childhood contained this dreaded ingredient. 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. 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. After years of campaigning with little results, we realized that we needed to partner with other organizations to make our voices heard. We asked a variety of environmental and social organizations to write letters to GSUSA explaining the various destructive impacts of palm oil production and partnered with the Rainforest Action Network to design several online campaigns which gathered the support of thousands of consumers across the country. We also designed a “Rainforest Hero Badge” which provides Girl Scouts the opportunity to learn about the rainforest-palm oil connection, and show their support for our campaign in a positive manner.

After four years of campaigning, we finally gained the opportunity to speak with GSUSA executives at their headquarters in New York City last May. At this meeting, GSUSA promised to work with us to research and identify a solution to this issue. This past September, they announced a new palm oil policy. While this policy is a step in the right direction, we do not see it as the final solution because it does not ensure that the cookies are truly rainforest-safe. We have launched a “Consumers Care” campaign that has included another online petition through Change.org (http://www.change.org/petitions/girl-scouts-make-your-cookies-rainforest-safe) and a social media day of action to show GSUSA that their consumers want a deforestation-free and socially-responsible source of palm oil in their cookies. We are committing to working with GSUSA to find a win-win solution.

Project ORANG’s greater mission is palm oil awareness so that when consumers visit the grocery store, they correlate exhausting our planet’s resources with their purchasing decisions. This does not mean an end to the palm oil industry, rather assurance that the industry lives up to the standards required for a healthy planet where palm oil is produced from socially responsible and deforestation-free sources. Our goal is to make the biggest impact in the entire palm oil industry, therefore, we are pressuring Cargill, the world’s largest privately owned company, who sources 25% of the world’s palm oil and Kellogg’s, a Girl Scout cookie baker to adopt deforestation free and socially responsible palm oil policies.

Now juniors in high school, we’ve come to understand the power that individuals have to make a difference in our world. We believe anyone, regardless of age, gender or background has the ability to make change on a local and international level.

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About Mark Burgess

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