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Originally published August 22 2011

Girl Scout cookies use rainforest-destroying palm oils

by Brigid Shaw

(NaturalNews) Nothing quite says innocence like a delicious Girl Scout cookie. After all, those Thin Mints and Tagalongs help "build girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place," as the Girl Scouts mission states. But as it turns out, those famous cookies contribute to rainforest destruction and species extinction.

All but one of the 17 different brands of Girl Scout cookies contain palm oil, an ingredient that is responsible for the destruction of 30,000 square miles of primary rainforest and peatland in Indonesia and Malaysia. The loss of habitat is pushing many species to extinction. This list includes Sumatran tigers, elephants, rhinoceroses, and the closest relative to humans--orangutans.

The fight to get palm oil out of the cookies is led by two 15 year-old Girl Scouts, Rhiannon Tomtishen and Madison Vorva. After researching endangered orangutans in Borneo for a Girl Scouts project four years ago, they were shocked to discover that the palm oil in the cookies they sell is driving the orangutan to extinction due to the clear cutting of Southeast Asian rainforests.

The expansion of palm oil plantations is the leading cause of rainforest destruction in Indonesia, which is now the third largest carbon emitting country after the US and China. The vast majority of the country's emissions are from rainforest and peatland destruction. Furthermore, Indonesian palm oil cultivation is linked to slave and child labor.

The young activists contacted Girl Scouts USA CEO Kathy Cloninger, who ignored their requests to make the cookies rainforest friendly. So the girls enlisted the assistance of the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Center for Biological Diversity, Cultural Survival, Orangutan Foundation International, and Rainforest Action Network.

In May, the activists held a social media day of action, with hundreds of people demanding the Girl Scouts stop using palm oil. The organization responded with censorship and misleading information. The Facebook messages were deleted and a statement was posted declaring that the palm oil used in the cookies is sourced from members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).

What the Girl Scouts PR folks failed to mention is that RSPO membership is meaningless. Food companies that belong to the forum are only required to pay an annual membership fee. There is no requirement to actually buy certified sustainable palm oil, and most companies don't.

Girl Scouts CEO Kathy Cloninger has the opportunity to make a significant impact on the fragile ecosystems of Southeast Asia, and to uphold the Girl Scouts mission to empower young women.

To help the cause, petition CEO Cloninger at and support Project ORANGS (Orangutans Really Appreciate And Need Girl Scouts) at

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