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Girl Scouts Take Aim at their Own Cookie Ingredients

Two seventh-graders set out to save orangutans—and ended up changing the recipe for Girl Scout cookies.

Girl Scouts photo by Juverna

Eleven varieties of Girl Scout cookies sold by children around the nation contain palm oil, a threat to orangutan habitats.

Photo by Juverna.

Years of work by two Girl Scouts to save endangered orangutans is paying off. In 2007, Madison Vorva and Rhiannon Tomtishen were working on their Girl Scout Bronze Award. Their project was raising awareness of the threat to orangutans from destruction of tropical rainforest habitat to make way for palm oil plantations.  Then Vorva and Tomtishen, who were in seventh grade at the time, realized that the cookies sold to raise funds for Girl Scouts were part of the problem. Thin Mints, Trefoils and the nine other varieties of Girl Scout cookies contain palm oil. Determined to make a difference, the girls started Project ORANGS, a national campaign to make Girl Scout cookies rainforest-safe. They’ve inspired people to send more than 70,000 emails to the CEO of Girl Scouts USA (GSUSA), circulated a petition signed by the likes of Jane Goodall, and collaborated on the creation of a “Rainforest Heroes” badge.

Vorva and Tomtishen earned a partial victory in late September when GSUSA announced plans to move to a sustainable source of palm oil by 2015. Until then, GSUSA will purchase Green Palm Certificates that support the sustainable production of palm oil. Tomtishen and Vorva welcomed the announcement but said they won’t be satisfied until palm oil is out of the cookies for good.


Jen Horton wrote this article for The YES! Breakthrough 15, the Winter 2012 issue of YES! Magazine.

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