Girl Scouts Are Awesome: Saving the Rainforest From Their Cookies Girl Scouts Are Awesome: Saving the Rainforest From Their Cookies
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Girl Scouts Are Awesome: Saving the Rainforest From Their Cookies

by Ben Jervey

May 5, 2011

Girl Scout cookies seem innocent enough. Besides the sugar and calories, what harm could they possibly cause? Quite a bit it turns out. Girl Scout cookies use a whole lot of palm oil, the controversial ingredient that is inextricably linked to rainforest destruction, violations of Indigenous rights, and the extinction of endangered species like orangutans, tigers, elephants, and rhinoceros.

When two young scouts, Rhiannon Tomtishen and Madison Vorva, learned of the impact of the famous cookies, they were horrified, and started a campaign to get the Girl Scouts USA organization to switch recipes. The girls wrote to the organization, but their pleas only received a curt reply. The national org claimed that they had no say in the ingredients that their baker uses. Considering the size of the annual Girl Scout cookie order, I'd bet anything that if the Girl Scouts USA insisted, that baker would do whatever they wanted.

Last week, the two girls raised the stakes by partnering with the Rainforest Action Network and to put pressure on the national headquarters and CEO Kathy Cloninger.

As Tomtishen says, "rainforest destruction and orangutan extinction have no place in Girl Scout cookies or any other consumer product."

Their petition on provides some background:

Five years ago, Madi and Rhiannon were completing research for their Girl Scout Bronze Awards when they discovered a cold hard fact about the much-sought-after commodity they’d been selling each year: Girl Scout cookies — including all but one of the 17 different brands — are packed with palm oil, an ingredient that causes clearcutting of irreplaceable rainforests and threatens the survival of humankind’s closest relative, orangutans. The two sixth graders were shocked.

They wrote to Girl Scouts USA about their concerns, but got nowhere. They've taken their campaign public and enlisted the help of the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Center for Biological Diversity, Cultural Survival, Orangutan Foundation International, and RAN, but top brass at Girl Scouts USA remain unmoved.

So what can you do to help? Start by pressuring Girl Scouts USA CEO Kathy Cloninger with this petition on They're also making public pleas on the Girl Scouts USA Facebook and Twitter pages. Here's a whole list of ways you can help pressure the Girl Scouts USA to do the right thing and clean up their cookies.

Ben Jervey More Info

Ben is a writer and editor covering climate change, energy, and environment, and is currently the Climate and Energy Media Fellow at Vermont Law School. He was the original Environment Editor at GOOD Magazine and his work has appeared regularly in National Geographic News, Grist, DeSmogBlog, and OnEarth. He recently worked with the non-profit Focus the Nation to publish an Energy 101 primer. When living in New York City, he wrote a book, The Big Green Apple, on how to live a lower impact life in the city. A bicycle enthusiast, Ben has ridden across the United States and through much of Europe.
Some recent articles by Ben Jervey:
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Girl Scouts Are Awesome: Saving the Rainforest From Their Cookies