Several months ago, two Girl Scouts started a campaign to encourage the Girl Scout organization to remove palm oil from their cookies. Rhiannon Tomtishen and Madison Vorva were working on a project to raise awareness of endangered orangutans and discovered that part of the reason that their habitat was being destroyed was to make way for palm oil plantations. Palm oil is a popular fat for processed food products because it worked as a substitute for some of the partially hydrogenated oils that companies, including the bakeries that supply the Girl Scouts, used in their products.
The girls campaigned to get the Girl Scouts to either remove palm oil from their cookies or switch to sustainably farmed oil. Initially, Girl Scouts spokespeople say that there was no viable alternative to using this mass produced palm oil in their cookies because they need them to be “sturdy” and have a long shelf life. After the girls spent months on the campaign, raising awareness with other troops and through the media, the Girl Scouts have finally announced that they are making a change. In a statement released Wednesday (9/28), the Girl Scouts said that they have directed their bakers to use as little palm oil as possible, and that they want their bakers to move to a segregated, certified sustainable palm oil source by 2015. In the meantime, the Girl Scouts will buy GreenPalm certificates, which offer a premium price to producers of sustainably farmed oil, to support the sustainable production of palm oil.
The girls both say that they will continue their campaign to promote the use of sustainably farmed palm oil elsewhere in the food industry, but having the Girl Scouts change their policies is a milestone victory. It also means that Girl Scout cookies in the future will be just a little bit better for us and for the planet than they are now. Of course, so are palm-oil free, all natural homemade Girl Scout cookies if you’re looking to have an excuse to make some cookies between now and next cookie season.