Say It Ain't So! Are Girl Scout Cookies Destroying the Rainforest?

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Marit and Toomas Hinnosaar
It's no secret that Girl Scout cookies are a popular treat and topic around these parts, but those Thin Mints and Peanut Butter Tagalongs--while unarguably delicious--are not entirely free from controversy. Turns out, a good number of those iconic morsels contain palm oil, which if you're like me is a total surprise, because you have chosen never to read the side panel on those boxes before sliding an entire sleeve of them down the hatch. Calories consumed in the interest of helping girls achieve their dreams don't count, right? Right?! 

Palm oil, while offering the huge benefit of being trans-fat free, is one of myriad food products with a shady backstory. As it's become more popular, demand has risen and producers are clear-cutting giant swaths of rainforest to make room for palm plantations. This in turn threatens species like the orangutan and contributes to global warming.

Cue Rhiannon Tomtishen and Madison Vorva, two 15-year-old Scouts from Michigan who for five years have been campaigning to get the organization to stop using palm oil altogether and are part of a larger activist effort to get the food industry to move away from the controversial additive. The teens--who recently have appeared in a video (below) detailing their cause--hope the cookie pushers will rid their recipes of palm oil by next year. The young activists scored a major coup last week when Kellogg's announced it would change the way it purchases palm oil for many of its popular products, a move that has brought renewed attention to the Girl Scout cookie dilemma. 


The makers of Samoas, for their part, have vowed to aim to reduce the amount of palm oil used in their recipes, seek out alternatives, and work with growers who follow sustainable practices. Ideally, there will be little to no guilt in stocking the freezer with boxes of Tagalongs next year when those delightful little scamps start pestering you to buy the irresistible snacks.


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