Palm oil in Girl Scout cookies???

I have been quite outspoken about my dislike for palm oil and the destruction that is created when land is cleared to make way for new plantations.  I also happen to have a Girl Scout in my house (my sweet daughter, of course!) so the controversy over palm oil being used in Girl Scout cookies was undoubtedly a BIG concern for me (especially when she came home with the order form and geared up to start selling!).

Thanks to two ambitious Girl Scouts from Michigan, Madison and Rhiannon, the 2012 menu of Girl Scout cookies will taste a whole lot sweeter AND eco-friendly!  Their petition and hard work brought about these changes (as seen in the Girl Scout USA statement I received below) and I think it’s AMAZING!

  • Our licensed bakers are members of the RSPO and exclusively source palm oil from members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), an organization of growers, buyers, manufacturers, conservationists and interested parties who are striving to develop and follow best practices to ensure sustainability. In 2012, GSUSA also became a member of the RSPO.
  • Our licensed bakers will purchase GreenPalm certificates covering 100% of the palm oil used in Girl Scout cookies. Additionally, GSUSA will purchase GreenPalm certificates to support programmatic objectives. The certificates offer a premium price to palm oil producers who are operating within the guidelines for social, environmental and economic responsibility set by the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil.
  • GSUSA and our licensed bakers will join other industry leaders in making a pledge to move to only segregated, certified sustainable palm oil sources.
  • GSUSA and our licensed bakers are committed to using as little palm oil as possible in Girl Scout cookies and have committed to continued research into viable alternatives.

So, if you have or will consider ordering and consuming some Girl Scout cookies this year, you can worry a little less about the guilt.  This year’s cookies are a whole lot greener than ever before and the next steps are definitely in the right direction.

…and, don’t you feel just a little bit inspired seeing the difference that two teens can make just by refusing to be silent about a wrong they want righted! Bravo girls!

Palm oil: How (and why) to make responsible choices

palm oil burnAbout eight months ago I wrote a post about palm oil, the destruction of crucial rainforests to make way for these plantations and the devastating effect on wildlife (Palm oil is commonly being used as an ingredient in everyday products including margarine, shortening, baked foods, cookies, candies and even soaps, candles and personal care products. Its main purpose, aside from its “binding properties”, is to replace trans fat that we’re all trying to avoid.) Before that post, I truly didn’t know a lot about palm oil, but now my eyes are wide open.

If you’d like to read the original post, click here, but in a nutshell, this is the concern:

  • Rainforests are being cleared at alarming rates to make way for palm plantations and to keep up with the demand for the product.
  • Malaysia and Indonesia account for 83% of the production and 89% of the export of palm oil.  Within these countries the threat is enormous for endangered species including orangutans, tigers, elephants and rhinoceroses.orang mombaby
  • The threat is the greatest for the orangutans, as they live ONLY in these areas that are being cleared to make way for the palm oil plantations.  The occurrence of hunting and poaching these poor animals has dramatically increased as well, and it is estimated that 50 orangutan are being killed each week.  At this rate, their existence is limited.
  • When this deforestation occurs and the rainforests are burned, they release decades of stored carbon back into the atmosphere, contributing to the tragedy of global warming.
  • All this considered, the demand for palm oil is expected to double in the next 10 years.

During a recent trip to our beloved Cleveland Metroparks Zoo I noticed a sign on one of their food carts.  It read:  “We use only sustainable palm oil products.”  I respected the fact that they’re taking responsibility and using only palm oil from plantations established on land that was not recently deforested and has been well-managed with good environmental, social and economic standards.

plmI also found their online resource for understanding the use, and misuse, of palm oil.  And as we “label readers” find more and more products containing palm oil, they’ve also assembled a fabulous list of responsible companies (that have committed to using only sustainable palm oil in their products) to help us make wise choices.

Hopefully, if you haven’t noticed it before, you’ll notice it now and decide that unless you see “Made from Sustainable Palm Oil” on the label, you’ll set it back down and walk away.

Using palm oil = harm and destruction (here’s why…)

palm plnttnUntil recently I had never really heard much about palm oil… but as soon as I did, everything changed.

More and more, palm oil is commonly being used as an ingredient in everyday products including margarine, shortening, baked foods, cookies, candies and even soaps, candles and personal care products. Its main purpose, aside from its “binding properties”, is to replace trans fat that we’re all trying to avoid, however, there is also a great sacrifice being made through the acceptance of palm oil as our alternative to such things as hydrogenated oil…

… The sacrifice is vast amounts of rainforests and the animals that make the rainforest their home. These forests are being cleared at alarming rates to make way for palm plantations and to keep up with the demand for the product. Malaysia and Indonesia account for 83% of the production and 89% of the export of palm oil.  Within these countries the threat is enormous for endangered species including orangutans, tigers, elephants and rhinoceroses.  The threat is the greatest for the orangutans, as they live ONLY in these areas that are being cleared to make way for the palm oil plantations.  As you can imagine, the occurrence of hunting and poaching these poor animals has dramatically increased as well, and it is estimated that 50 orangutan are being killed each week.  At this rate, their existence is limited… and I find that absolutely heartbreaking and unnecessary.orang tans

It’s also important to realize that when this deforestation occurs and the rainforests are burned, they release decades of stored carbon back into the atmosphere, contributing to the tragedy of global warming.

Also keep in mind that, though the health effects of palm oil may be a BIT less with palm oil as a substitute, it is NOT a heart-healthy food or adequate hydrogenated oil substitute, like olive, soy or canola oils.  It is only a smoke-screen used by manufacturers because it is a cheap substitute and keeps the words “trans fat” off of the content label.

Sadly, the demand for palm oil is expected to double in the next 10 years… IF we continue to support the products that are using this oil as a “new” substitute.  This is NOT an option.

When you are shopping, DO NOT PURCHASE products containing palm oil.  By NOT buying, and selecting products without palm oil, it speaks loud and clear.  It means you will not support this product and the harm and destruction it is creating!

(* Note: the image above shows a palm oil plantation as it butts up to a rainforest that has been cleared for this crop.)

Green gift guide II: gifts that give back!

christmas globeTick, tick, tick… yes, the countdown clock to Christmas seems to be moving at warp speed!

I’ve given my list of favorite green gifts for when you want to give something tangible.  But there is certainly another way to go…  for gifts that don’t clutter up a home or sit unused in a drawer or closet.  These are the gifts that give to a worthwhile cause:  wildlife, nature or the environment.  They certainly need the “gifts” more than we do!

So, here are some ideas for when you want to give a meaningful gift that really counts:

  • Adopt an Acre of Rainforest and other of earth’s wonders (The Nature Conservancy) – for preservatiglobal warming bearon and restoration of some of the world’s most amazing places
  • Adopt an Endangered Species (WWF) – to protect endangered animals and their habitats
  • Adopt an Animal (National Wildlife Federation) – to protect additional animals and their habitats
  • Rescue the Reef (The Nature Conservancy) – for preserving an undeniably crucial part of our world’s oceans
  • Plant a Billion Trees Campaign (The Nature Conservancy) – for protecting and preserving Earth’s largest and most endangered tropical rainforests in Brazil
  • Give-a-Tree (Arbor Day Foundation)– plants a tree in one of America’s National Forests in honor of a recipient
  • Change the Present – you can contribute and honor someone by helping to restore a fragile ecosystem in Kenya, purchase carbon offsets, plant trees, preserve wildlands, adopt wildlife or any one of about 1600 causes of your choice!

If you want to give a gift that supports a worthwhile cause but still gives to the recipient too, consider:coral_reef

  • A zoo or aquarium membership – there are 218 AZA accredited zoos and aquariums in the US and all are dedicated to excellence in animal care and welfare, conservation, education, and research that collectively inspire respect for animals and nature (but please, no circus tickets!).
  • A botanical garden, arboretum or nature center membership – again, they dedicate themselves to the conservation and preservation of nature and the environment, and help us understand the delicate and important connection between people and nature.

And finally, one of our favorite gifts last year:

  • Kiva – Through their gift certificate program you can “loan” your gifted money to a “working poor” recipient of Kivayour choosing.  (We selected a man in Tajikistan who desperately needed money to buy seeds for farming and help support his family.)  Once they are able to repay the loan, you are given back your donated money to grant to another needy recipient… and this wonderful cycle starts all over again!

These should be the choices for the person on your list who has everything… on second thought, these choices should work for anyone and everyone… it is truly better to give than to receive!

The Prince’s Rainforests Project: a royal cause

First of all, this has absolutely nothing to do with “Purple Rain”(!), but everything to do with saving cherished tropical rainforests!

The Prince’s Rainforests Project (as in Charles, Prince of Wales) was started in 2007, but is being given a big push by the release of this new PSA. If it takes royalty and celebrities to get a cause noticed, I don’t care… I’m all for it, as long as the cause DOES get noticed and positive steps are made.  I think this will appeal to kids too… take a look.

The mission of this project is to create public awareness, work with governments, businesses and non-profit organizations to find a solution for deforestation, and find sources for funding.  This global effort is aimed at getting top level support from nations around the world.

Saving these tropical rainforests is so critical because they absorb about a fifth of all man-made CO2 emissions, and we all know how CO2 affects climate change.  In fact, these forests are often burned down, which releases all of the CO2 they have stored back into the atmosphere, as if they had never existed.  And this doesn’t even consider the fate of the animals that call these forests home.

So check out The Prince’s Rainforests Project, sign-up to have your voice heard, find new ways to help and spread the word.  Stand up and say you want this preventable disaster to stop.

And when you take a look at The Prince’s Rainforests Project site, be sure to watch the counter at the top of the page.  In the time I spent reading one page on the site… 445,129 square meters of rainforest were destroyed.  How horribly sad.