EDMOND — It’s not every day a mom picks her 10-year-old up from school and all he wants to talk about are the perils of palm oil deforestation.
That’s what Gillain Lang was faced with three years ago when she picked her son, Cameron, up one day when he was 10. Cameron had left his favorite snack untouched, and Gillian wanted to know why.
“I asked him why he didn’t eat his snack and he said because it has palm oil in it and it’s destroying the rain forest,” Lang said.
The conversation led the family to adjust the way they shop.
“When your 10-year-old son says they don’t eat snacks because they have palm oil you think about it and we all decided to do what we could to change what we bought at the grocery store,” Gillian Lang said.
Doing what they could included 11-year-old Hannah’s decision to opt out of selling Girl Scout cookies because they contain palm oil. Girl Scout cookies are wildly popular and are a key part of any troop’s fundraising. But even though Hannah opted out she still participated.
Hannah took donations, with two thirds of the money going to the Girl Scouts and another third to the Oklahoma City Zoo’s conservation efforts that include educating visitors on the impact of palm oil deforestation, which has eliminated habitat for Sumatran tigers and orangutans.
The zoo also has donated more than $60,000 in recent years to the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program and PanEco, a non-profit that educates countries like Indonesia on how to develop sustainable palm oil. Palm oil is found in a number of household products from potato chips to soap.
Both animals are critically endangered, with an estimated 700 Sumatran tigers left in the wild.
“Her troop was awesome and they supported her,” Gillian Lang said. “They even gave her a special badge.”
She raised $500 the first year and a $1,000 the second year. Earlier this year the Girl Scouts of the United States of America announced they would take steps to move toward sustainable palm oil in their cookies.
As for Hannah, she plans on raising money every year to help with conservation. Her birthday is April 1 and she donated all of the money she received to the zoo’s efforts and asked those giving her presents to give cash so it too could be donated. Gillian Lang visits the zoo almost weekly and has developed an interest in photography. Some of her photos have been used by the zoo and others have been sold to raise money for conservation.
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