A 13-year-old girl from Moose Jaw is petitioning the Girl Guides of Canada to remove palm oil from its cookie recipe.
Ophelia Bourdages is passionate about ending the use of palm oil, as the extraction process has been linked to deforestation in Indonesia.
Bourdages said she has been researching this topic since grade five. Based on her research, she said about 98 per cent of Indonesia’s forests are expected to be gone by 2022.
“The way they extract, they have to drain the peatland which means that they will never be able to replant the forests,” she said. “I have also learned that they use unethical human right practices and child labour.”
Palm oil is a key ingredient in a number of baked goods on grocery store shelve, as well as in Girl Guide cookies.
Bourdages started an online petition to get the Girl Guides of Canada to remove the ingredient from the cookie recipe.
As of Saturday the petition had more than 31,000 signatures, which Bourdages said was a big shock.
“I though I would maybe get 500 to 1,000 signatures,” Bourdages said.
Bourdages also reached out to the organization to discuss this issue.
“They said they use sustainable palm oil, which is a very controversial thing of whether palm oil can be sustainable,” said Bourdages. “So I am slightly disappointed that they haven’t decided to do anything.”
The Girl Guides of Canada said the organization doesn’t own the recipe, but the cookie manufacturer DARE does, adding it has asked about the use of the ingredient and has been told it’s essential for the shelf life of the cookies.
“They get baked and first they get shipped to the cookie distributors, who are volunteers, and then the leaders pick them up. Then they go to the units and then the girls go out and sell them door-to-door, if it’s safe to do so, or from a central place. So there is a lot of movement to the cookies,” Jill Zelmanovits, CEO of the Girl Guides of Canada, said.
Zelmanovits added that she is proud of Bourdages for doing her research and standing up for what she believes in. She said she believes change could happen because of the actions of girls like Bourdages.
The Girl Guide organization has made changes in the past because of their members standing up for what they believe in.
Zelmanovits said the organization changed the plastic holding the cookies to clear plastic instead of brown plastic so it could be recycled and has reduced the amount of cardboard used for the cookie boxes because a girl requested it.
She said the organization is open to changing the recipe and removing the palm oil if DARE could use a different oil to make them.
Bourdages said she thinks canola oil would be a good option.
“It’s made in Canada so we can ensure none of the problems are happening, it’s one of the most ethical oils, it’s easy to produce and doesn’t need lots of land to make a lot of oil,” Bourdages said.
Bourdages added she will be reaching out to DARE to try and set up a meeting and discuss recipe options.