This Girl Scout is a vocal critic of the Girl Scout cookies and is making her own
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Just as public radio relies on pledge drives to support its programming, the Girl Scouts rely on cookie sales to fund their work. This cookie season, one Girl Scout in New Hampshire got upset with an ingredient in the cookie recipe and decided to do something about it. NHPR's Todd Bookman has the story of Sophia and why she's gone rogue.
TODD BOOKMAN, BYLINE: Sophia Hammond, age 11, has been a Girl Scout for more than half of her life.
SOPHIA HAMMOND: I started when I was 5, so around six years, I guess.
BOOKMAN: Six years of camping trips and community service and planting trees. Girl Scouts are a big part of her identity.
SOPHIA: Actually, everybody in Girl Scouts are, like, my best friends. Like, we hang out at school and after school and all that.
BOOKMAN: Sophia hopes one day to earn the Girl Scout equivalent of the Eagle Scout - it's called the Gold Award - which is what makes the next bite in this cookie story so surprising - Sophia has become a vocal critic of Girl Scout cookies, specifically one of the ingredients - palm oil.
SOPHIA: So palm oil causes 2% of major deforestation and climate change. Because of palm oil, 1,000 to 5,000 orangutans are killed every year. There also have been ties to child labor, human trafficking and slavery in the harvesting of palm fruit.
BOOKMAN: Where are you getting these facts from?
SOPHIA: I've been researching for a while, so I've been getting them off the internet and books and things like that.
BOOKMAN: The exact impact of palm oil harvesting isn't exactly clear, and the crop does have its upsides compared to some others. But Sophia is far from the first to go anti-cookie. Girls and troops across the country in recent years have all raised concerns about palm oil. They've made YouTube videos and gone on morning talk shows.
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ERICA HILL: ...Who say those Do-Si-Dos, the Tagalongs, the Thin Mints are actually bad for the environment.
MARYSOL CASTRO: Yes.
SOPHIA: So one of our main things in Girl Scouts is - it's in our pledge - trying to make the world a better place. And I don't think that the ingredient in Girl Scout cookies is doing that, so I don't support it, and I wanted to try to do something else.
BOOKMAN: Do something else - in this case, bake her own cookies. Sophia went door to door in Plymouth, N.H., offering her neighbors a chance to buy traditional Girl Scout cookies or cookies she would make using her grandma's recipes and ones found online. And it worked. She wound up selling 138 boxes of real Girl Scout cookies and got orders for 44 dozen cookies that would be baked by an actual Girl Scout. But she never exactly asked permission to do this.
SOPHIA: If they do kick me out for me doing this and for me being an entrepreneur, even though they've taught me how to do it, I wouldn't be that upset.
BOOKMAN: I assume you don't want to be sued.
SOPHIA: Yeah, I definitely don't want to be sued.
TRICIA MELLOR: No, I would never sue Sophia.
BOOKMAN: This is Tricia Mellor, the head of the Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains, the council that oversees all the troops in Vermont and New Hampshire.
MELLOR: We're proud of Sophia for being passionate about an issue that she strongly believes in. That's what Girl Scouting is all about.
BOOKMAN: What it's not about, according to the rules, though, is selling things other than official Girl Scout cookies during cookie season. But Mellor said the Scouts have made changes about palm oil. Their corporate bakers pledge to use sustainably sourced palm, though critics say unsustainable oil still likely finds its way into the supply chain. It's a hard ingredient to just not use. It tastes good and keeps the cookies crispy.
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BOOKMAN: Sophia and her dad are now finalizing their own recipes with no palm oil.
MALIK HAMMOND: Yeah. Baking soda.
SOPHIA: Half teaspoon.
SOPHIA: Half teaspoon.
BOOKMAN: She collected all the orders back in January. Now it's crunch time - time to get baking. Nine minutes in the oven, then a taste test on the oatmeal and peanut butter cookies.
SOPHIA: They're good.
HAMMOND: Two dozen down, 42 dozen more to go.
SOPHIA: Yeah. Yeah. A lot of work. May take a while, but it's fun.
BOOKMAN: Minus the cost of ingredients, Sophia is going to profit about $100 from her own cookies. She's donating that money back to her local troop. For NPR News, I'm Todd Bookman.
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