2 Girl Scouts spent years telling the world about palm oil. Here's what they want you to know.
True
Unilever and the United Nations

What makes the world go 'round?

You were going to say love, right? Or maybe money? Oil! But not the stuff from underground...

We're talking palm oil.


Yep, palm oil is a major world commodity. It makes our donuts delish, our cookies crunchy, our ice cream mouthwatering, our makeup smooth, our lipstick luscious, our shampoo foamy, etc., etc.

Lots of rural Indonesians benefit from the palm oil economy, which provides income and has led to good things we all want like schools, roads, and hospitals.

In 2007, two 11-year-old Girl Scouts, Madison Vorva and Rhiannon Tomtishen discovered that Girl Scout cookies contain palm oil. They were horrified.

Why?

Well, since we ALL enjoy the fruits of the oil palm, here's what they want us to know:

  • Palm oil is used in about half of all our packaged food and body care products.
  • Production of palm oil has skyrocketed since the 1980s (although people have been using this oil for centuries).
  • There's a downside, and it's big. Pristine Indonesian rainforest has disappeared at really alarming rates. In fact, a 2007 United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report said that most of the country's forest might be destroyed by 2022. (The palm oil industry will only grow larger — plantations are starting up in Africa.)

  • As the forest goes, so goes the home of indigenous peoples who rely on the forest for their living, as well as a remarkable diversity of plants and wild animals, including rhinos, elephants, tigers, and orangutans. There are also reports of human rights abuses when companies have cleared land for plantations without proper consultation with the indigenous people who live there. And you can bet they didn't ask the orangutans either.

I bet David Attenborough would have a few things to say about that.

Really dismayed by what they learned about the human and wildlife costs of palm oil, Madison and Rhiannon decided to take action.

The girls launched a number of campaigns, including teaming up with the Rainforest Action Network. After several years, they've succeeded in persuading the bakers of Girl Scout cookies to change their source of palm oil to more sustainable producers.

Krispy Kreme and Dunkin' Donuts have followed suit.

Way to go, Madison and Rhiannon!

Whoa! Before you celebrate with another bite of that cookie: There are a lot of questions about what "sustainable" palm oil really means.

It's most def a work in progress. We have to keep up the pressure on companies to be responsible producers because they aren't exactly leading the way without some noise-making and voting with dollars from our part.

Want to learn more? These guys explain all about palm oil (with some orangutan assistance).

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Photo by Sam Carter on Unsplash
white sheep on green grass during daytime

Heroes don't always wear capes. Some sport a viking beard with a tank top.

A video went viral on Twitter yesterday of a man who in my mind shall be called Sheep Thor. In the video, Sheep Thor steps out of his car after seeing a helpless lamb struggling to release itself from the death grip of a barbed wire fence. We see Sheep Thor step out of the car and grab both sides of the sheep with his bare hands, gently trying to pull it out.

Alas, no buck wouldn't budge. The camera zooms in on the poor beast, still stuck in the fence, and Sheep Thor gives a narration that would fill Crocodile Hunter fans with nostalgia. "So he's got this barbed wire here, he's got his horns caught behind the wire...gotta be careful." He then takes a horn and gingerly works it back through the wire. Despite Sheep Thor's requests to "hurry up buddy," the ram doesn't seem too keen on aiding his rescuer.

Keep Reading Show less