Madi & Rhiannon Win 2011 Brower Youth Award

Girl Scouts Win National Environmental Prize for Rallying to Change Cookie Ingredients

Oct 2011 - San Francisco, CA— 15 year old Girl Scouts Rhiannon Tomtishen and Madison Vorva will accept a prestigious Brower Youth Award from the Earth Island Institute in San Francisco as two of seven 2011 winners. They have brought national attention to the plight of the endangered orangutan, and are lobbying Girl Scouts USA to remove an ingredient from their cookies that contributes to its endangerment.

They were chosen to win the highly competitive award, now in its twelfth year, by a distinguished panel of judges including author and eco-activist Paul Hawken, the legendary global human rights activist Dr. Vandana Shiva, and founder of Newman’s Own Organics, Nell Newman.

Best friends Rhiannon and Madison have been working on the campaign for five years, and they say they will not stop until Girl Scouts USA removes palm oil and palm kern oil from their iconic cookies. Orangutans are threatened by habitat loss, and Indonesian rainforests are frequently cleared for palm oil plantations.

“As Girl Scouts, we are working hard to make Girl Scouts USA, a great organization, even better,” say Tomtishen and Vorva. “We are living up to the Girl Scout Law by making the world a better place, such as using resources wisely, [and so] we only ask that Girl Scouts USA live up to their mission.”

The girls say they have drawn criticism from adults who do not believe they can make a difference, but their campaign has become very popular. Along with being covered widely by news outlets such as the Los Angeles Times and Time Magazine, famous primatologist Jane Goodall has met with them and signed their petition.

The duo partnered with the non-profit Rainforest Action Network to create and online petition that has generated over 70,000 emails to Girl Scouts USA CEO Kathy Cloninger. They have even designed a “Rainforest Hero Badge” for Girl Scouts across the country to support the project’s mission.

In June, Tomtishen and Vorva met with Girl Scouts USA executives and they committed to working with them to research and identify a solution. Any changes to their cookies’ ingredients will occur in 2013 when their current contract expires with their bakers.

The award ceremony will take place on October 18th at 7:30 pm in the Herbst Theater. The other six awardees are between the ages of 15 and 21, and include urban farmers, surfers turned environmental educators, and youth fighting industrial pollution.


The Brower Youth Awards are run by Earth Island Institute, a non-profit, public interest, membership organization that supports people who are creating solutions to protect our shared planet.

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