Spooky Scary Sustainability

This Halloween, take a second look at your candy basket- because the scariest monster of all might be hiding inside.

Eager trick-or-treaters across the country are beginning to prepare for the spookiest day of the year- and after two years of quarantine, they’re finally ready to switch out their surgical masks for monster masks. But we aren’t the only ones getting ready for mischief- candy companies are gearing up too.

Earlier this year, a Rainforest Action Network investigation uncovered a deforestation scandal: Royal Golden Eagle, a forestry giant with ties to dozens of major brands, is sourcing palm oil from plantations in the protected Leuser Ecosystem. As one of the last safe havens of rare species like Sumatran rhinos, tigers, and elephants, this ecosystem- home to the “Orangutan Capital of the World”- is incredibly important in preserving biodiversity and the health of our global climate. By bulldozing and violating the Leuser Ecosystem, candy companies like Mondelēz International and Nestlé are going back on their promises, breaking Indonesian law, and destroying the future of hundreds of endangered species. And all that strife, perpetuated for cheap vegetable oil, will end up in your candy basket this Halloween.

The National Retail Federation estimates that American consumers will spend $3.1 billion this year on Halloween candy alone. And during your trick-or-treat routine, 600 football fields of rainforest will be burned and bulldozed. While you celebrate a scary good time, these animals are in real danger- and activists are fighting desperately to protect them.

You can join the fight.

First off, make sure the Halloween candy you hand out this year is palm oil free. As a consumer, you can vote with your wallet- boycotting unsustainable brands is a powerful reminder that what they’re doing is wrong. Products Without Palm Oil offers an incredibly comprehensive list of sustainable and unsustainable candy choices, which you can find below.

For quick reference, you can also use the Orangutan Gang’s infographic, which has a short list of sustainable and unsustainable options, plus some advice for Halloween parties.

halloween infographic background
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You can also remind these companies of the injustices they perpetuate in other ways. Use our quick and easy company form letter to let them know you care about the rainforest- and give them a fright.

Finally, and most importantly, spread the word. Sustainability can only catch on if people understand and care about an issue. Share this post with as many people as you can, and make sure your friends know about the palm oil issue. Use our resources- flyers, Halloween handout cards, and many more– to spread this message.

Let’s make this a green Halloween- together.

~Pangaea Finn
Founder, The Orangutan Gang

Who We’re Fighting For

Today is International Orangutan Day- which means today is the best time to learn about orangutans, palm oil, and how you can help. If you’re unfamiliar with the issue, you can reference our Conservation Clips series– a quick crash course with plenty of information about the palm oil issue and its poster child.

International Orangutan Day is an event intended not only to recognize the plight of our closest relatives, but to promote change as well. Awareness is not enough- saving orangutans, and preserving their habitat, requires action. Over the course of this week, to help protect orangutans, make a few changes to your daily life:

  • Check the ingredients of various products on your grocery list. Palm oil is often subtle, and it may be hard to find in a product. Use PalmSmart or an aliases list for help, or just look for ingredients containing the words “palm”, “laur”, or “stear”- its most common disguises.
  • Find alternatives! For any particular type of product, you will likely be able to find a brand that doesn’t contain palm oil derivatives. Products Without Palm Oil is a great resource for this, and has several safe brands listed for each of many product types.
  • Tell others! Spreading awareness- and caring- is the best way to combat any environmental issue. Don’t be ashamed of avoiding unsustainable foods in front of your friends. Tell them why you’re helping save the rainforest, and show them that they can make a difference too.
  • If you’re feeling ambitious, you can even contact a company using our handy form letter. Help make unsustainable companies aware of orangutans, too.
  • And finally, if you’re in need of some motivation, check out Orangutan Jungle School– a delightful TV series which follows young orangutans as they’re rehabilitated at the Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Rescue Center.

Thank you all for saving the rainforest this Orangutan Day.

~Pangaea Finn
Founder, The Orangutan Gang

Just This Once

Dear Orangutan Supporters,

It’s been a hard few years for most of us, what with coming out of the pandemic and returning to busy in-person activities. I’ve had a lot to work on too, with several especially strenuous semesters and a demanding internship. But that’s not the main reason I’ve been inactive.

For almost nine years now I’ve been running this organization, with the ultimate goal of public education. First and foremost, I want to inform people about palm oil and rainforest destruction so they can go on to make responsible choices in the grocery store. One of the most important things I’ve consistently told my readers: Everyone can make a difference. Even the impact of one person can create ripples, informing other people and creating positive change.

But last year, amid the stress and worry of the pandemic, I began to feel like my impact wasn’t creating very much. I felt powerless, unable to properly communicate the urgency and the critical importance of my work. For decades, orangutans have been on the brink of extinction, and still the destruction of their habitat continues. What could I possibly do to help save their home? Huge conservation organizations have spent years trying.

It took me a long time to work through this attitude. But beyond the feeling of powerlessness, I still had a spark of motivation- driven, in large part, by frustration. If we turn our heads while these incredible rainforests are destroyed, we are actively part of the problem. Yes, it takes perseverance to keep fighting- it takes perseverance to push against the deeply ingrained systems that cause this destruction- but it’s a necessary perseverance. Our empathy is the only path towards safety for the incredible creatures we aim to protect. Powerless or not, they are relying on us to make this choice.

Many of these realizations came from, of all things, writing a poem. I’d been planning to write something like this for a long time, and when I finally got my thoughts down on paper, I was amazed by how well it expressed both viewpoints- that one person’s actions both couldn’t possibly matter, and were the only path towards progress. If you’ve been feeling similarly over the last few years, I hope this will change your mind.

Let’s get back into step.

Thank you all for saving the rainforest today.

~Pangaea Finn
Founder, The Orangutan Gang

LEAF presentation & Holiday Dinner Considerations

Earlier this month, I hosted a presentation for Learning About Forests, or LEAF (a program of the Foundation for Environmental Education). Along with my usual information about orangutans, palm oil, and how to become a conservationist, I went over the palm oil lesson plan which I designed earlier this year, describing the details of the lesson plan to this community of educators. You can watch the video of this speech below.

In addition, I’d like to thank Nicole Andreou of LEAF, a fellow North American Association for Environmental Education 30 under 30, for offering me this opportunity to share my lesson plan with the LEAF educators network.

If you’re just now getting ready to put together your holiday dinner, I also thought I’d include our holiday infographic. Check out our helpful tips to make sure you’re staying palm oil free for the holidays:

Enjoy the presentation, keep your holiday dinner sustainable, and check back for further updates!

Thank you for saving the rainforest today.

~Pangaea Finn
Founder, The Orangutan Gang