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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Oregon Zoo, Portland, Oregon, USA

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Oregon Zoo, Portland, Oregon, USA
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Registered: December 2015
City/Town/Province: Salem
Posts: 1
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My freshman year of high school, I was blessed with the opportunity to be apart of something life changing; a volunteer group named ‘ZooTeens’ at the Oregon Zoo. Our role as volunteers was to inform the visitors about the animals they were observing and bring awareness to the environmental issues they were facing in the wild. I’ve had a passion for animals my entire life; I loved going to the zoo and seeing all the exotic animals there. Conservation was something I became passionate about the moment I learned what it meant; anything I could do to benefit the world is something worth doing. One year ago, I learned about the controversy between animals living in Indonesia and the Palm Oil industry, and it changed my life.

Through the Oregon Zoo we started a palm oil campaign with the purpose of encouraging four major corporations to switch to using only sustainable palm oil in their products. The four companies were Kraft, Starbucks, General Mills, and L’Oreal. Our role as ZooTeens was to gather emails from visitors who believed that using sustainable oil was the right choice for their favorite companies to make. We told the visitors about how the use of unsustainable palm oil was threatening the lives of orangutans, sun bears, Asian elephants, and all the other wildlife on the islands of Indonesia. At the end of the summer, we sent an email blast to all four companies. This showed the corporations that the consumers of their products were demanding change and did not support their current method of production. The campaign was a huge success; Starbucks, L’Oreal, and General Mills all agreed to make the switch to sustainable palm oil.

Inspired by the success of that campaign, I gathered a group of my fellow ZooTeens in Conservation Corps and decided to continue the campaign into this past school year. Conservation Corps is an elite group of ZooTeens and each year, the members of this group break into smaller groups to undertake conservation projects. We decided that we should continue to inform others about the dangers of using unsustainable palm oil, and used our school as a means to do so. We had a large group of teens willing to participate, and the majority of us went to different schools in different areas. I was the only member of my group from Salem so I knew it was my responsibility to ensure that the word was being spread the news to my town. This continuation required that I learn even more about the palm oil industry and the effects it has on our world. I did all of my school reports on palm oil, I even writing a fictional story about an orangutan and Asian elephant for my Spanish class! I shared most of these reports to my peers myself, but other times it was through peer editing. Whenever I shared one of these reports, I asked my teachers and fellow students to share what they learned with their families, I believe bringing awareness to an issue is the first step in bringing about change.

Taking care of our world is something that needs more attention. I think all types of life are important; whether it is the tiny carpenter ants or enormous hippos, it is our role as humans to protect these beautiful creatures and the world we all inhabit. Palm oil is such a controversial topic because you can’t destroy the industry; that would cause thousands of Indonesians to loose their jobs, making them unable to support themselves or their families. Encouraging the use of sustainable palm oil will help conserve the animals of Indonesia’s habitats. If we don’t address the problem at all, it is estimated that orangutans will be extinct in the wild by 2025, a horrifying statistic I hope to prevent. This project has made me more cautious about the products I buy; I am trying to only use products made of sustainable palm oil. I will continue to share my knowledge with those around me and encourage them to pass it along as well, similar to a game of Telephone. In the words of Dr. Seuss, from the famous The Lorax, “UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is to get better. It’s not.”
Date: December 31, 2015 Views: 4063 File size: 15.5kb, 2224.1kb : 2592 x 1944
Hours Volunteered: 50-70
Volunteers: 12
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 17 &14-18
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