The Rapidian

Children help take local action towards global results

A local environmental advocacy group hopes to lobby the Kellogg's corporation to influence Wilmar International's palm oil production practice.
A group of volunteers and participants gather around a sign pleading Kellogg's to help save the Sumatran Tiger.

A group of volunteers and participants gather around a sign pleading Kellogg's to help save the Sumatran Tiger. /Audrey Dalrymple

Take Action

According to Forest Heroes, here are some ways you can get involved:

1) Forest Heroes always welcomes volunteers. Email Ben Cushing for more information.

2) Write a letter and/or email Kellogg's CEO, John Bryant explaining why you care about rainforests and their partnership with Wilmar. Or, give his office a call at 269-961-2000

3) Avoid purchasing products that contain palm oil, unless known to be produced in a sustainable manner.

4) Have a safe and Tiger Friendly Halloween!

For more information on Forest Heroes and to stay updated on the latest information regarding this issue, visit their website at http://www.forestheroes.org or check out their Facebook Page

Hard at work coloring and learning more about the Sumatran Tiger

Hard at work coloring and learning more about the Sumatran Tiger /Audrey Dalrymple

Forest Hills Central High School students feel that letter writing is more effective and personal than signing a petition.

Forest Hills Central High School students feel that letter writing is more effective and personal than signing a petition. /Audrey Dalrymple

Many of us grew up with Tony the Tiger gracing the covers of our cereal boxes and interrupting our Saturday morning cartoons. While the animated tiger bears little resemblance to its real life cousin, one group is demonstrating how Tony can influence environmental change.

Forest Heroes, a Michigan based environmental advocacy group is bringing local action to the international stage by trying to save the Sumatran Tiger. They are lobbying the Kellogg Company, headquartered in Battle Creek, Michigan against their recent partnership with Wilmar International, the largest producer of palm oil in the world. Wilmar International’s sustainability track record has raised serious concern over the production of palm oil and the negative effects it is having on the environment in Indonesia. It is reported that palm oil production is causing deforestation, pollution and severe encroachment on the Sumatran Tigers’ habitat.

Despite the global nature of responsible palm oil advocacy, Ben Cushing, the Grand Rapids Forest Heroes project manager isn’t starting his efforts globally or nationally. Rather he and Forest Heroes are focusing on the communities surrounding Kellogg’s headquarters. On Saturday, October 26th the Fountain Street Church hosted Forest Heroes, partnered with West Michigan Environmental Action Council to hold a Tiger Friendly Halloween party for kids to learn more about the Sumatran Tiger and eat “tiger-friendly” snacks.

“We are specifically here because Kellogg’s is Michigan based and we felt like they are a company that cares a lot about their image and their reputation as socially responsible. We want them to live up to that reputation and do the right thing,” said Mr. Cushing.

Forest Heroes encouraged kids and parents to dress like tigers and enjoy the festivities. The party included palm oil free candy and cookies, costume accessories, face painting and a table to write letters to Kellogg’s CEO, John Bryant expressing concern over their partnership with Wilmar International.

“This industry that they are working with, Wilmar International is the largest palm oil trader on the planet and is ranked the least sustainable corporation in the world. So we feel like we can begin to get them to change, it would really domino effect and change the industry as a whole,” replied Mr. Cushing when asked about enacting environmental change from a grassroots level.

Forest Heroes has been active in the community outside of the Halloween party. In Grand Rapids alone they have collected over 1,500 petitions and close to 5,000 statewide. They also participated in a statewide “call in day” where they asked people during Art Prize to make on the spot phone calls to Kellogg’s, addressing local citizens’ concerns on the palm oil issue.

These events are leading up to Forest Heroes’ culmination in November, when they rally at the Kellogg’s headquarters. Mr. Cushing hopes to bring the collected petitions along with a large group of volunteers, in hopes of getting a face to face meeting with the CEO of Kellogg’s.

Forest Heroes has drawn support from across the community. The Forest Hills Central High School Environmental Club has been partnered with them since the beginning of the school year, helping to raise awareness and action.

“It just bothers me because when people do these things they don’t realize how much of an impact they are having. How are they going to feel if their grandchildren never get to see a tiger? It is something you get to experience and you don’t want to take that away from future generations,” said Environmental Club President, Sarah Javaid.

Grand Rapids push toward city wide sustainability makes it an ideal place to raise the kind of grassroots support that environmental organizations like Forest Heroes’ needs. “I think people are very aware of sustainability in Grand Rapids. It’s a good place to start,” said Jessica Beswick, a community member who came out to support Forest Heroes Halloween Party. Whatever the outcome of Forest Heroes efforts, the support of the Grand Rapids community demonstrates the passion that the city holds for close causes. 

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