Colorado company joins Cheyenne Mountain Zoo to save orangutans

A Colorado-based peanut butter company has teamed with Cheyenne Mountain Zoo to save the orangutans.

Justin’s Nut Butter, based in Boulder, will feature Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s “Orangutan Friendly” logo on its products, which are sold in Safeway, King Soopers, Vitamin Cottage and Whole Foods stores in Colorado Springs.

The logo aims to draw awareness to the palm oil crisis and its direct relationship to the survival of the orangutans, said Dina Bredahl, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo animal care manager.

Palm oil is the most produced vegetable oil in the world and is used in products ranging from margarine and cosmetics to feedstock and for biofuel. As farmers cut away rainforests to plant the palms,  orangutans are pushed out of their homes and are dying of starvation, she said.

But, boycotting palm oil products is not the solution, said Katie Borremans, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo spokeswoman. Last winter, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo was the first zoo to join Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil, which has developed guidelines for palm oil production with minimal harm to the environment.

“Now Justin’s, the Boulder-based all-natural nut butter company, is also a member of RSPO and the first company to adopt Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s ‘Orangutan Friendly’ logo on its packaging,” she said. “It’s very exciting for us because conservation is such a big part of what we do. This is our work in action. It helps us spread the conservation message.”

Justin’s, which sells its products across the country, is putting the zoo logo on its squeeze packs, which hit shelves this month. The logo makes it easier for consumers to identify products manufactured with sustainable palm oil.

“We don’t believe boycotting palm oil – the harvesting and production of which is the livelihood of so many – is the solution; but rather it’s being conscientious about where and how we source the ingredient,” said Justin Gold, CEO and founder of Justin’s. “For us the choice was easy: Justin’s has always used sustainable organic palm oil supplied by CIRANDA and sourced from Brazil.”

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo hopes more companies will become part of the RSPO. Some other companies, including Unilever PLC, Nestle SA and Kraft Foods Inc., have said they would seek to buy palm oil produced with minimal harm to the environment.

“By being the first company to use our logo, Justin’s is helping us achieve our goal of moving the palm oil industry toward sustainability,” Bredahl said. “It’s a great feeling to know we are making a big difference.”

Visitors to Cheyenne Mountain Zoo also can contribute to saving the orangutans through the zoo’s “Quarters for Conservation” program. Visitors can choose from six conservation programs – save the orangutan, vultures, amphibians in Panama, leopards, penguins or snow leopards. For every person who buys a ticket to visit the zoo, 25 cents goes to conservation programs.

More than 500,000 people visit the zoo each year.

In fiscal year, 2010-2011, visitors contributed $12,521 to saving orangutans, Borremans said. Orangutans also are contributing to saving themselves through sales of their art. Each week, the orangutans paint on canvasses, which are sold at the zoo. Half the proceeds go to the conservation program, while half  goes to the zoo’s operation.

Zoo officials also have a shopping guide for visitors which details companies dedicated to the production of palm oil with minimal harm to the environment, and therefore to the homes of the orangutans.