Girl Scout selling cookies to help save Monarch Butterfly

Los Alamitos High School senior's Gold Award project aims to build a butterfly pollinator garden at her former elementary school

Girl Scout selling cookies to help save Monarch Butterfly
Los Alamitos High School senior Zoe Ronnau behind the boxes of Girl Scout cookies she hopes to sell in support of her effort to build a pollinator garden at her former elementary school. Courtesy photo.

Every spring, Zoe Ronnau is one of the more than two million Girl Scouts around the globe selling the group's world-famous cookies.

This year, her sales of Thin Mints, Lemonades, and Peanut Butter Patties will do more than satisfy people's sugar cravings. The sales could help in the rescue of an endangered species. 

Since her earliest days in kindergarten at Lee Elementary in the Los Alamitos Unified School District, Zoe has always been a Girl Scout. 

Now a senior at Los Alamitos High School, Zoe has finally reached the pinnacle of Girl Scouting, seeking her Gold Award. To achieve its highest honor, Girl Scouts must complete an original project that models good civic behavior and giving back.

To earn her Gold Award in Girl Scouts (which is similar to becoming an Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts) Zoe is constructing a butterfly pollinator garden at her former elementary school.

“The main thing you have to do is create projects that help the community in some way," Zoe said in a recent interview. “And our project has to keep helping the community for the ongoing future ... It can’t just be like a one-and-done type project.”

Accordingly, Zoe has chosen to build a preservation habitat to protect the monarch butterfly, which is nearly extinct in California.

“I’m making a butterfly garden to help out endangered monarchs who have recently in the past few years been put on the endangered species list. And so this butterfly garden will help preserve them and also kind of help educate people on preserving their life and their importance in nature,” Zoe said.

According to a CNN report, Western monarch butterflies are gorgeous and majestic, yet could be extinct in California in a few decades. The report noted the population of Western monarch butterflies has plunged by 86% since late 2017 in coastal areas of California.

The dire number comes from counts of the brilliant black-and-orange insects conducted every Thanksgiving by the Xerces Society, an international nonprofit dedicated to preserving invertebrates and their habitats. “It’s worse than anyone had anticipated," reads a post on the group's website about the decline of the monarch.

So, this Girl Scout wants to make a difference.

Zoe has chosen to build her butterfly protection habitat where learning all began for her, at Lee Elementary school, a campus she attended from kindergarten through fifth grade.

A vegetable garden already exists at Lee Elementary, which coincidentally Zoe helped build 13 years ago when she was in kindergarten. Now, to earn her Gold Award, she will build a butterfly protection habitat across from that garden.

“But on the other side of this garden, across the walkway, I’m going to build another garden that’s just dedicated to butterfly preservation,” she said. “It’s going to be a little smaller than the other garden.” She and her mom Elizabeth met with the school administrations to get permission, said Zoe.

Zoe Ronnau and her mom, Elizabeth, preparing the site for her butterfly pollinator garden at Lee Elementary School. Courtesy photo.

Zoe said she will plant flowers and native plants that support the monarch butterfly. “Then I’ll have a few signposts that kind of go through the path of [the monarch] that educate people on their lifecycle, and their endangerment and the purpose behind the garden and all that,” Zoe said.

The project is estimated to cost between $3,000 to $5,000, but with all the funding Zoe’s cookie sales have generated for her Girl Scout Troop 2790 (Rossmoor Service Unit), she thinks they will contribute enough to start.

“But because of my cookie sales, throughout the years, we have some money already reserved in our troop that we’ve set aside for this project. That’ll help fund it,” said Zoe.

Now in her 13th year of scouting, Zoe is set to reach her lifetime goal of selling a total of 25,000 boxes of Girl Scout cookies, according to her mom. That is approximately one-half ton.

To put that into perspective, if one were to stack, one box on top of another, the actual number of boxes of Girl Scout cookies sold by Zoe, it would be taller than the equivalent to two Empire State Buildings and a Statue of Liberty on top.

For Zoe, it’s no big deal.

“I wish it was like a big secret. But to be honest, I do about 50 booth sales in one cookie season, which is two months, maybe a little less,” she said. “I’m doing the sales, like multiple each day, every day for I think six weeks and that’s all it is.”

She’s planning her upcoming sales season, preparing to set up her “booth” in Rossmoor and she’s going to hustle to make sure she can fund her butterfly project at Lee Elementary.

“The plaques in the butterfly garden have to be made of real brass,” she said, which is pushing up the cost of her project.

As the monarch butterfly faces possible extinction, Zoe is hoping her garden at Lee Elementary will provide a safe haven for the creatures.

“I want to do something to help,” said Zoe and encouraged others to contribute. “To save a butterfly, buy a cookie,” she smiled.

Editor’s Note: Readers wanting to help can reach Zoe via email, or visit her website.

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