Prolific Christmas tree recycling, Leave No Trace-ing and, and edible plant ID’ing aside, modern day sustainability has never really played a visible role in the Boy Scouts of America, a venerable — and hugely conservative — youth organization stuck in a perpetual PR disaster due to some rather old-fashion (read: intolerant) thinking.
But while the BSA's attitudes towards sexual orientation and religion may be antiquated to say the least (it’s worth noting that some progress has been made on that front), it does look like the BSA has finally come around on the modern sustainability front with the introduction of a Sustainability merit badge that goes above and beyond scouting's old-school emphasis on environmental stewardship.
Advancement Team Leader Christopher Hunt explains the nuts and bolts of the new badge:
The Sustainability merit badge, in essence, takes conservation and environmental science to another level. The protection, preservation, and management of wildlife and natural resources involved in conservation provide a foundation for what we call environmental science. The latter integrates physical and biological sciences such as ecology, biology, soil science, atmospheric science, and others in order to generate solutions to environmental issues. Sustainability takes off from there by taking responsibility for balancing long-term environmental, social, health, and economic needs with progress and development. It further suggests that development, while meeting the needs of the present, cannot compromise the ability of future generations to meet their needs.
There are five key requirement areas that scouts must focus on in order to be bestowed with the Sustainability merit badge: Water, food, energy, community, and rather topically, stuff. Each area consists of three different tasks, two of which must be completed (so a grand total of ten tasks are required for this "Do A and B or C" type of affair). Here’s a look at a few tasks that specifically pertain to sustainability at home:
Develop and implement a plan that attempts to reduce your family’s water usage. Examine your family’s water bills reflecting usage for three months (past or current). As a family, choose three ways to help reduce consumption. Implement those ideas for one month. Share what you learn with your counselor, and tell how your plan affected your family’s water usage.
Develop and implement a plan that attempts to reduce your household food waste. Establish a baseline and then track and record your results for two weeks. Report your results to your family and counselor.
Draw a rough sketch depicting how you would design a sustainable community. Share your sketch with your counselor, and explain how the housing, work locations, shops, schools, and transportation systems affect energy, pollution, natural resources, and the economy of the community.
Develop and implement a plan that attempts to reduce consumption for one of your family’s household utilities. Examine your family’s bills for that utility reflecting usage for three months (past or current). As a family, choose three ways to help reduce consumption and be a better steward of this resource. Implement those ideas for one month. Share what you learn with your counselor, and tell how your plan affected your family’s usage.
Plan a project that involves the participation of your family to identify the “stuff” your family no longer needs. Complete your project by donating, repurposing, or recycling these items.
Again this is pretty serious and important stuff that’s already — and predictably — garnered a fair amount of backlash (and praise). More on the requirements — and plenty of shrill criticism — over at Bryan on Scouting, the blog of Scouting magazine senior editor Bryan Wendell.
Via [Bryan on Scouting] via [TreeHugger]