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.
As noted by Lloyd Alter over at Treehugger, the badge requirements are “serious and sophisticated” while the badge program itself, an option to the existing Environmental Science merit badge and requirement to achieve Eagle Scout status, is a bit surprising as anti-sustainability sentiment and climate change denial is strong in some areas of the country where the Boy Scouts are most popular.

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:

Water

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.

Food

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.

Community

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.

Energy

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.

Stuff

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.

And this is just the beginning. In addition to the core tasks, scouts must also explore and discuss topics such as e-waste, plastic waste, food waste, world population, species decline, and, gulp, climate change. An exploratory look into green career options is also required.

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]

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