Sustainability Merit Badge – It’s a big word with many aspects. But when you break it down, it goes hand in hand with being a good Scout. Sustainability means the ability to endure.
Conserving the land, forests, air, water, wildlife, and limited resources we all share is everyone’s responsibility. Reducing what we consume and recycling, repurposing, restoring, and repairing what we own are all parts of being thrifty, a key point of the Scout Law.
Sustainability requires living within our world’s ability to regenerate the things we need to live. As good Scouts, we try to leave things better than we found them. We should try to do what we can to ensure generations to come will also have what they need.
We human beings can lighten our imprint on planet Earth by managing the way we consume resources.
Conserving the land where we walk, the forests that surround us, the air we breathe, the water all living things need to survive, and the other resources Earth provides is important to sustaining life itself not just for your lifetime, but for future generations.
On a worldwide level, sustainability may involve urban planning that reorganizes living situations into eco-villages and eco-cities, where green building and green technologies, renewable energy sources, and sustainable agriculture become the new normal.
Sustainability begins with rethinking your individual lifestyle and becoming aware of how you can conserve natural resources Moving toward a more sustainable lifestyle will challenge the attention, ingenuity, and know-how of your generation-the youth of America.
We all have a stake in preserving life. We all share in the responsibility to make our planet a desirable place, now and in the future.
Human actions have lasting social, environmental, and economic effects on the place we all call home: Earth.
Sustainability Merit Badge Requirement
- Before starting work on any other requirements for this merit badge, write in your own words the meaning of sustainability. Explain how you think conservation and stewardship of our natural resources relate to sustainability. Have a family meeting, and ask family members to write down what they think sustainability means. Be sure to take notes. You will need this information again for requirement 5.
- Do the following:
Water. Do A and either B or C.
|A. 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.|
|B. Using a diagram you have created, explain to your counselor how your household gets its clean water from a natural source and what happens with the water after you use it. Include water that goes down the kitchen, bathroom, and laundry drains, and any runoff from watering the yard or washing the car. Tell two ways to preserve your family’s access to clean water in the future.|
|C. Discuss with your counselor two areas in the world that have been affected by drought over the last three years. For each area, identify a water conservation practice (successful or unsuccessful) that has been used. Tell whether the practice was effective and why. Discuss what water conservation practice you would have tried and why.|
Food. Do A and either B or C
|A. 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.|
|B. Discuss with your counselor the ways individuals, families, and communities can create their own food sources (potted plants, family garden, rooftop garden, neighborhood or community garden). Tell how this plan might contribute to a more sustainable way of life if practiced globally.|
|C. Discuss with your counselor factors that limit the availability of food and food production in different regions of the world. Tell three ways these factors influence the sustainability of worldwide food supplies.|
Community. Do A and either B or C.
|A. 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.|
|B. With your parent’s permission and your counselor’s approval, interview a local architect, engineer, contractor, or building materials supplier. Find out the factors that are considered when using sustainable materials in renovating or building a home. Share what you learn with your counselor.|
|C. Review a current housing needs assessment for your town, city, county, or state. Discuss with your counselor how birth and death rates affect sufficient housing, and how a lack of housing or too much housing can influence the sustainability of a local or global area.|
Energy. Do A and either B or C.
|A. Learn about the sustainability of different energy sources, including fossil fuels, solar, wind, nuclear, hydropower, and geothermal. Find out how the production and consumption of each of these energy sources affect the environment and what the term “carbon footprint” means. Discuss what you learn with your counselor, and explain how you think your family can reduce its carbon footprint.|
|B. 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.|
|C. Evaluate your family’s fuel and transportation usage. Review your family’s transportation-related bills (gasoline, diesel, electric, public transportation, etc.) 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 transportation habits.|
Stuff. Do A and either B or C.
|A. Keep a log of the “stuff” your family purchases (excluding food items) for two weeks. In your log, categorize each purchase as an essential need (such as soap) or a desirable want (such as a DVD). Share what you learn with your counselor.|
|B. 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.|
|C. Discuss with your counselor how having too much “stuff” affects you, your family, and your community. Include the following: the financial impact, time spent, maintenance, health, storage, and waste. Include in your discussion the practices that can be used to avoid accumulating too much “stuff.”|
3. Do the following:
- Explain to your counselor how the planetary life-support systems (soil, climate, freshwater, atmospheric, nutrient, oceanic, ecosystems, and species) support life on Earth and interact with one another.
- Tell how the harvesting or production of raw materials (by extraction or recycling), along with distribution of the resulting products, consumption, and disposal/repurposing, influences current and future sustainability thinking and planning.
4. Explore TWO of the following categories. Have a discussion with your family about the two you select. In your discussion, include your observations, and best and worst practices. Share what you learn with your counselor.
- Plastic waste. Discuss the impact plastic waste has on the environment (land, water, air). Learn about the number system for plastic recyclables, and determine which plastics are more commonly recycled. Find out what the trash vortex is and how it was formed.
- Electronic waste. Choose three electronic devices in your household. Find out the average lifespan of each, what happens to these devices once they pass their useful life, and whether they can be recycled in whole or part. Discuss the impact of electronic waste on the environment.
- Food waste. Learn about the value of composting and how to start a compost pile. Start a compost pile appropriate for your living situation. Tell what can be done with the compost when it is ready for use.
- Species decline. Explain the term species (plant or animal) decline. Discuss the human activities that contribute to species decline, what can be done to help reverse the decline, and its impact on a sustainable environment.
- World population. Learn how the world’s population affects the sustainability of Earth. Discuss three human activities that may contribute to putting Earth at risk, now and in the future.
- Climate change. Find a world map that shows the pattern of temperature change for a period of at least 100 years. Share this map with your counselor, and discuss three factors that scientists believe affect the global weather and temperature.
5. Do the following:
- After completing requirements 1 through 4, have a family meeting. Discuss what your family has learned about what it means to be a sustainable citizen. Talk about the behavioral changes and life choices your family can make to live more sustainably. Share what you learn with your counselor.
- Discuss with your counselor how living by the Scout Oath and Scout Law in your daily life helps promote sustainability and good stewardship.
6. Learn about career opportunities in the sustainability field. Pick one and find out the education, training, and experience required. Discuss what you have learned with your counselor and explain why this career might interest you.
What Does Mean “Sustainability”?
To “sustain” a thing is to keep it up or continue it. Sustainable, then, relates to methods of harvesting or using resources in ways that do not squander or permanently damage them.
A sustainable lifestyle or society meets today’s needs without depleting (completely using up) natural resources for future generations.
With the design and construction of the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve, the Boy Scouts of America saw an opportunity to explore how communities can become more sustainable.
The reserve turns into a busy city of 50,000 people during the national Scout jamboree. That is larger than many towns in America. A commitment to sustainability ensures that the Summit is strong and successful for Scouts today and for generations to come.
A few key principles of Scouting guided the sustainable design of the Summit:
- Be thrifty and resourceful in our use of energy and water.
- Apply and expand outdoor ethics beyond the backcountry by considering how we use materials and reduce waste in all operations.
- Be good stewards of our human and natural communities by creating healthy places today and for future generations.
- Demonstrate leadership in sustainability by measuring our efforts and continually improving.
The BSA has pledged to work toward a “net zero ” property. Net zero is an ambitious goal that will take some time to reach. In order to achieve net zero, the Summit will need to:
- Produce as much clean, renewable energy as it uses each year.
- Collect water from the Summit’s own watershed and treat it passively (making use of natural water treatment methods) before returning it to the soil.
- Find creative ways to eliminate sending material to the landfill.
Buildings on-site are designed to conserve 30 percent more energy than typical buildings of the same size, staying cooler in summer and warmer in winter through their shape and location.
Their doors, windows, and walls exchange very little heat on cold with the outside, requiring less energy to heat and cool the inside. Beneath the ground of the Summit Center are geothermal wells that keep the buildings warm in winter and cool in summer.
The Summit is designed for people, not cars and trucks. Within its compact footprint, Scouts live close to activities and amenities.
A network of trails through the woods and around the lake connects base camps to central and adventure areas. Fewer vehicles mean cleaner air and a safer, healthier environment for Scouts and guests.
In order to reach the goal of net zero water, the Summit concentrates first on finding ways to use less water and to apply passive treatments for processing any water used on-site.
- Greywater, the water that drains from sinks and showers, is cleaned and reused to flush toilets and urinals. This will save 11 gallons per day per Scout-a savings of 4.4 million gallons in the course of a single jamboree.
- Blackwater, the water that is flushed down toilets and urinals. It is treated without chemicals at an on-site wastewater plant and then used to irrigate the surrounding forest. No wastewater leaves the site. Instead, it serves to put important nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen back into the soil.
- Stormwater, which runs off roofs, roadways, and paved areas. is also treated on-site over 70 acres of biofiltration. The dirty water is carried in a network of swales (depressions or low-lying land) and rain gardens that allow the water to soak back into the soil while the plants filter out oil and sediments.
A Roundup of Sustainability Issues
You don’t have to look far to see the blight that plastic waste makes in our environment.
Drive down any road in America and you’ll likely see plastic bags stuck in trees and plastered against fence lines, and plastic bottles, wrappers, and containers tossed in ditches or accumulating in piles along the banks of creeks, rivers, lakes, and marshes.
1. Plastic Waste and the Trash Vortex
Plastic bags are also among the top two items of trash found in our oceans, where they choke, strangle, and starve wildlife. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration noted that plastic bags can also cover living corals in coral reefs, which can lead to the death of the reef.
Many large coastal cities use barges to transport their garbage offshore and dump it into the ocean. This has caused an island of plastic to form off California’s west coast that is twice the size of Texas and made up of 7 billion pounds of plastic garbage.
It is known as a trash vortex because the prevailing ocean currents keep it swirling around slowly in a circle. The dead zone is choked with dead fish, marine mammals, and birds that have gotten snagged in the mess.
Zooplankton are small floating animals that drift with the currents. Along with phytoplankton (tiny plants), zooplankton make up the food supply upon which almost all oceanic organisms depend to survive.
Plastic pieces now outweigh surface zooplankton in the central North Pacific Ocean by a factor of 6 to 1, according to researchers.
Plastic pieces poison the ocean environment. They attract and hold deadly elements like PCBs, a pollutant used in coolants, transformers, capacitors, and electric motors; and DDT, a chemical compound widely used as an agricultural pesticide that Rachel Carson wrote about in 1962 in the famous book Silent Spring.
Carson’s book documented the ways pesticides harm the environment and wildlife, particularly birds. Although both DDT and PCBS were eventually banned, these toxic, cancer-causing chemicals do not break down in the environment.
When plastic enters water sources, it stays there. According to the Research Triangle Institute, “every little piece of plastic manufactured in the past 50 years that made it into the ocean is still out there somewhere.” The plastics you use today will still be polluting our environment when your grandchildren are born.
Keep these things in mind every time you use a plastic bag, drink from a polystyrene cup, or buy anything wrapped or contained in plastic.
Instead, substitute reusable shopping bags, bottles, and containers, and do your part by spreading the word to end wasteful consumption of plastics.
2. Electronic Waste (E-Waste)
When the newest gadget comes along and replaces the outdated computer, television, stereo, CD player, cell phone, or any number of other electronic devices, the old one often gets tossed in the trash.
Americans now own an average of 24 electronic gadgets per household. It’s a terrible idea to just throw them away.
All electronic scrap may contain contaminants such as lead, cadmium, and beryllium. These heavy metals can leak into our environment in landfills and spew into the atmosphere as ashes from incinerators.
It has become increasingly important to manage e-waste more carefully and effectively.
A company headquartered in New Jersey has created national recycling systems for previously non recyclable or hard-to-recycle waste, including electronic waste.
With more than 20 million people collecting waste in over 20 countries, the program has diverted billions of units of waste and used them to create more than 1.500 different products that are sold in well-known retail stores.
In the process, the company has donated more than $20 million to schools and nonprofit organizations that serve as “brigades” to collect waste.
Many Cub Scout packs and Boy Scout troops across the country have signed up to contribute to this program, collecting electronic waste from their communities and other “stuff” that is not commonly recycled, such as used juice boxes and pouches. candy wrappers, and office products.
In exchange for acting as a collection station and shipping the waste to the company, the Scouts earn points for their troops for the waste they collect.
Points earned can be redeemed for charitable gifts, or for payment of a penny a point to nonprofit organizations or schools.
3. Food Waste
What are the benefits of turning food waste into compost? Tb start with, it’s a source of free fertilizer for your plants, It’s good for the environment, and it’s easy to make.
Compost adds nutrient-rich humus to the soil, which fuels plant growth and restores depleted soils.
It also introduces beneficial organisms into the soil that are a natural way to ward off plant diseases and aerate the soil. And compost offers a natural alternative to chemical fertilizers.
If you live in an apartment and have only houseplants, you might choose a kitchen-counter compost bin.
If you live in the country and have a garden, lawn, shrubs, and trees, you can start a large compost pile that will enrich the soil on your family’s land.
Here are suggestions for how to build a compost pile outdoors:
- Build the pile on bare earth so that worms and other beneficial organisms can get into the compost to aerate it.
- Spread twigs or loose straw on the ground a few inches deep to aid drainage and let air into the pile.
- Add compostable materials in layers, alternating moist ingredients (food scraps, tea bags, etc.) with dry materials (leaves, sawdust, wood ashes). Sprinkle wood ashes thinly to keep them from clumping together.
- Add manure, clover, buckwheat, wheatgrass, or any nitrogen source to help speed the composting process.
- Keep the compost moist, not saturated. When rainfall is scarce, water the pile but do not soak it.
- Cover the pile with plastic sheeting, wood, carpet scraps, or anything that will serve to hold in moisture and heat, two things that are essential for composting.
- Every few weeks, remove the cover and turn the pile with a pitchfork or shovel to introduce more oxygen, which is needed for the composting process to work.
With your parent’s permission, go online to find out more about composting, or get tips from local nurseries. Many cities and county extension services also offer free classes in composting.
4. Species Decline
The world’s biodiversity (number of different species of plants and animals) is declining at a record rate, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), an organization that produces an annual “red list of the most vulnerable wildlife.
Current extinction rates are at least 100 to 1.000 times higher than natural rates found in the fossil records, the group reported. Humans are the main reason for the decline of many of these species.
“Habitat destruction and degradation are the leading threats, but other significant pressures include over-exploitation (for food, pets, and medicine), introduced species, pollution, and disease,” the IUCN has reported.
In 2012, the Red List of Threatened Species noted that of 63.837 species assessed, 19,817 are threatened with extinction, including 41 percent of amphibians, 33 percent of reef-building corals, 25 percent of mammals, and 13 percent of birds.
One strategy for preventing species decline is to protect and preserve wildlife habitats, Governments and private organizations purchase land to protect wildlife and provide nature preserves, state parks, national parks and reserves, and designated wilderness areas.
Another strategy is to manage our natural resources to provide critical wildlife habitats, such as active forest management that takes into account the value of wildlife habitat and conservation as well as timber values.
Achieving Sustainable Energy
You are now set to learn about the sustainability of different energy sources and what the term carbon footprint means, Here is a list of the terms you will find in this section and a brief definition of each of these forms of energy.
|Fossil fuels, such as petroleum, coal, and natural gas, come from the accumulated remains of ancient plants and animals. Burning fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, which are considered by many to be among the primary causes of global climate change.|
|Solar energy is the energy received by Earth from the sun in the form of solar radiation, which makes the production of solar electricity possible.|
|Nuclear power is produced by a fission reaction that splits the uranium nucleus, creating heat. The heat is used to turn water into steam; the steam drives a turbine, spinning a generator to produce electricity. Although nuclear energy is carbon-free, the toxic waste created by used or depleted uranium is difficult to dispose of safely.|
|Wind power is the conversion of wind energy into usable forms of energy through windmills for mechanical power, windpumps for water pumping or drainage, and wind turbines to make electrical power. Wind energy is renewable and clean and produces no greenhouse gas emissions, but some people find wind turbines unsightly or noisy.|
|Hydropower, or water power, comes from the energy of falling and running water, which may be harnessed for useful purposes such as operating textile mills and other mechanical devices and generating electricity. Hydropower is a renewable energy source.|
|Geothermal power comes from the heat of the Earth’s core. Hot spring water can be brought to Earth’s surface and used to heat homes and buildings. Geothermal power generates clean, renewable electricity. its sources are mainly concentrated in the “Ring of Fire,” a volcanic region with large geothermal reservoirs located around the Pacific Ocean. Geothermal power is cost-effective and sustainable, although bringing the heat to Earth’s surface does emit small quantities of greenhouse gases.|
|Bioenergy is generated from biomass: trees, crops, algae, animal dung, or plant material that is leftover from agricultural and forestry operations.|