We Should Earn a Sustainability Merit Badge


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This summer the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), one of the largest youth organizations in the United States, debuted a Sustainability merit badge in which Scouts work with their families to live more sustainably. The new badge can be earned as an alternative to Environmental Science to become an Eagle Scout, the highest ranking level of Boy Scout.

To earn the badge, Scouts must accomplish a variety of tasks in areas including water, food, community, energy, and stuff. He must hold a family meeting before and after completing the required tasks to discuss what sustainability means and what it means to be a sustainable citizen. He must explore the behavioral changes and life choices his family can make to live more sustainably.

On the goal behind the Sustainability merit badge, Scott Berger, chairman of the BSA Sustainability Leadership Team overseeing the badge’s development stated: “The idea is not just to conserve but to truly be stewards of our environment, our energy sources, and more—to think in terms not just of having enough for our lifetime but enough for future generations.”


For example, as an option, the energy tasks require:

  • 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.

And, the stuff tasks require:

  • 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.
  • 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.

It is also required to explore, research, and discuss two of the following: plastic waste, electronic waste, food waste, species decline, world population, or climate change.

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