FAQs about Cooking and Sustainability merit badges

When I announced that Cooking merit badge and the new Sustainability merit badge would join the Eagle-required list in 2013 and 2014, a lot of you had questions.

You asked about rollout plans, what happens with Scouts nearing the end of the Eagle trail, and an explanation of what will be covered under Sustainability merit badge. At the time, I was silent.

But today, courtesy of Advancement Team Leader Christopher Hunt, I’ve got some answers. Here they are:

Cooking merit badge FAQs

Effective Jan. 1, 2014, the Cooking merit badge will be required in order to obtain the Eagle Scout rank.

  • What about Scouts who started working on Eagle before 2014?
    • Regardless of when a Scout earned the Life rank or began working on Eagle, unless he fulfills all the requirements—with the exception of his board of review—before Jan. 1, 2014, he must earn the Cooking merit badge to become an Eagle Scout.
  • Will the Cooking merit badge requirements change?
    •  Yes. During 2013 the Cooking merit badge will undergo a major revision. The process for implementing changes to merit badges is covered in the Guide to Advancement, topic, “What to Do When Requirements Change.” The changes to Cooking will first appear in a revised merit badge pamphlet that will be released during 2013.
  • Once the revised requirements are released, which version will count?
    • cooking-mb-old-and-newThe new requirements become effective Jan. 1, 2015. The BSA allows the following options for the period of time between the release of the revised pamphlet and the Jan. 1, 2015, effective date:
      • If Scouts have already started on the merit badge, they may switch to the new requirements or continue with the old ones until the badge is completed.
      • If Scouts have not already started on the merit badge, they may opt to use the new requirements and the new pamphlet or the old requirements and old pamphlet.
      • If work on the merit badge begins before Jan. 1, 2015, they may use the old requirements and old pamphlet until the badge is completed.
      • In other words, consider 2014 a transition year during which a Scout may use either requirements book.
    • The Guide to Advancement, under the same topic, goes on to say, “There is no time limit between starting and completing a badge, although a counselor may determine so much time has passed since any effort took place that the new requirements must be used.” This will apply to Cooking as well.
  • Let’s say a Scout has already earned Cooking. Will he have to re-earn it with the revised requirements to earn Eagle?
    • No. Scouts completing the requirements for the Eagle Scout rank after Jan. 1, 2014, must earn the Cooking merit badge under either the existing requirements or under the requirements as revised during 2013. Scouts are not required to earn the badge under the new requirement in order to qualify for Eagle.

Sustainability merit badge FAQs

Upon its release during the summer of 2013, Sustainability becomes available as an option with Environmental Science as an Eagle-required merit badge. At that time Scouts may choose to earn Sustainability in place of the currently required Environmental Science.

  • If a Scout earns Sustainability and Environmental Science, do both count toward Eagle?
    • Scouts who have already earned Environmental Science may also earn Sustainability, but only one of the two merit badges would count as “Eagle-required.” The other, however, may count as one of the electives necessary to reach the total of 21 required merit badges.
  • Can you give me a general description of what Sustainability MB will cover?
    • 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.
  • What subject areas will Scouts be studying?
    • Ecology
    • Air pollution
    • Water pollution
    • Land pollution
    • Endangered species
    • Pollution prevention, resource recovery, and conservation
    • Ecosystem—living and nonliving
    • Environmental impact
  • What are the requirements for the merit badge?
    • The requirements for Sustainability have not yet been finalized, but initial discussions include the following topics:
      • What is sustainability?
      • Examining our current needs and our choices in meeting them, with attention to extraction, production, distribution, consumption, and disposal
      • Impact on our natural resources
      • Problems we must address, including plastic, electronic, and medical waste; species extinction, and climate change
      • New habits to adopt, including green chemistry, recycling, zero waste, and sustainability-conscious citizens
      • Careers related to sustainability

Other questions?

Leave ‘em in the comments below and I’ll see what I can find out.

Photos from flickr. Cooking: Some rights reserved by secondtree.

109 thoughts on “FAQs about Cooking and Sustainability merit badges

  1. Will any of the requirements for Environmental Science merit badge be updated or changed once Sustainability is also a merit badge?

    • Over the last year the national Advancement Committee’s Merit Badge Maintenance Task Force has been been reviewing the entire merit badge library. The project will be completed in mid 2013. Environmental Science may get some tweaking as a part of this effort, and the task force may consider other adjustments after Sustainability is released. No major revision, however, is planned. Anyone with ideas on any merit badge requirements or content, should send them to or to

  2. Did I read that correctly? Cooking is required for Eagle beginning Jan 01, 2014, regardless of when the scout began working on the rank? That strikes me as very different than how changes in requirements have worked before. I always thought that when someone began working on a merit badge or rank, they could finish. Is this because people take 3 or more years to work on Eagle, they don’t want people finishing with the old requirements in 2017 or even later?

    • From the national Advancement Team: The Guide to Advancement indicates that once a Scout begins work on a rank he may continue with the original requirements unless OTHERWISE STATED. In this case it will be otherwise stated in the next edition of the Boy Scout Requirement Book that Scouts have until Jan. 1, 2014 to complete the Eagle rank without Cooking. After that date Cooking must be earned. This is the same approached used when Family Life was added as Eagle-required back in the 90s.

      • Still a bad policy to force earning this cooking MB for a Life Scout and bad dea to add Cooking. Don’t we want boys to stay involved and continue on to finishing Eagle. Just another rule that is going to discourage Scouts that never had Cooking in their plans. BSA should have current Life scouts should be able to continue to Eagle rank with the original requirements.

        • 14 months of notice would seem to be ample time if someone wants to complete Eagle prior to the change kicking in.

  3. What will happen with the total count of required merit badges by adding Cooking? I understand that Sustainability will be an either/or situation with Environmental Science. Will Cooking replace one or add to the total?

    • From the National Advancement Team: the number of Eagle-required merit badges will increase to 13. We’d be interested, however, on your thoughts about that. Good idea? Bad idea? Why or why not?

      • Still need a total of 21? Or is this pumping it up to 22? I think it would not be that much harder to reach Eagle. Most scouts have plenty of extra MBs on their sash when they finally reach that step.

      • Bad idea. I like the idea of requiring cooking, but I really don’t like the idea of increasing the share of merit badges that are required. If scouting is really a boy-led program, let the boys have more flexibility in choosing which merit badges they earn rather than further constraining their choices.

    • Considering the content in Environmental Science, wouldn’t bringing back Conservation seem somewhat redundant?

  4. Pingback: Today’s Links November 2, 2012 | New York OA Trader

  5. Can you comment more about what, within the Cooking Merit Badge, is actually changing? I have a food allergic son who is now in the Troop. I became a Leader specifically because I felt that the BSA was not prepared enough in their training and literature to address what to do when a child who is food allergic joins a unit. Will any changes include adding food allergies to the merit badge beyond the standard, “make sure there aren’t any members allergic to the foods you are preparing”? It would be helpful to all units if there was a section withing the Cooking Merit Badge addressing how to manage food allergies.

    • I have a severe food allergy and I never once had a problem while earning cooking merit badge. My mother made sure I always had Benedryl for camp outs. I never had to use it and neither of my parents were leaders. Don’t sell scouting or your son short.

  6. Pingback: Cooking, Sustainability merit badges to become Eagle-required « Bryan on Scouting

  7. The current cooking merit badge requirements seem redundant in some respect to rank advancement activities. In revising the MB requirements it might be beneficial to broaden the scope of the learning as the other merit badges have done to non-camping settings. For example more exploration into cooking/food science and chemistry, ingredient combinations for complete proteins and different cooking settings and scenarios. Additionally, cooking for 1 person, small groups and large groups and use of grill, stove, oven, microwave, solar, pot, pan, skillet, roaster, etc.

    • Would very much like to see Cooking teach life-relevant cooking skills, and leave camping, hiking & backpacking to Trail-to-First-Class and outdoors merit badges. What scouts really need from Cooking is to learn to cook for their families and to be prepared for independent living in the future. Current — and, from ongoing discussion, revised — Cooking requirements mostly sound like rehash of TTFC & Camping requirements, with a near impossible number of backpacking trips required if these are to be completed as a troop. My scout will be Life rank working on Eagle by end of 2013 but, with this heaped on, is likely to become discouraged as he’ll have to head back to TTFC and other requirements he thought completed before he can focus on requirements for the more advanced rank he has earned.

  8. It is important for Scouts to learn about conserving the environment and being good stewards of nature. However, why is it that BSA feels it is necessary to cater to the left-wing environmentalists and their flavor of the month cause? These liberals that preach “climate change” or “global warming” are the same progressives that sue BSA. I am disappointed that BSA is joining the teachers unions in shoveling this garbage down our children’s throats.

  9. Sustainability is not a left or right issue. Sustainability in its truest sense has little to no impact in the grand scheme of the global warming alarmist approach. I look at sustainability in a similar vein as conservation, but with a more wholistic approach. Being a responsible steward of our planet is in line with mainstream scouting values. I have not heard that sustainability MB will preach man-made global warming. With all due respect, not everything is political.

    • What are the requirements of this merit badge?
      ” •Problems we must address, including plastic, electronic, and medical waste; species extinction, and CLIMATE CHANGE”

      While I appreciate you pointing out that sustainability is not left or right wing issue, I believe you missed the point. I made all the same points you did about conservation and stewardship, my issue is with the Climate Change education. It is absolutely a left wing agenda and it is a new name for a Global Warming. If you had read all the information about the merit badge you would seen that “Climate Change” is included. Much of the environmentalist movement is political when you consider how much of the industry is subsidized by the federal government. i.e. ethanol, solar energy, etc. Will the book mention how bad the batteries of hybrid cars are for the environment once expended or only the virtues of the car? I seriously doubt it. I just find that the old Conservation merit badge was better than whatever Social Justice agenda that Sustanability merit badge has to offer. Bottom line, if you want to talk about Social Justice issues save it for the Scoutmaster’s Minute rather than forcing it on every scout through a required merit badge.

      • If anything, climate change is a right wing issue because they seem to be the only ones debating it. The scientist who study climate reached overwhelming consensus years ago that humans are the primary driving force of climate change at this point in our history and are focusing on the details of the problem (Oreskes, 2004). It is my hope that the pamphlet will be guided by the science and not the social debates of the scientific facts. I do think that there needs to be consideration of the possible problems caused by some solutions – Brad is right that the benefits of hybrid cars must be balanced with the problem of dealing with expended hybrid batteries. Of course, our “dialog” here also shows that there is also a social science aspect to Sustainability that is important to explore.

        • “If anything, climate change is a right wing issue because they seem to be the only ones debating it.” You’re right, we should discourage people from questioning anything or anyone. I’d like to see statistics on the “overwhelming” amount of scientists. There have been thousands of emails leaked from climate scientists talking about burying evidence contrary to the climate change and marginalizing dissenters. That’s why it looks like it’s overwhelming. Considering how quickly science can change I am surprised you would use such an outdated source. I have not seen enough evidence to prove inconclusively “climate change” exists. You can teach scouts to be good stewards and responsible custodians of the earth without getting into global cooling, global warming, climate change or whatever the reknowned scientist, Al Gore, is calling it nowadays. The earth has been warming and cooling for millions of years. The industrial revolution started over 200 years ago. I don’t see how man could do in 200 years what volcanoes, forest fires, meteors and other naturally occurring destruction failed to do over millions of years. It’s bad enough that teachers have been attempting to indoctrinate our children, now I have to worry about BSA. As an Eagle Scout I am seriously thinking about pulling my three sons out of scouting if BSA insists on pushing this political agenda. Outside of spring, summer, fall and winter let’s keep “climate change” out of the merit badge book.

        • Brad, there is overwhelming consensus within the climate science community on this issue, in other words by the PhD level scientists who are experts on this issue. The dissenting scientific opinion have all come from other disciplines, e.g. physics, geology, etc. If your cardiologist told you that you needed a heart transplant, would you instead go with the opinion of your podiatrist when he tells you otherwise?

        • Rich, if there is overwhelming evidence that man-made climate change is legitimate then why would it be necessary to silence any dissention? I know that when I believe that I am 100% correct I welcome any challenge when I have the facts to support my argument. But since you decided to bring up the “facts,” I’ll humor you.

          Glad to see you don’t think of other professionals in disciplines like Geology or Physics as “real” scientists. I just don’t know how Physicists or Geologists that have worked hard to earn their PhD would feel about your obviously uninformed statement. I decided to take the time to look up some information for you since you’re too busy lecturing me and can’t be bothered with things like research.

          Careers in Geology that require a Master’s or PhD:

          Paleoclimatology/Paleooceanography–the study and modeling of past oceans and climates

          Oceanography–the study of coastal erosion, sediment transport, construction of harbors, and other aspects of the modern oceans

          Hydrology–the study of surface water flow

          Hydrogeology–the study of groundwater, its flow, and its pollution and remediation

          Paleontology–the study of ancient life and ecosystems

          I attempted to get you a list for Physics, but I don’t think I have the education to interpretate any of the legitimate Physics sites. However, the two disciplines mentioned the most regarding Climate Change were Geology and Physics. Feel free to look into Geothermal Energy, Quantum Physics, etc. There were a lot Physics/Climate Change sites out there and there was not a complete consensus within the Physics community.

          I know, it was mind blowing for me too. The difference is that I already knew this before I attempted to make my point. The problem with Sustainbility is not the idea of it, but the agenda behind it. Green is the new Red in America. Perhaps a few tweaks to Conservation MB was needed, but a politically charged topic like Climate Change has no place amongst our youth.

        • I too am disgusted with this “Sustainability” MB. I live in Oregon where the Leftist Environmentalists used the “endangered” Spotted owl to wipe out the logging industry and decimate the economy of parts of our state. After 15 years of study they determined that the more aggressive Bard Owl is the reason for the decline in Spotted owl numbers. So, do you think the Environmentalists are going to allow more logging. If so, you are delusional. Have you ever asked yourself why people that believe in
          Evolution are pushing things like the Endangered Species ACT?
          Did you know that our State Meteorologist was fired by the Governor because he was not on the ‘Global Warming” bandwagon?
          Did you see the newest reports that there has been NO GLOBAL WARMING for the last 15 yrs.- man made or not? That’s why it is now called “Climate Change”.
          “Sustainability” is the new darling of the Political Left. Environmental,
          Social, and Economic are the 3 legs of this new agenda.

    • When I first saw this MB’s slot at the local scout shop it sent a chill up my spine. They could have just added to other MB’S , but they felt bold enough to make this its own badge.

      • I am sort of happy it was a separate merit badge and wasn’t hidden in another where people wouldn’t notice right away. Hopefully with many people upset about this merit badge, the BSA will reconsider it. If not, I will reconsider having my boys in the BSA, nor will we donate each year. This is a big deal to me.

  10. Will the new requirements of Cooking merit badge and the requirements of Sustainability be easily accommodatable and thus achievable within a typical summer camp program without major pre-requisite requirements needed outside of the camp environment?

    • Oh, just like Citizenship in the Community/Nation/World can easily be achieved without major pre-requisite requirements needed outside a summer camp environment? Summer camps that offer the new Cooking merit badge will roll with it and either announce a prereq for it or the Scout will go home with a partial instead of a completed merit badge. Don’t worry about it. The Cooking merit badge should be the “best” it can be and there shouldn’t be too much focus placed on whether or not it’s easily achieved within a 5-hour block at summer camp.

  11. First off I do not like the fact changes can be applied to boys trying to achieve rank. As an advancement chair cooking should be allowed to be counted as an Eagle required today then if a boy has not earned the rank of star. Like wise in six months (Jily1)the rank of life. Both Ranks have time requirements that will not allow a boy to achieve the rank of eagle before the implementaioin date. The merit badge is either is Eagle required or it is not.

    As a professional engineer that has worked in the environmental field, there seems to be too many inaccurate information in the envornmental science and other science /nature books that need to be removed. There is too much bad science and political correctness in many of the merit badge books. Why is no reference given to who started the EPA and the benifits of what has been regulated? Instead there is a reference to a book that has none of the hypothesis ever been validated (Silent Spring). One can not be trustworhy when you can not state the truth.

  12. Just want to clarify….As of 1/1/14 Cooking will be an eagle required merit badge. However, there will still be a total of 21 merit badges required for eagle and the number of required merit badges up to life will remain the same. So, that means the eagle rank will now require 6 eagle merit badges and 4 elective badges. Is this correct?

  13. For Eagle there will be 13 required merit badges as of 1/1/14, at least seven of which will have been earned for Star and Life. The total will remain at 21; the remaining eight badges are the Scout’s choice. Only Star or Life ranks earned on or after 1/1/14 will be able to count Cooking as one of the required merit badges.

    • I would like to see the Cooking merit badge count toward Star or Life eagle-required merit badges before 1/1/14 if the new requirements are used to earn it.

  14. My son earned Cooking a year ago. I don’t think he is going to finish his work toward Eagle before 1/1/2014. Will he have to earn Cooking again?

  15. I am strongly opposed to this “sustainability” merit badge. As I’ve researched Agenda 21–which is anti-human, and celebrates the earth and all that is on it as being more important than us–these key words are almost always associated with Agenda 21′s objectives. A complete halt needs to be put on this merit badge book until those who are educated on Agenda 21 can review it and see if it’s acceptable material for the young minds of our youth.

    • I am an environmental engineer, and having some experience with the concept of sustainability, I oppose inclusion of sustainability as a required merit badge. It is not that I oppose sustainability (I think life-cycle analysis makes good economic sense). However, as a scout (and Eagle Scout) who earned most of the nature merit badges and worked as a summer camp counselor for nature-related merit badges, I would rather see scouts continue to have to understand outdoor conservation, plant/animal identification, and ecosystems as a requirement for Eagle Scout. Sustainability, while important, would take the ‘outing’ from the environmental requirement. In addition, I can see having either/or required badges to account for diabilities, but it makes no sense for an alternate badge where there are no strenuous physical requirements. Add a sustainability requirements into the EVS merit badge, but a whole additional badge seems unnecessary.

  16. Cooking Merit badge for Eagle – They will now need to go on more campouts in order to do the preparation and serving requirement? My son has done 20+ campouts under his belt. He has planned and served many well rounded meals. Trust me, now there will be fights on who gets to cook to earn merit badge requirements on future campouts! My son is starting his Eagle. Now he has to go on two more camping weekends just for this? The only campouts he does now are snow campouts and survival campouts. 2 fresh vegetables, a dessert? Last year they skinned and cooked a rabbit while camping in the snow! He has hiked the Grand Canyon. He is not going to anymore summer camps. He is going to start a job. Unless I am misreading it this requirement will foster competition between the scouts on these campouts, they will all be clamoring to be the ones to cook to get their merit badges signed off. That is not what scout campouts are about. Please give them an option so that they aren’t forced into more camping weekends. I really would like to see him earn Eagle. Does this mean he has to finish Eagle before 2014 just to avoid this??? This may break it. Please tell me I am misreading this.

    • Cheryl;

      I, for one, am thrilled to see Cooking added to the required list. I am sorry that you don’t see the benefit. I m embarrassed to find Scouts (and former Scouts) that can’t seem to cook anything more complicated than a burger, a hotdog, or ramen. I am also sorry that at “20+” campouts, your son appears to be mostly finished with camping. If he does complete his Eagle, between his Eagle Board and his Court of Honor, he should hear quite a but about an expectation to give back to the program. I my opinion, the giving back starts when earning Star – that is when the Scout shifts from “receiving Scouting” to helping to “deliver Scouting.” I hope that there were older boys on your son’s early campouts that helped him to learn the ropes. Of course as jobs and high school activities increase, Scouts aren’t going to go on every campout, but I like to think they continue to go on some – not only to have fun but to help teach the younger Scouts.

      That said, I also think you are assuming more of an obstacle than really exists. Making assumptions on your son’s age and experience, based on your comments, a year (now 10 months) to finish is likely do-able and the Cooking requirement may be just enough incentive to make it happen before the end of the year.

      If he does need to complete Cooking, don’t read more into the requirements than what is really there. The Scout only has to meet the requirements as written – nothing more nothing less.
      1) He only has to prepare meals for himself and two others – not an entire patrol (it doesn’t even specify that the others be Scouts). If there are multiple scouts needing the requirement, the patrol can be divided for these meals.
      2) Nowhere does the requirement say the cooking has to happen on a weekend trip, just that it needs to be done on the proper fire, stove, etc. and with the appropriate utensils and food handling practices.

      Of course, it is beneficial for the cooking to happen on actual campouts and I suspect this will be fairly easy for the younger Scouts, as long as they know about it early and start chipping away at the requirements like they do with Camping nights.

      For your son, with a little planning, he can knock out the trail meals on one of his survival/hiking/snow/high adventure-type weekends, join the Troop for a weekend and show some younger Scouts how to eat like kings, and then finish up cooking the camping menu items during an afternoon/evening at the lake with a few friends. (Think of how he could wow a girlfriend with that!)


  17. I’ll add my concerns about the Sustainability merit badge and the inclusion of “climate change”. Too politically charged of a topic and a highly questionable scientific foundation. In my opinion, the BSA already does an adequate job in teaching and living conservation principles. I already have to deal with the “climate change” indoctrination of my children in our school district – now I have to combat it as a Scoutmaster. I’ll be sticking with environmental science for my own sons (for sure) and encourage my troop that direction, also. I’m disappointed to see the BSA cave to this political correctness and head this direction. What’s next? Changes to Family Life?

  18. Debate on the new Cooking MB and new 1/1/2014 Eagle requirement raged this weekend at our University of Scouting, and it appears we might need a little clarification having to do with the “unless otherwise stated” clause and its application in this case. So here I go, and let me know if this is right or wrong. For the Eagle rank: on 1/1/2014, if the Scout hasn’t yet completed all the previous Eagle rank requirements up through the unit leader conference, he’ll have to also complete Cooking MB. For Cooking MB: if the Scout HAS STARTED the MB under the old requirements BEFORE 1/1/2014, he can still complete it under the old requirements AFTER 1/1/2014. Some of our Scouters were thinking that the “unless otherwise stated” thing applied to the rank AND Cooking MB in this case. Can you clarify this for me? Thanks.

    • If the old Cooking MB is started before 1/1/14 it may be finished under the old requirements and still count for Eagle. The requirement for Eagle does not distinguish between the current Cooking MB or the new one to come. Scouts starting Cooking on or after 1/1/14 must use the new Cooking requirements.

  19. If you are Scouting near the Denver area there is a college called EcoTech Institute. It is the only college in America that is totally about sustainable/ renewable energy. They love to have groups visit for tours and are very excited about the new Merit Badge and eager to help. Contact Zhanna Stavina at 720-213-2602. For more information

  20. As a long time Camp Staffer and Ecology-Conservation Director as well as Conservation Chairman, I am excited and have been preaching for years that soil and water and EVS should both be Eagle or something similar because there isn’t enough STEM in the Eagle required platter of badges. My question is, will they be considering summer camps for this merit badge as well when they created EVS, Its obvious that EVS was built to be tasking while still completable at Summer camp. I looked at Search and Rescue for summer camp as well and it seems nearly impossible to complete at camp.

  21. Sustainability is an AGENDA21 UNITED NATIONS backed horrible thing and it does NOT belong in The Boy Scouts of America platform. We need to speak up to our leaders and let them know this is not going to be accepted. This is a matter for our children and our country’s freedom and we DO NOT need to allow the UNITED NATIONS to influence our children.

  22. Is the Sustainability Merit Badge going to include energy. A lot can be done to help the environment by using sustainable energy sources for transportation, space heating, water heating, and electricity production.

  23. I’ve seen the question above, but don’t think I’ve seen an answer: Will earning Cooking MB in 2013 satisfy the “eagle required” category for rank advancement on Star and Life ranks, earned in 2013?

    • The answer appears in one of the posts above. Cooking merit badge is not Eagle-required until 1/1/14. Thus, it does not meet the Star or Life requirement for Eagle-required MBs until on or after that date.

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