Let’s dig in to the 2014 BSA Sustainability Report

At Philmont Scout Ranch last year, crew members helped recycle 59 tons of cardboard, 2.8 tons of plastic and 900 pounds of aluminum, resulting in $91,000 in savings to Philmont.

At Camp Emerald Bay in California, spring-loaded water fountains and pull-string showers have drastically cut water use in a drought-stricken area.

And at Camp Guyasuta in suburban Pittsburgh, a new, 12,000-square-foot education center has achieved green-level LEED certification, turning a struggling camp into one that serves 33,000 visitors a year.

What’s the takeaway? The Boy Scouts of America has this sustainability thing figured out. But we can do more.

These and other great findings were included in the 2014 BSA Sustainability Report, released last week at the 2014 Sustainability Summit in West Virginia.

I’ve included a link to the report below, and I’ve pulled out seven takeaways that jumped out at me.

While reading the report, one thing became clear: Under the leadership of John F. Stewart, BSA Sustainability Director, great things are happening in the Boy Scouts of America as we go from “green to deep green.”

“We in Scouting are intent on helping our members move from leaving no trace to leaving a positive legacy,” Stewart wrote in a recent email to BSA Scout Executives. “We are working hard to integrate sustainability at every level of our organization and are committed to developing the next generation of responsible leaders.”

7 takeaways from the 2014 BSA Sustainability Report

1. 2014 begins a five-year Sustainability timeline

Here’s what’s happening between now and 2018 in the realm of sustainability:

  • 2014: We are defining what sustainability means for the BSA and establishing the scope for our sustainability efforts.
  • 2015: We will gather data to establish a sustainability baseline, define our systems for metrics, and set goals for the future.
  • 2016: We will measure and report on our achievements and launch new initiatives.
  • 2017: The national jamboree will serve as a living laboratory for testing our new initiatives.
  • 2018: We will gauge our five-year progress and redefine our vision of future success.

2. Sustainability isn’t a dirty word

The word “sustainability” has many definitions and has been co-opted by a number of groups with varying motivations.

But the BSA’s Sustainability merit badge pamphlet probably describes it best:

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 all are parts of being thrifty, a key point of the Scout Law.”

3. The bottom line gets tripled

Businesses have long prioritized the bottom line, but the BSA Sustainability Report explains that there’s now a “triple bottom line” in businesses and nonprofit organizations like the BSA.

That means “People, Planet and Prosperity. Only by balancing its priorities in these three areas can an organization understand its true impact and success in the world.”

4. Scouts and Venturers are doing awesome things in the name of sustainability

These young people completed projects on the trail to the Hornaday Award, the BSA’s top award for conservation:

  • Sea Scout Victor Otruba of Mansfield, Pa., founded a nonprofit organization to clean up a river; set up demonstrations of limestone treatments that improve water quality; gathered hardwood nuts and planted them on reclaimed mining land; and rerouted a stream that was eroding a coal mine.
  • Boy Scout Matthew Authement of St. Petersburg, Fla., removed invasive tree species at a nature preserve; improved a migratory songbird habitat; constructed nesting boxes and a birdcage for an environmental educational program; and managed a community battery recovery and recycling project.

To see more, read the full report (Page 7).

5. BSA teams are doing their parts

Talking the talk and walking the walk. Here are some examples from the report of ways in which the BSA is reducing our environmental impact:

  • The BSA’s National Distribution Center (which sells and distributes products at Scout Shops and online) has installed motion-activated lighting, zero-waste stations and water-conservation measures.
  • Scouting and Boys’ Life magazines are printed on paper certified by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative.
  • More BSA publications are made available electronically, saving trees and printing costs.

6. Examples of sustainability successes are seen at the national level …

  • Summit Bechtel Reserve: The Sustainability Treehouse (which looks like an Ewok village) shows visitors examples they can emulate.
  • Philmont Scout Ranch: Recycling efforts have saved the environment and tons of cash — $91,000 in 2013 alone.
  • Northern Tier: The 13,000-square-foot Sandy Bridges Program Center is green-level LEED certified.
  • Sea Base: On the weeklong Eco Adventure, Scouts learn about the delicate balance of plants and wildlife.

See Pages 12 and 13 of the report for more explanation.

7. … and the local level

  • Sea Scout Base Galveston (Texas): A 60,000-square-foot headquarters has been built to platinum LEED standards, the first BSA building to earn that distinction (but not the last).
  • Camp Emerald Bay (California): Less water usage, lower water bills and an increased understanding of water conservation have helped this drought-stricken area.
  • Camp Loud Thunder (Illinois): The camp is growing crops aquaponically, reducing water needs by almost 80 percent.
  • Camp Guyasuta (Pennsylvania): Rather than shutting down a struggling camp, the council built a green-level, LEED-certified center and now has a thriving camp.

See Pages 14 and 15 of the report for more explanation.

Next steps

  1. Go here to read the full 2014 BSA Sustainability Report
  2. Visit the Green to Deep Green site to watch video from the 2014 Sustainability Summit


  1. The number one Energy cost of Scouting is the gasoline burned going to and from camp. This is invisible to most thinking, but it is significant. And the number 1 thing Scouting can do to change this is to simply allow Electric Vehicles to plug-in when they visit camp. Just plugging into a standard 120v outlet for several hours can replenish over 50 miles for the return trip home for a cost of only about $2.

    Scout camps everywhere should recognize this as part of their sustainability efforts and have a policy at ALL camps, that EV’s may plug in for $2 per day. Payable at the trading post or camp office. Done. Oh, and also put up EV CHARGING signs over all outdoor outlets at camp and the note about $2/day. Maybe only 1% will use the outlets but the signs will be seen by 99% of everyone for education of the future of renewable energy.
    See http://aprs.org/EV-charging-everywhere.html

    • Bob: You will enjoy this section in the sustainability report:
      “Because of our far-flung camps and offices, travel is one of our largest environmental impacts. To curb our carbon emissions, we are beginning to evaluate strategies to reduce travel, increase efficiency, measure our impact, and devise incentives to encourage more conscious behavior. We are also examining creative ways to offset and absorb all the carbon emitted from our travel. Reducing and sequestering carbon emissions has been identified as one of the most critical steps in reversing climate change, and we take that challenge seriously.”

      You might also enjoy some of the blog posts on the subject:

      Did you know there is actually a Scout camp in CA where all campers actually ride the train to camp to curb emissions?

      • Looks like Bob should have read the report before commenting on what he imagines is left out of the thinking. Womp womp.

  2. It would take 6-8 electric cars to transport the scouts and gear that we get into 3 vehicles. Yes it costs $2 to charge a vehicle for a 50 mile trip. BUT the cost of putting in the charging stations will break any camp that does it. Be realistic and take reasonable steps.

    • We do need to be realistic, but I believe the main point is that camps could promote 120v charging from existing outlets or a fee, not install actual chargers. Knowing that the availability to plug in is there would be good.

      • Yes, that is the point. All this focus on “charging stations” misses the whole point that EV’s DONT NEED them most of the time when they can charge just as easily from a standard 120v outlet while parked. The focus on charging stations is just gas-tank/gas-station legacy thinking and ignoring the ease of charging anywhere from 120v while parked.

        And yes, most trips to camp involve large gas guzzling vehicles, but that is no reason to shun those environmental conscious scouters who do choose to drive in a sustainable way (and save precious gas for those that do need it).

  3. At my council camp, electricity is only available in one campsite and the staff campsite. There are no vehicles allowed in the campsites. It would take putting in lines and stations in the parking lots which stand a chance of being knocked down and run over.

    • Re-read the proposal. It simply says, put up signs *over existing outlets if adjacent to parking* and establish policy for payment at the camp office or trading post. No cost to implement, nor any other problems of the other issues you raise.

  4. “Technology is the use of increasingly accurate, self-evident, and reproducible information to replace energy and matter. The benefit of technology is NOT in what it lets people accomplish, but in how it improves the character of people.”

  5. I very much look forward to Zach Carson’s evaluation report of facilities. There are a number of opportunities for older BSA properties to use the buying power of BSA to get the materials and infrastructure the can use, combined with procedural and policy changes, to drastically improve their sustainability.

    I applaud the current reports direction, and look forward to successful implementation. Let me know how I can help!

  6. What happened to the hype and big push for recycling at Jambo 2013? We were expected to sort wastes into 6 different bags, then it went down to a couple of bags, then we used huge amounts of cardboard on the ground to reduce the mud at the water logged campsites. Giant mounds of garbage at the end of Jambo with no sorting at all. We taught a large number of Scouts and Scouters that recycling is a pain in the neck and that it wont work. As sustainability is pushed forward, let’s be realistic in our goals and ensure success rather than set goals too high and fail.

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