Waste not: 2017 National Jamboree was the greenest on record

Anyone who attended the 2017 National Jamboree already knows it was one of the most successful Jamborees ever.

Now we know it was likely the greenest Jamboree ever, too.

For the first time in recorded National Jamboree history, Scouts, Scouters and staff recycled and reused more than they sent to the landfill.

At the 2017 National Jamboree, held in July at the Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia, some 298 tons — 596,000 pounds — of material was recycled or reused. That exceeds the 280 tons of waste sent to the landfill.

Here’s how that compares to the two previous Jamborees:

Jamboree Tons recycled/reused Tons to landfill
2017 298 280
2013 192 492
2010 64 1,125

What about National Jamborees before 2010? That data isn’t available, as 2010 was the first time recycling numbers were tracked.

We do know the 2017 Jamboree introduced new efforts to increase recycling and decrease food waste. It’s hard to imagine earlier Jamborees beating 2017’s impressive achievement.

Green Team, go!

You can call them the Green Team, or you can call them Recycle Rangers. Either way, these Jamboree volunteers were instrumental in encouraging recycling at the 2017 event.

The Green Team trained Jamboree participants and staffers, telling them what to recycle and reuse and what was OK to toss.

Jim Miles, Green Team leader, said Scouts eagerly accepted the mission.

“This all happened because, as members of the BSA, we have always cared deeply about our environment,” he said. “When given an opportunity at the Jamboree, we proved we will all pitch in to do our part.”

Food savers

For 2017, the Jamboree moved to a grocery store food system where Scouts and Venturers selected a recipe, built a shopping list and checked out — all through a smartphone app.

This grocery store method helped reduce food waste.

Scouts didn’t “buy” anything they didn’t want. And any food that wasn’t “bought” by Scouts, including perishable food, never left the grocery stores’ refrigerators. That made it possible to donate that unexpired food to local food banks — instead of some of it going into trash as it did in 2013.

More than 160 tons of food was donated to local food banks during the 2017 Jamboree. That’s more than double the 63 tons of donated food in 2013.

Miles hopes these habits of wasting less and recycling more weren’t limited to 10 days in July.

“Our greatest hope is participants will take home what they learned and implement it in their homes and communities and local Scout camps,” he said.

More Jamboree coverage

You can read all our coverage from the 2017 National Jamboree right here.

Photo: BSA Photo by Todd Punch


  1. From a non-food service staff member, I only saw throw-away items in the staff dining hall – cups, plates, bowls, eating utensils – so was wondering when the “recycle” aspect would kick in. I even took my own plastic coffee cup (as I’ve done on every troop campout for decades) to save on cups but was actually told once by a dining hall staff member that I should not be using my personal cup! (Which I promptly ignored.) Of course I know nothing of what was going on back in the kitchen so I’m assuming they also had a positive “green” impact. Never saw a recycle bin next to all those canned soft-drink machines all over the place. Good start; next time we can do even better.

    • Unfortunately, from what I heard, as the dining hall is a food service establishment, the restriction on using personal cups or reusing the provided cups was a board of health requirement, just like getting a new plate when going back up to a buffet.

    • Agree on the staff coffee, juice and water stations. I was told repeatedly to stop using my own cup for health regulation/sanitary purposes. I did use the plastic disposable cups but felt bad as there were no recycling bins. I understand the health concerns to a certain extent, but you can reuse cups at self serve 7-11 stores and McDonalds, for example.

  2. The other bad thing, was that the cups were pretty small, so you had to go back several times. I would have to get two cups each time.

  3. I like the general store — as opposed to commissary or dining hall — concept for a camp. It seems more in harmony with the intent of patrol cooking and earning cooking MB (even before the current requirements were rolled out).

    I know that Philmont has (or had?) drop-boxes for trading food items (e.g. the crew who loves pudding may trade with a crew who prefers green beans). It would be interesting to hear about strategies at different camps. What’s good about it? What’s not so great? What are they looking to improve/change next season?

  4. Good for us. Any improvement is an improvement. A Scout is Thrifty.
    True Story from some years back:
    Attended Webelos camp at the Council Reservation. Dining Hall had pretty good food, served “family style”, waiters brought a tray of food from the kitchen to the table, (picky Cub eaters not withstanding !) Condiments, as appropriate. Hamburgers, Hotdogs were attended by ketchup and mustard and relish, in BIG OPEN Bowls. I was told the food regulations required the #10 cans of ketchup, etc. had to be totally emptied into a serving bowl each time, covered with plastic wrap, and served to table. Any left after the day was tossed. Almost a whole can of ketchup, etc. each day! When I inquired, I was told they couldn’t use a squeeze bottle because of concerns of (1) spoilage (2) Cubs squirting each other (3) Theft of squeeze bottles to separate camps for ((?)) purposes. (4) Following state camp sanitary rules (5) Ketchup is cheap, why worry about it?
    When I pointed out it was still wasteful, and what about the other foodstuffs that came back to the kitchen to be thrown away, I was told they were there to provide “more than enough” food. , not just enough.
    I did not get a chance to come back in following years to see if any improvement.
    I am glad the Jamboree found a way to help prevent waste. Food is too important to waste. Next Jamboree, I will bring my campcup. Many gallons of coffee has stained it’s interior. Rather like a old Meershaum pipe, (for you pipe smokers) , I guess.

    See you on the trail.

  5. I was there on staff for 2017. We still could do more with proper recycling habits by our participants. Part of that could be better communication as well as better practices. Vendors began to understand the benefits of recycling but had a little trouble with implementation. Scouts threw things away so litter wasn’t to bad but properly using the correct trash and trash bins for each kind of trash lacked consistent practice. Lunchtime was the most challenging period of the day. It is great that we made such significant improvements during the 2017 Jamboree. Let’s keep the progress moving forward.

  6. We made some excellent sustainability progress. Lots more to do. We are already working on World Jamboree. Top priority is to switch to compostable paper serving utensils in staff dinning hall and to compost them and all food waste. If you are passionate about recycling apply to work on the GREEN TEAM for the WJAM.

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