How to reduce waste at your Scout unit’s pancake breakfast or spaghetti dinner

Peace out, plastic utensils. See ya, styrofoam. Ciao, coffee creamers in individual packets.

By instituting some simple, environmentally friendly changes, Troops 3, 5 and 9 of Wilmette, Ill., have dramatically reduced their waste at the troops’ annual pancake breakfast.

How dramatic? Consider that the event, a major fundraiser for these Northeast Illinois Council troops, usually generates about 15 to 20 bags of garbage.

Then check the numbers after the Scouts and leaders “greenified” the event: just one or two bags.

“We would like to scale this to the other troops as well,” says Troop 5 parent Nicole Boomgaarden.

Boomgaarden sent me the troop’s not-so-secret method and said I could share it here. The approach also could work with similar, meal-based fundraisers like spaghetti dinners.

An idea is born

It all started when some Scouts and leaders questioned whether the event could be better for the Earth.

“It was very well received,” Boomgaarden says, “especially given that Scouts have two applicable merit badges: Sustainability and Environmental Science.”

What they did

Here are some highlights:

  • Replaced styrofoam plates with certified compostable plates, 100 percent paper plates (the Chinet brand is ideal, the troop says) or reusable china plates for the facilities that had a commercial dishwasher.
  • Swapped plastic utensils with either reusable or compostable utensils.
  • Got rid of plastic cups for orange juice in favor of reusable or compostable cups.
  • Switched hot coffee/tea cups to reusable or compostable cups.
  • Eliminated one-time-use plastic tablecloths.
  • Replaced small, individual coffee creamers (not recycled) with half-gallons of creamer to be recycled.
  • Set up a four-bin waste station in one or two locations. The stations: compost, recycling, garbage and liquids.
  • Recruited one to two Scouts to man each station to ensure that guests disposed of items properly.
  • Made table tents to publicize the greening efforts of the troop.
  • Asked the youth leaders to summarize their efforts as a procedural document to be used for each subsequent year as leadership turns over.

Your thoughts below

Has your unit made similar environmentally friendly changes? Sound off below.