GLEN JEAN — According to Scout Law, “A Scout is: trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.”
The law doesn’t say anything about being sustainable or environmentally friendly, but at the 24th World Scout Jamboree at the Summit Bechtel Reserve, in Fayette County, 43,000 Scouts and 10,000 volunteers are working to make those two things a priority.
“If we have 7.6 billion people on Earth today and we’re going to go to 11 billion, that means we have sort of a need to innovate further. Reduce, reuse, repurpose, recycle, so that everybody is going to have the same things or more, because people always want more,” said Frank McAllister, leader at the Sustainability Treehouse, a museum on the Summit dedicated to teaching about sustainability.
Sustainability is one of the pillars of the Jamboree and a top priority of scouting, and every Scout in attendance has been asked to practice reducing their collective carbon footprint.
One way this is being done at the jamboree is by taking Scouts through the Sustainability Treehouse, which McAllister directs. The museum is built to resemble a childhood favorite, towering in the trees at 125 feet and offering exhibits to help Scouts explore and understand the jamboree site.
“It’s a very simple message and a very simple exhibit in a very extraordinary place, so the message is really talking about natural resources,” McAllister said. “Yes, we’re in the forest, and that’s one of the most important natural resources, but we have solar collectors, wind turbines and rain.”
The Summit Bechtel Reserve is located on land that originally was dug up extensively for heavy industry — particularly coal mining.
“This used to be a coal mine, and it’s now a campsite, a jamboree site, a recreational site, whatever you want to call it. It’s all those things,” McAllister said. “It’s been repurposed by the Scouts from a coal mine site to something that is now usable.”
Scouts, troop leaders and volunteers have been asked to take a sustainability pledge to limit their effect on the environment while at Summit Bechtel. The pledge says Scouts should leave no trace, reduce, reuse, recycle, make a personal effort to be green and take home the knowledge they gained from their two weeks at the reserve to use in their daily lives.
Scouts also are provided with recycling plans and designated areas where they can recycle plastic, aluminum, cardboard and other materials. Even water waste from the shower houses and toilets is recycled.
The shower buildings were constructed from onsite timber that was milled locally. They use a water recycling system that captures the used water and repurposes it to flush toilets. The water from toilets is then transferred to a wastewater treatment plant on the reserve, where waste is separated from the water, which is then used to irrigate a plot of forest.
“Does that mean that it’s all that way? No,” McAllister said. “But, everything else is done responsibly, and probably goes into septic tanks, which goes back into the ground, which is not pulling anything but is eventually repurposed into the ground.”
McAllister said three types of natural resources are used on the campsite: captured, such as solar energy; nurtured, as in the trees and animals; and extracted, such as timber and rock.
McAllister said the Summit Bechtel Reserve tries to rely heavily on the use of captured natural resources, like solar power collected at the Sustainability Treehouse.
“There are solar panels and, right next to them, there’s some windmills, and they both generate electricity, so this facility is run on that. And to the extent there’s excess energy coming from that, it goes to other places, as well,” he said. “Do we not use other energy coming in? Yes, we use other energy coming in, but we are attempting to generate what we need to use.”
Katie Dettmann, a troop leader from Faribault, Minnesota, said that, for her and her Scouts, promoting sustainability is vital.
“We hear a lot these days about how we’re killing our planet, and that is something that we really need to kind of backpedal on, and we can’t catch up [completely] but recover from what we’ve already done to the planet, so making sure that we’re using our resources wisely and taking advantage of the natural resources we have,” she said.
Dettmann said one of the Scouts’ main goals is to be as environmentally friendly as possible and follow the sustainability pledge given to them as part of the event.
“I think one of the things we talked about already is just leaving no track — so, cleaning up after ourselves,” she said. “And as you walk around in a Scout environment, we shouldn’t find any trash on the ground, because it should be constantly being picked up.”
Julia Widmar, a Scout from Ozark, Missouri, said she thinks she will learn how to be more cautious about the environment and find different techniques she can bring back home with her to be more green.
“[At the] Summit, they have a lot of recycling, so it’s kind of hard to ignore that,” she said. “So, if I’m going to throw something away, I have to physically look at the stuff. So, if I wanted to ignore it, it would take a lot more effort, so you might as well throw it in the recycling.”
McAllister said he thinks the best way to promote sustainability in daily life is to be like a Scout.
“They don’t have to [literally] be a Scout,” he said. “They just have to act in the ways they would think they would expect a Scout to act, and if they do that, that will spread around them, and they will be an ambassador for that type of behavior.”