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Baby Steps, Becoming Sustainable, and the Boy Scouts of America

Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu famously said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. That wisdom certainly applies to sustainability. It’s all but impossible for an individual, a family, or a BSA council to fully embrace sustainability overnight. Instead, we start with baby steps—recycling aluminum cans, perhaps, or trading out incandescent…

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Save the Planet, Earn a Medal

At the end of a 10K race, most people are probably happy to hit the showers. But some people—those who’ve been bitten by the running bug—are just getting started. They consider 10 kilometers to be little more than a warmup for a half-marathon, a full marathon, or even an ultramarathon. The same thing is true…

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Moving From Wasteful to Zero Waste

Denise Coogan generates more trash at home each week than her entire office has generated in a dozen years. And her office isn’t some eco-friendly coffee shop or organic farm. Instead, it’s Subaru’s 3.8-million-square-foot assembly plant in Lafayette, Ind. The plant and its 3,700 workers produce 300,000 vehicles a year but virtually no waste. In…

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Surprising Ways to Save—and Waste—Water

When it comes to water usage, Americans tend to slurp rather than sip. Like Gene Kelly in “Singin’ in the Rain,” we blithely splash around in puddles as if we have more water than we know what to do with. As a result, Americans use—and waste—far more water than most other countries. In fact, only…

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The Unintended Consequences of Sustainability

Just minutes after an event like the Super Bowl ends, sports fans can go online and order T-shirts emblazoned with the winning team’s logo. The same is true for the World Series and other major sporting events. Such instant gratification is possible only because vendors hedge their bets and order tens of thousands of T-shirts…

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Taking Out the Trash Is Complicated—but It Doesn’t Have to Be

Most businesses have one: that repository of old furniture, office equipment, and computers that have been removed from service but are still serviceable. The repository may be a closet, or it may be a warehouse, but it’s there nonetheless. And getting rid of what it contains can be as hard as getting rid of a…

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Scout Service Project Helps Bring Life Back to Chesapeake Bay

Since the nineteenth century, Chesapeake Bay’s oyster population has plummeted to perhaps 1 percent of its historic levels. A harvest that once numbered in the millions of bushels has been reduced to a few thousand bushels per year. Of course, that precipitous decline is a problem for people whose livelihoods depend on oysters, as well…

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Counting the Cost of Embracing Sustainability

Most people—and virtually all business owners—have heard Titus Maccius Plautus’s maxim, “You must spend money to make money.” Less familiar is the maxim’s sustainability corollary: “You must spend money to save money.” While it doesn’t cost anything to recycle, adjust your thermostat, or commute by bike instead of car, many sustainability actions come with a…

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Community Gardens Do More Than Grow Vegetables

Everyone wants to save the planet. But imagine if you could save the planet while also fostering a sense of community, providing opportunities for intergenerational and cross-cultural connection, stimulating social interaction, improving people’s quality of life, promoting health, encouraging self-reliance, reducing family food expenses, beautifying neighborhoods, creating income opportunities, and helping the poor. (Whew!) That’s…

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Transatlantic Council Embraces Sustainability

In 2015, staff and volunteers from the Boy Scouts of America’s Transatlantic Council gathered to develop a five-year strategic plan dubbed 2020 Vision. Its goal was identify and address the unique challenges faced by the sprawling council, which serves military and expatriate families in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. (In much the same way,…

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