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Girl Scouts and Sustainability

Girl Scout Jolene earned her first badge: Trail Adventure!

As an organization that invests in the lives of the next generation of female leaders, the Girl Scouts of the USA integrates values and practices into their organization that will leave the world a better place, led by the young women they serve. The Girl Scouts have taken many strides as an organization to increase their emphasis on sustainability.

Four Goals for Sustainability

Using the Sustainable Development Goals, the Girl Scouts have focused their current sustainability efforts around four specific areas: climate action, responsible consumption and production, quality education, and affordable and clean energy.

To address climate change, the Girl Scouts are incorporating climate change awareness and education at every level of their organization, from Girl Scout troops to counselors to employees. As an organization, this means taking into account the environmental impact when making decisions or evaluating programs.

To address affordable and clean energy, the Girl Scouts are aiming for 100% renewable electricity at their distribution center and other operational sites by 2026 as well as maximizing their energy efficiency. By 2023, Girl Scouts will aim for all employee travel by train and air to be net carbon-neutral. Browse the full report of the Girl Scouts Sustainability Briefing here.

Sweet Changes to Girl Scout Cookies

Girl Scout Taylor taking her door-to-door strategy to the great outdoors! Image: Girl Scouts of America Facebook page Feb 5, 2022

Certainly one of its most popular programs, the Girl Scout Cookie operation is a primary avenue to address sustainability and environmental impact. Girl Scout Cookies are the second largest brand of cookies in the United States. Girl Scout Cookie packaging has a goal to use more post-consumer recycled content and achieve 100% recyclability by 2023. Currently, Girl Scout Cookies packaging contains no BPAs or PFAS chemicals, and all boxes are made from 100% recycled paper. Moving forward, each box of cookies will have a QR code to guide consumers to local recycling efforts, and as they continue to improve the sustainability of their packaging, they aim to reduce the amount of material used, optimize the use of renewable or recycled materials, and remove hard-to-recycle plastics wherever possible by shifting toward more recyclable materials.

The cookies themselves are also undergoing scrutiny, with a goal to use sustainable palm oil in all cookies and reach 100% renewable energy. By 2030, the company wants to have one to two cookies Rainforest Alliance certified. The Rainforest Alliance certification tells consumers that the product inside was produced by socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable means.

Girl Scouts Environmental Education

A central operation of the Girl Scouts is hands-on, practical education that makes learning fun.

Sustainability programming in Girl Scout troops incorporates age-appropriate holistic environmental justice education and knowledge of nearby Native American tribes, information on recycling in the troop’s local community, and at least one to two nationwide sustainability initiatives annually. By the end of 2023, the Girl Scouts also plan to award three Sustainability Gold Award Scholarships.

Image: Girl Scouts of America Sustainability Briefing Aug 2020 

The Girl Scout Badge program offers 17 different nature and environment-oriented learning opportunities across the Daisies, Brownies, Juniors, Cadettes, Senior, and Ambassador levels, including Eco Learner, Eco Friend, Household Elf (a badge that teaches new ways to make your home clean and green), Eco Camper, Gardener, Animal Habitats, Eco Trekker, Trees, Eco Explorer, and Eco Advocate. The “Eco” series of badges were rolled out in 2018 as a set of Environmental Stewardship Badges.

Girl Scouts also have an opportunity to participate in “It’s Your Planet-Love It” and “It’s Your World-Change It” Journeys at all levels. These Journeys provide Girl Scouts with hands-on experiences in the natural environment. The two series inspire awe and wonder in scouts as they explore various elements in the natural world, including earth and sky, water, energy, air, food, gardening, and climate justice.

Sustainable Girl Scout Products and Merchandise

Sustainability initiatives extend to Girl Scout products and merchandise, including vests, tunics, sashes, shirts, and other clothing items. Girl Scout gear that is labeled with a leaf icon is made with sustainability in mind and has one or more sustainable attributes, which impact development to manufacturing to distribution. A Girl Scout product receives the leaf icon if it has any of the following attributes: recycled material, reduced waste, upcycled, U.S. produced, bluesign® approved, biodegradable or biobased, fair trade, FSC® or PEFC™, or made with organic cotton.
The Girl Scouts are leading the charge in sustainability across the United States. Learn more about local troops near you and what you and your daughter can do to leave the world a better place!

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