Girl Scouts know how to celebrate a milestone. Scouts across the country are commemorating the 100th anniversary of their organization by participating in a Take Action Project that they have dubbed the Forever Green program. This global program consists of three month-long projects Scouts can sign up for and participate in during February, March, and April. The goal is to educate the girls about the environment and sustainability. The Reduce Waste leg of this trifecta teaches girls about the impact waste has on our shared world and how to reduce the amount of non-biodegradable waste each of us contributes to landfills, primarily single-use plastic bags. The program also strives to increase aluminum can recycling. This is a fantastic project that will reach not only the Scouts themselves, but it encourages the girls to involve their friends and family to help spread the message of sustainability and develop lifelong eco-friendly habits that will reduce their carbon footprint.
Choose to Reuse
The foundation of the Reduce Waste initiative is the sheer volume of plastic bags that are simply used and tossed in the trash. Facts on the web site explain that billions of bags are used each year. Girls are taught that reusable shopping bags put an end to these staggering numbers. One reusable bag can do the work of as many as 600 disposable bags over the course of its lifespan. Since plastic bags do not safely break down they pose serious health risks to people and animals alike. Reducing the use of plastic bags helps protects animals from eating bags that become litter, keep our water supplies clean from the toxic chemicals released when the bags break apart, and keep our communities clean. The web site includes instructions for the participants on how to make their own reusable bag out of a t-shirt and urges girls to stock up on both homemade and purchased reusable bags to bring with them every time and every place they shop. Since reusable bags are more durable than their disposable counterparts they are not only great for carrying groceries home, but they are also perfect for school, lunch, gym clothes, and overnight bags, and they make great gifts.
Plastic bags are not the only wasteful culprit the Girl Scouts are setting their sights on. In addition to reusable bags the girls are also pressed to use reusable water bottles. Since plastics may contain Bisphenol A, more commonly referred to as BPA, the Girl Scouts stress participants to choose a reusable bottle constructed from BPA-free plastic, or opt for a bottle made from aluminum. Aluminum can be recycled over and over again and it takes 95% less energy to make a can from recycled aluminum than it does from raw materials. Aluminum also has a quick turnaround rate and can go from old to new again in a mere 60 days.
Tracking Reusable Bag and Bottle Results
Throughout each month the girls are asked to log their progress on the Scouts' web site. They count how many reusable bags they use and have given to others. Each aluminum can they collect and recycle is tallied and logged. They are also asked to count how many times they fill their reusable water bottle. The results are submitted to the Girl Scouts' web site as the information is posted for all to see. One month in and the results are impressive. A total of 22,488 times girls brought their reusable bags to the store and refused plastic bags. So far Girl Scouts have distributed 12,290 reusable bags to their friends and family. That works out to roughly 20,866,800 plastic bags that will not be picked up at the checkout lane because of the reusable shopping bags the girls handed out. What is even more exciting is that this project is not over yet. There are still more reusable bags and water bottles to be put to good use and aluminum cans to be picked up and recycled.
What is so inspiring about this project is that it teaches small changes that pack a serious punch. Stepped up recycling efforts and simple changes like swapping disposable plastic bags with reusable bags are easy acts that require little effort, but if Girls Scouts make these lifestyle changes it can really add up. Since this program also encourages the girls to get their friends and family on board with these sustainable practices that means even more will be reached and possibly change their habits and the results will even more substantial.
To learn more about the Forever Green project and to see the Girl Scouts' results check out http://www.girlscouts.org/gsforevergreen/Reduce-Plastic-Waste-Details.asp.