The Sustainability Merit Badge: Your Ultimate Guide In 2021


Sustainability is an Eagle-required merit badge that’ll teach you the incredibly important skill of conserving our planet’s resources! In answering each of the requirements, you’ll learn how to reduce your family’s waste, protect our planetary systems, spread sustainability to others, and more.

Having grown up in Hawaii, with both my parents being government engineers who’ve worked closely with sustainable agriculture, sustainability is a topic that’s especially close to my heart. I hope this guide helps you to also recognize the importance of protecting our planet, as a scout! 🙂

Before we get started, if you have other Eagle-required merit badges to earn, I’d recommend checking out my Difficulty Ranking Guide to Every Eagle-required Badge. There, you’ll find links to my other merit badge guides, as well as an explanation of each badge’s requirements. I’m certain this resource will be helpful to scouts on their road to Eagle!

Also, remember that ScoutSmarts should just serve as your starting point for merit badge research. In school, we’re taught not to plagiarize, and the same is true for Scouting worksheets. Answer these questions in your own words, do further research, and I promise you’ll gain much more from every merit badge you earn!

The Sustainability merit badge is heavy on knowledge requirements, so be prepared! You’ll likely need a few weeks to complete and fully understand each element of this badge. Take the time to thoroughly read through each of the following requirements so that you’re 100% ready.

Now, without further ado, let’s get you started on earning your Sustainability merit badge!!

What Are The Sustainability Merit Badge Requirements?

  1. Before starting work on any other requirements for this merit badge, write in your own words the meaning of sustainability. Explain how you think conservation and stewardship of our natural resources relate to sustainability. Have a family meeting, and ask family members to write down what they think sustainability means. Be sure to take notes. You will need this information again for requirement 5.
  2. Do the following:
    • Water. Do A AND either B OR C.
      • A) Develop and implement a plan that attempts to reduce your family’s water usage. As a family, discuss water usage. To aid in your discussion, if past water bills are available, you may choose to examine a few. As a family, choose three ways to help reduce consumption. Implement those ideas for one month. Share what you learn with your counselor, and tell how your plan affected your family’s water usage.
      • B) Using a diagram you have created, explain to your counselor how your household gets its clean water from a natural source and what happens with the water after you use it. Include water that goes down the kitchen, bathroom, and laundry drains, and any runoff from watering the yard or washing the car. Tell two ways to preserve your family’s access to clean water in the future.
      • C) Discuss with your counselor two areas in the world that have been affected by drought over the last three years. For each area, identify a water conservation practice (successful or unsuccessful) that has been used. Tell whether the practice was effective and why. Discuss what water conservation practice you would have tried and why.
    • Food. Do A AND either B OR C.
      • A) Develop and implement a plan that attempts to reduce your household food waste. Establish a baseline and then track and record your results for two weeks. Report your results to your family and counselor.
      • B) Discuss with your counselor the ways individuals, families, and communities can create their own food sources (potted plants, family garden, rooftop garden, neighborhood or community garden). Tell how this plan might contribute to a more sustainable way of life if practiced globally.
      • C) Discuss with your counselor factors that limit the availability of food and food production in different regions of the world. Tell three ways these factors influence the sustainability of worldwide food supplies.
    • Community. Do A AND either B OR C.
      • A) Draw a rough sketch depicting how you would design a sustainable community. Share your sketch with your counselor, and explain how the housing, work locations, shops, schools, and transportation systems affect energy, pollution, natural resources, and the economy of the community.
      • B) With your parent’s permission and your counselor’s approval, interview a local architect, engineer, contractor, or building materials supplier. Find out the factors that are considered when using sustainable materials in renovating or building a home. Share what you learn with your counselor.
      • C) Review a current housing needs assessment for your town, city, county, or state. Discuss with your counselor how birth and death rates affect sufficient housing, and how a lack of housing (or too much housing) can influence the sustainability of a local or global area.
    • Energy. Do A AND either B OR C.
      • A) Learn about the sustainability of different energy sources, including fossil fuels, solar, wind, nuclear, hydropower, and geothermal. Find out how the production and consumption of each of these energy sources affects the environment and what the term “carbon footprint” means. Discuss what you learn with your counselor, and explain how you think your family can reduce its carbon footprint.
      • B) Develop and implement a plan to reduce the consumption of one of your family’s household utilities that consume energy, such as gas appliances, electricity, heating systems, or cooling systems. Examine your family’s bills for that utility reflecting usage for three months (past or current). As a family, choose three ways to help reduce consumption and be a better steward of this resource. Implement those ideas for one month. Share what you learn with your counselor, and tell how your plan affected your family’s usage.
      • C) Evaluate your family’s fuel and transportation usage. Review your family’s transportation-related bills (gasoline, diesel, electric, public transportation, etc.) reflecting usage for three months (past or current). As a family, choose three ways to help reduce consumption and be a better steward of this resource. Implement those ideas for one month. Share what you learn with your counselor, and tell how your plan affected your family’s transportation habits.
    • Stuff. Do A AND either B OR C.
      • A) Keep a log of the “stuff” your family purchases (excluding food items) for two weeks. In your log, categorize each purchase as an essential need (such as soap) or a desirable want (such as a DVD). Share what you learn with your counselor.
      • B) Plan a project that involves the participation of your family to identify the “stuff” your family no longer needs. Complete your project by donating, repurposing, or recycling these items.
      • C) Discuss with your counselor how having too much “stuff” affects you, your family, and your community. Include the following: the financial impact, time spent, maintenance, health, storage, and waste. Include in your discussion the practices that can be used to avoid accumulating too much “stuff.”
  3. Do the following:
    • 3a) Explain to your counselor how the planetary life-support systems (soil, climate, freshwater, atmospheric, nutrient, oceanic, ecosystems, and species) support life on Earth and interact with one another.
    • 3b) Tell how the harvesting or production of raw materials (by extraction or recycling), along with distribution of the resulting products, consumption, and disposal/repurposing, influences current and future sustainability thinking and planning.
  4. Explore TWO of the following categories. Have a discussion with your family about the two you select. In your discussion, include your observations, and best and worst practices. Share what you learn with your counselor.
    • 4a) Plastic waste. Discuss the impact plastic waste has on the environment (land, water, air). Learn about the number system for plastic recyclables, and determine which plastics are more commonly recycled. Find out what the trash vortex is and how it was formed.
    • 4b) Electronic waste. Choose three electronic devices in your household. Find out the average lifespan of each, what happens to these devices once they pass their useful life, and whether they can be recycled in whole or part. Discuss the impact of electronic waste on the environment.
    • 4c) Food waste. Learn about the value of composting and how to start a compost pile. Start a compost pile appropriate for your living situation. Tell what can be done with the compost when it is ready for use.
    • 4d) Species decline. Explain the term species (plant or animal) decline. Discuss the human activities that contribute to species decline, what can be done to help reverse the decline, and its impact on a sustainable environment.
    • 4e) World population. Learn how the world’s population affects the sustainability of Earth. Discuss three human activities that may contribute to putting Earth at risk, now and in the future.
    • 4f) Climate change. Find a world map that shows the pattern of temperature change for a period of at least 100 years. Share this map with your counselor, and discuss three factors that scientists believe affect the global weather and temperature. Discuss with your counselor three impacts of climate change and how these changes could impact sustainability of food, water, or other resources.
  5. Do the following:
    • 5a) After completing requirements 1 through 4, have a family meeting. Discuss what your family has learned about what it means to be a sustainable citizen. Talk about the behavioral changes and life choices your family can make to live more sustainably. Share what you learn with your counselor.
    • 5b) Discuss with your counselor how living by the Scout Oath and Scout Law in your daily life helps promote sustainability and good stewardship.
  6. Learn about career opportunities in the sustainability field. Pick one and find out the education, training, and experience required. Discuss what you have learned with your counselor and explain why this career might interest you.

Sustainability Merit Badge Requirement 1: What Is It?

1) Before starting work on any other requirements for this merit badge, write in your own words the meaning of sustainability. Explain how you think conservation and stewardship of our natural resources relate to sustainability.

A major part of being a Scout is caring about, and helping to protect, the world around you. This is what’s called sustainability! By preserving our planet’s natural resources, you’re making life better for current and future generations of living creatures (including you and me). 🙂

In this requirement, you’re asked to describe the meaning of sustainability in your own words. While doing this, I’d suggest you keep the following questions around sustainability in mind:

  • Why does living sustainably matter?
  • What can you do to personally do to help protect our planet’s habitats?
  • How can natural resources be better managed to sustain life on Earth?
  • If no one cared about sustainability, what do you think our world will look like in 100 years?

Answering these sustainability-minded questions will get you to start thinking in the right direction! Later on, you’ll be asked to brainstorm examples of sustainability, as well as ways to live more sustainably. Make sure you put a lot of thought into this requirement, as it will make the rest of the badge much easier!

If you’d like some inspiration for your brainstorming, I’d highly recommend watching the short video (3:05) below on what sustainability is! The speaking is a bit slow but, if you put it on 1.25x speed, it should serve as a quick, thorough overview:

Sustainability Merit Badge Requirement 2: Resources at Home

Now that you’re beginning to get a better idea of what sustainability means to you, it’s time to see the effect it has on your life! Are you living in a way that protects our planet’s precious resources? After completing this requirement, you should! 😉

While I’ll be working hard to guide you in the right direction, in this section, a good portion of the requirements ask you to consider your home or community. This means you’ll need to do some critical thinking on your own to figure out how best to answer these thought-provoking questions!

2I) Water. Do A AND either B OR C.

2I A) Explain five ways a family could reduce water consumption. Provide tips for implementation.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in the United States, the average American uses around 82 gallons of water a day! This might seem like a lot but think of all of the things you use water for every single day. Showers, cooking, cleaning, toilets — the list goes on…

While water is a necessary part of our daily lives, there are still things we can do to avoid wasting this precious resource. In fact, it’s estimated that most Americans can save around 20% more water (and lower their water bill) by switching to water-efficient fixtures and plumbing!

Saving water is an extremely important part of sustainability. Not only are you protecting the planet — you’re also helping your community by saving that water for others to use! Here are more tips on how you and your family can stop wasting as much water:

  1. Turn off your faucets completely
    • A faucet that is not fully shut off might drip for hours! Even though it might not appear to be a lot, this can waste a huge amount of water over time.
  2. Keep your sink off when you do not need it (or at least keep it at a very low flow)
    • Whether you are brushing your teeth, shaving, or cleaning your dishes, only run the sink water when you are actively using it. If you leave it running while doing these things, it is another huge waste of water that adds up daily.
  3. Take shorter showers
    • Long showers can release many gallons of water. Take a shorter shower to conserve water. You could even set a timer if you have trouble keeping track of your amount of time spent in the shower.
  4. Wash clothes and dishes in large loads
    • Running a partial load of laundry or dishes in a dishwasher is another way that people unintentionally waste water. Wait until you have a full load before you wash.
  5. Save rainwater
    • If you have a large bucket, set it out during a rainstorm. You can use the collected water to water your plants, clean your car, or anything else that might need to be done around the house.

While water is renewable, we don’t have an unlimited supply of fresh water. Within the next ten years, it is estimated that 40 out of 50 states will face some sort of water shortage. By encouraging your family to live more sustainably and waste less water, you can be part of the solution!

2I B) Option 1: Using a diagram you have created, explain to your counselor how your household gets its clean water from a natural source and what happens with the water after you use it. Include water that goes down the kitchen, bathroom, and laundry drains, and any runoff from watering the yard or washing the car. Tell two ways to preserve your family’s access to clean water in the future.
2I C) Option 2: Write about two areas in the world that have been affected by drought over the last three years. For each area, identify a water conservation practice (successful or unsuccessful) that has been used. Tell whether the practice was effective and why

Below, I’ll be explaining the underlined knowledge-based requirements. However, I strongly encourage you to consider tackling a few of the hands-on requirements that I don’t cover. Many of these options will teach you interesting, fun, and useful life skills. If you have the extra time, definitely work on what most interests you!

The Drought In Texas

In 2020 and 2021, much of West Texas was in a severe drought. On top of that, Central Texas had also experienced a flash drought where they have not seen rain in quite some time. While droughts are less surprising in places like West Texas, in places like Austin they’re uncommon and a little scary.

Their conservation practice: The only state-wide conservation method Texas used was, to be honest, ineffective. Those in charge repeatedly said that their best option is to wait for the rain to come. Citizens have taken some individual measures to conserve their own water use, but waiting is not a successful path to take.

The Drought/Wildfires in Australia

Australia fell into a huge drought a few years ago and is currently still recovering. They’ve gotten a good bit of rainfall over the past few months, but still not enough to diminish the state of drought. Additionally, huge wildfires recently raged over much of their southeast coast.

Their conservation practice: Australian officials did implement a water conservation practice that’s made some headway. They placed water restrictions on water storage areas that are filled by dams. This helped to more evenly distribute their existing water and, with the recent rainfall, some of the dams have even been refilled!

Conserving Water on a Larger Scale

I know these droughts sound scary, but there are a lot of things that many large organizations can be doing to help conserve water for the future. Check out the quick video (2:48) below for an informative view into how Colorado College is helping to save water:

2 II) Food. Do A AND either B OR C.

2II A) Create a 2-week plan that attempts to reduce your household food waste. Identify goals and areas of improvement.

It’s not uncommon to throw away expired or spoiled food — everyone does it. However, wasting food should be avoided, whenever possible. The best way to do this is by checking the expiration date and buying only what you need. If you don’t plan ahead, many groceries will expire before you even get a chance to use them! 🙁

Another great way to reduce food waste is by freezing perishable items that you aren’t planning to eat soon. Bread, meat, and other things can be stored for weeks – and sometimes months – in the freezer. If you feel like you won’t get around to eating something, don’t hesitate to freeze it!

In the case of your 2-week food waste reduction plan, these methods are two major factors to keep in mind. Below, along with the methods mentioned, are more ways to reduce household food waste over a span of 2-weeks:

  • Plan ahead
  • Don’t overbuy
  • Freeze perishables
  • Eat leftovers instead of buying more food
  • Use your leftover foods in cooking new dishes
    • Foods like fried rice, frittatas, soups, and pasta are great for adsorbing different types of leftovers
  • Keep your fridge organized so that you can remember to eat everything before its expiration

Best of luck with your 2-week plan to reduce household food waste! I hope it gives you a greater appreciation for the food you do have. Remember, there are tons of people in the world who can’t access 3 square meals a day. It’s important to act sustainably and be grateful for what we have!

—2II B) Option 1: Discuss with your counselor the ways individuals, families, and communities can create their own food sources (potted plants, family garden, rooftop garden, neighborhood or community garden). Tell how this plan might contribute to a more sustainable way of life if practiced globally.
—2II C) Option 2: Explain factors that limit the availability of food and food production in different regions of the world. Tell three ways these factors influence the sustainability of worldwide food supplies.

The region in which you live plays a huge role in what food can be grown and cultivated. Extreme climates may not be suitable for fresh crops, while less-populated regions with fewer resources won’t be able to support a meat industry. 

Other factors that might affect food production include a change in supply and demand or unpredicted weather conditions. Instances like these can kill crops, spoil meat, or disrupt transportation processes! These factors will lead to food shortages and scarcity if a community is unprepared.

Below, I’ll give you a bit more detail on how factors like climate, supply/demand, and miscellaneous disasters can influence the sustainability of worldwide food supplies:

WeatherPlaces that rely heavily on imported goods might also find themselves in trouble if the supply chain is disrupted by inclement weather. This can cause food in transit to go bad before it reaches store shelves. Bad weather such as a cold snap or a heatwave can also destroy crops before they’re ready for harvest.
Supply and DemandBuying and selling of food can become a problem in two ways; if there is a surplus of certain foods, prices will go down. But, low prices don’t mean bigger sales. Unsold food can become a financial burden for distributors and farmers.

The same goes for the case of a shortage of food. If producers cannot provide the amount of food that they usually do they will have to raise prices, and the consumption rate will likely lessen. In both situations, the food might not be bought and will go bad as a result.
Miscellaneous FactorsInstances like disease can quickly wipe out the availability of crops and meat. While this can greatly waste large amounts of food, it can also be a big hit for the agriculture and livestock industries.

2 III) Community. Do A AND either B OR C.

2III A) Community. Explain how the housing, work locations, shops, schools, and transportation systems affect energy, pollution, natural resources, and the economy of the community.

Many of the places you spend time in can affect the sustainability of your community. For example, houses, schools, and stores all use a lot of resources. Because of this, many businesses and homeowners have taken it upon themselves to become more sustainable!

Offices, restaurants, schools, and many other organizations often make efforts to save energy in a number of ways:

  • Using solar panels for renewable solar energy
  • Conserving electricity
  • Maintaining a clean environment to reduce pollution and other waste
  • Collecting recyclable materials, instead of throwing them out

Saving energy and becoming more sustainable doesn’t just help the planet, it can also save these places money! Because of this, many companies have made an effort to use more renewable energy. For instance, Google runs on 100% renewable energy (good reason to earn the Programming merit badge 😉 ).

On the other hand, some companies can take conservation for granted. Big factories run the risk of polluting the air, water, or land. Other businesses, just like you might do at home, might accidentally leave on the occasional light switch or forget to turn off the sink, which can make a big impact over time.

—2III B) Option 1: With your parent’s permission and your counselor’s approval, interview a local architect, engineer, contractor, or building materials supplier. Find out the factors that are considered when using sustainable materials in renovating or building a home. Share what you learn with your counselor.
—2III C) Option 2: Explain how birth and death rates affect sufficient housing and how a lack of housing (or too much housing) can influence the sustainability of a local or global area.

Birth and death rates can substantially affect sufficient housing. If birth rates are up and death rates are down, housing can become scarce. While a low death rate is a good thing, populations can become unsustainable as they grow. 

If a community experiences a lack of housing, overpopulation can become a real problem — especially since natural resources will be used in larger quantities. This can also result in a surplus of waste, leading to pollution and disease among human and animal populations.

Homelessness also becomes more common in densely populated areas without sufficient housing. Whether it’s on a local or global scale, areas with an unsustainable population growth rate often see food and housing shortages, along with mass migrations later on.

On the other hand, if birth rates are low and death rates are high, the opposite problem can occur. In this case, there won’t be enough people to occupy a lot of the leftover space. Underpopulation also leads to unnecessary waste.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when considering the sustainability of local and global areas:

  • Is there enough housing for those who need it?
  • Is there too much unused space in the area?
  • Are resources being conserved?
  • Are people taking the responsibility to enforce their own consumption when it comes to protecting our planet?

Human populations are a delicate balance. Places like India are facing high population growth, but are currently running out of space. Japan, on the other hand, has a negative population growth and many residential areas are being neglected as a result. Educating communities is one way to help solve these issues!

2 IV) Energy. Do A AND either B OR C.

2IV A) Learn about the sustainability of different energy sources, including fossil fuels, solar, wind, nuclear, hydropower, and geothermal. Find out how the production and consumption of each of these energy sources affects the environment and what the term “carbon footprint” means. Explain how you think your family can reduce its carbon footprint.

Alternative energy sources, like solar or wind power, play a crucial role in sustainability. Nonrenewable energy sources like fossil fuels are one of the main causes of pollution and climate change. When renewable options are available, not moving away from nonrenewable resources is irresponsible!

Nuclear Energy

Nuclear power plants use radioactive material to run their plants. While nuclear energy is very clean and efficient, when mismanaged, the waste that is produced from these plants can cause serious harm to people and the environment. In the case of Fukushima or Chernobyl, a total meltdown can make areas unlivable for centuries.

In spite of its risks, nuclear energy is likely one of our best options for preventing catastrophic climate change. To gain a more detailed understanding of why this is, check out the fantastic video (10:42) below:

Renewable Energy

Renewable energy sources carry a lot fewer risks. Solar energy, wind, hydropower, and geothermal energy are all useful renewable resources that are beneficial for the sustainability of the environment. Renewable resources never run out and cause little to no environmental harm. 

So why don’t we only use renewables? In the past, our methods of harvesting renewable energies were less efficient. Therefore, it used to be much cheaper to produce energy from burning fossil fuels, than with solar panels. However, nowadays, the costs of renewable energy are getting closer to nonrenewables, which is a step in the right direction!

Here’s a handy chart explaining some of the key differences between renewable and nonrenewable energies 😀 :

Renewable EnergyNonrenewable Energy
Better for the environmentCan release toxins into the environment and damage the atmosphere
Better for living things, but can still cause issuesOften contaminates habitats for wildlife and humans
Can be reused and repurposedOne time use – nonrenewable energy cannot be repurposed
Highly sustainable, infinite supplyLess sustainable, limited supply
More expensive, but costs are improvingCurrently cheaper, but quickly getting more expensive

How Your Family Can Reduce Its Carbon Footprint

A carbon footprint is the carbon dioxide and other pollutants that individuals and groups leave behind during everyday life. For an individual, driving a car would leave a carbon footprint. For a company, it can be the use of electricity from nonrenewable sources. 

Having a large carbon footprint further releases greenhouse gases into the environment, which can be very harmful to people. Greenhouse gases influence climate change and pollution, as they cause temperatures to rise and make the air less breathable for living creatures.

Individual carbon footprints can be reduced in a variety of ways. Riding a bike, using renewable energy in your home or car, and limiting water and electric usage can all easily lower your carbon footprint.

Fun Fact: Did you know that the Mongol invasion of Asia during the 13th century lowered the world’s carbon footprint? Due to the rapid population decline from Mongolian wars and the Black Plague, the carbon footprint dropped a significant amount for the time.

Now that you know what causes your carbon footprint, take a few minutes to brainstorm a few more ways your family can reduce theirs! For some inspiration, here’s a great article by the EPA on How To Reduce Your Family’s Carbon Footprint.

—2IV B) Option 1: Develop and implement a plan to reduce the consumption of one of your family’s household utilities that consume energy, such as gas appliances, electricity, heating systems, or cooling systems. Examine your family’s bills for that utility reflecting usage for three months (past or current). As a family, choose three ways to help reduce consumption and be a better steward of this resource. Implement those ideas for one month. Share what you learn with your counselor, and tell how your plan affected your family’s usage.
—2IV C) Option 2: Identify three ways to help reduce a family’s consumption of transportation-related bills (gasoline, diesel, electric, public transportation, etc.) and be a better steward of this resource. Provide tips on implementing these ideas over the span of 1 month.

Depending on where you live, there are plenty of ways to reduce transportation costs. One great thing about living in a city is that you can often carpool with friends or walk where you need to go. Biking is also an option! Even if you live in a more rural area, I challenge you to think of some creative ways to get around. 🙂

Using less gas doesn’t just mean you’ll save money, you’ll also help to save the planet! Emissions from vehicles are one of the biggest ways we, as individuals, pollute our world. Cutting down on these emissions is an important step towards sustainability.

Here are a few of the main ways you can reduce your family’s transportation-related bills, while also reducing your carbon footprint:

  • Carpooling:
    • Especially for school or sports, carpooling can be a great way to save money on transportation. If you know people going to the same place as you at the same time, why not ride together?
    • Carpooling better for the environment and, by alternating turns on driving, you can save money by filling your gas tank less often!
  • Public Transportation:
    • Public transportation is another way to save money on transportation-related bills. Taking a public bus, train, or subway also reduces your chance of wasting money on excessive trips to the gas station!
    • Personally, I really enjoy public transportation (in most places), as you can read and relax instead of driving. Plus, if you stick to a schedule, you can get in a rhythm that makes this option super easy and seamless to do every day!
  • Riding a Bike or Walking:
    • Aside from saving money on gas, riding a bike or walking to your destination is a phenomenal way to stay healthy. Maybe that’s why Scouting gives you the options to earn the Hiking and Cycling merit badges! 😛

Try to use one, or a few of these methods within the next month:

  • For carpooling, you could get together with a neighbor, teammate, or relative and put a plan together.
  • For public transportation, research departure times and get a plan together to get prepared before you leave.
  • For riding a bike or walking, plan your trip accordingly and get some exercise! 

All of these methods are great for lowering your family’s costs of transportation, as well as your carbon footprint. However, there are many more methods — so get creative! Using less gas is one key way we can help create a more sustainable environment for future generations.

2 V) Stuff. Do A AND either B OR C

2V A) Explain the difference between an essential need (such as soap) and a desirable want (such as a DVD). 

There’s a big difference between essential needs and desirable wants:

  • An essential need is anything that supports your health, family, or future — things such as soap, toiletries, food, water, education, housing, and more. 
    • These are things that you couldn’t go without for a short amount of time.
  • A desirable want is something that might not necessarily aid in your health or future but will probably give you some temporary entertainment.
    • If there won’t be negative consequences for not getting the item (aside from feeling bad), it’s most likely a desirable want.

Even when a want feels like a need, it’s important to differentiate the two. While it may feel like you absolutely need the new PlayStation console, it will not fulfill any essential human needs.

Another thing to watch out for is overspending on an essential need. For instance, you might need food. However, if you bought $100 in sushi, you’d instead be buying a desirable want. You should always be mindful of the need you’re trying to fulfill before spending money.

—2V B) Option 1: Plan a project that involves the participation of your family to identify the “stuff” your family no longer needs. Complete your project by donating, repurposing, or recycling these items.
—2V C) Option 2: Discuss how having too much “stuff” affects you, your family, and your community. Include the following: the financial impact, time spent, maintenance, health, storage, and waste. Include in your discussion the practices that can be used to avoid accumulating too much “stuff.”

Having too much “stuff” may give you some temporary satisfaction. However, it can harm many aspects of your life. “Stuff” can be a time-waster. This time could be spent doing something productive such as:

  • School Assignments
  • Personal Improvement
  • Family Time
  • Hanging Out With Friends
  • Extracurricular Projects

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enjoy yourself. There is a time and a place for “stuff” like TV, video games, or shopping. Finding the balance between “stuff” and the important things in life is what this requirement is trying to teach you! 🙂

Having too much stuff can also be a waste of money. Blowing hard-earned money on new things may feel fun for a little bit, but in the end, you just have more “stuff” and less money to spend on essentials and experiences. The things you buy can add up, putting a dent in your wallet and storage space:

More material possessions
More money spent
Less storage space (it adds up faster than you might think)
Less money to spend on essential needs
More desires to purchase cheaper ‘stuff’ to compensate (then, repeat from the top)

Having too much “stuff” can also take a toll on your health — both physical and mental. Spending too much time with “stuff” restricts you from opportunities to get active. Plus, having a super cluttered house isn’t fun!

Staying cooped up all day can also negatively affect your mind. It is important to get active during the day to ensure you stay healthy. Plus, staying inside playing video games deprives you of sunlight and vitamin D, which can even lower your mood.

In Order to Avoid Accumulating Too Much Stuff, Try This:

  • Set limits on how much time you spend with the “stuff” you already have
  • Manage your money so that you save consistently, instead of spending what you have on “stuff” 
  • Consider how focusing on “stuff” too much can affect your health, your relationships, and your productivity
  • Every few months, go through your belongings to toss/donate things you’ve outgrown
  • Keep your personal space tidy so that you can easily get rid of “stuff” you no longer use

Sustainability Merit Badge Requirement 3: Planetary Sustainability

3a) Explain to your counselor how the planetary life-support systems (soil, climate, freshwater, atmospheric, nutrient, oceanic, ecosystems, and species) support life on Earth and interact with one another.

Planetary life-support systems are important for supporting life on Earth (duh 😛 ). This may sound obvious, but preserving these systems ensures that life will exist on our planet! These systems work independently and in tandem to support the vast amount of life forms living on planet Earth.

When considering planetary life-support systems, it’s important to note how each of them plays a unique role in supporting and sustaining life on Earth:

  • Soil:
    • Soil provides the nutrients for agriculture that help feed billions of people all over the world. Without soil, we wouldn’t have the natural nutrients necessary to support our plant life.
  • Climate:
    • Climate is extremely important to sustaining life on Earth. It’s what helps agriculture, livestock, and humans to grow and sustain life. As we mentioned before, increasing temperatures from climate change can ruin the resources that living creatures rely on.
  • Freshwater:
    • Freshwater is one of our main sources of life. Without fresh water, land animals, some plants, and some fish would not exist. Every living thing on Earth requires water to live and, aside from sea animals and plants, freshwater is the only water they can drink.
  • Atmospheric:
    • Without our atmosphere, we could be destroyed by the space beyond our world. The atmosphere shields us from all kinds of different dangers such as radiation, space debris, and keeps our planet at a consistent temperature.
  • Nutrients:
    • Nutritional support is important for all types of living things. Nutrients allow us to function properly, helping every part of our body function successfully. To make sure you’re maintaining a proper, nutrient-rich diet, you should earn your Cooking merit badge!
  • Oceanic:
    • Oceanic life-support systems help keep the creatures of the ocean surviving, further continuing the circle of life. Ocean plants process the majority of the world’s carbon dioxide into oxygen and, without them, terrestrial life wouldn’t exist.
  • Ecosystems:
    • An ecosystem provides an environment for organisms to work together to support each other. Every living thing supports life for something else (i.e. fungi eat decomposing matter creating rich soil which supports plant life which then supports herbivores and so on).
  • Species:
    • All species work together to further progress the circle of life. It is important that we pay attention to the evolution of species in order to help ourselves and other species to adapt to this changing world.

Every single one of these categories has its own scientific field to study. Planetary life-support systems are complex processes that add a lot of beauty and mystery to our world. Without our planet, we wouldn’t be here — being sustainable is our way of giving back!

Also, this Ted talk was so good that I just had to include it! If you’re finding the Sustainability merit badge interesting, I’d highly recommend watching the following video (13:42) on how our planet sustains life. The speaker is also hilarious, so I’d really suggest checking it out 🙂 :

Ready to move on to requirement 3b) of the Sustainability mb? Click here!

Congrats on Finishing The First Half of the Sustainability Merit Badge!

Wow, we just covered a ton of info and now my computer is even beginning to lag! Great work. Are you starting to understand sustainability more thoroughly? You definitely deserve a break at this point; give yourself a huuuuge pat on the back! 🙂

Once you’re ready to continue on to part 2 of the Sustainability merit badge click here!

Also, if you’re interested in the difficulty rankings for every Eagle-required merit badge, you can check out my full guide here! PS: The article also links to my other ultimate badge guides that’ll help you to complete your merit badge worksheets.

Cole

I'm constantly writing new content because I believe in Scouts like you! Thanks so much for reading, and for making our world a better place. Until next time, I'm wishing you all the best on your journey to Eagle and beyond!

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