Merit badges in Boy Scouts are usually a requirement to earn the higher ranks of Star, Life and Eagle Scout. To this end, there are a list of required merit badges by the BSA national organization and most troops have a few preferred merit badges that they want their scouts to earn. At our yearly 2 weeks of Boy Scout camp, you could earn up to 3 merit badges per week, or 6 total. All of this to say that most Boy Scouts are not too keen on earning merit badges that are not required, as a non-required merit badge usually takes the place of a required one in camp. I decided to take Forestry merit badge, an intensive non-required merit badge, because of my paternal grandfather.
My family has a green legacy. My dad’s ancestors were farmers in upstate Pennsylvania and my grandfather had been a forester in a small town in Tioga County, Pennsylvania. He loved the outdoors, especially trees, and had been known to mail letters to ask companies to stop wasting paper in sending flyers through the mail. Even when he lost his sight, my grandfather was an invaluable resource to my father for everything silvan and arboreal and somehow would know when there were seedling giveaways and alert us to purchase tiny pines and spruce for our yard. To continue his legacy, my father had a large backyard in the Philadelphia suburbs, and when he moved to Boston, built up, not out to garden in his tiny patio.
At the roots of this (pun intended) is a charge for me to continue being green. As an entrepreneur, as I had discussed in my last article, being green is tough. The purpose of a manufacturer is to create, and The Law of Conservation of Energy states that matter cannot be created, there is bound to always be waste in turning something from one thing to another. Just as fire certainly gets rid of a log, it also leaves behind waste, as heat, ashes, and smoke.
While I always joke that I wish hair ties could be made of sunshine and rainbows, the truth is that they are made from silicone, which requires many different machines, all using a great deal of electricity. And all of this for a product that, try as we may, will not last forever and has packaging made of paper and metal. How am I, as an entrepreneur, green?
First of all, silicone is inert. Although it would never happen as far as we know, if one of our hair ties somehow made its way into groundwater, it would just sit there. No hazardous chemicals would leech out, no fires would be started and no animals hurt, even if they consumed it. Our hair ties last on average 3 times more than our competitors, so people use far less of them. Our ties are also made in America, so no overseas shipping, diesel freight or trucks idling at Long Beach waiting to ship it to a warehouse. Our packaging for ties is a tin. Consumers can use the tin for convenient storage of their hair ties, and afterwards as a way to hold their rings, vitamins or coins. When you’re done with the tin, toss it in the recycling!
At home, we were fortunate enough to purchase a house where the previous owners loved to garden. Because of them, we are up to our elbows in mulch and perennials, and loving it. When we have the means to do so, I look forward to planting as many trees as I can and finding the greenest materials to use for our products.
In perspective, Rome had not been built in a day, my grandfather’s forestry career nor my father’s arboreal knowledge happened overnight, and many green companies worked their way up to eco-friendly. While I look forward to continuing my family’s green legacy, I know it is a marathon, not a sprint.
So what’s the takeaway? Just as I am incrementally making my life greener and continuing a green legacy, it’s not too late for you to start one yourself! There are tons of articles on Maker’s Row about being green, with one or two of them written by little ol’ me. While you personally may not be continuing your grandfather’s mission, maybe your grandkids will be continuing yours..