Scout Christian Macias of Northwest Texas works to power up a row of light bulbs in the Sustainability Treehouse at the Summit Bechtel Reserve. The stationary bicycle is hooked up to three different types of light bulbs and the interactive display allows Scouts to provide the energy to light all three types by pedaling. The display is designed to show the difference between the amount of energy needed to power each type of bulb.

The 2013 National Scout Jamboree, in addition to offering high-adrenaline activities for youth, also showcases the BSA’s shift from “green to deep green” with the focus being on sustainability.

Of all the design features of the Summit, none is more emblematic of the Boy Scouts of America’s push to go greener than the Sustainability Treehouse, nestled among the trees in Summit Center.

Built on stilts and crowned with 4 kw vertical axis wind turbines and an observation deck, the structure meets rigorous “Living Building Challenge” performance standards.

The Sustainability Treehouse produces as much energy as it consumes through solar and wind power, collects its own rainwater, and uses composting toilets to cut down on waste.

“It can completely support itself,” said Gary Hartley, director of community and government relations for the Summit.

“Like a tree, this building draws energy from the sun, wind and earth,” reads a sign at the base of the treehouse. “It recycles water and waste and it looks good while doing so. This building draws resources from the environment, uses them sustainably and gives back what’s taken, circle of life style.”

Nearby, tin cups for camping collect rain water and spill downward in a decorative water feature that nods to a push toward reusable drinking vessels at the Scout Jamboree.

An open air classroom sandwiched between two floors of enclosed classrooms provides the Boy Scouts with something like a sustainability schoolhouse during the Jamboree.

The goal is for the lessons to mesh with the environmental and science curriculum in West Virginia schools, says Mike Patrick, Summit operations director.

The BSA unveiled its new Sustainability Merit Badge at the Jamboree, marking its effort to move from stewardship to sustainability, “from ‘leave no trace’ to leaving the world a better place.”

Hartley says the push for sustainability came both from the bottom up and from the top down in the BSA organization. Scouts who were surveyed about what they wanted to see at the Jamboree site listed it as a priority, as did certain corporate donors.

But the Sustainability Treehouse, designed to get unhooked from carbon-based fuel, has its flip side.

Nearby, the Consol Energy Bridge was made possible by a $15 million donation from Consol Energy, one of Appalachia’s leading carbon-based energy producers.

The BSA has also demonstrated that it is eager to partner with coal interests to accomplish its goals at the Summit, accepting donations from coal operator Jim Justice and others.

Its 2012 Sustainability Conference at The Greenbrier, “a collaboration between Industry and the Boy Scouts of America,” featured speakers from the coal and gas industries almost exclusively.

Some of the Scouts and visitors participated in an Energy Tour Wednesday that explored coal mining, past and present, before visiting wind and hydro energy sites the following day.

Discussing a clean energy future on a panel at Climate One, the BSA’s sustainability adviser, Scott Harmon, said that as the largest youth organization in the world, the BSA has a role to play in the global conversation about climate change.

“Scouting had very important roles in World War I and World War II related to recycling and raising money for various needs that the government had,” he said.

“The government called on Scouting many times ... and hasn’t done so since. ... But they should. There’s 100 million people ready to go and do something.”

— E-mail: cmoore@register-herald.com

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