Republicans who want to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency, including Presidential candidates Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich, will have to answer to one of the EPA’s new partners and America’s most beloved institutions: the Girl Scouts.
Earlier this week, Girl Scouts of the USA announced it will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2012 with the launch of a new international conservation effort, the “Girl Scouts Forever Green Project,” funded by a $1.5 million grant from the Alcoa Foundation.
As described in a Girl Scouts blog post, the Scouts expect EPA to play a crucial role in developing a new generation of leaders focused on the connection between public health and environmental protection. The post explains:
“In fact, the EPA is the Girl Scout’s environmental education partner on Girl Scouts Forever Green with the goal of engaging our leaders of tomorrow on protecting human health and safeguarding the natural environment - air, water, and land.”
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson reinforced that sentiment in a statement applauding the launch of Forever Green, asserting that “the EPA is proud to be working with such an important organization and to be empowering these young women to shape their future and the future of our planet.”
Forever Green consists of three actions that involve EPA and its programs.
One, the “Girl Scouts Forever Green Pledge,” is an online checklist of personal energy conservation and waste reduction actions such as turning off lights when leaving a room. A significant chunk of the checklist is given over to replacing broken or aged-out products and appliances with energy efficient ones using guidelines set forth by EPA’s Energy Star program.
Another action intersects with an EPA program that promotes the use of natural landscapes for holding and filtering storm runoff. “Bioretention” is the moniker EPA employs for such installations but the Girl Scouts call them by a more familiar name, rain gardens, and they plan on building them as community service projects.
In the third action, Girl Scouts will observe Earth Hour 2012 (Saturday, March 31, 2012) by spending the month of March encouraging everyone they know to replace incandescent light bulbs with Energy Star qualified lighting and other energy efficient light bulbs.
This last effort coincides with the phase-in of new federal standards for light bulbs that effectively bar conventional incandescent bulbs from the U.S. market, which many Republicans — from Presidential candidates Rick Perry and Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) to Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) to Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) — have also blasted.
For the past several years some right-leaning groups and pundits have also begun to complain that the Girl Scouts has drifted into a “radical” agenda, so it wouldn’t be too surprising to see the Scouts being criticized for their partnership with EPA.
However, its worth pointing out that other beloved American institutions are also working the environmental agency. Girl Scouts Forever Green is similar another recent EPA partnership with the U.S. Army, both in terms of the specific actions it lists and its broad emphasis on cultural shift, leadership, and community engagement.
Either way, once again Republican leadership could find itself walking a thin line between tearing down the EPA and dissing some pretty big chunks of the American electorate.
According to the Scouts, Forever Green was developed in response to research that showed “an overwhelming number of girls said protecting the environment is a top priority.”
About 50 million American women have cycled through the organization since its inception in 1912, and the active involvement includes more than 3.2 million scouts, volunteers and staff.