Enjoying the outdoors responsibly is a key component of the scouting movement. The Boy Scouts of America has created a new series of Outdoor Ethics Awards for Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Venturers. The awards are designed to be age-appropriate for scouts at each level. For each scouting division, there are two awards for boys: the Outdoor Ethics Awareness Award and the Outdoor Ethics Action Award, as well as an adult leader award. These awards are welcome additions to the already existing outdoor Scouting awards such as the Leave No Trace and World Conservation Award patches.
The foundation of all the awards is the Outdoor Code, a statement of what scouting aspires to in outdoor activities that has been adhered to by the scouting community for over sixty years. The Outdoor Code comprises four statements of principle, "As an American, I will do my best to":
- Be clean in outdoor manners. This means using pack-it-in, pack-it-out techniques and not leaving graffiti, fire rings, camp gadgets, or other signs of human presence.
- Be careful with fire. Fire is an important tool, but one that can be devastating if it gets out of hand. Think about the need for fire, how best to use it, and how to minimize its impacts.
- Be considerate in the outdoors. Think about others as well as ourselves and how our presence impacts them—not just on other humans, but also on wildlife and the environment.
- Be conservation-minded. Think about our impacts on the environment and take steps to correct and redress damage to the environment.
These four principles work together with the principles of Leave No Trace for human-powered outdoor activities such as hiking and canoeing and Tread Lightly! for motorized activities such as snowmobiling and motor boating.
Depending on their branch of scouting, boys have to complete different tasks and activities to earn the Outdoor Ethics awards. Cub Scouts need to learn the Outdoor Code, Leave No Trace, and Tread Lightly! principles, and participate in an outdoor ethics activity to earn the Awareness award. For the Action award, they must earn the Awareness award, participate in outings where they observe the outdoor ethics principles, and participate in a related service project. Boy Scouts must follow similar requirements, but in greater depth and more independently. For Venturers, the requirements are organized similarly, but require an even higher level of commitment and leadership.
More information on outdoor ethics and scouting is available on the BSA's website. The complete details of the requirements for the six new awards are available from the Greater New York Councils at this link for Cub Scouts, at this link for Boy Scouts, and at this link for Venturing.