Global aluminum giant Alcoa has just committed to a new sustainability initiative through the Alcoa Foundation which will provide funding in support of Together Greening. The two-year effort, a project of Girl Scouts USA and the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, will pair up Guides and Scouts from 11 different countries to perform community environmental projects.
Alcoa’s support for Together Greening comes through a grant of $1.5 million announced earlier this year for the Girls Scouts’ Forever Green project. The generous funding would be noteworthy at any time, but this year has particular significance in terms of the company’s willingness to engage in civic leadership with Girl Scouts USA, even though the organization has come under heavy fire from conservative pundits, politicians and religious leaders.
Girl Scouts, Girl Guides and environmental leadership
The Together Greening projects will bring together groups from Australia, Brazil, China, Guinea, Iceland, Italy, Jamaica, Mexico, Suriname, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Twenty Girl Scout councils will come from the U.S., representing Arizona, California, Georgia, Indiana, New York, Michigan, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas, Washington, and the District of Columbia.
The projects will include building rain gardens, reducing waste, reducing carbon dioxide emissions, and preserving biodiversity.
In addition to paring off or “twinning,” to share their experiences internationally, the Scouts and Guides will also share information through a Together Greening tumblr that will be open to family and friends around the world.
Why get on the Girl Scouts?
Unfortunately, this kind of global collaboration has played into a conservative whisper campaign against the Girl Scouts’ supposed “radical feminist agenda,” involving Planned Parenthood and the United Nations. As far as media attention goes, the criticism came to a head earlier this year when social issues provoked a boycott – which seems to have fizzled – of the Girl Scouts’ annual cookie sale.
Though the culture war seems to be the primary focus of conservatives’ ire, this year also happens to mark the Girl Scouts’ Forever Green initiative in partnership with the U.S. EPA. Forever Green celebrates the organization’s 100th anniversary with a yearlong effort to promote conservation at home and in the community.
Since the EPA has been under fire from conservatives for years, that connection may also be raising a red flag for critics. Adding fuel to the fire, one of the Forever Green projects involves lobbying family, friends and neighbors to change out their old incandescent light bulbs with new energy saving ones, which in effect supports the notorious “light bulb ban” that has been a frequent target of conservative criticism.
Alcoa calms the waters
Against this backdrop, Alcoa’s position as an iconic member of the traditional American industrial base provides a weighty counterbalance.
Helping to strengthen Alcoa’s position is its record of corporate environmental action, as demonstrated by its latest sustainability progress report. The company has begun floating new green products including a coating for “smog-eating” buildings, and it has been developing a low cost concentrating solar power system in partnership with the Department of Energy.
In announcing the Greening Together funds, Paula Davis, President of the Alcoa Foundation, also made it clear that to Alcoa, the Girl Scouts (and Girl Guides) represent the mainstream of contemporary civic life, through the company’s employees and their families:
“This program provides a tremendous opportunity for Alcoa employees around the world, including Girl Scouts and Guides alumnae and current troop leaders, to help advance our commitment to protecting the environment with the support of these committed and passionate girls who are the next generation of environmental ambassadors.”
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