Girl Scouts Go Green

Missi Arens
Girl Scouts Minnesota and Wisconsin River Valleys

To help make the world a better place, Girl Scouts of Minnesota and Wisconsin River Valleys offers “green” challenges for all girls. Each month during the school year, each Girl Scout receives an e-newsletter where she is given challenges to learn more about the environment and how she can help sustain and improve it. The goal of these challenges is to educate girls by engaging in fun, hands-on learning opportunities where they can help preserve the environment for the future. Here is a sample challenge you can try at home:

How do landfills really work?

The trash production in the United States has almost tripled since 1960. Trash is handled in various ways. About 32.5 percent of the trash is recycled or composted, 12.5 percent is burned, and 55 percent is buried in landfills, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The amount of trash buried in landfills has doubled since 1960. The United States ranks about in the middle of the major countries (United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, France, and Japan) in landfill disposal. The United Kingdom ranks highest, burying about 90 percent of its solid waste in landfills.

The purpose of a landfill is to bury the trash in such a way that it will be isolated from groundwater, will be kept dry and will not be in contact with air. Under these conditions, trash will not decompose much. A landfill is not like a compost pile, where the purpose is to bury trash in such a way that it will decompose quickly.

Edible Landfill Recipe

To help you understand what a landfill looks like under ground, make an “edible landfill.” Assemble the following:

A clear plastic cup which is your landfill cell (or premade tart or pie crust);

Crumble cookies (any kind that will crumble) and place a small layer in the bottom of the cup. This represents the three feet of clay placed in the bottom of the cell to prevent fluids from seeping out;

A thin layer of vanilla pudding for the plastic liner;

Two, one-inch pieces of licorice “whips” to represent leachate collection pipes;

More cookie crumbs to be the sand and gravel layer to protect the pipes and plastic from punctures.

Next add the “garbage”:

1 teaspoon fruit cereal to represent organic waste such as food or leaves;

2 teaspoons rice cereal to represent paper and cardboard which makes up 40 percent of landfill contents. Almost all of this layer could be recycled to save space in the landfills;

Some white chocolate chips for plastics;

Some butterscotch chips for glass;

Mini marshmallows for metals;

Chocolate cereal “rings” for tires;

Top with a small chocolate candy to represent everything else.

Finishing touches:

Drizzle chocolate syrup to show leachate (liquid that drains or “leaches” from a landfill)

Cover with another layer of plastic—vanilla pudding, that is;

Cookie crumbs for soil;

Green sprinkles for grass;

Punch in 2 straws to represent Methane gas collectors.

Eat the “landfill,” if you still have the stomach for it.

Take a field trip to your local landfill and see how your town’s trash is handled. How could you help reduce the items ending up in your landfill?

Home Challenge

Visit the links above to learn more about landfills and choose five ways you can reduce the amount of trash you create at home. Choose two of the five ways you came up with to reduce your family’s waste at home, write them down on a scrap piece of boxboard and hang it on your fridge as a reminder for your whole family to take the challenge!

Get more of these fun learning activities through Girl Scouting. If you can think it, you can do it in Girl Scouts! Girl Scout troops are forming in your community right now. For membership information or to lean more about girl Scouts, call 800-845-0787, or visit us online at

Girl Scouts Go Green

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