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Gold Award Girl Scout turns plastic bags into benches

Gold Award Website - Mackenzie Byron-Chaput

Mackenzie Byron-Chaput earned Girl Scouting’s highest award with effort to recycle plastic and improve Sandown’s conservation area

SANDOWN, NH – Plastic isn’t as easy to recycle as many people think, but getting plastic out of the waste stream and turning it into something useful is exactly what Gold Award Girl Scout Mackenzie Byron-Chaput did with her project, “Plastic Recycling and Awareness.” She has now earned the highest honor for a Girl Scout in grades 9-12, the Girl Scout Gold Award.

Byron-Chaput, 17, of Sandown was determined to educate her community about the need to reduce the amount of plastic being thrown away, where it would take hundreds of years to decompose. The Girl Scout Ambassador put together a brochure to educate her community on the types of plastic that can be recycled and why it is important to recycle. She met with Sandown’s Board of Selectmen and Conservation Commission to get their support in collecting plastic bags, donating those bags to Trex, a manufacturer of plastic items that look and perform like wood, and arranged to turn those bags into two benches, now located at the Sandown Conservation barn, where there is a scenic pond.

“I reached out to my community for all the plastic,” she said. “It was amazing how willing people were to donate for me. There was one kindergarten class who did this whole thing to see who could collect the most plastic. I thought that was really cute. They took a picture with all the plastic.”

Byron-Chaput collected over 1,000 pounds of plastic, filling her garage. The Trex company works with grocery store chains to take plastic, so she carted nearly 100 bags of plastic waste to Hannaford’s and Market Basket, and was able to receive two bench kits from Trex in return.


Mackenzie Byron-Chaput donated this bench and another to the town of Sandown as part of a plastic recycling project that resulted in her earning the Girl Scout Gold Award. (Courtesy photo)


“She had done all the research and I was familiar with the program since one of our members had been involved with the Trex ‘bags to benches’ recycling project, said Pamela Gaudreau, advisor to the Girl Scout and member of the Sandown Conservation Commission. “The project has enormous benefit to the town on many levels. Not only does it serve as an education and outreach opportunity; providing incentives for folks to recycle their plastic, cutting down on waste, greenhouse gases and improving efforts to fight the damaging effects of climate change, but also beautifying the community  and providing spaces to sit and enjoy our town’s natural and historic resources. By enhancing those spaces, the project helps preserve and protect these places for the future. That fits perfectly with the mission statement of the Sandown Heritage Commission: Preserving the past for the future.”

Gaudreau arranged for Byron-Chaput to be recognized with two plaques installed on the benches that acknowledge her work.

A Girl Scout since kindergarten, Byron-Chaput has been an active member for 13 years. Her effort to earn the Gold Award has resulted in sharpening her skills in public speaking, organization, advocacy, and more. But it has also been a way to make friends, go camping, and learn new skills.

“The other girls in my troop, they made it really fun,” she said. “One time we went camping in the winter, which was really cool. We cooked our own food and stuff.”

This Timberlane High School senior who has earned honors with distinction is now looking ahead to college, where she plans to major in psychology.

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Gold Award Girl Scouts don’t just change the world for the better, they change it for good. The Gold Award is earned by girls in grades 9–12 who demonstrate extraordinary leadership in developing sustainable solutions to local, national, and global challenges. Since 1916, Girl Scouts have answered the call to drive lasting, impactful change. They earn college scholarships, demonstrate high educational and career outcomes, and are active in their communities.

Mackenzie Byron-Chaput has answered the call to drive lasting, impactful change, and her Gold Award is a testament to her remarkable dedication to improving her community and the world.

About the Girl Scout Gold Award

  • Gold Award Girl Scouts on average spend one to two years on their project.
  • A Gold Award project must be sustainable after the girl’s involvement ends.
  • The average age of Gold Award Girl Scouts is 17.
  • Since 1916, more than 1 million girls have earned the Gold Award or its equivalent.
  • Gold Award Girl Scouts are entitled to enlist at a higher pay grade when they join the military.
  •  University research indicates that noting you are a Gold Award Girl Scout on a college application is influential in the admissions decision-making process.
  • Twenty-nine young women from New Hampshire and Vermont earned their Gold Award in the 2020-2021 membership year as part of Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains.
  • The Girl Scout Gold Award is the mark of the truly remarkable.

We Are Girl Scouts 

Girl Scouts bring their dreams to life and work together to build a better world. Through programs from coast to coast, Girl Scouts of all backgrounds and abilities can be unapologetically themselves as they discover their strengths and rise to meet new challenges—whether they want to climb to the top of a tree or the top of their class, lace up their boots for a hike or advocate for climate justice, or make their first best friends. Backed by trusted adult volunteers, mentors, and millions of alums, Girl Scouts lead the way as they find their voices and make changes that affect the issues most important to them. To join us, volunteer, reconnect, or donate, visit 

Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains serves girls throughout New Hampshire and Vermont through volunteer-run troops, events, and virtual programs. Visit to learn more.