Keep America Beautiful- Get Involved Locally!

Written by Kathy L., and Pat M., Sprout Contributors

There are many things to concern ourselves with in these troubled times, and sometimes we may feel helpless to change anything about our own individual situations. But, we can make change, and each change can make a difference, not just in our own lives, but for the greater good as well.

Keep America Beautiful
Keep America Beautiful has been around since 1953, when a group of individuals formed the organization, aimed at reducing the amount of littering on public lands, highways and waterways, by encouraging Americans to take pride in their country. It is the nation’s largest volunteer based community action and education group. Since it’s conception, it has grown in leaps and bounds with campaigns and promotions such as:

  • Canine TV star Lassie appearing as mascot for an anti-littering campaign
  • President Reagan endorsing the Clean Community System
  • the Take Pride in America program, created to promote wise use of public lands

Keep America Beautiful has a core belief in their mission that beauty is a silent but powerful force that makes communities safer, healthier and more livable. Says Keep America Beautiful, “‘Beauty’ is in our name, it’s the result of everything we do and it’s what our organization is all about – citizens, government and businesses uniting to create better communities and contributing to a more beautiful world. We know that when a community and its residents unite with beautification as a common purpose, transformations occur not only in the physical surroundings, but in the hearts and minds of everyone involved.”

Incorporating visual beauty into public spaces has proven to be an effective method for raising property values, reducing crime, enhancing the local economy, and improving public health.

The Keep America Beautiful mission requires diverse partnerships with all community stakeholders. Working together — businesses, government, neighborhoods, individuals and other nonprofit teams — we can be successful in improving our communities.

Earth Day
Earth Day is intended to inspire awareness and appreciation for the Earth’s natural environment. Earth Day was founded by United States Senator Gaylord Nelson as an environmental teach-in first held on April 22, 1970. While this first Earth Day was focused on the United States, an organization launched by Denis Hayes, who was the original national coordinator in 1970, took it international in 1990 and organized events in 141 nations. Earth Day is now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network, and is celebrated in more than 175 countries every year.

On April 22, 1970, Earth Day marked the beginning of the modern environmental movement. Approximately 20 million Americans participated. Thousands of colleges and universities organized protests against the deterioration of the environment. Groups that had been fighting against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways and expressways, the loss of wilderness, and air pollution suddenly realized they shared common values.

The first Earth Day in 1970 succeeded in garnering support from Republicans and Democrats alike. It transcended economic status and brought together people from cities, towns, and farming communities. It inspired the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts. In 1990, Earth Day gained global support – its organizers were able to mobilize 200 million people from 141 countries. The 1990 Earth Day brought the importance of recycling to the forefront. Earth Day 2000 drew together 5,000 environmental groups and reached out to hundreds of millions of people in 184 countries.

Get Involved Locally!
There is no Keep America Beautiful office or affiliate in Erie County currently, but that should not prevent us from getting involved in reducing litter in our own communities. Look for activities in your neighborhood or community: celebrate Earth Day on April 22, 2011, and work together to Keep your corner of America Beautiful all year long. Here are a few ideas we came up with:

Have a Picnic for the Planet:
On Earth Day or any day join the earth and have a day out – in the park, on the block or even in your own backyard. Invite neighbors and make it BYOB (Bring Your Own Blanket), and pack a lunch that exemplifies the Picnic for the Planet goals of eating green, smart, and local.

After eating, people can go to various places on the block to plant gardens and trees or to pick up trash. Or the work part could come first and then afterward everyone can eat and talk about what they accomplished.

Turn Leftover Household Items into Useable Craft Materials
A plastic jug becomes a watering can; a cereal box recovered with scrap paper holds magazines; a redecorated detergent bottle is the right size for scooping dog food; an old toothbrush does double-duty as a bracelet.

Clean up and Beautify

  • Organize a project to clean up or beautify some areas in your town. Make sure you have a plan to take care of the spot after you’ve made it nice.
  • Take a new look at junk, or change the wold, one bit at a time… Recycle and Reuse!

All of us can do a little bit to make the environment “greener” and more enjoyable to everyone. Just keeping your own yard and space clean makes a difference. Do as much or as little as you are able in celebration of Earth Day.