How do you create positive community change? That is a good question. It is one that the national organization, Keep America Beautiful, has been fine tuning a solution since the 1950s.
Keep America Beautiful is one of the leading environmental education organizations in America. More than 1,100 affiliates, like Keep Liberty Beautiful, work with KAB to create solutions in our local communities that:
• create clean, beautiful public places
• reduce waste and increase recycling
• generate positive impact on the local economy and economic development
• inspire generations of environmental stewards
Established in 1953, Keep America Beautiful, with its local affiliates, works to create communities that are environmentally healthy. In our minds, environmentally healthy is the stepping stone to creating a vibrant community.
We work on the assumption, as well as a lot of research, that thriving communities are rooted in individual responsibility and action. That means taking ownership and having lasting change that happens when people connect and work together.
We try to recruit local citizens who will commit to preserving natural beauty, protecting the environment, preventing blight, improving public lands and greenspaces and making communities safer and happier places to live.
Improving the environment and the quality of life of communities begins with that personal responsibility and behavior change, individuals becoming engaged stewards of the environment. It starts with volunteers who are locally concerned and locally active. Their efforts combine to become part of KAB’s larger, national movement.
The next step is creating community awareness about the concerns and engaging citizens in the community who care and are willing to help change happen. Then we broaden that to engaging partners, like organizations, businesses, local governments, churches and schools. We then connect them and work on those changes together.
Volunteers are a powerful group. Their enthusiasm is also contagious, which means their numbers grow! The other element needed in this recipe for a thriving community is to measure results and provide positive feedback. Rome was not built in a day and neither are blossoming and vibrant communities, but they do grow with consistent effort.
To us, the first step with any community is addressing the litter problem. The powers that be now define litter as “misplaced solid waste.” That is a politically correct way of saying that someone is trashing our community instead of disposing of their trash correctly. All the pretty flowers in the world will not hide the fact that trash is there, too.
Some facts about litter:
• Litter costs the U.S. almost $11.5 billion annually, and businesses pay $9.1 billion of that total.
• About 85 percent of littering is the result of individual attitudes. The individual (e.g. individual “behavior”) is the most important factor in whether littering will occur. If someone thinks littering is wrong, they won’t do it. If they feel social pressure to not litter, they won’t do it.
• Nearly one in five, or 17 percent, of individuals observed disposing of waste did so improperly (i.e., littered). Moreover, 81 percent of the littering occurred with notable intent, which means they did it on purpose.
By addressing the physical aspects of our community, such as neighborhoods, playgrounds, business areas and more, as well as our natural spaces, like waterways, trails and state parks, we can positively affect the built environment and create a community that is vibrant and that we are proud of.
If you are not volunteering yet with Keep Liberty Beautiful, we still have room for you. A quality of life that is vibrant is within our reach. Join us by contacting Keep Liberty Beautiful at 912-880-4888 or firstname.lastname@example.org.