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.
KAB is one of the leading environmental education organizations in America. Over 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, being environmentally healthy is the stepping stone to creating a vibrant community. We work on the assumption and a lot of research that thriving communities are rooted in individual responsibility and action — that is, taking ownership — and lasting change happens when people connect and work together.
We try to recruit 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 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 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 — organizations, businesses, local governments, churches, and schools — to connect and work on those changes together. Volunteers are a powerful group. Their enthusiasm is 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. Neither are blossoming, vibrant communities, but they do grow with consistent effort.
To me, the first step with any community is addressing litter.
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.
According to KAB:
• Litter costs the country almost $11.5 billion annually, and businesses pay $9.1 billion of that.
• About 85 percent of littering is the result of individual attitudes. If a person thinks littering is wrong, they won’t do it. If they feel social pressure to not litter, they won’t do it.
• Nearly 1 in 5, or 17 percent, of individuals who were witnessed disposing waste did it improperly (i.e., littered). Moreover, 81 percent of the littering occurred with notable intent.
Consider these findings on roadway and non-roadway litter from a 2009 series of research for KAB:
There are more than 51 billion pieces of litter on U.S. roadways, 4.6 billion of which are larger than 4 inches. Research shows that littering along roadways is generated by individual actions:
• Motorists (52 percent)
• Pedestrians (22.8 percent)
• Improperly covered truck or cargo loads, including collection vehicles (16.4 percent)
• Improperly secured containers, dumpsters, trash cans or residential waste or recycling bins (1.5 percent)
Litter originates from many sources, but primarily collects in these areas (ranked from where most non-roadway litter occurs to least):
• Transition points — These are entrances to businesses, transportation centers and other places where items must be discarded before entering. Confection (candy, chocolate, gum, etc.) ranks at the top (53.7 percent) of what is littered there; this is followed by cigarette butts at 29.8 percent.
• Storm drains — Located primarily in gutters and designed to drain excess rain from paved streets, parking lots, etc. storm drains tend to attract cigarette butts, confection, and other litter.
• Loading docks — These areas can become littered with cigarette butts, confection and paper.
• Recreational areas — Parks, beaches, courts and open areas where people congregate are prime spots for littering.
• Construction sites — Active residential or commercial construction are a trap for cigarette butts, paper and plastic.
• Retail — High-traffic locations such as shopping centers, strip malls and convenience stores can generate litter.
By addressing the physical aspects of our community, we can positively affect the built environment and create a community that is vibrant and makes us proud. 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 calling 880-4888 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.