In the beginning
At Sidewalk Buttler, we frequently hear from the groups we work with how one person with passion and determination can have a huge impact on their community and surrounding areas. We’d like to share some of these stories so that others can be as inspired as we have been.
One year ago, a new Keep America Beautiful affiliate was born from just one person picking up litter at Panama City Beach, Florida. After a post went up on Facebook about their efforts, they were joined by several others. This soon became a group of 12 who met weekly to clean up litter at one of two beaches and, afterwards, enjoy one another’s company over drinks.
The Evolution of a KAB Affiliate
As time went on, Joann, an active member of the group, became interested in evolving into a non-profit to increase their positive impact. She reached out to the national headquarters for Keep America Beautiful and a meeting with KAB affiliate Keep Florida Beautiful was set up at a local restaurant. Joann invited her county commissioner and city council members to the meeting so they could be informed about (and support) the group’s efforts. This meeting became the spark that created Keep Panama City Beach Beautiful (Keep PCB Beautiful).
The group went to work to meet all the requirements needed to become a KAB affiliate and even worked through a hurricane evacuation! Despite every obstacle, they received their affiliate status in 2019, and Keep PCB Beautiful just celebrated their one-year anniversary. The celebratory anniversary party was filled to capacity with over 100 attendees. Congratulations, Keep PCB Beautiful — we hope you keep going strong for the environment!
What can one little group accomplish?
In only one year, they have already hosted dozens of events, including weekly Wednesday evening beach clean-ups with adult beverages post-cleanup. Who said picking up litter isn’t fun?
They initiated the beautification of a local Senior Center by collaborating with Sweet Bay Native Plant Society to put in a pollinator garden, and installed benches made of recycled plastic. They also purchased a new flag for the center, and power washed and touched up the exterior of the building.
On Halloween, they hosted an event table where kids could pledge to pick up five pieces of litter a day and also created a bean toss game using trash and a trash can. Getting kids involved and invested in keeping their environment clean and green is a winning strategy every time.
On Earth Day, in exchange for anyone handing in 25 plastic grocery bags, they gave out a reusable bag, and for 20 single use plastic bottles, they exchanged a reusable water bottle. Showing how easy it is for people to do the right thing — and rewarding them for it with freebies — can have a huge impact on reducing single use plastics.
Keep PCB Beautiful also keeps people in the loop about their events through social media. Joann tells us they recently posted a beach clean up that received 2500 views, and because of their strong social media game, the news media is now showing up to cover their events and activities. Spreading the word works if you work it!
Just do it
When I asked Joann what advice she had for others who might want to do the same thing in their own community, she said: "Just do it!"
Though Keep PCB Beautiful has only been operational for a year, they have already received $48,000 in grants and donations and have hosted a total of 47 events, all of which have had a positive impact on their community. And it all started with a single individual who decided to clean up their local beach.
Joann also tells us that collaboration with other non-profits and businesses is key to a successful anti-littering campaign at any level. Keep PCB Beautiful has joined forces with the Fish and Wildlife Commission, Audubon Society and local turtle experts for beach cleanups. Their calls for volunteers go out from their partner organizations and can bring experts to provide education for volunteers on shore birds and turtle migratory habits. It’s a definite win-win-win for everyone involved.
No more litter
Through their ongoing efforts, Keep PCB Beautiful hopes that the need for litter pickups will diminish as people learn not to litter. Then their activities can shift to beautification projects like the one at the Senior Center. They hope to initiate a community garden as well as a “Clean Where You Are” program for church, youth and other groups to take ownership of an area to keep litter-free and beautiful.
Wherever this group takes their efforts next, we know that what they leave behind is not only a cleaner, greener community for all, but also the inspiration that one person with determination can make a big difference.
What anti-littering or beautification initiatives could you start in your own community to inspire others? Let’s all pledge to take that vital first step!