A new year. Time for making plans and changes for the better in our lives. Time to look forward to what we can do to accomplish our goals. For me, this is a time to reflect on the past and simplify. It is time to get rid of the clutter.
It was during this time of clutter removal at work that I was sorting through some of my books and information I have accumulated during my almost 14 years as Keep Boone County Beautiful Coordinator. One of these books was from when I was lucky enough to attend the joint Keep Iowa Beautiful and Keep Nebraska Beautiful conferences in 2001 and 2002 at the Lied Conference Center in Nebraska City, Neb. These were the beginning years for Keep Iowa Beautiful. Keep Nebraska Beautiful had been around since 1964 and became a Keep America Beautiful Affiliate in 1980.
It is now several years later, and the same concerns that were shared at those early conferences still hold true today. Studies show that litter comes from motorists, pedestrians, household activities, haulers, dumpsters and construction sites. Litter is actually misplaced garbage, and recyclables and should be properly managed. Behaviors need to change, and all of us need to stop using excuses for how litter is generated.
Goals are still the same: prevent litter, beautify and improve communities and minimize the negative impact of waste. Picking up litter verses preventing litter is all in education, but how do you make sure that education is reaching everyone?
Studies show that differences are made through education and communication, partnerships, enforcement, assessments and recognizing and rewarding accomplishments. If young people take pride in their city and county when they are young there is a higher rate where they stay local after graduating. These young people continue to take pride through participating in service groups and the like.
Our annual Dragoon River Romp continues to provide volunteers with a great learning opportunity as well as continuing to remove garbage and recyclables from our beautiful Des Moines River and its banks. I am frequently asked what we will do when there is no litter to pick up in and along the river. I just tell them, “Wouldn’t that be a wonderful thing to have happen? To just be able to float down the river and enjoy the scenery and the wildlife?”
After eight events of removing several tons each time, that moment hasn’t yet come. What is great is the continued support of our volunteers. Many return yearly but we get a lot of new volunteers, too. If we can get the word out to enough people, could we really achieve that goal of nothing to pick up?
Have you kept your New Year’s Resolutions? Is volunteering more and being more active on your list?
Information provided by Lois Powers, Keep Boone County Beautiful coordinator.