By the early 1950’s, Virginia’s roadways had become a dumping ground for people’s trash and the Commonwealth realized that it needed to find a solution to this ever growing problem. Thus, in the spring of 1953, the national “Don’t Be a Litterbug” slogan was adopted and the Virginia Anti-Litterbug Council was formed. The purpose of this organization was “to encourage the proper disposal of empty containers and all other forms of trash that mar Virginia highways, farms, and public places”. By the end of that year, Keep America Beautiful (KAB) was incorporated to fight the litter problem on a national level. KAB used the first major clean-up project developed by the VA Anti-Litterbug Council (the Culpeper District Project) as the testing ground and measuring stick for the nation. In 1956, the VA Anti-Litterbug Council changed its name to Keep Virginia Beautiful (KVB) and became an official affiliate of KAB. During the next several years and throughout its history, KVB has expanded its efforts to include educating the public, media publicity, and local clean-up campaigns.
In 1960, KVB established a Board of Trustees to assist the President in determining and carrying out the policies and programs of the organization. A new educational campaign, “The Governor’s Program to Keep Virginia Beautiful” and new stricter anti-litter enforcement statutes were adopted. By 1965, KVB created a system of annual awards to cities, counties and towns for “outstanding achievement in the field of litter prevention”. As the 70’s arrived, KVB, equipped with a full-time executive director and secretary, began to consider the need for total environmental improvements throughout the Commonwealth. Armed with the support of other water and air pollution groups, as well as many local businesses, the State Health Dept. and the Commission of Game and Inland Fisheries, KVB embarked on a vigorous campaign to clean-up Virginia’s waterways and establish 56 sanitary landfills (while closing 33 unauthorized dump sites). KVB continued to receive state and national awards for its sustained superior achievements in its environmental programs and anti-litter campaigns, gaining prestige, support and national acclaim. In 1976, the Virginia General Assembly passed the Virginia Litter Control Act to help implement and fund the Division of Litter Control (DLC). DLC helped establish a grants program to localities for education, control, prevention and elimination of litter. The DLC and KVB worked together to promote anti-litter campaigns and create the Clean Virginia Awards.
By 1980, 68% of VA localities had implemented some form of the DLC/KVB anti-litter model. KVB had earned every major award and had become “the finest state effort in America!” according to the President of KAB. Again, KVB’s Board sought to expand its role which resulted in several new programs; college and university litter control, Certificate of Recognition for litter-free businesses, and Keep Virginia Beautiful Landscape excellence awards.
The 1990’s saw the annual presence of KVB at the State Fair of Virginia, continuation of Landscape Excellence awards, and renewed energy to prevent roadside litter prevention. Cigarette Litter became the most common type of roadside litter and the national Cigarette Litter Prevention Programs began to take shape in the Commonwealth.
There was also a national shift created to emphasize recycling and the important role it plays in litter prevention and waste reduction. Throughout the 90’s, VA Governors recognized the importance of “Keeping Virginia Beautiful” and proclaimed the first week in April, “Keep Virginia Beautiful Week”, to encourage litter pick-ups, recycling events, and community beautification efforts.
With the start of the millenium, KVB was going through changes as an organization and its effectiveness as mainly a volunteer run group. As the decade progressed, the “need” for a strong voice in Virginia was becoming more apparent. A Steering Committee of key stakeholders representing litter prevention, recycling, beautification and environmental education started to have informal conversations. A capacity-building grant from the Altria Group in Richmond helped spearhead the efforts. The result in 2009 was the completion of a process to launch a three year strategic plan for addressing important needs and goals for Virginia. A new board of directors came together to help take the next steps to move the plan even farther toward reaching our overall mission: To engage and unite Virginians to improve our natural and scenic environments.
Keep Virginia Beautiful has worked hard to regain its former prominence as a leading statewide voice of green issues. Some of the successful programs established recently include; cigarette litter prevention campaigns in local and state parks, increased recycling in the 35 Virginia State Parks, “30 Grants in 30 Days”, “Everyday is Earth Day”, ” A Bag’s Life”, “Give 60”, and “Get Caught in a Beautiful Act”. KVB has worked hard to bring back the issue of litter, specifically cigarette litter which incorporates 38% of all litter. With Dominion’s help, KVB was able to supply all 35 State Parks with additional recycling carts in Fall of 2012. “30 Grants in 30 Days” is arguably KVB’s most successful campaign and certainly most anticipated. This program gives funding to small and large communities, schools, parks, neighborhoods, and civic groups to help battle Virginia’s environmental issues on the front lines. 2013 marked KVB’s 60th Anniversary. In January of 2015, Keep Virginia Beautiful launched the Inaugural Shiver in the River.
KVB Executive Directors, Through the Years
- Douglas B. Moore, Jr. 1967-1969
- Paul Sanders 1969-1982
- Earl Shiflet 1982-1995
- John S. Bailey 1995-1996
- Robert Hundley 1996-2010
- Michael Baum 2010-present
KVB Presidents of the Board of Directors, Through the Years
- A.B. Burton 1955-1961
- W. Calvin Falwell 1961-1963
- Iva Massie 1963-1967
- Earl Shiflet 1967-1973
- Giles H. Miller, Jr 1973-1979
- Brooks George 1979-1983
- John B. Adams, Jr. 1983-1991
- James M. Frye 1991-1994
- Maurice Rowe, III 1994-2009
- Alisia Rudd 2010-2012
- Kim Hynes 2012-present