To engage and unite Virginians to improve our natural and scenic environment.

Thinking too big for the Great American Cleanup?

A recent survey asked Americans how they viewed our various states.  Did they like the state?  Would they visit?  It should come as no surprise to any of you that our fair Commonwealth ranked number five.  People like us.  They really do.  Now don’t you want to pitch in to keep us pretty for our red carpet walk?

Great American CleanupWe’re gearing up for the Great American Cleanup.  It will take place in April to coincide with Earth Day on April 22nd.  We kind of think of April as “Earth Month”, but that’s just us.  We’re partnering with askHRGreen and Keep America Beautiful to get things rolling in earnest in Hampton on April 27th, but those of you in other parts of the Commonwealth have every opportunity to make an impact.

Wise County is having theirs on April 21st.  They are having a cleanup at Guest River Gorge on the 19th of April.  Guest River Gorge is in the Jefferson National Forest and features some wonderful trails that follow some old rail beds to offer up some spectacular scenery.Guest River Gorge

Project Clean Stream is working with the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay to clean up some waterways on the 14th.  We know that they’ll do their part to protect the streams and rivers that feed into The Bay.  If the weather participates it is sure to be a great way to see some wildlife.

But what if you’re not the crowd type?  Agoraphobic?  Maybe there are things that you can do around your own home or neighborhood to make a personal impact.

Shortly after Hurricane Irene came through Virginia, some friends in Richmond got to know their neighbors a little better.  A resident of the historic Fan District stuck a little note in everyone’s door:

“Dear Neighbor:

Our recent storm wreaked havoc with our common alley, and we’re now all struggling to park our vehicles and reach our trashcans.  I will be working to clean up the alley on this coming Saturday morning.

Sincerely Yours, Sonny”

On Saturday morning, 85-year old Sonny marched outside with a handful of rakes and tree-trimmers.  His next-door neighbor met him with an urn of piping hot coffee.  The art student slackers at the end of the block came ambling down with several boxes of muffins and donuts.  By 11 a.m. a crowd of 40 or so people had gathered and by early afternoon they were eating pizzas and drinking beer.  Alley Cleanup accomplished.

A friend in the Northern Virginia shared a story of business owners banding together.  Local hooligans had been tagging stores and businesses with senseless graffiti.  The owners gathered at a café on a weekend morning and invited a member of the local police department.  Many of the business owners had security cameras that captured grainy video of the miscreants in action.  They shared the videos with each other, with the police, and then got to work.  Using paints donated by a local hardware store, they started at one end of the business district and began painting each other’s shops and stores.  Not only did they beautify the community, it brought their alliance as local business owners closer together.

Some friends in the Valley did their part in a typical small Virginia town.  A stretch of road featured houses every 50 yards or so, with each parcel backing up to farmland.  The farmland gave way to mountains, with a stream marking the boundary between man and nature.  Things from “town” were typically washed down stream with each spring thunderstorm, and the “crick” had become clogged with shopping carts and other trash.  Each storm would bring waters into the farmland.  The folks of the Valley got together to clean the “crick” of debris, beautifying their land and bringing some security to their livelihood.

Dog HydrantA small community near Virginia Beach prettified their area.  Everything in their area is above ground, and sometimes the infrastructure just looked ugly.  They got together with their local fire department and had a fire hydrant contest.  Each block came up with a plan to decorate their particular hydrant, and the winner won the ‘privilege’ of hosting a cookout.  A “Hydrant Tour” featured dogs, firemen, farmers, fish, abstract art, and a Super-Mario hydrant.  They proved that hydrants aren’t just for dogs.

It would be nice if we all connected with our communities for the Great American Cleanup.  But what each of us does makes a difference.

Maybe it’s what you do in your own yard.  Spring is a great time to plant some flowers.  Hit your own yard, or seed-bomb the patch of dirt in your sidewalk.  Spend an hour cleaning up the street in front of your house, or the alley behind your apartment.  Gather up the junk mail littering the porch.  Small things add up.

When you look at the mission of Keep Virginia Beautiful, it’s not complicated:  “To engage and unite Virginians to improve our natural and scenic environment.”  It’s what we look at every day.  We do this through our impact areas; litter prevention, recycling, waste reduction, beautification, and education.  We don’t do this with a lot of money, an army of volunteers, or acts of congress; we do it with you.  With little actions that we take every day.

The Dalai Lama sums it up well when he says, “If you think that you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.”

April is almost here, so start pestering.