Back in 1971, The Keep America Beautiful organization teamed up with the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts to create Keep American Beautiful Day.  It was expanded in 1982 to a week, and then to the entire month of April in 1984. As spring takes hold of the weather and the landscape awaken with the greening of trees and grasses, the blooming of wildflowers and the melodies of nesting songbirds, we, too, ought to take special notice of our beautiful environment—and do something to, as they say, keep it beautiful.

A 2021 Keep America Beautiful clean-up team (photo by Ben Nelson)

Keeping America Beautiful was a cause well before 1971, however.  The Keep America Beautiful (KAB) organization began in 1953 in New York City with the goal of preventing litter. It was in the same year as the first Keep America Beautiful Day, that KAB developed one of the most successful public service announcements ever.  It featured a Native American who paddled his canoe down a polluted stream and stopped at a litter-strewn shore.  A passing motorist threw a bag of trash that landed at the Native American’s feet.  At the end, he turned to face the camera and shed a single tear.

One of the leaders of the early drive to beautify America was Lady Bird Johnson, wife of president Lyndon Baines Johnson.  As First Lady during the mid 1960s, she chose beautifying the countryside as one of her key initiatives (learn more about her here).  Her timing couldn’t have been  better, as the late 60s and early 70s was a time of environmental awakening in the U.S. and around the world.

Lady Bird Johnson in 1990 (photo by Frank Wolfe)

Another aspect of keeping the joint beautiful—and sustainable—also traces to April.  The first Earth Day was held on April 22, 1970.  The brainchild of U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, Gaylord Nelson, Earth Day was intended to be a one-off (learn more about him here).  As we all know, Earth Day has occurred every year since then, has expanded to be a global celebration and continues to inspire us to treat the earth better (learn more about Earth Day here).

And it has all been working.  KAB reported in a major review of littering in 2020 that there are 50 billion pieces of litter despoiling our roadsides and riverbanks.  That’s a big number, but they counted carefully—only 6 billion of them are bigger than four inches.  The good news is that the amount of litter is down 54% since their previous 2009 study.  

A 2013 Earth Day celebration in Kobe, Japan (photo by MtiK)

Forget the statistics.  We all know that we want a beautiful world, and that litter is ugly.  So, how about helping to solve the problem.  Remember, every litter bit helps!


Keep America Beautiful.  2020 Litter Study.  Available at:  Accessed March 28, 2923.

National Day Calendar.  Keep America Beautiful Month — April.  Available at:  Accessed March 28, 20o23.

This Month in Conservation

October 1
Yosemite National Park Created (1890)
October 2
San Diego Zoo Founded (1916)
October 3
James Herriot, English Veterinarian, Born (1916)
October 4
Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi, Patron Saint of Ecology
October 5
Catherine Cooper Hopley, British Herpetologist, Born (1817)
October 6
Mad Hatter’s Day
October 7
Henry A. Wallace, Secretary of Agriculture, Born (1888)
October 8
World Octopus Day
October 9
Vajont Dam Disaster (1963)
October 10
Dnieper Dam Began Operation (1932)
October 11
Big Cypress and Big Thicket National Preserves Created (1974)
October 12
William Laurance, Tropical Conservationist, Born (1957)
October 13
International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction
October 14
Timpanogos Cave National Monument Created (1922)
October 14
Dr. Mamie Parker, Pioneering African American Fisheries Scientist and Leader, Born (1957)
October 15
Isabella Bird, Pioneering Eco-traveler, Born (1831)
October 16
World Food Day
October 17
Oliver Rackham born (1939)
October 18
Clean Water Act established (1972)
October 19
Research Vessel Albatross Launched (1882)
October 20
OPEC Oil Embargo (1973)
October 21
“Ding” Darling born (1876)
October 22
Wombat Day
October 23
Cumberland Island National Seashore established (1972)
October 24
Antoni von Leeuwenhoek born (1632)
October 25
Secretary of the Interior Convicted in Teapot Dome Scandal (1929)
October 26
Erie Canal Opens (1825)
October 27
Golden Gate and Gateway National Recreation Areas Created (1972)
October 28
Henry Mosby, Wild Turkey Biologist, Born (1913)
October 28
First Ticker-tape Parade Held (1886)
October 29
Stanley Park, Vancouver, Dedicated (1889)
October 30
UNESCO Designates 9 Natural World Heritage Sites (1981)
October 31
Lincoln Highway Dedicated (1913)
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