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.
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.
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.
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: https://kab.org/litter/litter-study/. Accessed March 28, 2923.
National Day Calendar. Keep America Beautiful Month — April. Available at: https://nationaldaycalendar.com/keep-america-beautiful-month-april/. Accessed March 28, 20o23.