No coincidence Great American Cleanup brackets Earth Day

Keep Durham Beautiful counts on Earth Day enthusiasm to engage volunteers.
Apr. 06, 2013 @ 12:38 PM

Forty two years ago this month, Keep America Beautiful (KAB) launched a new campaign for Earth Day with the theme "People Start Pollution. People can stop it." The 1971 ad campaign, designed by the Ad Council featuring the now-iconic "Crying Indian" played by the actor Iron Eyes Cody, connected viewers emotionally to their environment and empowered them to make a difference.

The Public Service Announcement (PSA) showed a Native American canoeing across pristine waters that became increasingly polluted. He watched with tears as motorists threw trash out the window onto the roadway and formerly pristine lands. It brought pollution awareness to viewers nationwide and is credited with jumpstarting the environmental movement.

Earth Day has always been used to bring awareness to environmental issues of the day and serves as a catalyst for volunteer action and personal responsibility. Just last Earth Day, KAB partnered with the Ad Council to launch a comical PSA featuring the characters from the animated film “Ice Age 4” to reach a younger audience.

The Great American Cleanup, a nationwide program of KAB, takes place annually in March through May, with Earth Day anchoring events in the middle of April. Each year affiliates like Keep Durham Beautiful engage volunteers to deliver positive and lasting impact through events focused on waste reduction, recycling, beautification and community greening. In 2012, KAB reported that 4.2 million Great American Cleanup volunteers worked to return nearly $230 million in measurable benefits in 20,000 communities across the country, making it the largest program of its kind.

Great America Cleanup projects are accomplished through a combination of community organizing, public education and the fostering of public/private partnerships. Activities include community beautification, litter clean-ups, cigarette litter prevention, park and trail maintenance, recycling collections, tree plantings, community gardening and educational programs.

Durham’s Great American Cleanup is the perfect framework to motivate volunteers to join in the effort to clean up and green up. Here are a few great Durham projects to motivate you to get involved:

-- N.C. Department of Transportation “Litter Sweep” is April 13-27. Volunteers and adopt-a-highway groups can obtain orange trash bags, blue recycle bags, orange safety vests and gloves from the NCDOT Durham County maintenance office. (

-- City of Durham Solid Waste Management Department will hold a paper shredding and electronic waste collection event April 20 at the Durham County Memorial Stadium, 750 Stadium Drive.

-- Durham Earth Day Festival will take place on April 21 from noon to 5 p.m. at Durham Central Park.

-- “Build a Better Block (B3) Old Five Points” on Mangum Street invites volunteers to work the next two Saturdays, April 13 and April 20, from 11 a.m. –2 p.m., to create a vision of a more vibrant neighborhood through cleanup and beautification projects.

To celebrate Old Five Points, B3 will close Mangum Street from Corporation to City Hall on April 27th from 3 – 4:30 p.m. and invites everyone to a “Thanksgiving in Spring” feast, with the community around

one table.

Tania Dautlick is executive director of Keep Durham Beautiful.