Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, Indianapolis, IN

The Youth Tree Team program at Keep Indianapolis Beautiful is wrapping up for the summer. High school students from around the city worked to mulch, water and maintain more than 5,000 trees each week. The students carry 2 buckets of water ( 80lbs! ) to each tree once a week. It’s a lot of hard work, but there is also a lot of fun to be had.
During the summer, the high school students work three days a week, then on Thursdays they participate in enrichment activities. Activities this year included rafting on the White River, creating art out of nature at the Indianapolis Art Center and learning how to follow a compass during an orienteering lesson.
The teens also took an overnight wilderness trip in the woods where they hiked, participate in leadership and team building activities and learn how to identify trees.
This year, 61 high school students and 16 adult leaders participated in the program, but the work doesn’t stop with the end of the summer! During the fall and early winter, the students return on weekends to help water, mulch and plant trees around Indianapolis.

Keep Stockwell Beautiful, Stockwell, IN

James Cole Elementary  3rd, 4th and 5th grade students participated in Cole Kids’ Cleanup Stockwell, which is their award-winning service project. This was their seventh year helping Keep Stockwell Beautiful, Keep America Beautiful’s smallest affiliate!

Alcoa Foundation Recycle Bins Are Making The Difference In Collegiate Recycling

In 2012, 33 colleges and universities received 19,948 recycling bins courtesy of the Alcoa Foundation. After one year of use in residential halls, stadiums, student unions and administration buildings, the numbers reported prove that these bins do indeed make a difference in campus recycling efforts.

Overall, 2.5 million pounds of recyclables were collected with an average of 6,734 people having access to these bins on a daily basis. According to Dr. Sue Gaylor, vice president of administration and planning at Lycoming College, “Between 2011 and 2012, we saw a decrease in the college’s waste (non-recyclables) tonnage by 156 tons. The Alcoa Foundation grant helped Lycoming College execute its commitment to recycling and sustainability. These recycling bins are one of several successful initiatives that the Sustainability Office has achieved in 2012.” Additionally, Southern Illinois University in Carbondale saw its campus recycling rates rise by 7%, while Arizona State University was able to place its recycling bins in highly utilized areas on campus, thereby enhancing campus engagement around its recycling program.

Since 2011, the Alcoa Foundation has provided more than 82,000 blue recycling bins to 81 colleges and universities. The Alcoa Foundation Bin Grant Program is an effort to help schools boost and expand their recycling collections throughout the year.

Tell us how your recycling bin program boosted your recycling efforts at home, school or work.

Green Urban Initiative, Harrisburg, PA

On May 4, roughly 50 volunteers participated in the construction of the Wesley Union Community Garden. The garden, located at the Wesley Union AME Zion Church in Harrisburg’s Uptown community, is the fifth community vegetable garden developed under Green Urban Initiative’s Community Garden Campaign in the city of Harrisburg, PA.

20 garden plots were constructed at the site along with two plots constructed specifically for native pollinator friendly plants and a tool shed stocked with gardening tools. A 650 gallon rainwater collection system is slated for installation later on this summer.

Thanks to the support of Lowe’s and KAB, the development of this garden will not only help to feed families within the community but will also provide a gathering place, assisting the church in it’s efforts to combat blight and crime by engaging it’s neighbors in community activities.

Keep Bakersfield Beautiful – Lowe’s Grant – CA

Keep Bakersfield Beautiful Blog for 2012 Keep America Beautiful/Lowe’s Community Improvement Grant for $5,000

Keep Bakersfield Beautiful (KBB) community garden projects grow hope in the hearts of volunteers who live in neighborhoods known to struggle with crime. KBB is honored to be an instrument to transform nearly a combined 37,000 square feet of space in these blighted neighborhoods plagued with burglaries, gang activity, and graffiti. Armed with an arsenal of contributors, including an invaluable $5,000 Keep America Beautiful/Lowe’s Community Improvement grant leading the way, KBB is empowered to cultivate community leaders through the creation of community gardens. This KAB/Lowe’s grant was the metaphorical seed money to build momentum for the Greenfield Walking Group Garden and A Fresh Start Garden in Southeast Bakersfield.

The Greenfield Walking Group has been a group of concerned families and friends for several years. They started out being a bunch of moms who took strolls together with their children. They first began to make a presence in the news when they took the lead to motivate community improvements around a dilapidated neighborhood park surrounded by gang activity. They spearheaded the change and reclaimed the park as a family-friendly space. Years ago, KBB began working with the Greenfield Walking Group regularly to clean up litter and graffiti in the neighborhood. Our commitment to improving it together expanded into an Adopt A Neighborhood program, which included the potential for community gardening and beautification projects in the future. Well, the future is now. KBB and the Greenfield Walking Group hope this community garden will be a 15,600 square foot safe zone for neighbors to enjoy together for the betterment of their community.

More than 250 pairs of hands from as close as next door to as far as Lincoln, Nebraska have happily gotten dirty to make this garden beautiful. Some volunteers come for a day, others are core members who were there from brainstorming to planning to planting – all are valued, all are necessary. Some of the outstanding volunteers who are not a part of the Greenfield Walking Group are Dora, a Russian immigrant who resides in one of Bakersfield’s most affluent enclaves, has become the unofficial project manager, Dora’s star volunteer is Jason, a 13 year old who lives in a mobile home park several blocks away, and 54 blessed volunteers from Nebraska, some of whom believe divine intervention brought them to Bakersfield to finish building the Greenfield Walking Group Garden.

The Youth of Messiah Lutheran Church of Lincoln, Nebraska travels annually to do mission work, but they weren’t scheduled to do service in Bakersfield. The youth group got a disappointing last minute phone call right before 54 of them were to fly out to help another non-profit in a tiny rural town 98.7 miles North of the Greenfield Walking Group Garden. The caller told them not come because of a terrible intestinal flu outbreak. Since their plane tickets weren’t refundable, the Youth of Messiah Lutheran Church came to California anyway. They went to a Lutheran church in Bakersfield and asked for suggestions for a new missionary project. That’s how they found us. It became a news story and sponsors stepped in to support the mission work, which in turn provided a boost in manpower and funding to finish what we thought would be future phases of our garden project. Thanks to them we have creatively painted block-walls surrounding two sides of the garden; crop rows planted with a variety of food from sweet berries to spicy chilies; spikey flowers along the fence for added security; and raised beds for herbs. When the youth got back home to Nebraska, they emailed us to say they never worked as hard, never had so much fun doing mission work, and believe that God sent them to the right place after all.

The Greenfield Walking Group Garden is building a sense of community that stretches beyond its immediate neighborhood. Their love for their community and passion for a healthier lifestyle attracts an outpouring of support from the Lowe’s two miles away from the garden. Lowe’s and its vendors like Bonnie Plants and Duarte Trees and Vines are vital to the sustainability of the Greenfield Walking Group Garden, because they offer their expertise in growing with invaluable onsite visits, as well as needed products.

The Greenfield Walking Group Garden is about six miles away from A Fresh Start Garden. Both neighborhoods were pleasantly surprised to see a beautification project happen in an area where residents often feel overlooked or undervalued. A Fresh Start garden is proud to be led by African-Americans in a predominately African-American neighborhood. A Fresh Start Garden has more than 21,000 square feet available to grow and to host community events organized by the neighboring anti-gang organization called Stop the Violence.

The harvest festival and ribbon cutting ceremony was a Halloween alternative block party for families and neighbors. Thanks to this KAB/Lowe’s grant, Keep Bakersfield Beautiful was able to buy the necessary garden tools and lumber to finish 16 adoptable plots and the fence in time for the garden to open. The garden manager, Isaiah, is a former Keep Bakersfield Beautiful board member who has experience with community gardens. A Fresh Start Garden’s neighbors are key partners in the sustainability of this project too. St. Paul Church next door provides electricity and water. Plus, Stop the Violence across the street helps to raise funds and organizes the community.

Together our groups empower more than 100 volunteers for A Fresh Start Garden, litter cleanups, and outreach. A Fresh Start Garden is in the center of a walkable neighborhood with a severe litter problem – the worst in Bakersfield. Volunteers often have to clean up litter when tending the garden. The litter is a constant battle because it blows in past the fence. But the greatest challenge A Fresh Start Garden faces is earning the trust of the neighborhood in order to engage them. Stop the Violence and the Neighborhood Watch Program agree that working with a suppressed population that has lost hope in the goodness of others while dealing with substance abuse, gang and gun violence, and a lack of education makes it very difficult to draw the community to take part in the garden. Community events are a way to raise awareness to build that trust. Stop the Violence also says that many in the neighborhood lack motivation to use resources like A Fresh Start Garden rather than just rely on public assistance.

Trust is being earned though. Neighbors who have been introduced to the garden are very thankful for it. Stop the Violence and Isaiah’s Sober Living clients were working in the garden on a rainy day pulling weeds when children passing by noticed them. The children were curious and asked a lot of questions of what was going on there. The kids smiled when they learned it was a community garden. The kids asked if they could come and garden too. Of course Stop the Violence invited the children to come back with their parents. Since then, several plots have been adopted. There’s been a 12.5% increase in neighborhood participation since 2012, according to Stop the Violence

This Keep America Beautiful/Lowes grant opportunity blazed the trail for Keep Bakersfield Beautiful, Stop the Violence, and the Greenfield Walking Group to uplift two communities in need of help. This grant was the kindling to a grass roots fire. Now both gardens have the support of several administrators, volunteers, technical advisors, other grants and sponsors, and the City of Bakersfield. Together we strive to make a safer and more beautiful Bakersfield. We have much gratitude for Keep America Beautiful and Lowe’s for being there in the beginning to make these thriving community gardens possible. Thank you.

Keep Johnson City Beautiful–Johnson City, TN

Keep Johnson City Beautiful halts Graffiti in the downtown area with the third annual Urban Art Throwdown last month. The annual Urban Art Throwdown takes place during the Blue Plum Festival to raise awareness of graffiti in Johnson City, and discourage graffiti while encouraging the artistic value of the works. A foundational idea of the Urban Art Throwdown is that the difference between graffiti and art is permission. The Throwdown is constructed of twenty-four graffiti artists who register for free to participate in a graffiti competition. They are provided canvases, paint, tops, and masks and are directed on the theme of their artwork. The first, second, and third place artworks receive cash prizes. In addition, the winning pieces of the Urban Art Throwdown are displayed in downtown Johnson City. Another component featured is a Recycled Materials Art Contest. The Recycled Materials Art Contest consisted of fine art created from recycled materials such as paper, plastic, cardboard, glass, aluminum, tin, and scrap metal. The competition of recycled art also rewards winners with cash prizes.

The approach to address graffiti is unique and quite different than other methods such as hosting cleanups of graffiti or school discussions for its reduction. This artistic approach required more effort and thought. It invests the community’s interests. By hanging the canvases downtown, people respect the artworks and the artists, which discourages graffiti in those areas and other areas as well. The Throwdown supports Keep Tennessee Beautiful’s mission to educate and engage citizens. People were engaged in the competition because it is incredible to watch creation of the artworks, and it was free to the public to come and watch. Additionally, people were educated at the Throwdown because there was a booth present at the competition where people learned about the effects of graffiti on the community, the recycling services of Johnson City, and about Keep Johnson City Beautiful itself.

Many of the artists return each year to compete in the Urban Art Throwdown. There are bleachers setup on the site of the competition, and friends come to watch as well as people attending the Blue Plum Festival. It is rewarding for the artists to have their talents recognized, and it provides a place for their art to be created constructively rather than destructively. They have the opportunity to be paid for their work in a sense. Their efforts are poured into something that people admire, unlike graffiti which is most often vandalism. Some artists have made connections through the competition and will work for art camps in an educational setting. The Urban Art Throwdown successfully addresses the need to protect public places from graffiti in an event that can continue to grow and sustain itself, and that benefits the artists directly. They are more likely to respond to the Urban Art Throwdown because their interests are taken into account.

Keep Carbondale Beautiful, Carbondale Illinois

Keep Carbondale Beautiful (KCB) has several projects focusing on Pyles Fork Creek (also spelled Piles). With the Lowe’s/KAB community improvement grant, KCB was able to install storm drain markers to inform citizens what “flows to river.” KCB was also able to put in a debris catchment system (Watergoat) to filter the litter into one area where it can then get cleaned out. This section of the river is near the north end of the Greenways Pedestrian/Bike Trail.

KCB was also able to add trash receptacles at the south end of the trail, which over time has reduced litter in the creek. The owner of a neighboring business offered to help monitor the receptacles and empty them as needed. When a trash can ends up in the creek, it will be fished out and secured to a post that has been installed for this purpose.

Gardens are being added at either end of the creek trail. Mulch was delivered from many contributors: City, Park District, three tree care companies, and one utility company. Plants (purchased with funds from IEPA-KIB grant) have gone in. The goal is to inspire passersby (mostly students) to appreciate native plants and a clean creek and use the trash cans instead of littering.