Dow Volunteers Help Transform a Playground with Keep Houston Beautiful

In March, 195 young professionals from Dow’s Propel to Excel learning and talent development program transformed a small playground at Gabriela Mistral Early Childhood Education Center in Houston, Texas, into a nature-based outdoor learning center. Community service is a key component of Propel to Excel, which introduces new manufacturing and engineering employees to the Dow culture. The project at Gabriela Mistral Early Childhood Education Center was the perfect way to engage participants in a valuable community project.

Dow volunteers painted a mural, planted trees, and built benches, tables, planters, as well as a puppet theatre. Educators at the school are using the new space to give students a hands-on approach to learning about nature. The event was conducted in partnership with Keep Houston Beautiful, as part of the Great American Cleanup.

As a part of the company’s Contributing to Community Success initiatives, Dow has been a sponsor of the Great American Cleanup since 2008. Dow sites across the U.S. have been collaborating with local organizations and volunteers in cleanup, recycling, beautification, and education events to improve their communities and create a more sustainable future.

“Propel to Excel was thrilled to partner with Gabriel Mistral and Keep America Beautiful to help improve the children’s learning environment,” said Paul Mefford, Dow global operations learning and talent development leader. “This project is one example of how Dow is living out its citizenship commitment, by improving our communities and leaving a positive impact for years to come.”

During the 2014 Great American Cleanup, more than 1,000 Dow employees and their families and friends are expected to volunteer at upwards of 60 beautification events across the county.

Watch this short video to see how the Dow volunteers transformed the playground in a just a few hours.

Keep Brunswick County Beautiful, Bolivia, NC

This Keep Brunswick County Beautiful project has transformed a ¾-acre, partially fenced-in rough field area in an undeserved geographical area into a fully supplied community garden that is aesthetically pleasing.

The garden area includes: 30 raised beds, including six that are potentially wheel-chair accessible; a garden shed with gutters and two rain barrels; a composting area; two picnic tables; a bench; four water hydrants for water accessibility; and an outdoor enclosed bulletin board. Some key points of interest include two keyhole beds that are especially low on water consumption and are great educational tools for sustainability; a shed that includes individual storage bins for gardeners that can also function as a communication tool; dry-erase boards inside the shed doors also for communication; and compost bins made from recycled pallets. We also landscaped the outside perimeter of the fence.

The project was funded by a KAB/Lowe’s Community Improvement Grant, with many different organizations, local contractors, and individual volunteers participating in the physical construction of the garden. We hope that our project will aid local residents in areas of community pride, healthy nutrition, movement for healthy lifestyles, supplying local food pantries with fresh produce, and social interaction and integrative activities.

The community has been extremely positive about the project. People have personally told us that they used to “just not drive in that area.” Now they do so purposefully, just to look at the garden. One person said it makes her feel happy when she drives by. When we are working in the garden, an increasing number of people just stop by to chat or ask questions or request information. It is extremely rewarding. I have also seen neighboring properties taking more pride in the appearance of their yards and homes.

Sustainable Flatbush, Brooklyn, NY

Sustainable Flatbush, the recipient of a KAB/Lowe’s Community Improvement Grant, would like to thank Lowe’s for supporting our Community Compost Project with a grant of $5,000. Our Compost Project provides a neighborhood-based resource where Flatbush, Brooklyn residents can recycle kitchen scraps and yard waste and learn about the compost process by participating and observing it in action. We collaborate with local schools, churches, youth groups, businesses and neighbors to reduce the amount of waste generated in our community.

Our goal is to convert composting from a fringe practice to a mainstream activity by demystifying the process and training our neighbors in practical composting skills. Using compost as a vehicle, we promote environmental advocacy, activism, and stewardship on a local scale.

Keep Philadelphia Beautiful

Keep Philadelphia Beautiful was thrilled to win a Keep America Beautiful and Waste Management Think Green Grant this past summer. Keep Philadelphia Beautiful used the grant to establish a community composting program in the Haddington section of West Philadelphia with The Urban Tree Connection and Bennett Compost. And we couldn’t be more pleased to update you on our progress over the last few months!

We currently have 25 households enrolled in the pilot program, which involves weekly pickup of compostables from neighborhood youth, and is a part of a larger health and wellness initiative being spearheaded by the Urban Tree Connection. We have also used our community composting program as an educational tool throughout the community about sustainable waste disposal and waste reduction.

As we enter 2014, our goal  is to continue to expand the program and ensure that we keep it going in the years to come.

We’ll be sure to keep you posted as our pilot program progresses – and in the meantime, we hope you enjoy these great pictures: We believe they tell a story – from home to farm to compost!

Keep Athens-Limestone Beautiful’s hugelkultur gardens, Athens, AL

Keep Athens-Limestone Beautiful, in Athens, Ala., is building hugelkultur gardens, which start with a hole a foot or two deep and then get filled with tree trunks, logs and branches.  Once the holes were dug, KALB volunteers filled them up with leaf mulch provided by the City of Athens from its fall leaf pickup, and horse and cow manure from grass-fed animals.  The garden beds will then be covered with topsoil, creating the raised garden bed.  The raised bed will be left to settle over the winter and planting will begin on the mounds in the spring.  The tree trunks and limbs become spongy as they begin to decompose and absorb rain water, which are fed back to the plants.  All of the organic material works together to create an environment conducive to the growth of organisms important to creating great soil.

“This type of gardening was unknown to me until some of our garden committee members who run a completely organic farm shared it with us,” said Lynne Hart, executive coordinator of KALB. “We looked it up — there is tons of information and videos online — and decided this would be a great way to create a portion of our new community garden using natural materials that are available at no cost.  And, it mimics what happens right in Mother Nature’s forests!  How much better can it get?”

The hugelkultur raised garden beds are part of a KAB/Lowe’s Community Improvement Grant project, located at Athens’ Farmers Market.

Keep Akron (Ohio) Beautiful Recycles at the Akron Marathon

Keep Akron Beautiful was proud to be involved in the 11th running of the Akron Marathon this past weekend, in Akron, Ohio. The Akron Marathon, Keep Akron Beautiful and Re-Works rallied together to make recycling and composting a breeze for all runners involved in the weekend’s festivities. After being given a grant from Keep America Beautiful and The Coca-Cola Foundation, 25 recycling bins designed specifically for placement at the race were utilized on Saturday, Sept. 28, when 15,000 runners ran through the streets of Akron. Keep Akron Beautiful set out to help the marathon with its recycling (bottles and cans) through the grant, but also assisted in the entire “recycling experience” throughout race day.

Keep Akron Beautiful President and CEO Paula Davis and Jacqui Flaherty, Keep Akron Beautiful program manager, served as Volunteer Captains on race day, making sure that the mess created by 15,000 runners and over 20,000 spectators was cleaned up (and that anything and everything that could be recycled was, indeed, recycled).

“The Akron Marathon is thrilled to receive this grant,” said Anne Bitong, executive director. “We have put a lot of effort into providing a community event that is socially and environmentally responsible. Thanks to our partnership with Keep Akron Beautiful, we will be able to continually improve our recycling efforts at the finish line.”

Davis added, “This is a fine example of how our agency can promote recycling on-the-go in our community to reinforce personal recycling behavior outside of our homes, schools and places of work. Thank you to our national organization, Keep America Beautiful, for providing these funding opportunities to address our local sustainability goals.”

Keep Akron Beautiful is very proud of all the recyclables that were diverted from the trash and it is excited to recycle more and more each year!