Helping the Community With Your Children
Imagine organizing your family or a group of your children's friends into teams, giving each individual or team a large trash bag and challenging them to a competition to see who can pick up the most trash – the fastest! Can't you easily visualize little busy bodies hustling for full bags of trash at a public park or another area in your community?
April is Keep America Beautiful Month, and according to Keep America Beautiful, the nation's largest volunteer-based community improvement network, "The Great American Cleanup, the nation's largest annual community improvement program held March through May, rallies people to make sweeping, dramatic changes from coast-to-coast." Last spring, "more than 2.3 million volunteers worked for more than seven million hours cleaning, beautifying and improving 15,000 communities during 30,000 Great American Cleanup events." The community leaders involved with the Great American Cleanup report that cleaning up communities helps increase safety in several ways.
For starters, a sense of unity and peace are felt in neighborhoods by volunteers who participate in the Great American Cleanup experience. Additionally, A Keep America Beautiful survey revealed that "communities are 'healthier' because cleanups help eliminate illegal dumpsites, reducing the risk of mosquitoes, rodents and the threat of West Nile Disease; children can play more safely in parks and recreation areas where dangerous objects and trash have been removed; and water cleanups help remove health hazards from drinking water." Reduced crime has also been linked to a cleaner community, which is not surprising, as cleanliness and de-cluttering provide feelings of renewal and self-worth.
Keep America Beautiful has numerous ideas for involving our children in efforts for keeping our country spic and span. Of course, the first lessons begin at home with parents setting an example. Set a we-absolutely-do-not-litter example! We must not only tell our children – but show them – that trash belongs in a trash bin. Keep America Beautiful suggests letting our children see us putting trash outside the home with care – being careful to tie all trash bags tightly so the trash actually makes it into the trash can. Securing the lid so that trash doesn't topple out of the can is also a must.
Here are more ways your family can help keep America beautiful:
- Help your children make litter bags for your car. Hang the bags on the backs of the front seats or in another convenient spot for children to reach while in the car.
- Train children to pay attention to trash that may have blown into the yard. Teach them to immediately pick up any litter they see, because it is items such as these that are eventually blown onto the street and decrease curb appeal.
- Have your children check to see if a trash bin is conveniently located on the playground at school. School teams also can create posters to remind students that trash belongs in the trash can.
- Visit a recycling center or sanitary landfill with your family to learn how trash is managed. Make a bin available in your home for recyclable items. To prevent loose papers from blowing away, they should be tied together securely in the recycle bin.
- Find and compare pictures of clean areas versus not-so-clean areas. Let your children write or tell you a story about the difference between the two and what they feel can be done to make dirty areas clean again.
- Teach your children about the importance of carrying an empty bag for trash to the park or beach just in case there is no trash can available.
- Talk with your children about ideas for ending littering. Find books and brochures about the subject to read with them.
Isn't it everyone's responsibility – whether big or small – to take a step in keeping America beautiful? This lesson, which begins at home, will follow a child through a litter-free life. To volunteer for events in your area, visit the Keep America Beautiful Web site.