Commissioner-Charles-Justice-web
Charles Justice
Pinellas County Commission Chairman

We live in paradise here in Pinellas County. But even paradise can look tattered if we don’t all do our part to keep our natural and urban environments free of debris. That’s why the work being done by Keep Pinellas Beautiful is so important, and why I’m proud to support the organization.

Keep Pinellas Beautiful is an affiliate of Keep America Beautiful and, last year, was recognized with the prestigious Award of Excellence. The organization’s ongoing success would not be possible without the commitment of dedicated volunteers and exceptional partners and sponsors.

On March 1, I was honored to join Keep Pinellas Beautiful and introduce a new event called Leaders against Litter. This cleanup will be an annual Keep Florida Beautiful event that will kick off the Great American Cleanup each spring. The idea behind Leaders against Litter is to show that community leaders and elected officials are “leading the way” in our charge against littler.

The Great American Cleanup is Keep America Beautiful’s signature program. It is the nation’s largest community improvement initiative, taking place annually in an estimated 20,000 communities nationwide, engaging more than five million volunteers and participants to create a positive and lasting impact. Project types include community cleanups, greening and beautification, education and waste reduction.

On the local level, Keep Pinellas Beautiful works to inspire people to take action every day to improve and beautify their community. Let me share some numbers from 2018 that show just how much of an impact Keep Pinellas Beautiful has had on our environment:

  • Cleanup and beautification projects: 1,141
  • Total volunteers: 18,873
  • Pounds of litter abated: 614,584.71
  • Pounds of recyclables recovered: 9,496.19
  • Pounds of invasive plants removed: 147,668.13
  • Trees planted: 121
  • Shrubs and flowers planted: 1,776
  • Gardens established: 36

 

By now, hopefully, you’re asking how you can get involved. Well, Keep Pinellas Beautiful coordinates several cleanups every month. Many occur from March through May to coincide with the Great American Cleanup and again in September and October through the International Coastal Cleanup, in partnership with Ocean Conservancy. All current events can be found at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/keep-pinellas-beautiful-upcoming-events-tickets-52283537468.

Most events consist of beach/community cleanups on land and in the water, or beautification projects involving native gardening and invasive species removals. These mainly take place on Saturday mornings. Though for all ages, they are a great ways for Bright Futures, National Honors Society and National Junior Honors Society students to acquire community service hours. More information can be found at http://www.keeppinellasbeautiful.org/, or by searching for Keep Pinellas Beautiful on social media.

Keep Pinellas Beautiful also focuses on educating young people through outreach events and field trips. Programs teach students about litter prevention, waste reduction, beautification, community greening and watershed conservation. Children ages 2 to 11 can participate in the biannual “Kids Can” beach cleanups. Middle school students can attend a beautification workshop at Brooker Creek Preserve or a watershed conservation workshop at Boyd Hill Nature Preserve. For high school students, there’s the Youth Environmental Leadership Workshop at Weedon Island Preserve. Keep Pinellas Beautiful even offers opportunities for college students with internships focusing on environmental conservation, grant writing, assisting with social media and so forth.

I hope this column has inspired you to become part of a wonderful community of volunteers who help preserve our paradise. As always, if you have questions or comments, you can reach me at (727) 464-3363 or cjustice@pinellascounty.org.