Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful staff, volunteers, affiliates, and partners.
STAMFORD, Conn. (Sept. 12, 2023) – Keep America Beautiful® is proud to announce our next Affiliate of the Month. In this KAB initiative, we feature the great work being done in our network of 700 certified affiliates. Our Affiliate of the Month for August 2023 is Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful (KPB).
Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful is being recognized for the Innovation Award they received from KAB in 2021. The Keep America Beautiful® Innovation Award salutes affiliates that have created innovative partnerships and programs to further the mission of Keep America Beautiful®.
Q&A with Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful
President Shannon Reiter:
How long have you been involved with Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful and what role(s) have you held?
Shannon: I actually joined an organization called PA CleanWays in 2004, and I was hired to implement a strategic plan that I actually helped develop as a consultant. In 2005, I took on a leadership role within the organization. In 2009, I led them in merging with PA CleanWays and Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful. At that time, that’s when PA CleanWays began doing business as Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful. And I’ve been with this organization doing this work since 2004, going on 20 years.
When did your passion for the environment and environmental stewardship begin?
Shannon: I have always been an outdoor enthusiast. Of course, I do consider myself an environmentalist, but what really drives me to the work is not the places that we care about so much as the people that care about those places. What I love about this organization are all the people that we get to work with, and they’re still very passionate about what they do. I love working with and empowering them, getting the tools and resources so they can pursue their work and their calling at the local level.
You received a Keep America Beautiful Innovation award in 2021. Tell us about this project.
Shannon: It was for a litter action plan in Pennsylvania. The litter action plan is really a strategic plan for the state, local county government, partnering organizations, nonprofits, and everybody to look at litter a little differently. We’ve been very cleanup-focused for a long time, and I think it’s very easy to get caught up in the need for cleanup, and that need will persist, but we need to really shift resources to prevention. That’s exactly what the “Litter Action Plan” does. It was born of some litter research that we did in 2018 and 2019. We partnered with PennDOT (Pennsylvania Department of Transportation) and the DEP (Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection) to conduct a visible litter research study. We found over 500 million pieces of litter on Pennsylvania roadways. In addition to the visible litter study, we did a public opinion poll. We reached out to Pennsylvanians, and we found that 90% of Pennsylvanians think litter is a problem in Pennsylvania. So now we can document the problem and the extent of it, and we know people care about it, but we knew that wasn’t going to be enough to actually move people into action. So then, in addition to the visible litter and the public opinion poll, we did a cost study. We surveyed nine different cities, did a deep dive into their financials, and found that they spent $68.5 million in one year on litter and illegal dumping programs. Of that, 80% was on cleanups. So that was a big red flag to everybody. We got a considerable amount of national coverage on that report.
And while 80% was on cleanups, only 1% was on education. Everybody understood it right then, like, “We have a problem, and this is why.” So, the “Litter Action Plan” was born out of that, and it did not change the resources but shifted our attention to prevention, which is education, enforcement, and infrastructure. Taking a more strategic approach to the issue so that down the road, 80% will come down.
Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful staff volunteering at a local food bank.
What are some other accomplishments you and your staff are proud of?
Shannon: Well, I will tell you what makes Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful so great in my opinion, and such a wonderful place to be; it’s the people who do the work. We have collectively over 120 years of tenure on staff. I’m going on 20 years, and I have a staff who’ve been here for over 20 years. Because of that, we can lean on and learn from our collective experiences. We are like a family here, and the same thing goes for our volunteers. We have some volunteers who have been leading affiliates since the 1990s, and we’ve all grown together. We tackle these issues together, and we learn from one another. If you look at our spring cleanup, for instance, the Great American Cleanup of Pennsylvania, we had over 3200 events registered with us this past spring. 15% of those event coordinators have been participating in this program for 10 to 20 years, and 9% have been doing it for over 20 years, so we know their names, and they know our names. It’s those relationships that I think I’m most proud of when it comes to the work that we do.
About Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful
Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful’s mission is empowering Pennsylvanians to keep our communities clean and beautiful. Since 1990, Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful has worked with hundreds of thousands of volunteers across the state to pick up nearly 155 million pounds of trash from Pennsylvania’s roadways, waterways, greenways, vacant lots, forestlands and other shared community spaces. Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful’s core programming focuses on litter and illegal dump prevention, cleanup, community greening, and proper waste handling and sustainable practices. Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful works with many partnering organizations on the state and grassroots level to accomplish our goal of a clean and beautiful Pennsylvania. Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful is the state affiliate of Keep America Beautiful®, Inc., the nation’s largest volunteer-based community action and education organization. To learn more about Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful, visit www.keeppabeautiful.org.
About Keep America Beautiful®:
Keep America Beautiful®, the nation’s leading community improvement nonprofit organization, inspires and educates people to take action every day to improve and beautify their community environment. Established in 1953, Keep America Beautiful® strives to End Littering, Improve Recycling, and Beautify America’s Communities. We believe everyone has a right to live in a clean, green, and beautiful community, and shares a responsibility to contribute to that vision. The organization is driven by the work and passion of 700 Keep America Beautiful® affiliates, millions of volunteers, and the collaborative support of corporate partners, social and civic service organizations, academia, municipalities, elected officials, and individuals. Join us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Linkedin, and YouTube. Donate and take action at kab.org.
Keep America Beautiful®