Affiliate of the Month: 35 Years of Keeping Austin Beautiful
Here at Keep Austin Beautiful, we inspire and educate all Austinites to volunteer together, beautify green spaces, clean waterways and reduce waste every day.
Austin is one of the fastest growing urban areas in the United States. At Keep Austin Beautiful, we are increasingly focused on addressing some of the key environmental issues raised by rapid urbanization, including the loss and degradation of public green space and watershed habitats, environmental strain due to increased development and outdoor recreation, increased litter from a growing population and overburdened landfills.
Through community engagement and service-learning programs, we mobilize volunteers to take direct action on these issues, including removing litter from the environment, removing invasive species and planting native trees and plants.
Beautifying our green spaces
Volunteers are critical to our success. Each year we work with 30,000 volunteers, and last year alone they removed 169,000 pounds of trash and recyclables from the environment. We mobilize and support volunteers in removing litter, planting trees, restoring native habitats, and beautifying neighborhood green spaces across all of Austin.
Our Community Engagement Days focus on supporting community groups where the needs are highest for maintenance and improvements to parks, creeks and trails. These groups are passionate about enhancing outdoor opportunities for their communities but do not always have access to the supplies, volunteer hands, city resources or project planning expertise needed to promote long-term community stewardship of neighborhood green spaces and waterways.
For those that cannot join us at one of our pre-planned projects, we encourage them to organize and lead their own. We provide them with support and resources in order to be successful, giving them trash bags, grabbers and tools. We even help them to organize bulk materials pick up when needed. We love seeing what Austinites are willing to tackle on their own.
Cleaning our waterways
Austin is home to 66 watersheds that drain into the Edwards Aquifer and Colorado River. These in turn supply Austin's drinking water and replenish the city's chief aquatic recreation sites, including Lake Austin, Lady Bird Lake, and Barton Springs. Three Keep Austin Beautiful programs, Clean Lady Bird Lake, Adopt-a-Creek, and Clean Creek Campus, represent a comprehensive effort to improve and preserve the health of Austin's watersheds by engaging youth and adult volunteers in service-learning opportunities and environmental restoration projects.
Our Clean Lady Bird Lake program celebrated its 10th anniversary last year. We couldn't be more proud of our volunteers for the time and commitment they've given to leading cleanups and removing litter from the lake over the years. We even have volunteer site leaders who have been with us from the beginning.
Adopt-a-Creek fosters environmental stewardship of our local creeks by engaging community members in adopting a quarter mile stretch of creek for two years. Groups not only keep their creeks clean, but they create an environmental restoration plan aimed at restoring native plants and protecting wildlife in and around creeks.
Clean Creek Campus engages youth at 20 schools annually in service-learning about watershed health. At each participating school, Keep Austin Beautiful educators lead two classroom lessons and one service project to teach students how watersheds work and about common threats to urban watershed health. Service projects, such as picking up litter or planting native wildflowers at a local creek, show students how they can take action and help protect water quality in Austin.
Educating all Austinites
Keep Austin Beautiful's expert educators and service-learning programs help students develop a strong respect for the environment and their community, at the ages when youth are developing ideas and practices they will adopt and continue throughout their lives. Through fun, interactive projects, we connect youth to the outdoors while also engaging them in service and create opportunities for them to serve as leaders in their communities.
We also provide education and resources to adults that encourage positive behavioral changes. By teaching Austin residents how to recycle properly, compost, and install native landscaping and rain gardens, we are showing residents how they can reduce their ecological footprint by sending less waste to the landfill, installing environmentally appropriate landscaping and using fewer resources.
Looking Ahead: Celebrating 35 years
We began as a City of Austin program initiative, meant to preserve and protect Austin's quality of life. Our focus has expanded beyond removing litter to encompass more of what keeps Austin beautiful. Next year, we will celebrate our 35th year, and we are looking forward to celebrating all that Austin has accomplished thus far. We can't wait to see what the next 35 years bring.
Blog Post Written By Rodney Ahart, Executive Director of Keep Austin Beautiful.