This article appears in the November issue of 400 Life.
When it comes to nature and the outdoors, Forsyth County has a lot to offer in terms of trails, hiking and enjoying waterways like Lake Lanier and the Chattahoochee and Etowah rivers.
But while many spend their free days enjoying those amenities, a large group of volunteers commit their time to making sure those public areas stay clean and beautiful.
For the last 25 years, Keep Forsyth County Beautiful, an affiliate of Keep America Beautiful, has made its mission to clean up the local community through a plethora of programming, many times done in conjunction with other organizations, such as Adopt-A-Stream, the Great American Cleanup, Shore Sweep, a Gold Schools program with the local school system and a frog monitoring program, just to name a few.
Tammy Wright, manager of environmental programs for Forsyth County’s Recycling & Solid Waste Department, said over the last two-and-a-half decades, a lot of things have changed, but the mission is still the same.
“We’re focused on the same four basic categories because that’s what an affiliate does. In order to be a Keep America Beautiful affiliate, your categories are waste reduction and recycling, beautification and greening and litter, and here in the state of Georgia we have a fourth, which is water quality,” Wright said.
“Those are constant and always will be, because it determines what an affiliate is, but what has changed under that is the various programs that we do in those areas.”
For example, Wright said in the first year of the Great American Cleanup in 1999, a national roadside cleanup held by Keep America Beautiful, the local group “did good to have 25 people on a Saturday morning.”
“Now, our Great American Cleanups [have] 350, 400 volunteers. We’ve even had as many as 500 volunteers show up on a Saturday morning to go out and clean up roads,” she said. “So we have those core programs, but I guess we just found different incentives and different ways to market to get more people involved and try to keep up with the changing of the times, trying to stay relevant with the younger generations.”
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Keeping up with changing times means hosting events that might not have been needed in 1995, such as electronic recycling events, which have gotten big responses from the community.
“It’s kind of overwhelming when you look at the numbers of electronics that we’ve collected over the years, and the fact that there’s so much more out there,” Wright said.
It should come as no surprise that it doesn’t take years for electronic devices like phones and tablets, which normally only have an active life of a couple of years, to pile up.
With the hazardous waste recycling events bringing in lines of people, Wright said the group has looked at a center for hard to recycle materials, or CHARM, as a future undertaking, meaning locals could drop off without having to wait for a special event.
Along with more convenience centers for locals to drop waste, letting people know the impact of items in their homes is another component to future plans.
“That is really something over the next few years that we want to focus on, because if we can educate people on not creating all of this waste to begin with, then it makes these events run a lot better,” Wright said. “There’s always going to be waste, but educating people, keeping the numbers down, giving them alternatives … we are really going to try to ramp up our education and outreach over the next few years
Going into 2020, Wright said KFCB will localize a push from Keep Georgia Beautiful, which she said had some pretty high goals and would, hopefully, lead to a change in how locals think about litter.
“Our goal, our slogan for that campaign is going to be ‘Litter Free Forsyth County,’” Wright said. “We literally want to get people thinking that way, just imagine, what would our county be like if there was no litter on the road, if there was not litter in our parks, if there was no litter anywhere?”
I think our whole goal is to get people thinking in that mindset because if people think in that mindset, they might start having a passion of that vision, of what that might look like.
For more information, visit keepforsythcountybeautiful.org, email KFCB@forsythco.com or call (770) 205-4573.