Keep California Beautiful

Maintaining the State's Golden Reputation

Photos by Dante Fontana

"Use less, recycle more, and volunteer,”

pleads Christine Flowers, executive director of Keep California Beautiful (KCB), a nonprofit established in Sacramento in 1990 to steward environmental leadership and beautification efforts at both the state and local level.

Pioneering environmental policy in California as the state affiliate of Keep America Beautiful, KCB functions in partnership with multiple parties to make the Golden State the nation’s cleanest and most pristine. Through its collaborations with individuals, communities, state and local governments, and corporate sponsors, the agency continues to buck formidable foes – the state’s economic crisis, funding shortfalls and indifference. So while KCB’s charge “to preserve and protect California’s natural resources for future generations” is grand, it is also, more than anything, possible, Flowers says.

“Litter prevention, source reduction, recycling, and energy and water conservation,” notes Flowers, are among the ways KCB heads environmental direction, steers policy, incubates initiatives and promotes beautification efforts. It operates an impressive mix of proactive statewide programs, from organized cleanups to phone recycling and graffiti abatement, which support a striving ambition responsible for garnering partners in eight of California’s 10 largest cities. Together they prop up and filter ideas about good stewardship to 8.4 million residents year-round.  

Educating is also fundamental. KCB teams with California schools and organizations such as CalRecycle; in addition, it serves as the state coordinator for America Recycles Day (November 15). Most recently, the nonprofit introduced its statewide campaign for 2012, Littering Is Wrong Too. And to commemorate Earth Day, later this month, KCB and partner agencies Caltrans, California Highway Patrol, CalRecycle, Department of Toxic Substances Control, CalEPA and California Department of General Services will celebrate the “California Statewide Litter Collection, Enforcement and

Beautification Day” on April 19. Expect an e-waste collection for Sacramento-area residents and businesses, among other related events.  

Success, however impressive, does not overshadow reality. Limited funding for staff and operations remains a constant challenge. Contributors run the gamut – nongovernmental sources including individuals, business and corporate sponsors are all players, as are grants, contracts and corporate sponsorships. And yet, these shortfalls are not deterrents. “Our motto is ‘Efforts of one result in power of many,’ Flowers explains. “Most of our work is through partnering…we help bring the ‘ones’ together.”

Looking around at California’s storied landscape, and especially the local cityscape, it’s easy to sidestep the litter and disregard the graffiti – both of which the state has in abundance, according to Flowers. “Californians need to help take individual responsibility for where we live, work and play. Recent national research shows that the act of intentional littering has decreased, but because there are more people with more ‘stuff,’ there is more waste that eventually becomes litter or is illegally dumped. The costs to local, state and federal agencies to clean up litter and illegal dumping in California continues to increase and, conservatively speaking, is estimated to be $500 million annually.” That’s to say nothing about the larger cost, one far more difficult to quantify – having a beautiful place to raise and leave our kids.


Visit keepcabeautiful.org to learn more about KCB and this month’s Earth Day activities.

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