Keep Akron Beautiful Says: Please Try to Put Us Out of Work!

by Cindy Pantea

keep america beautiful logoJanuary 23-26, 2017, I had the pleasure of attending the annual Keep America Beautiful conference along with CEO, Jacqui Ricchiuti, and Helen Dauka of the Keep Akron Beautiful staff.

I was prepared for taking away ideas on how to engage more people to take responsibility for the community in which they live, work or visit. Keep America Beautiful did just that, so I want to share the main idea with you:

We want you to put us out of work!

Here’s what we mean:

People Litter with Intent

Part of day two of our conference involved listening to a panel discussion with social/behavioral psychologists who performed the nation’s largest study on littering behavior in 2009 and who are currently updating their findings. They have determined that most people who litter do so with intent. As such, it was clear to me that the responsibility of our agency remains important in reducing garbage in our public spaces.

Litter Pickup/Beautification Important

Why? Because even though individuals choose to litter, they are still more likely to trash an already littered environment, but by removing it promptly, it can help limit the littering and keep trash buildup from spinning out of control. In addition, beautification plays an important role in helping to control litter. Plus, constant reminders of what is expected of individuals, either by education, enforceable laws or public signage, has an effect on how much litter shows up in our public spaces…and it’s what we do.

Litter Requires a Behavioral Change

Unfortunately, the fact remains that the majority of litter is purposeful and reasons for littering can range anywhere from:

  • How you’re feeling that day to
  • Temperature or time of day to
  • Not knowing what to do with the item in hand to
  • Expecting that someone else will handle to
  • Pure laziness with regards to receptacle convenience to
  • No consequences for the crime

…and more!

Not Surprising/Surprising

cigarette butt litterNot surprising of the professionals’ findings is that cigarette butts remains the most littered item (seemingly due to the lack of available cigarette butt receptacles). This was followed by food wrappers or remnants and paper. What may be surprising is that public trash cans do not keep an area completely litter free. Take, for example, those who shoot, miss and leave their trash next to a receptacle. Yet, the placement of cans fewer than 10 feet from an individual did play a significant role in the amount of litter in the public space. This may be important for your next event litter and recycling needs, and we have the loan-a-receptacle program to help. Side note: I recently took a beach vacation where cigarette butt recycling and no cigarette litter signs were prominent and trash/recycling was less than. Result: No cigarette butts, but instead, a whole lot of empty water bottles at the sand volleyball courts!

Bad News/Good News

Bad news is that while you would think our youth are more environmentally conscious, those 30 and younger tend to litter more often. Also, people who believe that litterbugs should be held legally responsible for their actions actually have admitted that they themselves are guilty of littering! Good news is that there has been a reduction in overall litter over a 40-year span.

Your KAB

Keep Akron Beautiful helps to provide public litter control year round. In the winter months, the crews are out removing debris from highways, parks, and roadways. If there is heavy snow on the ground causing litter to become invisible, the crews are still busy helping the city to shovel sidewalks.

Knowing how littered the streets could be is why there are many folks who say to us frequently, “What would happen if you didn’t exist?!” Yet, we urge you to try to put us out of work by putting litter in its place and encouraging your friends, kids and neighbors to do the same.

Thank you for doing your part to end littering and to keep Akron beautiful. It’s up to all of us.

See key findings of 2009 litter study:

Read the 2009 litter study:


2017 Keep America Beautiful Conference




Keep America Beautiful National Conference took place in Washington D.C. from January 24 through January 26, 2017. Keep Akron Beautiful staff, Jacqui Ricchiuti, CEO, Cindy Pantea, Communications and Office Manager, and Helen Dauka, Communications and Volunteer Project Manager, were all fortunate enough to attend the conference this year. Over the course of three days, KAB was able to network and share ideas with staff, board members and community partners from the 650+ affiliates from across the country!


Each year, the conference renews my purpose in the work that we are doing in Akron, OH. It is inspiring to see and meet old/new friends- and to learn about what programming is working (and sometimes not working) in their cities across the country.– Jacqui Ricchiuti, CEO


Cindy Pantea started off her first conference experience by attending the Pre-Conference New Executive Director Training. During this session, participants get an in-depth look at the history of Keep America Beautiful and the Behavior Change Model.”The workshop was great for meeting people and finding out what types of problems exist in different areas of the nation,” Cindy reflected. Cindy had a chance to work in groups to go through steps to solve a problem by identifying stakeholders and aligning available support.

Becky Lyons, Keep America Beautiful Chief Operating Officer opened the conference along with Mike Rosen, Keep America Beautiful Senior Vice President, Marketing & Communications, who shared the conference theme: E Pluribus Unum (Out of Many, One). They shared a great video to showcased the impact Keep America Beautiful and its affiliates have which help our communities #DoBeautifulThings.

Jacqui, Cindy and Helen saw a keynote presentation on “Conversational Intelligence” where they learned strategies to have open conversations with people that build relationships that leave long-lasting impressions with people that lead to positive behavior change.

Later that evening, the KAB staff attending the National Awards Dinner where fellow Ohio Affiliate, Green Youngstown, was honored with the Affiliate Award of Excellence for the 30,001-100,000 population category.

On the second day of the conference, Jacqui, Cindy and Helen heard from a panel of experts in the fields of behavioral science who weighed in on the Behavior Change System and the new additions.  Later, the staff attended three different breakout sessions on the following topics: End Littering, Recycling- Getting It Right, and Beautifying America’s Communities.

During the President’s Circle Recognition Awards Lunch, Keep Akron Beautiful received the Presidents Circle Award for the 14th consecutive year. “I am thrilled to be a Presidents Circle Award winner! Being an exemplary affiliate is something that we should be very proud of,” Jacqui stated.  

The Awards Lunch featured Chad Pegracke, who left a huge impression on the entire KAB staff! Chad Pergracke started cleaning up right in his backyard (which just happened to be the Mississippi River) in 1997 the rest is history. Chad went on to start the nonprofit organization, Living Lands and Waters, a year later, and is credited with removing over 7 million pounds of trash from U.S. Rivers!


 It reminded me that one person can do so much to change littering in America- and that we are strong and mighty in Akron, doing just that through our work with volunteers, our work on litter removal each day with our crews, and our work in the summertime with the parks crew.– Jacqui


 During the afternoon, the staff attending a Build and Grow session, spending time working on a project for schools in Washington, D.C. During the project, they were able to work side-by-side with Lowes Heroes (from across the country) and let them know how important their support of our work is!

On the final day of the conference, Keep Akron Beautiful had the opportunity to learn about innovative programs from a multitude of affiliates during the Steel This! session. Cindy had some great takeaways from the session of ways to incorporate more beautification around expressway ramps and ways to better implement recycling at large events.
At the end of the conference, Helen felt refreshed and ready to return to Akron and get to work!

Day-to-day, each affiliate works hard to do beautiful things in our community, and that looks different from city to city. This conference gives us the opportunity to take a break, take a step back from the issues we are facing, and listen to what is happening around us. There are so many chances to learn and gain new perspectives when we give ourselves the time to look at things from a different angle. — Helen Dauka, Communications & Volunteer Project Manager

Solar, Material Decomposition and Aquaponics Projects Win Keep Akron Beautiful Prizes

by Cindy Pantea

I, along with two other volunteer judges for Keep Akron Beautiful (KAB), attended the 61st Annual Akron Public Schools (APS) Science, Math and Technology (SMT) Expo to choose top projects addressing environmental concerns. This year’s event was on Saturday, January 28, 2017. It’s held at North High School.

Keep Akron Beautiful has been a sponsor judge of this event for several years offering prize money totaling $400. Typically judges split monies between the top three projects, but the third- and fourth-place projects were tied so two third-place prizes were given.

Keep Akron Beautiful SMT Expo Sponsor Judge Winners

First Place

The first-place award of $200 went to 5th grader, Maya Bowers, of National Inventors Hall of Fame (S.T.E.M. Learning) for her project, How to Make a Solar Powered Heater.

Experimenting with alternate energy sources, Bowers made her solar heating apparatus and used it to heat a room in her home while monitoring it’s highest temperature peak to cool down. The Internet is loaded with How Tos on do-it-yourself solar heaters if you’re inclined to find a building project that saves a little on heating bills.

Second Place

A second-place award of $100 went to 7th grader, Neeroj Ghatani, of Jennings CLC for his project, Solar Powered Desalination.

This project required making and testing solar devices for the purpose of water desalination, which attempts to remove contaminants or extra minerals like salt from salt water in order for the H2O to be fit for human consumption.

Third Place (Two Prizes)

The first of two $50 third-place prizes was awarded to 7th grader, Giustina Ricchiuti, of Miller South for the Visual and Performing Arts for her project, Whatever Happened to Glass?

Ricchiuti wanted to find out the decomposition rate of drinking cups on the market. She buried several of each type in different soils around Akron. The slow decomposition of her study conclusions really hit home the importance of choosing products wisely and recycling properly.

Another $50 third-place prize was awarded to 7th grader, Emma Highfield, National Inventors Hall of Fame (S.T.E.M. Learning), for her project, Aquaponics vs. Soil.

From alternate food sources to protecting soil from overcropping to the possibility of life on Mars, Highfield’s project showed that aquaponics growing is faster than soil. Aquaponics is similar to hydroponics but the essential difference is that the growth is stimulated by fish waste, which is non-toxic and organic.

Keep Akron Beautiful Volunteer Judges

I had the pleasure of working again this year with Kevin Lockett of Lockett Media, who is a KAB Board Member and substitute teacher. Our Keep Akron Beautiful Executive Director and CEO, Jacqui Ricchiuti, also joined our judging team.

The judges were extremely impressed with the level of projects from our 5th grade elementary student and three 7th graders. However, there were other great environmental projects as well. To see our favorite water quality projects, done by Alison Cameron (North High School) and the team of Mikaila Conrad and Sydney Craig (Hyre CLC) visit our photo album of the 61st Annual Akron Public School SMT Expo on Facebook.







Welcoming Spring 2017 KAB Intern

by Morgan Looney, Communications Intern

My name is Morgan and I’m currently a senior at The University of Akron studying Business and Organizational Communication. I grew up in a small town in Southwest Oklahoma, but I moved to Ohio three and a half years ago and have truly felt a sense of home since the moment I got here. In my spare time, I enjoy spending time with friends and family and traveling whenever I can. I’ve been to a few different countries in the past few years, but my favorite is Ireland. My dad is originally from Ireland and his family still lives there, so I enjoy being able to go over to Ireland and see my aunts, uncles, and cousins, while also exploring a new part of the country each time I go.

I’m very excited to start my internship with Keep Akron Beautiful! I’m not entirely sure what I would like to do once I graduate in May, so the opportunity to work with a nonprofit organization is amazing. I can’t wait to see what I learn and see how I can contribute to the amazing work they do. I’m looking forward to learning more about the things KAB does in the community and having a hand in keeping Akron beautiful!

Morgan Looney Communications Intern

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