Help Your Home, Your Akron

By Cindy Pantea, Keep Akron Beautiful Staff

summit lake debris cuam2015We gotta talk trash

It was more than 35 years ago that former Akron Mayor Roy Ray and his former Special Assistant, now KAB Emeritus Board Member, Vince Lobello, helped kick off what bloomed into the Keep Akron Beautiful agency, under the direction of first Executive Director Judith Isroff.

Why? Mainly because the garbage and dumping in Akron was out of control. The pictures can still be accessed through The Akron Beacon Journal archives.

Never again! It’s unhealthy for you and our hometown, which is why the Keep Akron Beautiful litter crew continues to pick up debris year round — in order to help keep it from accumulating. It’s so important to us.

Want to know how important? Want to know exactly how we feel?…

Chad Pregracke Passion

Meet Chad Pregracke, who grew up along the Mississippi River and noticed the accumulation of trash in and around the river he loved, played and worked as he grew into early adulthood. So, he called government agencies to notify them of the dumping, trash and neglect affecting the natural water sources around his home.

Nothing was done.

So, he decided if no one else will clean up these waters, he would, but it was a bigger job than he expected. He then went on a mission to enlist more help from volunteers and find bigger vessels, in order to complete his self-promise.

Because of his resolve, willingness to take on the responsibility and cleanup successes, he was named CNN Hero of the Year in 2013. See a look at this amazing person in the piece here via CNN on YouTube:

As you can see from the video clip, Chad Pregracke’s goals and passion turned into his life’s work, and his determination is an inspiration.

Chad’s story is one that relates so well to the Keep Akron Beautiful vision, too!

Clean UP Akron Month

volunteers clean up akron After the snow completely melts, and we are able to get into some of the nooks and crannies around town, we all begin to observe what has been hidden under the snow and the leaves. We begin to notice that some people have been neglecting our great city.

As such, Keep Akron Beautiful needs your help during our month-long spring cleaning event called Clean Up Akron Month, which coincides with Keep America Beautiful’s Great American Cleanup.

Not only will you be beautifying an area of your city, you will come from the experience with a renewed awareness. This will make you want to do right in caring for your health through the health of your environment by taking the time to:

  • Find a trash can or recycling bin for your trash or recycling
  • Secure your lids on garbage day
  • Encourage your friends and family to dispose and recycle properly
  • Use the Hazardous Household Waste (HHW) Recycling Center through ReWorks for tires and other items
  • Explore ways of repurposing items before disposing
  • Take advantage of the DUMP by Summit County Public Health for unused medications
  • Do regular cleanups in your neighborhood on daily walks
  • Pick up and throw away a piece of trash that found its way into parks and other public areas
  • Call Akron Police at 330-375-2181 if you see a dumping in progress
  • Call City of Akron Customer Service at 330-375-2311 if you see dumping on private property
  • Call Keep Akron Beautiful at 330-375-2116 if you see dumping on public land

Who knows…you may even find a new passion from the feeling of pride you get from making your city a better, cleaner place to live.

Register for #CUAM17

So, won’t you, your family, and/or your friends register for Clean Up Akron Month today! Registration process:

  • Register your team here: Make sure you receive a confirmation. Then print and distribute the waivers to your team from the registration packet that can be downloaded from our homepage at Waivers need to be filled out before supplies are picked up during supply distribution week.
  • Or, you can call the office at 330.375.2116 and give us your address and we’ll mail the registration packet to you so you can fill out the forms to register (mail in or drop by as soon as you’ve filled the forms out). Waivers need to be filled out before supplies are picked up during supply distribution week.

Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about Chad, his agency, and even how to purchase his book, “From the Bottom Up: One Man’s Crusade to Clean America’s Rivers,” visit his agency website: Living Lands & Waters. Look for his cleanup crusade along the Ohio River!


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.