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  • Writer's pictureKeep Yankton Beautiful

Keep it Clean with KYB!

Sarah Gehm

Executive Director of Keep Yankton Beautiful

The last Saturday of April is always a special day for Keep Yankton Beautiful board members and volunteers. Rain, sleet, snow, or shine, we will be at the Memorial Park picnic shelter on Saturday morning, April 29th. By 8:45, a handful of Keep Yankton Beautiful board members will be gathered together. If it’s blustery, we’ll huddle around the picnic tables, juggling piping hot cups of coffee and clipboards, with our maps flapping. If it’s calm and clement, we’ll put up our banner and banter around the donuts. And if it’s 32 and sleeting, we might take turns taking refuge from the elements in our vehicles–but we’ll be there. Regardless of the outside temperature, the Starbucks coffee will be hot; precipitation or not, the donuts will be decadent. And even if I can’t feel my toes, I’ll do my best to greet you with a smile! I’ll be smiling because YOU chose to show up on a Saturday morning to make Yankton a better place. Everyone deserves to live in a beautiful community, and when I see you at our Great American Cleanup, I’ll be beaming because you’ve chosen to be an agent of change.

We’ll gather together to rally against KYB’s #1 foe, litter. The nature of litter is a complicated subject–we all agree it’s out there, but few of us feel responsible for it. For perspective, there are currently 50 billion pieces of litter on the ground in the U.S.; that’s 152 pieces of litter for each American, including me! I’d love to say I have in no way contributed to these 50 billion pieces of litter, but nearly everything we purchase involves some sort of trash, and all trash is in danger of becoming litter if improperly handled. The more we consume, the more we contribute to the 152-piece problem, albeit mostly inadvertently. Think back to a time you opened your car door and the South Dakota gale-force winds turned your vehicle into a swirling vortex of debris–there goes a cough drop wrapper and a coupon! There’s inevitably been a time you dutifully stuffed a handful of trash into a receptacle…only for the blustering trash bandit to pull it out the moment you turned your back. How about that time you had the best of intentions hauling cardboard boxes to the after-hours recycling bins, only to discover half the load had blown out of the truck bed on your way across town? Litter happens to the best of us, but the wild winds aren’t the only culprits.

The problem with throwing something away is simple: to quote Annie Leonard, “There is no such thing as ‘away.’ When we throw anything away, it must go somewhere.” Less litter starts with the iconic three R’s. Yes, I’m asking you to reduce, reuse, and recycle–but I’m also inviting you to rethink the ways you can refuse in the first place. Carry a refillable bottle and keep a thermos handy so you can refuse plastic bottles and single-use cups; refuse plastic straws by bringing your own–or challenge yourself to go without! Finally commit to using that pile of reusable bags when you shop; refuse to print one more receipt–or opt for text receipts whenever possible. Refuse the variety chip box with 42 individual, single-use bags and give the big bag a try. All Great American Cleanup volunteers will receive a reusable snack storage bag, perfect for portion sizes and ideal for eliminating plastic waste. Litter isn’t going to disappear overnight, but we can all refuse to contribute to the problem in small ways every day, and gradually 152 will become a much smaller number.

Until then, I look forward to seeing you on April 29th at 9 a.m. for our Great American Cleanup. We’ll fuel you up with coffee and donuts, hand out supplies, and send you on your way to make Yankton more beautiful. The town will be a better place for you, your friends, your family, and visitors–thanks to your efforts. So, wear your walking shoes, bring your gloves (or get a pair from us), and we’ll see you there! And for those groups conducting their cleanup routes before the 29th, we appreciate your time and efforts. Together, we can Keep Yankton Beautiful!

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