Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful - 35 years young
By Phylecia Wilson
It’s not easy staying on the top of your game for most of your existence, but that is exactly what Gwinnett Clean and Beautiful (GC&B) has done since their inception in 1980.
Now at the ripe old age of 35, the organization has won so many Keep American Beautiful (KAB) national awards – 125 to be exact – they have been asked by KAB to apply only about every five years.
Concerns about illegal dumping and litter were early goals of GB&B as they looked at how to improve Gwinnett County’s environment and quality of life. Through the years, working as a partner with Gwinnett County, many additional quality of life concerns were taken on by GC&B, such as recycling, clean waterways, solid waste and graffiti.
Though the non-profit had a parting of the ways with the county in 2008 after a lawsuit regarding solid waste, the relationship was restored in 2013 and GC&B “went back to its roots,” as described by Commission Chairman Charlotte Nash. Through the restored relationship, GC&B has administration of the county Adopt-A-Road program, Take Pride in Gwinnett program and educational programs that relate to increasing recycling and reducing graffiti and litter and other environmental issues.
Now GC&B is looking toward the next 35 years. “We are focusing on the future of Gwinnett as it is about to celebrate 200 years,” said Executive Director Connie Wiggins. “We are asking questions like, what do we want from the aesthetic and environmental aspect and how to we get people to understand the impact and the fact that it is our responsibility to take care of the environment. We are working with the county commissioners, cities, and the water commission to determine what can we do to accomplish this.
“Research shows that for a community to continue to thrive it must be economically sound, environmentally healthy and socially connected,” she continued. “An environmental program has to support and impact those three.”
Through the years, GC&B has had phenomenal success in rallying volunteers for events such as road cleanup, Christmas tree recycling and painting out graffiti.
“The appearance of a community says a lot about the community itself," Wiggins said.
"People make a decision in less than about five seconds, about whether an area is inviting, safe, if it's where they want to work, where they want to play or where they want to shop.”
Enter Adopt-A-Road, a 25-year-old program in which companies, organizations, neighbors or families can adopt a section of a roadway and agree to clean it up on a quarterly basis. Last year alone, more than 100,000 pounds of litter were cleared from Gwinnett’s roadways through this volunteer program.
Through their partnership with Gwinnett County’s Department of Water Resources, the Adopt-A-Stream program helps to preserve and protect local watersheds by asking volunteers to serve as official “keepers” of a portion of a creek or stream.
During this year’s Great American Cleanup, a KAB program, GB&B invited volunteers to participate in Waterwalk.
“Groups or families visited a stream close to their home and identified problems,” Wiggins explained. “It is not only good for our water ways, it also helps to make people aware of our watersheds and to make them feel it is part of their home.
“When people look at the flora and fauna it tells them about the area. What’s in the stream tells about the health of the stream and quality of the water.”
Right: A special Environmental Stewardship Award was presented to two young boys from Sugar Hill – Nolan Swift and Logan Drury – for their proactive efforts to pick up litter near their homes, as GCB Executive Director Connie Wiggins reminded guests “young people inspire us to do more.”
Wiggins said volunteers get to play in the water when they count the kinds of bugs and fish. This way, they can identify problems and the experts can determine what needs to be done to solve it. In one area, they removed privet that had sprung up there and planted vegetation that would shade and cool the water.
Another of GC&B’s greatest accomplishments has been the establishment of the Recycling Bank of Gwinnett (RBG), located on Satellite Boulevard, where people can drop off numerous kinds of recyclable items. RBG has been the top national plastics recycler for the last four years.
“Recycling helps keep economy strong and environmentally healthy,” Wiggins said, adding that it also keeps a significant amount of trash out of the landfill and creates jobs.
When asked about the large bins that used to be located at schools where people could recycle newspaper and magazines, Wiggins said it was managed by a private service, not GC&B. “I believe the company decided it wasn’t economically feasible to continue with them.”
Today paper items can be put out for curbside recycling or taken to RBG where you can also shred personal papers.
What can and can’t be recycled is confusing to some, Wiggins explained. With the recycling drop-downs on the new GC&B website created by RedClay Interactive, those questions are easily answered.
“Our goal with the website was to make it easier,” she said. Research showed that devices used most to get to the website are cell phones and i-Pads, so RedClay, who donated the bulk of the development cost, created the website to be cell phone and i-pad friendly.
If the item in question is not on the website, Wiggins suggests calling GC&B. “Our advice is, ‘when in doubt, leave it out.’
“The GC&B website is a great resource to answer questions about the environment,” Wiggins concluded. “And it highlights the many opportunities GC&B has for people to get involved and make difference in our Gwinnett community.”
You can make a difference in your community – in your Gwinnett!
To volunteer for GC&B or for more information go to www.gwinnettcb.org or call 770.822.5187