Success Story: Keep Cass County Beautiful
We would like to share success stories with our members and followers, and this month we are featuring Keep Cass County Beautiful, who is an NRC member.
Tell us about your organization.
Since 2012, Keep Cass County Beautiful, a nonprofit and an affiliate of Keep America Beautiful has provided environmental services for all of Cass County. We have set a new and ambitious goal in Cass County to reduce waste by encouraging the use of reusable and/or compostable items as an alternative to disposables. Many of the challenges regarding waste and litter would be solved by cutting out single use products-namely plastics so we’re trying to be more proactive with this new approach. We educate thousands of children and adults in Cass County each year by delivering enviro lessons tailored to children as young as preschool aged to adult through workshops, after school programs, summer school programs and our yearly Fall and spring enviro lessons at the schools.
We provide recycling at as many events in Cass County as is possible with our current number of staff and volunteers. Our largest event is the Cass County Fair but this year, we also recycled for the Cattlemen’s Ball which was attended by several thousand people. We recycle cardboard, glass, plastics, and cans. Recently, we purchased a subscription for composting through Soil Dynamics and plan to purchase compostable products to be used at Holiday events as a pilot program to encourage the transition away from plastic and foam products. In addition, we host spring and fall electronic recycling collections each year and host at many different locations throughout the county to give everyone a chance to recycle. We also assist with the annual household hazardous waste collection. We plan and provide supplies for multiple fall and spring litter cleanups all over the county every year. We also facilitate recycling at many schools in Cass County by providing recycling bins, applying for grants for recycling trailers and even training students how to run a successful recycling program. We received a grant this year to plant 13 trees and have volunteers that tend to flower beds throughout the community to provide beauty and pollinator habitat. Last year we started a pumpkin recycling/compost collection and a Holiday light recycling collection as well which were very successful, and we plan to do again this year. There are so many more things that KCCB is involved with, but these are the main programs.
What are your sustainability goals and initiatives?
KCCB has the vision and dream of making Cass County the Greenest County in Nebraska! It’s quite an ambitious goal vision and we know it won’t happen overnight, but we keep working towards it through small changes. We encourage businesses and individuals to reduce waste by thinking reduce and reuse first for example using reusable bags, cups & carry out containers. Our hope is that someday, it will be the status quo to think “reuse” first. In addition, we are working with several organizations to transition to compostable containers for large events in which disposables are necessary. We have built up a network of individuals and organizations committed to picking up litter twice yearly to keep our county looking Beautiful. We created an “Adopt a Spot” program where individuals pick a spot in Cass County and take ownership of that area by keeping it litter free. Another large initiative we have is assisting schools in Cass County to recycle by cost sharing the purchase of recycle bins, helping to teach Best Practices for recycling and creating Enviro clubs that are autonomous.
What are some of the challenges and barriers that you have faced?
Changing behavior is our largest challenge. The conveniency and low cost of single use items and the low cost to dispose of them makes it a barrier to promoting change in the community. We are a nation that often doesn’t think about where the items we discard go and how long they will last in our environment. We also struggle with recycle rates at events. Even when we place recycle bins next to trash cans, people will often still throw recyclable items in the trash. We also have high traffic areas that continue to be heavily littered even with many cleanups each year and though we are glad we can make a difference by picking up litter, ideally it would be great to cut down on litter instead.
What are some of your success stories?
One of our biggest success stories is partnering with the nonprofit, DUET to enable several of our local schools to recycle free of charge. Without DUET, many schools in Cass County would have a major barrier to recycling. I also enjoy the support and encouragement from many Cass County residents and problem solving with them on ways to reduce waste and enable recycling. It’s exciting to me to see people who care and want to do better.
What are some lessons learned that you think others could benefit from?
I’ve learned that change often occurs more slowly that I’d like so I’ve learned to be patient and try to be proud of any progress made even though seemingly small. I’m also a firm believer that actions are the most impactful way to elicit change. Remember that people are always watching. My favorite example of this is an experience I had last year. I was picking up litter near a parking lot in Plattsmouth (something I make a point to do each day) and while picking up litter, a man approached me stated that he was inspired by my actions. It turned out that this man is a pastor of a local church, and my actions inspired him to challenge his church to join our Adopt a Spot program in which they pick up litter twice a year. The best way to inspire change is through patience and modeling.
How has your membership with the NRC played a role in your sustainability goals/initiatives?
NRC has given me invaluable support and resources and has connected me with likeminded individuals that enable me to be better equipped to do my job. This year’s conference had some amazing topics that provided me with new ideas and greatly inspired me. Without the great resource of NRC, I believe it would be much more challenging to do my job.