The numbers are in, and the hard work of Oklahomans has proven to pay off once again.
For the fourteenth consecutive year, Keep Oklahoma Beautiful (KOB) took part in the nation’s largest cleanup, sponsored by Keep America Beautiful. Volunteers from all over America participate in the Great American Cleanup™ (GAC), and Oklahomans each year do their part to keep our state beautiful. Since 2010, Oklahoma has had 100 percent county participation, and this year was no different. From March 1 to May 31, over 56,000 participants and volunteers fought dirty to keep Oklahoma clean.
Since 2002, the GAC in Oklahoma has collected 209,908,099 pounds of litter and debris. Just this year, Oklahoma communities cleared over 1200 miles of roadways, shorelines and hiking trails. Nearly 20,000 pounds of hazardous waste and 10,796 tires were collected, helping to protect our environment as well as keep it clean.
The Great American Cleanup™ is far more than a cleanup effort, however. Communities across the state participate in beautification projects, planting gardens and restoring buildings. This year, communities planted over 40,000 flowers, seedlings, shrubs, and trees and painted/renovated 42 buildings.
GAC events have the power to bring communities together, with over 650 groups teaming up together. 4-H clubs, civic organizations, FFA programs, businesses, chambers and municipalities worked together with the unified goal of keeping Oklahoma clean. The collaboration is 100 percent statewide, and KOB has been recognized by Keep America Beautiful for our complete county participation.
Each year, KOB compiles the numbers from each participating group to come up with the “Big Number.” The “Big Number” represents the money saved or costs avoided by state, county, and municipal governments as a result of the GAC – just in Oklahoma. This year’s number was $6,557,644, which is a big number indeed.
Chuck Ralls, a participant with Comanche’s GAC event, understands the importance of this event.
“I was raised on the principle that you should always leave something cleaner or better than you found it,” Ralls said. “In doing this, I honor my parents and grandparents while teaching my children to honor this same principle.”
The mission of GAC is to better communities and the state, preserving our nation’s, state’s, and communities’ natural beauty.
As Schaun Aker, a volunteer of Cherokee Main Street, said, “Oklahoma's true beauty shines from within. I cannot think of a better way to exemplify the effort small town Oklahoma strives to maintain than the preservation of our various communities. Volunteers of all ages standing shoulder to shoulder, linked by the past, which eventually preserves it for its future.”