Volunteering for a Healthy Environment: Cleanup Organizations in Florida and Beyond

The old quote from John Wesley that “cleanliness is next to godliness” may not be used much anymore, but the idea that a clean and orderly personal and collective environment contributes to good health is without a doubt the driving principle behind a number of national and state-specific volunteer organizations. Research has shown that neatly maintained homes and communities can not only provide a safer environment for families, but can lift mood and create a more positive, productive lifestyle. When combined with the satisfaction of volunteerism, promoting cleanliness becomes a powerful and healthy way to make a huge difference in neighborhoods and surrounding areas.

The State of Florida is a great example of the ways in which environment can directly impact health and how volunteerism can contribute to personal and collective well-being. Known for its beautiful waterways and recreational opportunities, Florida boasts a number of clean up organizations and projects that enlist the enthusiasm of groups and individuals to help maintain and protect its unique natural resources. Volunteers can show civic pride in Florida’s roadways, tidy up a local park or community center, or preserve the natural beauty of waterways—there’s a job for young and old alike.

Adopt-A-Highway

Sprucing up Florida’s highways for over a decade, Adopt-A- Highway groups help the Department of Transportation put a fresh face on the roads that bring millions of visitors to Florida each year. Hundreds of dedicated volunteers restore the appearance of naturally stunning right-of-ways by picking up litter that detracts from the scenic routes. These efforts enable the state work crews to concentrate less on litter and spend more time on maintenance and special projects. It’s a winning combination that not only improves visitor’s first impressions of the state, but also promotes a distinct sense of civic pride among residents.

Groups or individuals that join the Adopt-A-Highway program are asked to “adopt” a two mile section of a state highway, follow DOT regulations, remove litter at least four times a year, and dedicate two years to the project. The Department of Transportation assists by aiding in safety instruction, providing safety vests and litter bags, picking up collected litter at pre-arranged locations, and posting signs along the group’s section to recognize their contribution.

For more information on Adopt-A-Highway call 1-800-BAN-LITT or visit Florida’s Department of Transportation on the web.

Keep America Beautiful, Inc

Promoting litter prevention, waste reduction, and community beautification and improvement since 1953, Keep America Beautiful (KAB) is a national non-profit network of affiliates and other organizational participants that marshal millions of volunteers to improve land, waters, and built environment. Focusing on education, cooperation, and inspiration, Keep America Beautiful provides programs that strive to effect behavioral changes to reduce litter, reuse resources, and recycle waste. KAB contends that behavioral changes and beautification projects not only clean up the environment, but also have an enormous impact on the economic health and safety of local communities.

There are many active Keep America Beautiful affiliates in Florida that work hard to improve the quality of life for residents by facilitating public service and civic pride through a variety of community improvement programs. KAB’s largest annual campaign, The Great American Cleanup, is a key activity for the most local chapters. For more information on Great American Cleanup activities nationwide, visit Keep America Beautiful, Inc.

Watershed Action Volunteers

While keeping roadways and neighborhoods tidy has spawned national organizations like Adopt-A-Highway and Keep America Beautiful, Florida’s unique network of waterways creates another avenue where keeping things clean is of vital importance. For those who love Florida’s amazing lakes, streams, and rivers and the creatures that populate them, the St. John’s River Water Management District’s Watershed Action Volunteer Program is an excellent opportunity to help protect these splendid resources.

Volunteers are trained by WAV coordinators to test water quality, survey for pollution, participate in revegetation and clean up projects, and conduct educational presentations in the community. Protecting Florida’s water systems is critical not only for the resources used for drinking, maintaining wildlife habitats, and natural resources, but also because they impact recreation, jobs, and food supplies throughout the state. Since research has shown that unhealthy conditions in waterways can be reversed, the more volunteers that commit to making a difference, the more long lasting changes can be made.

For more information call the St. John’s River Water Management District WAV Program (386)329-4345.

Combining the uplifting benefits of a clean environment and volunteerism can contribute to the well-being of individuals in communities everywhere. Picking up litter, providing safe and clean parks and playgrounds for kids or ensuring the waterways that feed into the drinking water that sustains all may prove John Wesley right. Cleanliness may truly be a sacred act. Get involved in a cleanup organization today!

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