By Lynne Hart
For The News Courier
Keep Athens-Limestone Beautiful has been working hard to make improvements in the quality of life in the communities we serve through education, litter abatement, beautification and recycling.
If we're going to talk about progress, let's start by looking back at our beginnings.
KALB was established as an affiliate of Keep America Beautiful in 1977.
Soon after, the KALB Commission agreed to take over a recycling project started by a group of Athens High School students led by Guy McClure. That same year, the Athens-Limestone Recycling Board was created under the authority of the Limestone County Commission to oversee this recycling initiative.
In 1982, the Athens-Limestone Beautification Board was also created by the County Commission to be responsible for beautification and green space projects.
All aspects of this organization have grown quite a bit since those first beginnings.
Education is key
Education is KALB's primary purpose. It is the best way to encourage behavior changes ... first we understand, then we adjust our behaviors.
Each year, thousands of city and county students are reached with a variety of environmental messages through our classroom programs, which include PowerPoint presentations, hands-on litter analysis, student litter-patrol officer recruitment, appearances from Sparky and the Talking Tree, and more. KALB is happy to bring programs to any classroom upon invitation.
Through programs such as our Earth Day Celebration, Clean and Green events (e.g. Fiddlers), and participation in the Home & Garden Show, thousands more are touched by positive environmental messages.
KALB's website and Facebook page provide current information on local environmental issues, programs, and events and we invite you to check them out. Speakers are always available to present at your next meeting or gathering.
Recycling Center growth
Our Recycling Center has grown from the collection of newspaper and aluminum cans to a facility that processes approximately 400,000 pounds of materials every month. Over the years, new materials have been added to the list of those accepted and now include used motor oil, used cooking oil, batteries of every kind, including household-type, electronics and much more. A complete list can be found on our website.
The center has also added plastics No. 3 through No. 7 to their list and is the only one in the area to accept glass bottles and jars of every color.
The Athens-Limestone Beautification Board has been very busy over the years as well.
This group is responsible for the flowerpots and wrought iron benches you enjoy around the Square.
They have also done much to beautify city-owned cemeteries, including extensive improvements at Roselawn Cemetery. This cemetery was practically barren of trees and shrubs 10 years ago. Now there are beautiful entrances and trees lining the area that bring beauty and color to our seasons.
This board has also maintained the landscaped areas around each Welcome to Athens sign leading into the city. Recently new signs have been erected. Once the landscaping is complete, the Beautification Board will once again maintain these areas.
KALB has been instrumental in educating this community on environmental issues for many years. Change takes time, but great progress has been made. We can see it in our students, we can see it in our city leaders, and we can see it in volunteerism and participation in programs and projects.
KALB will continue our efforts and, with your help, this list of accomplishments will grow even longer:
• Received President's Circle Recognition Award from Keep America Beautiful
• Adopt-A-Spot Program — 13 groups and four individuals
• Clean and Green Events
• Earth Day Celebration
• Litter and Recycling Education
• Great American Cleanup
• Elk River Canoe and Kayak Trail Cleanup
• Processed 2,400 tons of materials through recycling center (400,000 pounds a month)
• Received an ADEM grant to purchase four new balers for our Recycling Center
• Received a grant to purchase 29 ash receptacles for our parks and trails
• 180 percent increase in school recycling after providing a recycling bin to every classroom
• Business office paper collection (free service) — 101 businesses participate
• Business cardboard collection (free service) — 172 businesses participate
• 15 county recycling trailers services
• Cemetery beautification
• Athens City Cemetery headstone repair (in collaboration with the city of Athens)
• Beautification of Old City Cemetery (work in progress)
• Downtown beautification
• Welcome to Athens sign landscape maintenance
• Raised $500 to purchase bike racks for the Square to encourage cycling
• Triangle beautification — Clinton Street/U.S. 72
Visit the website at http://www.KeepAthensLimestoneBeautiful.com, "like" our Facebook page, email us at KeepALBeautiful@att.net, or call us at 256-233-8728. We have so much to share!