Keep Brevard Beautiful by Ryan Randall
If you have been a Space Coast resident any time over the past 35 years, you have most likely seen Keep Brevard Beautiful (KBB) doing its thing. While mostly known for its beach and road clean ups, the organization provides a litany of other services, including recycling education programs for schools, memorial/honorary tree planting, and invasive species removal (such as the Brazilian pepper). KBB, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, is an affiliate of Keep America Beautiful (KAB) and is one of more than 40 KAB affiliates in Florida.
For KBB, keeping the Space Coast as clean and sustainable as possible is a team effort. Last year, the organization accumulated a total of 29,000 volunteer hours to pick up 775,663 pounds of trash. As a result of the success of its various programs, it has risen to prominence as one of KAB’s top affiliates.
“If you look at the amount of trash we collect, volunteers and staff we have, and programs we operate, we’ve become one of the largest operations in Florida and the nation,” said Tony Sasso, KBB executive director. “As an organization, we’re very proud of that.”
Utilizing Signature Programs
KBB’s success can be attributed in part to its resiliency. When Sasso took over in 2012, the country was on the tail end of The Great Recession, affecting not only businesses, but also nonprofits. According to a survey conducted by Johns Hopkins University, 83 percent of responding organizations reported some level of fiscal stress during the target period of September 2008 to March 2009, while 51 percent reported declining revenues. With help from the community and its board members, KBB was able to get through this difficult patch.
“If you look at the amount of trash we collect, volunteers and staff we have, and programs we operate, we’ve become one of the largest operations in Florida and the nation.”
– Tony Sasso
The organization adjusted to the needs of the community while also continuing efforts that were already successful, such as St. Johns River and coastal clean ups. KBB expanded on its long-running Adopt-a-Shore and Adopt-a-Road programs by starting Adopt-a-Park and Adopt-an-Island programs. Last year, the four programs accounted for 254,713 cumulative pounds of trash.
Additionally, the organization has an Adopt-a-Trail program and is looking to start downtown adoption programs for revised areas in Cocoa Beach. It has also expanded its services by focusing on recycling education, and the results have paid off; Brevard has one of the top recycling initiatives in all of Florida.
“We used to do recycling bins and partnerships with organizations, but with companies such as Waste Management doing recycling, it’s not our best use of resources, so what we do instead is go into public schools and teach fifth and sixth graders about recycling,” Sasso said. “We take them out to the county landfill and educate them because these kids are one of the best resources we have.”
A Constant Evolution
KBB continues to grow and evolve through two new programs: Litter Quitter and Lagoon-Friendly Lawns. With support from organizations like the Brevard Zoo and the Surfrider Foundation’s Cocoa Beach and Sebastian Inlet chapters, Litter Quitter is an initiative for businesses to reduce the amount of single-use plastics they use. According to KBB, 90 percent of floating marine litter is plastics and Styrofoam, with 49 percent of the litter in some cities resulting from to-go food service items. Litter Quitter is not just about plastic waste, it is about sustainability.
Lagoon-Friendly Lawns stems from a rise in nutrient pollution in the Indian River Lagoon from sources such as lawn fertilizer and storm water runoff from residential areas. “With a high number of algae blooms leading to fish kills, we’re working to reduce pollution through educating people on how to properly manage their yards,” said Sasso.
For over three decades, Keep Brevard Beautiful has left a legacy of maintaining a healthy and sustainable Space Coast. With a mix of long-running programs that have become some of the organization’s signatures, as well as the vision to implement new initiatives to combat regional environmental issues, Keep Brevard Beautiful looks to live up to its name for many years to come. ◆
Want To Learn More? For more information on Keep Brevard Beautiful, please visit keepbrevardbeautiful.org.