The numbers are in, and the 2015 Community Appearance Index clearly shows that Gwinnett Clean & Beautiful’s efforts are working throughout the county when it comes to fostering a cleaner, greener, more beautiful and more livable community. The Community Appearance Index is conducted annually by GCB to access community appearance issues and direct programs to improve community appearance. It is an accountability tool that is also required by Keep America Beautiful. The overall scores for the County on a scale of 1 (being the best) to 4 (being worst) were:
- Litter: 1.6
- Illegal Signs: 1.6
- Graffiti: 1.1
- Illegal Dumping: 1.2
- Outdoor Storage: 1.4
- Storm Drains: 1.2
- Overall CAI Score: 1.37
These numbers show a marked improvement over figures from 2012 when Litter scored a 1.83 and the overall Community Appearance Score was 1.89. While all of the 2015 figures are impressive and at the top end of the scale, when compared to the previous year’s numbers, there is a clear indication that in some key areas – more help is needed. Year-over-year, Gwinnett County witnessed a 14% increase in both litter and illegal signs between 2014 and 2015, as well as an 8% increase in outdoor storage. Fortunately, the figures for graffiti and illegal dumping held their own, and storm drains were not assessed in years prior.
Of course, a slight increase in the appearance of litter should not be surprising, given the fact that the Gwinnett County population continues to grow steadily. According to the Gwinnett County Department of Communications*, the population grew from 780,721 in 2008 to 898,450 in 2015, and is projected to climb as high as 919,290 residents in 2016. Much of the litter throughout our community can be attributed to motorists and open truck beds.
Gwinnett Clean & Beautiful Chairman of the Board, Bartow Morgan explained, “Unfortunately, that 14% increase in litter and illegal signs are often highly visible, which could serve to diminish property values and potentially threaten our ability to attract and retain both families and businesses in our community. A common misconception many people have about GCB is that we’re a cleanup organization. While we might organize the occasional environmental stewardship event, our most important role is in educating the public about the importance of becoming good stewards of our environment and motivating them to action in order to improve our overall quality of life. We all need to work together on a regular basis to keep Gwinnett clean and beautiful as it continues to grow.”
Morgan points to a likely solution in the ME (My Environment) Campaign – which was launched in 2015 as a joint venture between Gwinnett Clean & Beautiful and the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners. The ME Campaign is designed to meaningfully engage and actively motivate people throughout the community to become better stewards of our surrounding environment. Gwinnett Clean & Beautiful provides a number of programs and events that are designed to do just that – such as Adopt-a-Road, Adopt-a-Stream, Stormwater Protectors, Great American Cleanup, Great Gwinnett Wetlands, and more. There’s also the shared responsibility to report graffiti and littering when one witnesses it by calling GCB at (770) 822-5186. Graffiti can also be reported online.
“While our roadways are always important – particularly given their visibility – our streams, wetlands and watersheds are a specific focus for our organization right now,” said Morgan. “People don’t always see these natural spaces on a regular basis, and aren’t aware that they often fall victim to pollution caused by runoff that washes litter from the roads into our waterways. This pollution is more than just an eyesore and a threat to our quality of life – it could prove hazardous to wildlife and the water supply for our neighbors downstream. If you’re considering becoming more involved with the ME Campaign, we highly recommend trying either the Adopt-a-Road or the Adopt-a-Stream programs. Both provide opportunities for volunteers to have a regular, lasting and positive effect on the appearance of our community and the well-being of our environment.”