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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Woodbridge, Connecticut, USA

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Woodbridge, Connecticut, USA
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Registered: December 2009
City/Town/Province: Woodbridge
Posts: 1
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My environmental activism started when I was three years old. At that time, my parents signed my twin sisters and I up as an Adopt-A-Shore family for a portion of one of the beaches where we lived in Boca Raton, Florida. We were obligated to clean up “our” portion of the beach several times per year, as well as the nearby picnic and changing areas. Disgust at the huge numbers of cigarette butts that we found during those cleanups led to the co-founding of our No Butts About It Campaign ( more than 10 years ago to raise awareness and provide solutions to cigarette litter. This once-local initiative is now a thriving international campaign that I am still avidly involved with, both individually and in collaboration with a national organization.

“Dave, we’re only looking for cigarette butts and trash! Give that back.”
My mother’s shrill warning cautioned that the “garbage” I had collected during our beach clean-up was actually a beachgoer’s sandy sweatshirt. Under my mother’s continuing guidance, my sisters and I finished with a very successful beach-cleaning, finding over 400 cigarette butts in a few hours.
My tireless hunt for the infamous cigarette butt began with that simple clean-up when I was a young child. The fact that those tiny terrors outnumbered all other types of litter by more than 5 to 1 was astounding and unacceptable to me. From that moment, I became inspired to find a solution for this needless environmental problem.
I drew posters that advised that “The Earth is Not Your Ashtray,” and sent them to our local Boca Raton mayor. She was enamored with the concept and enthused about the possibility of cleaning up this tireless habit which resulted in countless dollars in maintenance costs for sand-cleaning. She authorized the posters to be hung at the local beaches. Smokers were willing to adjust their conduct, non-smokers appreciated the cleaner surroundings, and Mother Nature was grateful.
A key to the City of Boca Raton from Mayor Hanson was also a key to my inspiration to expand my efforts beyond the boundaries of my hometown. My letters to raise awareness, hang posters, and change smokers’ conduct arrived in real and electronic mailboxes across the country, from national parks to urban organizations, and everywhere in between.
During my involvement in a cigarette litter awareness and prevention campaign, I realized that young people have the power to make a difference. So many young families, scouting groups, and school clubs offered to help out, to hang posters in their areas of the country, and to spread the word. My siblings and I were shocked by the overwhelming prevalence of littered cigarette butts. To a child’s eye, there was no cause for dropping that type of pollution while everyone was so careful about proper disposal of far-smaller items like gum wrappers and lollipop sticks.
Our campaign and awareness kept spreading, and soon the posters were hanging in apartment complexes, state parks, a downtown green, and everywhere else. In fact, we had supporters in every state in the country, as well as in a handful of other countries. Additionally, we provided information and advice on how to start other campaigns to raise awareness of this gross litter in other areas.
After moving to Connecticut, Connecticut Senator Joseph Crisco and United States Senator Joseph Lieberman each introduced a bill into their respective legislatures to promote proper awareness and disposal of cigarette litter. Standing up before infinitely busy politicians as I testified in support of the proposed legislation was a very intimidating scenario. Rather than seeing boredom on their faces, I was surprised to find them listening with rapt attention. Although neither bill passed, the awareness raised was awesome. Further, the largest U.S. cigarette manufacturer, Philip Morris, now includes a “Do not litter” advisement on its packaging.

When Keep America Beautiful (KAB) decided to focus on cigarette litter as a singular issue for the first time in its history, they consulted my sisters and I as well as others who had researched the cigarette litter issue. Through repeated meetings, we developed a respectful rapport for one another.
In addition to making a difference on the issue of cigarette litter, I realized that much of the younger generation in America is passionate about environmentalism. Promoting youth environmentalism creates a conscientious generation today for a cleaner Earth tomorrow. KAB allowed me the opportunity to attend meetings, present my proposals on youth environmental projects, develop plans, and implement them. Some of these include a multi-state interactive website for school groups to register their involvement and activities and communicate with one another for joint problem solving and action, and Keep Schools Beautiful Day, which was piloted in Spring 2009 in Nebraska schools. It is a unified day for schools to participate in various environmental activities – such as cleanups, increasing their recycling, reducing their global footprint, or beautifying a section of town. Certificates were awarded to participating schools, and it is anticipated that this event will become national in the Spring of 2010!!
As to the cigarette litter campaign, KAB and I had entered into a collaboration to implement the first statewide cigarette litter prevention program (CLPP) in Connecticut. Earth Day 2009, we announced various locations within the State that undertook a commitment to participate in this environmental program. It is hoped that this statewide initiative will become a model for other states to emulate as this type of awareness is raised to the national level.
Multiple towns in Connecticut signed on as participants in this venture. My local hometown of Woodbridge, through the use of awareness posters and additional ash receptacles placed at key locations, experienced a 55% reduction in cigarette litter. Hammonasset Beach State Park, one of the largest beach state parks in the State of Connecticut, reported reductions of 27% in littered butts during the summer throughout the multiple sites that were scanned. Rentschler Field, a stadium that has seating for more than 40,000 people, also participated in this year’s litter prevention program and noted a significant reduction. We have recently obtained a commitment from the CT Department of Transportation to participate in the CLPP at highway rest stops and train stations.
No Butts About It has been an exciting and enlightening experience for me. From my early disgust at seeing cigarettes haphazardly strewn on the beach came an international litter campaign and numerous youth-based programs, as well as confidence, knowledge, and strength. One may not know what small incidents or revelations in life will plant a seed. But knowing that an idea can grow and turn into a tree of life that affects change is empowering. I am hopeful that youth who participate in these seedling programs will also sprout roots and grow in their own ways.

Photo: Poster that is hung in mulitiple locations throughout the United States that raises awareness of cigarette litter, provides factual information, and provides solution ideas.


Post-project Interview with NWP:


I haven’t chosen my college yet, as I’m still waiting for financial aid packages to arrive and then I’ll make a final decision. My field of study will probably be biology, as I believe that I would like to continue my studies after college to become a doctor.


I will use the scholarship to purchase books and supplies for my classes. This helps because I intend to finance my tuition with loans, but the costs for additional expenses such as books are not covered by the loans and add up hugely. The scholarship funds will be a great way to afford the books, even bought used at a reduced rate.


It is fabulous to have a site that collects various environmental projects from across the globe. Not only is it motivating to others to see what has been done, but it often provides innovative solutions to those who are trying to tackle a particular problem but have not had success. Moreover, seeing the dedication and activism of one’s peers is a great role model and brings enthusiasm to the subject of environmentalism. I believe many others will become involved in environmental projects after reading the entries on this resource. In fact, I have a somewhat similar website that collects activities from student environmental groups at various schools, which allows others to view and obtain ideas in the same manner. Currently, two states are involved and I am intending to expand the site to include another state shortly.


Being involved in an environmental project from an early age has honed my interest in environmentalism generally. While my eye always seeks out littered cigarette butts and I take note of where and when they are dropped for future expansion efforts of my campaign, I have also become more attuned to other environmental issues. I became a youth advocate for Keep America Beautiful and as such, I recommended a variety of youth-based environmental activities and programs. Through these, more youth become involved in the need to be responsible citizens of our Earth today for the preservation of a clean and beautiful Earth for tomorrow. As young people develop environmental practices, they tend to retain them and live cleaner, greener lifestyles as they mature.

I have also learned that taking an active role in something that is important to you yields change. It doesn’t matter if you are young, your voice can still be heard and you have the power to make a difference. From the activities I have undertaken in my campaign, I have learned various leadership skills and gained self-esteem. I have stood up on other issues that I felt strongly about from the lessons learned through my cigarette litter campaign. And I have gained pride in my accomplishments.


The more the younger generation gets into practice for living in an environmentally aware manner, the more those lessons will be carried into adulthood and into the new locations when we move on in life. People are very habit-oriented, as I have learned from working on the cigarette litter issue. They tend to do things in a way that they are used to. Living cleanly and greenly can become a matter of habit – recycling has become a standard practice to most of us; reducing our carbon footprint is becoming more and more a conscious habit; turning off unused electricity is also a habit that is easily fostered. These things are best learned sooner rather than later. But even teaching the older generations yields results, which benefit all of us.
Date: December 28, 2009 Views: 8896 File size: 19.6kb, 206.8kb : 1271 x 1497
Hours Volunteered: 250
Volunteers: 50
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 18 & 5 to 75
Area Restored for Native Wildlife (hectares): Connecticut
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