Mission & History

Keep America Beautiful envisions a country in which every community is a clean, green and beautiful place to live.

Our Mission

To inspire and educate people to take action every day to improve and beautify their community environment.

Keep America Beautiful History

Keep America Beautiful formed in 1953 when a group of corporate and civic leaders met in New York City to bring the public and private sectors together to develop and promote a national cleanliness ethic.

Here is a review of some of Keep America Beautiful's many milestones.

1953 – 1970

  • 1953: National Advisory Council organizes.
  • 1956: First public service announcement (PSA) about litter prevention appears.
  • 1960: Keep America Beautiful begins its more than 50-year relationship with the Ad Council.
  • 1965: First Lady of the United States of America, Lady Bird Johnson, joins Keep America Beautiful in promoting highway beautification, stating “Ours is a blessed and beautiful land. But much of it has been tarnished. What can you do? Look around you: at the littered roadside; at the polluted stream; the decayed city center. We need urgently to restore the beauty of our land.”
  • 1967: Canine TV star Lassie appears as mascot for an anti-litter campaign.

1971 – 1980

  • 1971: In partnership with the Ad Council, launched what became known as the “Crying Indian” PSA campaign, iconic symbol of environmental responsibility and one of the most successful PSA campaigns in history.
  • 1973: Research reveals the three reasons why people litter and the seven primary sources of litter.
  • 1975: Artist Bob Timberlake begins longstanding partnership with Keep America Beautiful.
  • 1976: Introduction of the Clean Community System, precursor to the Keep America Beautiful System.
  • 1978: Georgia Clean & Beautiful becomes first Keep America Beautiful statewide program.
  • 1979: Waste in Place, Keep America Beautiful's first teacher curriculum supplement, launches.

1981 – 1990

  • 1981: President Reagan endorses the Clean Community System.
  • 1984: First Public Lands Day takes place.
  • 1985: Keep America Beautiful and GLAD launch the GLAD Bag-a-Thon program, precursor to the Great American Cleanup.
  • 1986: Take Pride in America program, created to promote wise use of public lands, begins with federal agencies. First Vision for America Award Dinner takes place, presented annually to distinguished leaders of honored corporations, whose personal and corporate commitment have significantly enhanced civic, environmental and social stewardship throughout the U.S.
  • 1988: Keep America Beautiful expands its mission to include solid waste education. Solid Waste Committee forms with waste experts from industry and government.
  • 1990: First international affiliate, St. John's, New Brunswick, Canada, joins Keep America Beautiful. First video conference on solid waste takes place.

1991 – 2000

  • 1991: First training session conducted on solid waste issues for Keep America Beautiful coordinators. Waste in the Workplace waste reduction guide for businesses published.
  • 1993: Second video conference takes place, on recycling capabilities and limitations. "For Future Generations" PSA launches.
  • 1994: The "Role of Recycling in Integrated Waste Management" study is published.
  • 1995: "Close the Loop, Buy Recycled" U.S. EPA partnership program unveiled. "Graffiti Hurts" is created.
  • 1998: "Back By Popular Neglect" PSA campaign launches.
  • 1999: Keep America Beautiful/U.S. Conference of Mayors Urban Litter Partnership National Summit takes place.  Great American Cleanup launches.

2000 – Present

  • 2002: Research launches for national Cigarette Litter Prevention Program.
  • 2004: Keep America Beautiful introduces new Web-based educational tools, including Clean Sweep U.S.A.
  • 2005: The Cigarette Litter Prevention Program directly addresses the nation's most widespread litter problem—improperly disposed cigarette butts.
  • 2009: New Keep America Beautiful program, the Curbside Value Partnership (CVP), is established to increase participation in curbside recycling programs nationwide.
  • 2010: Keep America Beautiful takes the helm of America Recycles Day, a nationally-recognized initiative dedicated to encouraging people to recycle, and assumes administrative duties of RecycleMania, the nation's largest collegiate recycling competition. Keep America Beautiful begins its participation in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s People’s Garden initiative.
  • 2011: Keep America Beautiful launches Recycle-Bowl, the first nationwide recycling competition for K-12 students. “Littering is Wrong Too” utilizes social media and word-of-mouth marketing to engage young adults to end litter.
  • 2012: Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation awards Keep America Beautiful’s its first $1 million gift. Keep America Beautiful launches National Planting Day, an initiative to increase native species plantings, in partnership with the U.S Department of Agriculture People’s Garden initiative.Youth Advisory Council introduced and new Waste in Place Resource Guide released.
  • 2013: The Ad Council and Keep America Beautiful introduce new PSA campaign – “I Want To Be Recycled” – designed to raise awareness about the benefits of recycling with a call to action to “Give Your Garbage Another Life.”
    Coca-Cola and Keep America Beautiful provide $2.59 million grant to support Chicago’s citywide expansion of its Blue Cart Recycling Program over the next five years. Keep America Beautiful’s “Recycling at Work” research initiative launches a new website.
  • 2014: Bud Light and Keep America Beautiful teamed up to “Do Good. Have Fun.” with community improvement projects in more than 50 communities.
  • 2015: Keep America Beautiful updates its “Vision, Mission and Values” statements for first time in more than 15 years with input from affiliates, State Leaders, staff and board members.
    Keep America Beautiful and the Ad Council join forces with Unilever to encourage recycling of personal care products in the bathroom through the expansion of the “I Want To Be Recycled” PSA campaign.
    Releases “Charting the Multiple Meanings of Blight: A National Literature Review on Addressing the Community Impacts of Blighted Properties.” Begins development of Blight Calculator to help measure and track progress in combatting blight in America.