Keep America Beautiful ~ “People Start Pollution. People Can Stop It.”

Pollution Prevention: Keep America Beautiful — Iron Eyes Cody (1904- 1999)

I grew-up watching this commercial. It always did bring a tear to my eye also.

In 1961, Keep America Beautiful partnered with the Ad Council to create a campaign dramatizing how litter and other forms of pollution were hurting the environment, and that every individual has the responsibility to help protect it. The goal of the campaign was to help fight the negative attitudes and behaviors that lead to pollution.

The anti-litter campaign originally featured “Suzy Spotless” scolding her litterbug father and later featured pigs rummaging through trash left behind by humans. Although mainstream America remained oblivious to environmental concerns, change was in the air with the publication of Rachel Carson’s New York Times bestseller Silent Spring in 1962.  The book represented a watershed moment for the modern environmental movement, selling more than 500,000 copies.

In 1970, Senator Gaylord Nelson, created Earth Day. The Keep America Beautiful charity started a toll-free hotline and began offering a free brochure and more than 100,000 copies were requested within the first four months. On top of that, the National Litter Index dropped for the second straight year. However, it wasn’t until later that the Pollution Prevention campaign became embedded in American culture.

On Earth Day, 1971, a public service announcement featuring Native American actor Chief Iron Eyes Cody and the tagline line, “People Start Pollution. People can stop it.” aired for the first time. Iron Eyes Cody became synonymous with environmental concern and achieved lasting fame as, “The Crying Indian.” The PSA won two Clio awards and the campaign was named one of the top 100 advertising campaigns of the 20th Century by Ad Age Magazine. In 1982, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce honored Iron Eyes Cody, whose film repertoire included three Western films with President Ronald Reagan, with a star bearing his name on the Famous Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard.

During the height of the campaign, Keep America Beautiful reported receiving more than 2,000 letters a month from people wanting to join their local team. By the end of the campaign, Keep America Beautiful local teams had helped to reduce litter by as much as 88% in 300 communities, 38 states, and several countries. The success of the Keep America Beautiful anti-litter campaign led to hundreds of other environmental messages through the years, from many different sources, including the Ad Council.

Please be good to your Mother Earth, not just today on Earth Day, but forever!

Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

54 thoughts on “Keep America Beautiful ~ “People Start Pollution. People Can Stop It.”

  1. I am happy to read that the campaign drastically reduced littering. It’s all in teaching the kids young, to recycle and take care of the Earth. And to set a good example yourself. 🙂

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  2. Now wouldn’t it be nice if politicians did more than talk about it. We have a local government that removes garbage bins from parks and bus shelters in the Winter! Presumably keeping taxes down by reducing maintenance? Unfortunately they are currently not listening to the planet which is struggling to support us all. I’ve broached a number of issues with them and the response is generally “white wash” which, when confronted, produces BS. It would appear that, at least around here, the culture within government must change before any actions are forthcoming.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I endorse all that you have written here. I don’t ever throw anything out of the window. I recycle everything that is allowed. That big cart is picked up every two weeks.

    Littering is disrespectful of one’s fellow beings and the environment. I detest seeing litter and my own small city is a mess in many places. Not enough jail house crews are out picking up litter. Have no idea why there aren’t as many as in the past.

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  4. Pingback: Spring Blooming Flowers 4-23-2015 | Midwestern Plants

  5. Great history lesson, thank you. The contrast is striking between the images of Iron Eyes Cody, the pollution, and a dirty “civilization”, and tragic. I really don’t believe that people truly understand the gravity behind the fact that this is the only planet like this. I can’t respect half of our obsession with space b/c I think it causes so many of us to overlook the priceless beauty we live in. Why are we so obsessed with finding “another” earth instead of enjoying what we have? I digress… Luckily we have made progress and now it’s almost cool to recycle. Hopefully we continue to improve. Thanks for taking us back. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think humans believe everything is here for them and they can do what they will with it. So sad. 😥
      If we do find another earth, we’ll be sure to f that one up also. Sorry so downer donna today. I just for yelled at by a client that had a few plants that didn’t get pruned, she’s having a party Saturday and she thinks it’s a LANDSCAPE EMERGENCY that we get out to prune said bushes. Like they will be outside? ! Goodness, the priorities of some nuts!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I do agree, we are an entitled species no doubt. What makes us think we’ll do better next time?

        Bummer about that client, she sounds like an entitled folk herself. Emergency? An emergency in your yard is when you have a tree that’s about to fall on your house! I get calling and saying hey just heads up but somebody forgot to prune the whatchamacallits but to get all fussy about it…calm down and smell the roses lady. If the people at your place are gonna turn their noses up at your bushes than they need to leave! 😀 Lol.

        Hope tomorrow’s better.

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  6. I remember Iron Eyes Cody well. My daughter has his autograph. From years of living on the Navajo – Hopi Indian Reservations in Arizona we saw the commercial you are talking about. What was so ironic about that commercial was that the indians littered their reservation with liquor bottles and trash worse than any place I have ever seen. From the reservation and for 75 miles into Flagstaff it was litter everywhere. The white people were not throwing liquor bottles into the ditch. I do hate litter along and roads and I never litter. This world has too much trash in landfills, we do not need it along our highways. Good post.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I wish we still had that spot on telly. It was one of the most powerful conservation messages ever produced. I think of how usefull it would be to re-broadcast that spot whenever I see thoughtless people tossing litter from their cars, or as they walk down the sidewalk.

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  8. I remember that commercial. Sad… and sad people.still do it.
    I was brought up to not litter. We had trash sacks for that.
    Why trash up a place???? Do they enjoy living in a dumpster? Because if they keep on, it will be one.
    When my daughter was young, we also cleaned boulders by the ocean where fishermen snagged their lines and just left it there. And trash. But mostly line. Pigs…..
    You should have seen all the line!
    We had a blue heron thay had lost his leg from the elbow part and down. We had named him Henry.
    We couldn’t get close enough to untangle him. And eventually the leg fell off.
    I was glad to see he still could function and catch fish.
    Whenever we went to a beach area with rocks,we did this. Because….it was the right thing to do.
    I had saw pelicans with lines and hooks on them too.
    One pelican had a broke wing. We were able to catch him. We had a lightweight towel to throw over the head so he wouldn’t freak out.Those big beaks of theirs sure are intimidating!
    We took him to a bird sanctuary. He lost his wing.. but looked like he had made a lot of other pelican friends,a nice pond and a safe home.
    I was happy he didn’t starve to death. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

        • Agreed. Unless folks have to deal with it in their own lives, they forget. Throw garbage out the window, and its gone from their lives. However, the poor animal that happens upon it either gets ill, tangled in it or killed by it. People suck sometimes 😬

          Liked by 1 person

          • Oh, for sure, it’s really a shame how bad the oceans are with plastic bags, fishing line, plastic can holders, and all other sorts of garbage. It’s really not hard to stop at a garbage can.
            I remember when I was a kid how people in the neighborhood would dump oil and anti-freeze in the sewer. That was many years ago.
            We sure have created a mess, the planet doesn’t need us, we need it.

            Liked by 1 person

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