Daniel Dinkin’s Volunteer Experience

As someone who initially moved to the triangle area to attend UNC Chapel Hill, I found that I didn’t have time to get as involved with the community as I wanted due to school. However, I was always motivated to volunteer, both to meet people who share the same interest as I and to be part of a bigger cause. I volunteered with several organizations in Chapel Hill but I was still looking to get involved with an environmentally focused nonprofit.Once I learned of Keep Durham Beautiful, I decided to check out some of the volunteer events and I was happily surprised.

Daniel unloading tires at the 2nd Annual Tire Recycling Drive

My first volunteer event was the ReUse Rodeo where I served as a greeter who handed out goody bags filled with resources and tax return forms. This event encouraged locals to donate used clothing, books etc. I learned that there are many community organizations and non-profits who can utilize donations. This was also the first time I met the KDB personnel, Britt Huggins and Monica Ospina, who were extremely welcoming and immediately made me feel like I was part of the family. Their warm welcome, compounded with the cause that Keep Durham supported and the things I was learning fueled my interest to volunteer at other events as well.

My second volunteer experience was at the Durham Earth Day Festival, which brought awareness to the issues of sustainable resources and cleanliness of the environment. I was a Waste Warrior where I was at a station with three bins: trash, compost and recycling. I directed festival goers to dispose of their waste accordingly. While volunteering, I connected with another volunteer who was a former soccer player at UNC and works for a compost organization. She opened my eyes about the importance of compost and how integral it was to keep a clean environment. I was also surprised to learn that most of the things we consider trash can be easily composted.

The third event I was a part of was I love Durham Limpio- which consisted of working with Latino’s and non-Latino’s to remove litter in areas around Durham. We collected approximately 2,000 lbs. of litter. It was interesting to see how much of the litter we gathered were recyclables.

The last event I was part of was the 2nd Annual Tire Recycling Drive. There I met other volunteers, Ian and Anna, as well as an individual who worked with the Durham Public Health Department. He informed me that standing water in tires is a breeding ground for mosquitoes that transmit the Zika virus, which was often asymptomatic and can be sexually transmitted. I also learned about the closed landfill that was nearby and how costly it was to maintain and treat trash.

Through my volunteer experience with Keep Durham Beautiful I have learned so much about the environment and not only how to keep Durham beautiful but how to also make conscious decisions in my own household. I found myself figuring out how to compost some materials from my trash and how to properly recycle. I learned of this organization through a friend, who is part of the YNPN mailing list and it’s hard to say if I would have known of it otherwise.

Kicking Butts with the Cigarette Litter Prevention Program

What do you consider to be litter? Many of us think of litter as throwing out food wrappers or beverage containers out the car window. While we may know that we should not throw a soda bottle out the window after we drink it, we might not think twice about flicking a cigarette butt. Cigarette butts happen to be the most commonly littered item. While cigarette smoking in the United States has decreased in the past decade, cigarettes are still by far the most littered item across the globe. According to Keep America Beautiful, the littering rate for cigarettes is 65%, with tobacco products constituting 38% of all highway road litter.

While it may be small in size, cigarette litter is large in impact. Cigarette litter has negative environmental, economy, and health implications. Cigarette litter leaks carcinogenic chemicals such as arsenic, formaldehyde, and lead into our environment. Such chemicals are extremely toxic for our wildlife: just one cigarette butt in a liter of water can kill fifty percent of the fish due to the toxins contained in that cigarette.

Cigarette butts are also not biodegradable: they are made up of a plastic material called Cellulose Acetate, which takes upwards of ten years to break down. Cleaning up cigarette litter is expensive too, costing cities across America three million to sixteen million dollars per year. Considering that litter decreases property values by up to seven percent, the cost of litter, let alone cigarette litter, is extraordinarily high.

Cigarette Butts are Litter Too!

Cigarette Butts are Litter Too! Don’t forget to bin your butts or carry a pocket ashtray. Let’s keep our community clean and beautiful.


What can you do to help?


  • If you are a smoker, we encourage you to carry a pocket ashtay with you.
  • Help clean up cigarette litter!
  • Join our efforts for raising awareness about cigarette litter prevention.


Contact us at info@keepdurhambeautiful.org or by phone at 919-354-2729 to get involved!


Cigarette Litter Prevention Program

Friday, July 8, 2016

8 AM-9:30 AM

Duke Clinics

In an effort to raise awareness about cigarette litter, Keep Durham Beautiful and Duke Live for Life are partnering in a Cigarette Prevention Program.

 Volunteers will collect cigarette butts across the Duke campus, preventing the various toxins derived from cigarettes from entering our water stream and soil. Despite Duke’s status as a tobacco-free campus, there are still plenty of cigarette butts to be picked up and disposed of across campus

 The program will meet early in the morning and divide into smaller groups in order to investigate the cigarette “hot spots” of Duke. The cigarette butts collected will be displayed at the Duke Farmers Market from 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM. For more information, please visit the Keep Durham Beautiful event page.


Join the Keep Durham Beautiful “Clean Your Block Party” in June

2016 “Clean Your Block Party,” Engages Volunteers to Take Action to Clean-up and Beautify Durham

June 12, 2016 – Keep Durham Beautiful invites residents to join with their neighbors as part of the nation’s largest annual Keep America Beautiful cleanup program, the “Clean Your Block Party,” to beautify Durham communities on June 18, 2016. Groups selecting other dates in June may also participate in the program.

Our goal is to end littering, improve recycling and beautify Durham, one block at a time. Whether a weedy corner, broken sign, littered street, or a garden bed needing attention, the “Clean Your Block Party” is an opportunity for neighbors, friends, and family to band together to create a positive, lasting impact, and to celebrate their accomplishments.

Registered “Clean Your Block Party” communities will be able to pick up available cleanup supplies from Keep Durham Beautiful on the afternoon of Thursday June 16, 2016 or by appointment. Supplies include litter grabbers, safety vests, trash bags, gloves, gardening tools, volunteer waivers, and a variety of prizes and goodies to show appreciation to our volunteers.

This initiative provides the best practices, activity ideas, and online toolkits for community cleanup organizers to learn about relevant Durham City and County ordinances and what they can do to address common maintenance issues in public spaces. Best practice tips are available for mosquito prevention, bird bath and rain barrel maintenance, standing water, tire disposal, recycling, paper shredding, bulky waste, the impact of cleanups to reduce pests, enforcement for unsightly areas, debris in the stormwater, and dog waste disposal.

Keep Durham Beautiful, along with other organizations in Keep America Beautiful’s national network of community-based affiliates, plan volunteer events and education programs that help to remove litter and renew parks and trails, clean waterways, reduce waste and improve recycling, and plant trees, flowers and community gardens.

In 2015, Keep Durham Beautiful volunteers:
• Participated in 120 events that engaged 3,230 individuals
• Contributed 7,693 volunteer hours valued at $23.07/hour
• Donated $177,478 worth of their time to make Durham more clean, green and beautiful
• Planted over 1,150 trees and distributed 800 tree seedlings to strengthen green infrastructure
• Collected and diverted 11,992 lbs recyclables and compostables from the landfill
• Removed 18,695 lbs litter from Durham parks, streams, bus stops and roads to create safer, cleaner communities

As part of this year’s community cleanup effort, we encourage residents to properly dispose of old tires and other items that may hold standing water to prevent mosquito breeding and the diseases they may carry. A special tire collection event is planned for July 9, 2016 at the City of Durham Solid Waste Transfer Station.

Keep Durham Beautiful seeks to educate and encourage volunteers to build a sense of community pride and environmental stewardship, offering experiences that help change behaviors to improve community appearance, block by block.

To get involved and register for “Clean Your Block Party,” please visit the website at: http://keepdurhambeautiful.org/our-events/cleanyourblockparty/ or contact us at: volunteer@keepdurhambeautiful.org or 919-560-4197 ext. 21244

About Keep Durham Beautiful
Keep Durham Beautiful is a nonprofit, volunteer organization working in partnership with the City of Durham General Services Department and Durham County to encourage residents, businesses, and community organizations to protect the environment and enhance the appearance of Durham through cleanup events, beautification projects, waste reduction, and educational activities. To learn more, visit the website, like on Facebook, and follow on Instagram, flickr, and Twitter.

About Keep America Beautiful
At Keep America Beautiful, we want to ensure that beauty is our lasting signature. A leading national nonprofit, Keep America Beautiful inspires and educates people to take action every day to improve and beautify their community environment. We envision a country where every community is a clean, green, and beautiful place to live. Established in 1953, Keep America Beautiful provides the expertise, programs and resources to help people end littering, improve recycling in America, and beautify America’s communities. The organization is driven by the work and passion of more than 600 community-based Keep America Beautiful affiliates, millions of volunteers, and the support of corporate partners, municipalities, elected officials, and individuals. To learn how you can donate or take action, visit kab.org.

The Litter Index is Step One

We are excited to introduce our guest blogger, Veronica Kim. Veronica is an upcoming senior at Durham Academy who will be writing about her experiences as a volunteer with Keep Durham Beautiful throughout the summer. 

Litter Index 2015

Keep Durham Beautiful volunteers helped assess roadside litter levels and community appearance measures for the 11th annual Durham Litter Index on June 11, 2015.

It’s surprising, really, the amount of trash that you can see on the side of the road, if only you’re looking carefully enough.

And the participants of the 11th annual Keep Durham Beautiful Litter Index were certainly looking very carefully. On June 11, over twenty volunteers set off for five different corners of Durham, armed with clipboards and charts and the occasional bagel. I was skeptical. I had just learned the litter assessment scale (ranging from one to four, with one meaning “no litter” and four meaning “extremely littered”) and was more than a little nervous that my litter assessment abilities would not be up to par.

Not to worry. The Litter Index volunteers are experienced, passionate members of the community, coming out each year to sweep the Durham streets in their trusty white vans (donated for our use by University Ford). It is a demanding job, with seventy-five zones that need to be inspected. Yet even at 8:30 in the morning, they are ready to go, coffee in hand and pencil at the ready.

In my van, there are shouts of “I just saw five junked cars on the side of the road!” and “Please drive slower, I need to make sure I catch every piece of litter that I can.” I am awed by the amounts of waste that dot the sides of the roads and the treeline – I’ve never noticed it before.

In a state where we throw away nearly twelve billion tons of trash every year, the Litter Index needs to spot every aluminum can, every paper cup, every hamburger wrapper. At first glance, it does not seem like a grueling job. I told my friends, We drove around and assessed the trash on the sides of the roads, and they said, Wait, you didn’t even clean it up? You just looked at it? But without the Litter Index, there would be no litter cleanup. It clears the way for more organized cleanup opportunities, and focuses this effort in areas that have been rated higher on the scale. The places that receive a score of one will not require much organized effort. On the other hand, “four” areas can require a large-scale effort and even machine equipment to remove litter, which takes a lot of advance planning to achieve.

This is how the Litter Index helps. It is not just a bunch of people with nothing better to do on a Thursday, driving around and pointing out all of the straw wrappers that they see in the grass. It opens the doors to a much larger process. It is a program run by Keep Durham Beautiful, and it provides the first step to doing just that.

Here is a statistic I read the other day: North Carolinians throw away enough trash every year to circle the planet twice. That is more than fifty thousand miles worth of waste.

It makes you think. On a grass-lined road, I marked down my first “one” of the day. In this zone, I saw a single Styrofoam cup, and I wished I could reach out and pluck it from the ground. The sun blinked and yawned, not yet fully awake.

This world, and our small corner of it, will continue to spin, regardless of how many popsicle sticks we throw out our car windows. But we will not always be able to recognize the beauty of a summer morning, when the birds usher in the dawn, when the sky seems to melt into puddles on your shoulders. Unless we realize – this Earth, this planet, this is our little miracle. We would do well to protect it.  

We would like to thank University Ford for their generous donation of the vans used for the Litter Index and Republic Services for providing lunch for Keep Durham Beautiful volunteers. 

Want to learn more about the Litter Index? Find more information and volunteer registration for the 2016 Keep Durham Beautiful Litter and Community Appearance Index here

To see more pictures from the 2015 Litter Index, please visit our Flickr page.

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