Young students targeted in Macon-Bibb’s renewed anti-litter education campaign

Ahead of Earth Day, Keep Macon-Bibb Beautiful and United Way of Central Georgia organized volunteers to read ‘Keeping my Town Beautiful’


Liz Fabian

Keep Macon Bibb Beautiful Education Committee Chair Janice Habersham reads to second graders at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School.

It’s been 10 years since Janice Habersham worked as a media specialist in the Bibb County School System but she was back on campus Friday morning to help the students learn the importance of keeping their community clean.

“When you go by nasty trash, how does that make you feel?” Habersham asked Ms. Barnes’ second grade class at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary on Shurling Drive.

“Disgusting,” a student replied.

“Disgusting, what a great descriptive word,” Habersham replied.

Habersham, the chair of Keep Macon-Bibb Beautiful’s Education Committee was one of several volunteers who read to students on the eve of Earth Day as part of United Way of Central Georgia’s Read United program.

The book “Keeping my Town Clean” encourages youth to properly dispose of trash, recycle as many items as possible and compost food and natural waste to protect the environment.

“What comes from the earth can go back to the earth and it enriches the soil,” Habersham told the class.

After the COVID-19 pandemic curtailed KMBB’s regular visits to local schools, the KMBB committee is stepping up efforts to reach the youngsters and train them to be good stewards of their community.

Habersham led the students in an ecologically-themed bingo game, invited them to Earth Day activites Saturday at Amerson River Park and taught them a song about not being a “litterbug.”

Lori Ward Rodgers, the Bibb County School District’s assistant superintendent of district effectiveness, said it is a good practice to talk to students about quality of life issues affecting their neighborhoods.

“It is important that our younger students understand what is necessary to keep our community vibrant, keep it clean, and as they are going out in the community, for them to understand the importance of ownership, that I, too, can be a part of keeping it clean,” said Rodgers, who serves on the Keep Macon-Bibb Beautiful board.

Retired elementary school principal Kaye Hlavaty recently led Alexander II students in an anti-litter competition as the youngsters used aluminum grabbers to pick up litter around the school across from Tattnall Square Park.

The youngsters were vying to be the class that collected the most trash.

“The children were great,” Hlavaty said. “When they went outside you would have thought they were being paid by the paper. They were just crazy excited, worked hard, got along together.”

Beyond the neat appearance of a clean campus, keeping surroundings tidy is healthier for the environment and the people who live in it.

“One of them even mentioned about how if paper gets into the water system, it gets into our drinking water. And so, we talked about that a little bit, that it’s not just about the visual, but also the healthy part of it,” Hlavaty said.

Habersham said the board also is teaming up with the Macon Water Authority to make another book available to schools that addresses keeping storm drains and streets free of litter and debris to help protect the water supply.

“Every third-grade class will get a book about how litter starts from the water, the streams and goes to the ocean,” said Habersham, a retired media specialist.

Because the pandemic limited classroom visits, KMBB sponsored an art essay contest that will continue in the fall.

“And this is open to all schools, public and private, where they can submit, according to their grade level, an essay why we should have clean streets,” Habersham said. “That’s been very popular. The mayor has been very supportive in that, providing the funding for awards.”

Educating the public

KMBB Founder Carolyn Crayton said educating the public has always been a strong tenet of the organization’s mission.

She’s saddened by the amount of litter she sees on Macon’s major thoroughfares.

“We want everybody to have clean surroundings,” Crayton said. “We really, really to need to stress reaching out into our community to help to make it more beautiful, but cleaner. … And we’ve just got to put that back in our vocabulary and our thinking and everything we do. We’ve got to think clean, clean, clean.”

Getting the message through to the children can help them educate their family.

Habersham encouraged the students not to be a “litterbug” and dissuade their relatives from being one, too.

“Tell Uncle Joe when he’s throwing cigarettes out the car window, tell him not to be a litter bug,” Habersham told the second graders.

Rodgers agrees that kids can influence their siblings, parents and other adults

“Students, our children have a lot of power in messaging and as they are using social media, too, they can spread the word about a clean community is the best community,” Rodgers said.

The Keep Macon Bibb Beautiful board is going paperless with their board documents to be more eco-friendly. (Liz Fabian)

The KMBB board also is practicing what they preach in finding new ways to be environmentally conscious by eliminating paper.

At Thursday’s meeting, KMBB Executive Director Asha Ellen explained that going forward, all the board documents will be provided online, only.

“No binders. It’s more ecofriendly,” Ellen said. “There’s also a lot of expense in ink and paper.”

The once ever-present sign-up sheet has also been replaced by a QR code leading to a digital form to document attendance and compile annual reports.

“It’s easier to have the information electronically,” Ellen said.

Habersham is ready to enthusiastically share her message about keeping a clean community at any school.

“We’ve been invited by many,  many schools to come in and share our presentations, and we’ve been doing that in a steady basis and we’re really excited about it,” she said.

For more information about education programs and cleanups, visit

Civic Journalism Senior Fellow Liz Fabian covers Macon-Bibb County government entities and can be reached at [email protected] or 478-301-2976.