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As chilly weather and frost continue to permeate through the U.S., Floridians know that this is the time when our warm spring weather really shines. With sun-kissed palms, snow-free parks, and beach-side sunsets, what more could we ask from the paradise we call home?

It’s no secret that the Gulf Coast of Florida has been a top destination for new residents and visitors alike, and while we love sharing our beaches, keys, mangroves, and bays, it’s important to keep in mind that we have to do our part in order to keep enjoying them for years to come. So as members of the community, how can we take care of our environment?

Jennifer Hoffman, Executive Director of Keep Manatee Beautiful, has taken the initiative to educate and inspire people to make our environment clean and beautiful.
From spending New Year’s Day removing 960 pounds of waste with 65 volunteers, to saving a green turtle stranded in the mangroves with a missing flipper, Keep Manatee Beautiful does exactly what it says: make sure our community stays beautiful.

An affiliate of Keep America Beautiful and Keep Florida Beautiful, the volunteer-based organization promotes involvement through litter prevention, recycling, and
beautification. And with a network of more than 10,000 volunteers, Hoffman and her team inspire us to show love to the tropical environment we benefit from. Here are a few things to keep in mind this spring, as well as ways to get involved, as you enjoy your beach time, vacation, and spring break.

Pictured is Board Member Cheryl Huntsinger and rescued turtle, Jackie.
JACKIE UPDATE: Sadly, the turtle passed away at Mote in late January. Jennifer is glad that Jackie ended her life loved and cared for by the right people.

Turning the Tide

When it comes to protecting our environment, including our beaches and oceans, a clean beach is a perfect place to start. On average, the waste produced on our beaches during spring break amounts to 10,000 pounds. Studies also show that if each individual picked up just 152 pieces of trash, there would be no more litter on the ground.

“The best way to keep the ocean clean is to stop trash
from getting there in the first place,” said Hoffman.
“We encourage everyone to start by picking up
their own street. Then, to come volunteer with us to
pick up everything that has been collecting in our
waterways and streets over time.”

In addition to volunteering, you can make your own
difference by setting these personal goals: First, if you bring it in, then take it out. Second, always bring a small bag for trash, and fill it up before you leave. Families can even make an activity out of it, by seeing who collects the most. Lastly, if you see an animal in trouble, report it so the right people can help.

This also expands beyond our beaches to our parks, trails, campsites, and reserves. From something as simple as picking up a stray can to ensuring your own waste is disposed of, a little can go a long way as we continue to beautify Manatee County through litter prevention.

Getting Involved

With Earth Day and Arbor Day right around the corner, what are some ways we can get involved to show appreciation for our environment and ensure it stays beautiful for years to come? One avenue is through the city. Each city in Manatee County has
its own volunteer program. The City of Bradenton is no exception with initiatives like the Tree Board, the perfect way to share your desire to save the tree canopy and influence how neighborhoods look.

For the past three years, Keep Manatee Beautiful has also hosted Earth Day events that included planting an elementary school garden, removing invasive species from local waterways, making a garden out of a vacant lot, and even revitalizing a neighborhood by improving the landscaping of 18 homes.

“Not only are we lucky enough to live in paradise, we have world-class nonprofits and government programs available to participate in. Last year alone, our volunteers collected more than 60,000 pounds of trash off of our streets and waterways, a huge impact in our beautification and litter prevention efforts.” ~Jennifer Hoffman

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