The Rome-Floyd Litter & Blight Task Force is not seeking to re-invent the wheel when it comes to combating the ugliness of trash strewn about streets or dilapidated buildings that haunt neighborhoods.
Wednesday night the group learned about programs in Cincinnati and Raleigh that have been effective and could be adapted to Rome and Floyd County.
Keep Rome-Floyd Beautiful Program Manager Emma Wells spoke of a program in Cincinnati where high school students write skits and then put them on before elementary-age students in schools across the city. The program is hitting two distinct age groups and the younger kids often look to the older students as role models.
Wells said that 40% of the events she has managed during the past year were directly tied to education.
Rome-Floyd ECO Center Director Ben Winkelman suggested that there ought to be a way to incorporate more about the anti-litter message into the curriculum the ECO Center develops for the more than 10,000 children who pass through the environmental education center each year.
“We could pick up a lot of the educational programs and plug them into what we’re already doing,” Winkelman said.
Task Force Chairman David Mathis said it will be critical to the success of the task force to get local educators to buy into any campaign the group pushes out in the future.
Floyd County Commissioner Allison Watters suggested that anti-litter messages also can be hammered home in the drivers education program offered through the county schools.
Watters was armed Wednesday night with information from an “86 It” program run in the Raleigh area. The phrase “86 It” is slang for getting rid of something.
One of the hallmarks of that program has been that the focus is not on shaming those who toss litter from cars or trucks. She said a study done by consultants for the North Carolina program indicated that people respond less to ugly images and shaming than to positive reinforcement of anti-litter messaging.
Cave Spring Mayor-elect Rob Ware said he was impressed by the television campaign on behalf of an insurance provider that had Houston Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt picking litter out of a river. Ralph Davis said the local group might consider Nick Chubb for a similar campaign. Chubb was a star at Cedartown High and UGA before becoming a leading rusher in the National Football League for Cleveland.
Rome communications coordinator Kristi Kent said several schools have committed to participate in a poster art contest to promote the anti-litter and blight campaign. The student who submits the winning art will receive a $75 gift card, as will the student’s teacher. Entries must be submitted to the ECO Center by Dec. 6 to be included in the judging.