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James City County was among the seven Hampton Roads localities recently recognized for successfully reducing tobacco-related litter last summer.
Keep America Beautiful presented a National Program Award to askHRgreen.org for its participation in the national Cigarette Litter Prevention Program at its national conference Feb. 1.
The eight-week program was launched throughout the region last June and featured a multi-pronged prevention initiative that included a “Cigarette Butts = Litter” messaging campaign, outreach events and the placement of cigarette litter receptacles at each of the selected locations.
Each of the participating localities benefited from a grant from Keep America Beautiful totaling $12,500, which paid for 35 new permanent cigarette butt receptacles and 5,000 hand-held and auto ashtrays that were distributed to smokers frequenting those areas.
Additional resources provided by askHRgreen.org included new signs and education materials installed and distributed at the sites at the outset of the program.
In addition to the James City County site – a commuter parking lot off Interstate 64 at Croaker Road – the other participating regional locations included Buckroe Beach in Hampton, Hilton Village in Newport News, Civic Plaza in Norfolk, the nTelos Wireless Pavilion in Portsmouth, downtown Main Street in Suffolk and the Lake Smith and Lake Lawson natural area in Virginia Beach.
In pre-scan studies of all the sites, volunteers found 3,223 cigarette butts and plastic cigar tips, according to a recent news release from askHRGreen.org. The post-scan showed that “all project sites saw a dramatic difference in the reduction of litter, with a total average decrease in cigarette litter of 74 percent among all the sites,” the release went on to say.
James City County’s commuter lot, from which volunteers collected more than 300 cigarette butts on just 20 percent of the lot during the initial clean-up, saw a reduction of 46 percent.
“Reversing attitudes and behaviors about cigarette litter should be an important issue for everyone, but it’s especially critical in Hampton Roads, which prides itself on our waterways, tourism attractions and business amenities,” said Julia B. Hillegass, askHRgreen.org team leader. “This shows we can stamp out cigarette litter by using a strategic, regional approach, and I hope recognition for our program will garner the attention of our region’s stakeholders.”