The annual Keep Mississippi/Alabama Beautiful Conference was hosted at the Hattiesburg Holiday Inn Oct. 10 and 11. The conference served as part of a growing effort to reduce littering and increase sustainability in Hattiesburg.
Neeley Jones, the assistant director with Keep Mississippi Beautiful, said the conference centers around giving community leaders tools to develop programs and increase education initiatives to aid sustainability. Jones said Hattiesburg has moved towards being greener and creating a sustainability-based community mindset in recent years.
The two-day conference brings people together to discuss what they can do to better improve sustainability efforts in Mississippi and Alabama.
“We’re all fighting the same battle, so it’s very uplifting as well to see other people who have the same passion as you do,” Jones said.
Chief communications officer for Hattiesburg Samantha McCain said the city relaunched its recycling program in 2017, which is aimed at educating citizens on recycling availability to increase recycling registration. Additionally, the city, along with its sanitation division, launched an anti-litter campaign in January.
“The city has both a recycling program and a collaborative effort with Keep Hattiesburg Beautiful to proactively educate the community about anti-littering initiatives and the benefits of recycling- from our youngest Hattiesburgers in school to our residents who attend quality of life events like Hub Fest and Live at Five,” McCain said.
Nkrumah Frazier, the sustainability officer for Hattiesburg as well as the Keep Hattiesburg Beautiful coordinator, said community engagement is the key for Hattiesburg to move toward an eco-friendly future.
“With litter, if we’re the only ones just trying to take charge of it, it’s always going to be an issue,” Frazier said. “If you can’t get the community to stop littering, it’s always going to be there. So, the goal is to try to change the community behavior to prevent the litter before it even hits the ground.”
Frazier said every city is different and, therefore, has different needs when it comes to becoming greener. Since Hattiesburg has been recycling for a short time, Keep Hattiesburg Beautiful is largely focused on getting citizens on board for recycling and city beautification.
“For Hattiesburg specifically, one of the obstacles we have is just trying to change the community mindset of not littering,” Frazier said. “It’s got to be a community-based effort to change that behavior.”
McCain said she is optimistic about Hattiesburg’s trajectory toward a more sustainable future as the city continues to emphasize litter pickup and recycling availabilities.
“While we still have a long way to go, we believe each day is an opportunity to do more because it’s the right thing for Hattiesburg and for generations to come,” McCain said.
For Hattiesburg citizens who wish to enroll in the city’s recycling program, the cost is $3 added to monthly water bills. Visit hattiesburgms.com/recycle to register your home or to learn more.