Pollution Prevention: Keep America Beautiful — Iron Eyes Cody (1904- 1999)
I grew-up watching this commercial. It will always bring a tear to my eye.
In 1961, Keep America Beautiful partnered with the Ad Council to create a campaign dramatizing how litter and other forms of pollution were hurting the environment, and that every individual has the responsibility to help protect it. The goal of the campaign was to help fight the negative attitudes and behaviors that lead to pollution.
The anti-litter campaign originally featured “Suzy Spotless” scolding her litterbug father and later featured pigs rummaging through trash left behind by humans. Although mainstream America remained oblivious to environmental concerns, change was in the air with the publication of Rachel Carson’s New York Times bestseller Silent Spring in 1962. The book represented a watershed moment for the modern environmental movement, selling more than 500,000 copies.
In 1970, Senator Gaylord Nelson, created Earth Day. The Keep America Beautiful charity started a toll-free hotline and began offering a free brochure and more than 100,000 copies were requested within the first four months. On top of that, the National Litter Index dropped for the second straight year. However, it wasn’t until later that the Pollution Prevention campaign became embedded in American culture.
On Earth Day, 1971, a public service announcement featuring Native American actor Chief Iron Eyes Cody and the tagline line, “People Start Pollution. People can stop it.” aired for the first time. Iron Eyes Cody became synonymous with environmental concern and achieved lasting fame as, “The Crying Indian.” The PSA won two Clio awards and the campaign was named one of the top 100 advertising campaigns of the 20th Century by Ad Age Magazine. In 1982, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce honored Iron Eyes Cody, whose film repertoire included three Western films with President Ronald Reagan, with a star bearing his name on the Famous Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard.
During the height of the campaign, Keep America Beautiful reported receiving more than 2,000 letters a month from people wanting to join their local team. By the end of the campaign, Keep America Beautiful local teams had helped to reduce litter by as much as 88% in 300 communities, 38 states, and several countries. The success of the Keep America Beautiful anti-litter campaign led to hundreds of other environmental messages through the years, from many different sources, including the Ad Council.
Please be good to your Mother Earth, not just today on Earth Day, but forever!
© The Naturarian