Iron Eyes Cody, also referred to as “The Crying Indian” formed my earliest environmental understanding in this 1971 Keep America Beautiful ad: People Start Pollution, People Can Stop It.

According to the Ad Council, the full Keep America Beautiful campaign helped to reduce litter by as much as 88% in 300 communities, 38 states, and several countries.

Although I was living in Europe at the time the ad first aired in the States, it was infused in our cultural paradigm, even as ex-pats. Perhaps especially as ex-pats since we were imbued with a sense of sentimentality for the home country.

The “please don’t litter” axiom, enhanced by the Iron Eyes visuals, made throwing anything on the pavement, from a car, or on the beach simply inconceivable. These days, I’ve actually watched families arise from their beach blankets, slough off the chaff, and leave behind a minor landfill in personal refuse.

Unfortunately for public service announcements, the parameters on PSAs and free air time changed due to deregulation in the mid 1980s. It’s not as easy to acquire free air time for public-service oriented messages as it was in the early 70s when the People Start Pollution ad aired.

I’d love to see an ad campaign like this recycled today. All garbage all ends up somewhere. Iron Eyes Cody rightfully sheds a tear over it.