At age 75 and after 23 years heading up Tucson Clean & Beautiful, Joan Lionetti has no shortage of ideas - or energy. She says she has a special fondness for the Trees for Tucson program, but her favorite project is "the one I am doing at the time."

A nonprofit group called Tucson Clean & Beautiful has been making its name come true for 25 years - and Joan Lionetti has guided the work for nearly all that time.

As the group marks a quarter-century of service, we asked Lionetti, its executive director for the past 23 years, to share highlights.

Q. How has Tucson Clean & Beautiful evolved?

A. Over the past 23 years we have evolved from an anti-litter organization to the flagship of grass-roots community environmental programs, projects and events - and have seen the public proactively supporting environmental issues and participating on a community and personal level in cleanups, recycling, sustainability issues, climate change, carbon footprint and beautification projects and programs.

Q. Do you have a favorite TC&B program?

A. The one I am doing at the time. However, Trees for Tucson, which I founded in 1989, has been my most challenging and interesting program. . . . Since 1993, TFT has partnered with Tucson Electric Power Co. to plant thousands of trees for energy conservation. . . . TFT has provided more than 70,000 desert and desert-adapted trees for energy conservation and thousands of additional trees for community projects, schools and nonprofit organizations.

Q. What's the group's biggest challenge today?

A. It's to maximize our program capacity and to sustain community participation. The problem of keeping our metro area clean and beautiful belongs to all of us, and so do the solutions.

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Q. Why is recycling so important?

A. Because it is an integral component of any community's waste-management planning and diverts thousands of tons of materials that can be reused in manufacturing new materials rather than using valuable and limited natural resources. Recycling extends the life of our landfills and also provides economic opportunities for jobs and innovative uses of waste.

Q. What keeps you on the job at the age of 75?

A. I have stayed with TC&B because it gave me the opportunity to utilize all of my life experiences, my commitment, my passion, my tenacity - and take on the challenges to sustain the unique and incredible beauty, culture and spirit of Tucson for present and future generations.

Contact reporter Doug Kreutz at or at 573-4192.