Get Out There: Helpful Tips to Organize Your Own Community Cleanup

We're extra excited for this summer because we'll be partnering with Surfrider on a series of Save What Matters beach cleanups during our Summer of Sustainability! But, we also realize that not everyone lives near a beach or can take time out on those days to participate. 

The good news is, our planet could use your help any day of the year and cleaning up your neighborhood park, creek, beach, or forest areas can be as easy as picking up trash while you're out walking your dog.

If you're ambitious and looking to make a bigger impact, organizing a casual community cleanup is totally doable (and quite fun, if we do say so ourselves). 

We're here to help, no matter where you live or how big you want to go. Which is why we collected these tips to help you create a fun and safe event that gives back to the planet one piece of trash at a time. 

Before the Event

  1. Pick your project. Figure out what area you'll be tackling and scope it out beforehand. Look for nearby restrooms, parking areas, and whether or not the area is safe and accessible for kids and older volunteers alike. 
  2. Make a plan. Decide the date and time frame of your cleanup, then give a quick call to your city clerk (they’d love to hear from you)  to get the proper waivers, permissions, or forms needed to hold your event. And, have a plan for all that trash you'll be collecting! Check with your local recycling center to see what they can and cannot take ahead of time so you know how to sort your collection while you're on the ground. Also consider how you'll get the trash from the cleanup location to the recycling or waste management center. Now's a good time to call your cousin with the truck . . . 
  3. Gather your squad. Reach out to friends, family, PTA members, and co-workers to let them know about your event. Consider establishing a Facebook Group or email list to share Q&A and FAQ's about the event itself, and ask people to RSVP so you know how many volunteers to plan for. 
  4. Stock up on supplies. Even if you ask your volunteers to bring their own gloves (reusable gardening gloves are perfect!), bags, or buckets (for sharp objects), be prepared with extras. Also consider bringing a first aid kit, water (a large portable water container is preferred over single-use plastic bottles!), hand sanitizer, sunblock, and snacks. If you're going to be cleaning over lunch, it would be a great idea to provide food for your volunteers as well. May we suggest a litter-free lunch

During the Cleanup 

  1. Checking in. Have someone stationed at the designated meeting area in order to direct volunteers and help late-comers find their way. 
  2. Keep kids supervised. Children should always have adult supervision during a cleanup in case you come across any needles or sharp objects. This goes double if you're near water! 
  3. Know before you go. Let people know how to sort their findings (sharp objects and hazardous materials in buckets, recyclables in one bag, trash in another), and where to put filled bags to make the post-cleanup clean-up a little easier.
  4. Be the den Mom. Monitor your volunteers throughout the day and make sure they have enough water, that they reapply sunblock often, and that they're safe! Your mother would be proud.
  5. Have fun! Getting to know your neighbors, mingling with your friends, and spending a day outside helping to beautify nature can (and should be!) fun. Bring a good attitude and a positive perspective and it'll spread throughout the entire group. 

After the Cleanup 

  1. Dispose properly. Don't just leave your bags near a garbage can! Make sure that what you've collected goes to the proper recycling or waste management center. 
  2. Say thanks. Share photos and other details with your volunteer group, like how much trash you bagged and recycled from your area. 
  3. Get social. Take photos of your cleanups and share with the squad! We'd love to see you in action so tag us on Instagram and use #SaveWhatMatters.