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Transforming Your Neighborhood: A Guide to Organizing a Successful Community Cleanup

Updated: Feb 25

If you’ve recently walked outside in your community, you’ve most likely witnessed litter scattered across the ground, a trash can overflowing, and pieces of paper and plastic whipping around in the wind. Unfortunately, these scenes are getting more common as our population grows.

Community Trash Cleanup

Fact: Being surrounded by trash stinks, literally. People don’t want to walk littered streets, but the idea of initiating change can feel overwhelming.


That’s where we come in.


In just a few short minutes, we’ll give you the tools you’ll need to plan and execute a successful community cleanup, so that you can start enjoying your community spaces the way they were meant to be enjoyed.


So, roll up your sleeves, dust off your gloves, and rally some neighbors; it’s time to inspire change and build relationships in your community. It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3… (4, 5, 6)...


Six step for organizing a community cleanup:


1. Define the Purpose

Organizing a community cleanup can happen for many reasons: beautification, environmental preservations, health, safety, community engagement, education, awareness, or encouraging sustainable practices. Whatever your reason, defining the purpose of your cleanup before you start is essential. People like working toward a goal. A mission. Once you have your why, then you can rally your troops.


2. Rally the Troops

Organizing an event on your own is hard. Organizing an event with your friends is fun. Splitting the responsibilities of planning/organizing will help alleviate your stress and make the experience more enjoyable. Now that you have your team, you’ll want to secure a community contact.


  • Find Community Contacts: Once you have your tribe of helpers, the first stop you’ll want to make is to your town's website to locate the emails of employees in the Parks and Recreation department who you can connect with about your event. Litter and waste management is a huge burden for most towns/cities, so this should be a conversation they are very willing to have!

  • Set up a meeting: Set up a meeting between your new contact and your team to discuss the purpose for your project. Key things to review during the meeting:

    • If/how they can participate or support your goals

    • What is needed in order for your event to take place (i.e. permits, safety equipment, and waivers, etc.)

    • Past projects that have been successful and take-aways from those efforts

    • If they would be willing to assist with marketing your event on their community pages or by posting flyers on community boards

  • Choose a date/time/location: Choose a date that everyone agrees upon. Always consider dates where many people would have off work which will increase attendance, but avoid holidays. For your location, choose an area that is clearly in need: a beach, trailhead, neighborhood, park, etc.. Once decided, create a one-pager explaining the “who, what ,when, where and why” of your event which you will use to communicate the details to various groups. Include a rain date, if applicable.

  • Gather Volunteers: Getting volunteers is the hardest part of this so don’t be afraid to ask for help - trust us, you’ll be glad you did. Consider offering small incentives or rewards for participants - this is not required so don’t overthink it; people will still come!

Here are some suggestions of where to find volunteers:

  • Instagram

  • Facebook groups

  • Rotary clubs

  • Volunteer organizations

  • Schools

  • Local businesses

  • Church/ Religious Organizations


Give them the one-pager you created so that they can spread the details of your event easily!


3. Market Your Event

Marketing your event is about creating an experience that resonates with your community, encourages participation, and maximizes the impact of your event.


How to Create Marketing Materials

You’ll want to make sure to market your event across many different channels to reach the most possible people. Channels for marketing:

  • Create an event flier to hang around town and in local shops

  • Leverage the power of social media

  • Tell your family and friends and encourage them to share your event.

  • Contact your local newspapers, radio stations, and television channels to share information about the cleanup. Give them your one-pager to assure proper dissemination of the event details.

Remember: You never know who will be able to provide support, so don’t be shy!


When to start marketing?

  • 6-8 weeks before event - Communicate with your city and local community groups, let them know about your plans and ask them if they can provide support. Gather their contact information.

  • 3-4 weeks before event - Create a digital way for community members to RSVP to your cleanup. Then create a simple flier (or re-use your one-pager) that includes the basics: date, time, location, purpose of the cleanup, and how they can register. Start pushing out the flier wherever you can; the more places you can post, the better!

  • 1-2 weeks before event - Repost about the cleanup. Post fliers outdoors in the area where the clean-up will take place. For outdoor flyers, wait until one week before, because the outdoor elements can impact your signage causing them to fall down or become damaged.

  • 3-5 days before event - Follow-up with those who have RSVP’d to your event, send out communication to let them know what to expect, any changes to the event, and suggestions on what to bring and what to wear.


4. Prepare the Supplies

Now that you have your date, location, marketing materials, and volunteers, it is time to get ready for the big day!


Supplies

When gathering supplies, it is best practice to ask for donations. Head to your local businesses with information about your day, and ask if they would be willing to donate any of the following:

  • Gloves (reusable is preferred)

  • Pick-up sticks (great for hard to reach areas)

  • Buckets or large garbage bags for collection of trash

  • Sunscreen

  • Snacks for volunteers

  • Safety containers (for biohazards)

  • Data tracker (you’ll want to be able to show off the fruits of your labor!)

  • Paper, Pen and clipboard (if you are tracking waste or want to collect emails for future pick-ups)

  • Camera to document the day

If you don’t get enough from donations, ask your volunteers to come with their own supplies and then have back-ups for those who show up with just their awesome selves.


Ideas for Sustainability

Make your cleanup efforts more sustainable by adopting practices that minimize waste, promote recycling, and protect the environment. Here are a few ways you can make your cleanup more environmentally friendly:

  • Reduce single-use items: Encourage participants to bring reusable water bottles, gloves and containers instead of disposable ones.

  • Separate and sort waste: Set up bins for different types of waste such as recyclables, compostables, and non-recyclables.

  • Promote recycling: Talk about the importance of recycling and some tips for how to recycle standard items and hard to recycle items.

  • Track your trash: Tracking the trash your group collects is a great way to better understand the cause.

  • Involve local businesses: Coordinate with local businesses that you know value this type of volunteer work. Give them space to discuss their business and why they support community cleanups. This is a great time to create awareness and build a supportive community.


5. Plan the Logistics

Best laid plans are… the best. Make sure to think about the flow of the day so that your volunteers have a seamless experience and will be eager to return. Think through your back-up plan. What if it rains? What if there aren’t enough trash bags? Try to prepare for every scenario.


Here is a suggested itinerary for a successful day:

  • Opening meeting

  • Hand out supplies

  • Explain the process & goals

  • Begin cleanup!

  • Data collection (if applicable)

  • Snack/water break

  • Clean some more!

  • Give a 10-minute warning before the conclusion of the event

  • Bring people together for final trash collection, thank yous and good-byes


6. Event Follow-up

You did it! Yay! Immediately following your event, take a moment to appreciate your huge accomplishment. After the proper congratulations to yourself, it’s time to thank everyone else who helped you succeed.


In your “thank you” communications, include pictures, videos, and any data collected to help show the impact your volunteers had on the area. By taking the time to send these thank-yous, you’re building a sense of community and encouraging continued engagement in eco-friendly events. Additionally, if you have the time/energy, sending a follow-up survey will help you plan better cleanup events in the future.


Final Thoughts

Organizing a community cleanup can be a fun and rewarding experience but does take proper planning and organizing in order to make a successful event. When communities come together to address issues of litter and pollution, it results in cleaner towns and increased community awareness.


Every person can make a difference. By creating awareness about environmental issues and the importance of sustainable practices, real change and positive environmental impacts result.


Join us by taking a stand against pollution! Ready to make a difference? Start by organizing a cleanup or volunteering in one near you by clicking here.



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