How to organize a community cleanup

Community cleanup Ecological Damage Littering

Have you ever organized a community cleanup? These kinds of events not only help out the planet by clearing out trash in a certain area in your neighborhood, they also help you meet like-minded people with whom you can share your eco-friendly lifestyle.

If you already take part in small cleanups with your friends, or practice activities such as plogging or trash tag, that’s great, but how about organizing something that will involve others too?

Establish the main details

First thing you would have to decide when organizing a cleanup is time and location.

Do your research and find a critical area such as a beach, a river, or woodlands that needs attention and that aren’t being looked after by other local groups. Once you have identified the area you wish to concentrate on, make enquiries and ask whether you need a permit or whether you need to follow specific guidelines in that particular spot. Make sure that your meeting point can be easily located, is accessible to everyone, and that it’s equipped with nearby services such as bathrooms - if not you’re going to have to provide an alternative yourself.

cleanup date

Second thing you need to do is pick a date, a time, and a meeting spot where the group will convene at the beginning and at the end of the day. Give yourself enough time between the start of the organization process and the actual date, so that you have sufficient time to get everything in place without running around at the very last minute (especially if this is your first time organizing something like this).

When selecting your date, remember to also pick a potential ‘Rain date’, in case the weather puts a damper on your original cleanup event. By already having a ‘just in case’ date, and displaying it alongside all your communication, you’ll be sure that if the first date doesn’t work, your plan B is already in motion. 

Make a list of what you’ll need

Certain items immediately come to mind when thinking about a cleanup such as pickers, gloves, trash bags and rakes but where do you get them?

You can contact partners and local businesses to ask if they can donate to your cause (for example the hardware store closest to the site could donate garbage bags or gloves), or perhaps you could get in touch with your community waste-management organization and ask them for advice on where to borrow/rent certain supplies or where to find them at a good price. 

beach cleanup

Other items volunteers should bring along on the day are hats, sunscreen, bug spray, hand sanitizer, reusable water bottles, and closed toed shoes. List these items in your communication but make sure you have also have some extras on standby in case someone forgets something.

For example you could have a cooler or two full of water and reusable cups or bottles in case someone forgets to bring something to drink.

Where does the trash go?

Hopefully a lot of people turn up at your event and bags and bags of trash are collected during the day, but where will those bags all go? You can’t fill up your home dumpster, and you certainly can’t leave them all there, so make a few calls to your local waste management authorities and make sure your day doesn’t end in disaster, by arranging where to drop them off, or better still, finding out if you can get them picked up for free. 


Get the word out!

Once place, date, list of requirements and drop offs/pick ups have been established, start getting the word out on social media, not only by asking friends and family to share your poster, but also by asking your neighborhood organizations to mention the cleanup in their newsletters or on their websites / social media pages. You could even send a press release to your local paper or radio station.

Being sure to get the word out properly and to engage with more people as possible, is also why you should consider giving yourself a bit more time between when you start organizing the event, and the date of the actual cleanup. Not only to benefit you, but also to give the chance for the initiative to be scheduled and featured properly by others. 

Another option (but consider it carefully before you waste paper) could be to print out one or two flyers and place them in targeted places where you know there is a high foot traffic, for example in popular local cafes.

Wherever you choose to promote your cleanup make sure your communication is consistent and clear (always mention the date, rain date, meet up place, and list of what is needed) and leave a contact number or email if they need to get in touch for more details. If you can set up a system where volunteers can also RSVP and leave you their contact information even better. This way you have those names and numbers on hand if quick correspondence is needed (for example reminding them of the date and time a couple of days before the cleanup).

On the day

Make sure you are there ahead of the meet up time to start setting a perimeter of the area volunteers should concentrate in. Once people start arriving, make sure they have all the equipment needed and that they know what they are looking for and how to properly divide it. 

In fact, not everyone may know exactly what the difference between what should be trashed and what should be put in a recycling bin, so make sure you supply that information and educate them on how to divide items properly. If you have the chance, handing out different colored bags could also help make things easier. 


Once everyone is fully equipped and been briefed on the perimeters in which to stay in, and the time and place in which to reconvene at the end of the cleanup for bag collection, your event can begin!

Please note that although you may be dealing with volunteers and you’re doing this to help your community, sometimes things can go wrong, so consider whether or not you would like people to sign waivers before they set out for the day. Waiver examples can be easily found online and protect you, as the organizer, incase something doesn’t go according to plans.

Then what? 

On the day remember to take a lot of pictures to share not only with the volunteers, but also with the local press, in order to show how much your effort contributed to protecting your local ecosystem, and reinstating the beauty of your neighborhood or of that particular area.

At the end of the cleanup, when the last piece of trash is all picked up, show your appreciation to everyone who turned up to help, maybe by having something for them to drink or to snack on. Showing your volunteers how important they are will encourage them to attend your next event.

If you have contact details send out a recap e-mail detailing things like how many bags of trash you hauled away and the number of volunteers you had. Finally, ask everyone whether you can keep those numbers and emails to get back in touch for future cleanups! 

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