With Earth Day coming up, you might be interested in organizing a trash cleanup. Trash cleanups are incredible for supporting your community, protecting your local ecosystem, and ultimately, preserving the beauty of our gorgeous planet Earth. And while simply convincing your friends to walk around with a few trash bags and some rubber gloves is admirable, there are a few steps you need to take to grow your project, to make the greatest possible impact.
Whether you're planning to organize a trash cleanup for Earth Day, or if you hope to do so in the future, we've compiled a full checklist that includes the steps you need to take to help beautify your neighborhood.
1. Establish a time and location
The first step for organizing a neighborhood cleanup, according to National Geographic, is picking a location, date, time, and potential rain date for your trash cleanup. You'll want to select a meeting spot, and you'll also want to set the perimeters of where you'll be picking up trash. Then, you can pick a time to reconvene at the original meetup location to collect the bags of trash, and maybe celebrate the incredible work you did afterwards.
2. Gather borrowed or donated supplies
For every cleanup, you'll need supplies such as pickers, gloves, masks, recycling bags, and trash bags, according to Going Zero Waste. You won't have to spend money or buy new if you call your public works department, which can potentially help you find rented or borrowed supplies. Local volunteer groups, or groups that specialize in cleanups like your local Keep America Beautiful chapter may be able to help with providing supplies too.
3. Figure out where the trash will go
Dumping several bags of collected trash in your town's local dumpsters, or overflowing your public park's trash cans with said bags definitely won't do your community any good. Find out where you should bring the bags of trash at the end of your cleanup by calling public works, as per Going Zero Waste. They will be able to give you proper instructions in terms of waste disposal.
4. Get the word out
As previously mentioned, keeping things small is great, but publicizing your cleanup will ultimately get a bigger group together. According to New York League Of Conservation Voters, assemble a team by partnering with local like-minded organizations, handing out flyers, posting on social media, or going to your newspaper. A bigger group will ultimately result in a greater impact.
5. Make sure you have all necessary event supplies
In addition to the pickers, gloves, and bags that you'll collect from local organizations or public works, make sure you have sunscreen, bug spray, and hand sanitizer on-hand, as per EarthDay.org. Tell your group ahead of time to bring their own reusable water bottles, but make sure to have a few disposable ones on-hand as backup in case anyone forgets theirs. Also maybe get some snacks and drinks for volunteers to enjoy afterwards.
6. Coordinate educational supplies for separating trash
Although most people reading this are likely educated on separating trash from recycling, there's a chance not everyone will know how to do so. That said, it will be important to supply your volunteers with information on separating trash from different types of recycling. As previously mentioned, you may also want to supply volunteers with different colored bags so they don't get confused. Meanwhile, educate your volunteers on social-distancing rules, to avoid the spread of COVID-19.
7. Designate someone to set up and stay at the meeting place
If you can't make it to the meetup spot early, make sure to designate someone to do so. That person can also stay at the meeting place with additional supplies, to make sure those cleaning up can access additional trash bags, N95 masks, or sanitizer if necessary.
This article is part of Green Matters’ 2021 Earth Day programming, #GreenMattersGreenlight: A week-long campaign spotlighting ways you can protect the planet for Earth Day and beyond. We’re celebrating planet Earth giving us the greenlight to take climate action.