Have you ever wondered… what would happen if everyone picked up just one piece of litter? And what if a big group of people gathered together for a cleanup event to pick up ALL the trash in one location, all at the same time?
Your neighborhood park might look better than it has in years. Your local stream might become a clean and healthy habitat for wildlife again. And that nearby hiking and biking trail might become a source of civic pride like never before.
Sound too good to be true?
It doesn’t have to be. This Saturday, September 16, is National Clean Up Day in the U.S., the perfect opportunity to make a positive impact in your community as a volunteer participant, or by organizing a cleanup event.
National Cleanup Day got its start some years ago when two hiking enthusiasts, Steve Jewett and Bill Willoughby, started picking up random trash they found along their favorite hiking trails. Soon, they began brainstorming about how they could motivate others to have fun while helping to clean up their local trails. They applied business and marketing processes to create a plan for a sustainable nonprofit organization and to recruit board members, advisors and volunteers, attracting a wide spectrum of people seeking a cleaner environment.
Today, the men and women of National Clean Up Day have teamed up with Keep America Beautiful and the Earth Day Network to work with local grassroots organizations and community members to clean up green spaces, urban landscapes, and waterways across the U.S. With participation in all 50 states and various territories, they are building an army of volunteers to make a tangible impact on waste in our environments.
In recent years, they have expanded their reach through their Tailored CleanUp program to unite with local businesses, non-profit organizations and municipalities who want to see a cleaner future through sponsorships and community involvement.
How to get involved
Joining a National Clean Up Day event in your area is not hard at all… and organizing one is easier than you think!
Use the online interactive map to locate a cleanup opportunity in your area.
Click the link to join forces with others in your area who have already volunteered for a cleanup project.
Publicize your clean up
Male a point to spread the word about your local effort on social media, and be sure to use the hashtags #NationalCleanUpDay and #trashtag.
Once you’re underway with your cleanup and after it’s finished, be sure to check in with updates on what you’ve accomplished. And make sure to include pictures or videos to show what a difference you’ve made!
Start your own cleanup event
If you’d like to create a cleanup event in your area… well, first of all, thank you! You can start by filling out and submitting the simple online form to get the ball rolling.
Before you begin organizing your cleanup, make sure you’re prepared with the basics.
✅ Make sure it is safe and permissible by your local authorities.
✅ Select an appropriate time and route for the cleanup. The event should be during daylight hours when the weather conditions are also likely to be favorable.
✅ Ensure participants sign a waiver. National CleanUp Day has partnered with Otter Waiver to make it easy and reduce paper consumption. Simply signup for Otter, build a waiver, and you’ll be legally protected in a way that’s aligned with your goals.
✅ Bring a supply of masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, and BBQ tongs. Bring enough for cleanup participants to use, or encourage them to bring their own.
✅ Keep the environment safe. Remember, vegetation is sensitive, and wildlife is best kept wild.
✅ Be sure to disinfect any reusable equipment after the cleanup. Because trash can be really filthy! Then throw those clothes in a new Kenmore washing machine and call it a day.
For a wealth of other helpful tips, check out the checklist at National CleanUp Day’s web site.
It’s just good, clean fun
When everybody pitches in, it’s amazing how much you can accomplish in a day. What’s equally amazing is how satisfying it can be to get together with friends, neighbors and colleagues in your community and spend some time together in the great outdoors, working toward a common goal. You might be surprised by just how much fun a cleanup can be!
Looking to plan a freshwater community cleanup event? Checkout our Protecting Freshwater guide!