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How to Organize a Community Cleanup

Young man cleaning the beach

Hosting a cleanup is a great way to get involved in your community, and a great way to get your community involved with picking up trash and keeping your town clean. Hosting a Cleanup can feel pretty daunting, but we are going to break the process down into a few simple steps so that you can make your event day streamlined and safe for everyone.

The Basics

As you start planning, the essentials are where you’re going to clean and when. Nail these down, and you’re ready to ask for help!

The ideal place for your Cleanup is a public location that is in need of maintenance such as a park or beach. Make sure it’s accessible by public transit or bicycle, and remember that you might need to obtain a permit to host your event. This will make it easier for people to participate. 

Earth Day is April 22nd and National Cleanup Day is on the third Saturday in September, but your Cleanup can happen any time during September. We suggest planning your event 3 months in advance – it’s better to have more time to plan than not enough. Choose a time with plenty of daylight and comfortable temperatures. Again, the more comfortable you can make circumstances for your participants, the more of them you’ll have. 

Organize a Planning Group

Create a team to help pull off your event. Invite members from local government, civic organizations, clubs, homeowner associations, churches and media to serve on a cleanup planning committee. Having a diverse coalition can help the event to run smoothly. Ask your Mayor for a National CleanUp Day Proclamation – it’s simple to do and your Mayor will usually make the proclamation annually without the need for a vote.

CleanUp Logistics

There are a few important things to think through regarding the actual event day. 

Bathrooms – Where are they located? Are they public? Can anyone offer restrooms if there are none at the event site? 

Refreshments – Show courtesy to people who have come out to assist and offer them snacks and drinks. At a minimum, we suggest having a cooler or two full of water, particularly if your event day is a warm one. 

Trash – Most importantly, where is all of the trash going? Can you handle 20 giant bags? Who will pick it up and where are they taking it? Make sure to coordinate with your local waste management facility – they often have programs specifically designed for these events. 

Active females clean beach from trash, care of environment, carry red litter bag, throw plastic bottles, remove bad actions of people. Planet sustainability and nature preseravation concept.

Assemble a Team

Once you have these details worked out, it’s time to advertise your Cleanup! Create a flyer for your event containing all of the important details. 

  • Location of the event
  • Start and end Times
  • Rain or shine?
  • Ask people to bring gloves, pickers, and trash bags if they have them
  • Remind helpers to bring a reusable water bottle, sunscreen, closed toed shoes, etc.

Gather your family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, and co-workers to join the Cleanup effort. Encourage them to reach out to their own social circles to expand your base. Invite local institutions and community groups to organize and turn out their members. Find more information on assembling a strong volunteer team at NationalCleanupDay.org. 

Promote your Event

To create visibility around your event and encourage maximum participation, make sure to: 

  • Promote on social media like Facebook and neighborhood sites. 
  • Print flyers and post around town. 
  • Ask your city to share on websites or printed materials. 
  • Send a press release to info@cleanupnews.org
  • Add your location to the  CleanUps.org map 
  • Touch base with local media, radio stations, etc. 

Make sure to have your planning committee share with friends and promote using their social channels. You can create events on Facebook and post a digital flyer and reminders on other platforms as well. Make sure to use the following hashtags: 

  • National CleanUp Day on Facebook or Instagram @nationalcleanupday #nationalcleanupday 
    • Tag us if you cleaned a trail -> Clean Trails @cleantrails #cleantrails  cleantrails.org
    • Tag us if you went Plogging (jogging + picking up litter) ->   @plogging   #plogging   plogging.org
    • Tag us if you did the TrashTag Challenge (before and after photos)   @trashtag   #trashtag  trashtag.org
  • Tag Earth Day if you participated in our Earth Day CleanUp     @GreatGlobalCleanUp  #GreatGlobalCleanup earthday.org
  • If you loved using Otter Waiver for environmentally friendly liability forms, share that info at @otterwaiver #otterwaiver “
Otter Waiver Kiosk Checkin

Manage Participant Waivers

No one wants to think about something going wrong at a Cleanup event – but if it does, you need to be covered. In all of the organized Cleanups we’ve participated in, we’ve had to sign waivers. Waivers are a basic element of a well-planned Cleanup day. 

National Cleanup Day has partnered with Otter Waiver to reduce volunteer paper consumption to zero this year. Simply signup for Otter and you’ll be legally protected in a way that’s aligned with your goals for social responsibility. 

Event organizers can sign up for Otter and get 100 free waiver credits, a template for a waiver, and peace of mind knowing they are not creating more waste and saving a tree in the process. 

To easily create and have participants sign online waivers from any device, follow these steps:

  • Step 1: Create an account by going to app.otterwaiver.com
  • Step 2: Once your account is set up, click on “build a waiver” in the menu and choose if you want to use our free trash cleanup template or build your own with your own waiver.
  • Step 3: After your waiver is completed you can share the custom link on your event details page and start collecting signatures. Participants can sign via a QR Code, private link, or the Otter Kiosk app. 
  • Step 4: On the day of the event use the Otter Kiosk App to check in participants. 
    • Click on the waiver to access all your volunteers. Check them off as they check in.
    • If they haven’t signed have them scan the QR code and sign from their phone and check them in.

Most Importantly – Have Fun!

The goal of any Cleanup Day is to improve the community in which you work and live, while reducing our environmental impact and sharing socially responsible values. Now, you can also use Otter Waiver during events to further reduce paper waste and even help more trees to be planted. These 7 tips should help you plan a great event, and if you need more ideas make sure to follow along with our blog!

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