Cleaning Our Playground

Hosting a cleanup is an awesome way to get to know your community while giving back to Mother Earth. A cleanup can be more than just picking up litter. It can serve as space where people exchange ideas and build movements towards a greener future.

Below are a few tips that might help make your clean up more impactful:

1. Define your purpose

Why do you want people to gather and spend their day rounding up trash? If you define why this is important to you and how it can be meaningful for others, then it's easier for people to get behind the cause.

Try to make it personal and concrete. Instead of a statement such as "I want to save our planet", your purpose can be as simple as "I want to live in a cleaner neighborhood that I can be proud of. I want our surroundings to promote better mental and social well-being for the people who live in it."

Your purpose can help you clarify which areas to cover, what activities you want to happen, and who are the people you want to be involved. When you clearly articulate your WHY, the rest will follow.

2. Communicate that purpose to a tribe 

You don't have to build everything by yourself. Share your message with others. Recruit volunteers and ask people to donate supplies.

For the cleanup, you will need things like pickers, gloves, and garbage bags. For the participants, you need drinks and possibly snacks to keep everyone's energy up. These are all things organizations can provide. And volunteers can even bring their own. Your task is to communicate it clearly and provide them with the opportunity to spread the message on their own.

3. Create a detailed plan

Once you have the buy-in of your volunteers and partner groups, now it's time to work together to create a comprehensive plan.

Your plan must include the program itself, the permits you need to secure, safety precautions to implement when handling different types of trash, a list of things to bring, and individual roles to fill. 

Our community member, Vee Dorado, added an important bit: 

"Ensure you have a plan for what you can do with the litter you gathered or what comes after. Educate participants on what's actual garbage and what can be recycled or re-purposed. Make sure the cleanup itself is not driving more litter (i.e. don't give out single-use plastic water bottles)."

4. Have fun and celebrate!

Find a way for people to connect with each other during the event.

One idea is to lead a conversation where people share stories about how they first realized the impact we have as humans on our environment. They can share the first behavioral change they made once they learned about our climate crisis. They can also share frustrations and challenges they encountered as they tried to reduce their personal waste.

Thank everyone who showed up and take the time to recognize individuals who went above and beyond. This is not a requirement, but closing the event in this way is what makes it special. An extra push to make sure people leave your cleanup feeling inspired and ready to do more.

Do you have other tips when it comes to organizing cleanups? Let us know!

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Words by Ayen dela Torre
Photo by Allen Pascua

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