1. Find your spot
First, identify an area in need of a cleanup. Beaches are popular spots, as they get covered with litter daily by visitors and the sea, but there may also be parks, fields, and other public spaces in need of attention. Search for information about whether it already gets cleared regularly by a local authority or community group.
2. Get the admin out of the way
Before you send out invites, get the administrative and logistical preparation sorted. Cleanups with a large group of people will require advanced permission from the landowner (usually the local authority). If the area is remote, you may need to organise a minivan or ride sharing. And don’t forget to check the latest coronavirus restrictions on social distancing, mandatory masks and gathering in multiple groups!
4. Make a date
The perfect date depends on what you want from your cleanup. Are you focused on a specific group, such as senior citizens or families? If so, there may be certain times which are more convenient for them. Otherwise, weekends are best for maximising numbers; if you’re heading to a tourist spot, consider scheduling the cleanup for a quiet time of day. Remember to check the weather forecast (and the high tide for beaches) and opening times for the recycling centre. Finally, pick a meeting point everyone can find.
5. Promote your event
Use a range of channels to call for volunteers. Promote it on social media, such as by creating a Facebook event to share to local groups. Hashtags such as #Commit2Action and #Clean4Change can help others discover your cleanup event and boost engagement on social media. You can also post in a subreddit for your area. Put up flyers around the neighbourhood and see if you can promote the event in a local newspaper or newsletter. Don’t underestimate the power of word of mouth; if you can convince a community leader the cleanup is a good idea, they may bring many others with them.
6. Get everything you need
Make sure you have enough litter pickers, bags, and gloves (sturdy gardening gloves work well). You may be able to source some of these from your local authority or its waste management contractor. Bring a first aid kit, water, and high visibility gear or clothing if necessary, and check with attendees to see if anyone has special requirements which call for other preparation on your part. You may also want to bring some home-baked treats as a thank you gesture for all the volunteers.
7. The big day
Once the volunteers have gathered at the meeting point, remind them of the area that needs clearing. It’s a good idea to go over important safety tips; for instance, use gloves to pick up glass, stay alert near roads and deep water, and don’t pick up needles (contact your local authority instead). If there is a large group of people, consider dividing them into teams to cover different areas and compete for the largest collection (or for the strangest abandoned item). Take an unflattering ‘before’ photo, set a time to regroup at the meeting place, and get started!
8. Finishing up
Once the volunteers have regrouped with their bags of rubbish, take an ‘after’ photo of the area for comparison. Make sure the rubbish gets safely to the recycling centre and other drop-off points according to your plan. If you used social media to organise the event, post again to thank the volunteers for their time and take the opportunity to share some information about reducing waste. Hopefully you’ll have found some like-minded people enthusiastic about doing more in the pursuit of zero waste.