Often individuals don’t believe they can make a difference in the world, and just wait for the next big inspirational Solutionist to take on the planning of events. This time, YOU can be that Solutionist! Here’s the steps you’ll need to take to organize your own cleanup, whether it involves your entire town or just the neighbors surrounding you. Everything makes a difference!

1.)   Plan when you want to hold the cleanup

All kinds of factors need to be considered when choosing a date! The season, whether any holidays are coming up (limited availability), and what day and time works best for the majority of people. If you hold a cleanup on a Tuesday morning the week of Thanksgiving, people will likely be working, traveling, or it will be too cold for even the most passionate of volunteers.

2.)   Form a small group of people to lead the event

If you’re comfortable taking it all on by yourself, go for it! However, most people find that they need a couple extra hands, and putting your heads together for brainstorming can result in something great! Try finding 2-3 people (or more!) to join you in this endeavor, so you have backup when it comes to the later steps.

man in white crew neck t-shirt holding white and blue poster

3.)   Decide on a location & get the necessary permission

Once you’ve found a date that works and have a group of people to assist you, reach out to the town and ask if they have any areas in mind that they want to prioritize for cleaning. If not, pull out a map of the town and go around marking areas where you see an increased amount of trash. Try to keep to a few select areas near each other, so volunteers aren’t confused on where to go and follow-up isn’t made more difficult. If you find there are too many spots for one cleanup, you can always hold another! Also make sure to ask officials whether your event can be held, and if any permits are required.

4.)   Decide on incentives (if applicable)

While many of us want to help the planet in any way we can, some need more of a push. Will t-shirts be given out to all volunteers? Will there be a pizza party afterwards to celebrate the hard work that everyone did? Whether it benefits everyone or takes place as a raffle, having some type of “reward” can make the difference in volunteer numbers!

5.)   Advertise the event

Whether your town is big or small, word can only travel so fast! Make posters to advertise the cleanup and ask to post them on bulletins or in windows of local shops. You can also put an ad in the newspaper, mention it to a local radio station, or post about it on social media! The more it spreads, the easier time you’ll have getting volunteers.

6.)   Gather supplies for the expected number of volunteers

Those who have volunteered at a trash cleanup before know that you don’t always leave as clean as you came. Make sure to have trash bags and gloves readily available for anyone who doesn’t bring their own (or you can advertise a “BYOB (bring your own bags!) style cleanup if buying supplies isn’t in the budget). For cleanups that involve lakes or other water sources, make sure to inform people that they’ll need waders or waterproof clothing and footwear to partake in those areas.

7.)   Talk to a local official to find out where to take out the trash

Before you accumulate piles of trash, it’s good to know where it’s going! Some towns will take care of the cleanup waste for you, but others might have different requirements in terms of disposal. Make sure you check in with an official on what protocols your community is held to!

8.)   Assign responsibilities/areas

Either on the day of or by holding a meeting before the event, split up the volunteers into groups in whichever way benefits your cleanup plan the most. Have three separate areas? Split them into as many teams and send each out to their respective locations. Is a body of water involved? You can have those with waterproof clothes take the shallows while everyone else cleans up the surrounding land. As for responsibilities, make sure there are enough trash bags and supplies with each group, and someone that can help lead the way!

9.)   Execution

When it is finally time to get down to business, rally the troops and give them a pep talk! Thank them for coming and let them know any announcements that might impact the cleanup (such as a meeting place for when they’re done). After they’ve split up and went their separate ways, join in on the fun!

woman in black jacket holding clear glass cup with blue and white heart shaped stone in in with with on

10.)   Follow-up and Celebration!

Once the trash bags are full and the volunteers have gotten their steps in, it’s time to celebrate! Thank everyone again for the amazing job they’ve done, do any raffles or giveaways that you planned to show gratitude, and let them eat cake (or pizza)! Following the event, make sure to write thank you notes to any officials, businesses, and individuals that helped make the cleanup a success. Once all that’s done, it’s time to relax and plan your next big event!

For more information on how to organize a cleanup in your area, feel free to check out the following resources. Good luck and have fun!

How to Organize a Neighborhood Cleanup in Twelve Easy Steps

Keep Massachusetts Beautiful

Yes We Can! A How-to Guide for Neighborhood Leaders