How to Organize a Neighborhood Cleanup Day

You can help the planet, get to know your neighbors, and make a difference in your community by cleaning up the neighborhood.

By Rachel Brougham | Published Nov 30, 2023 10:28 AM

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Whether you do it on Earth Day or any other day of the year, neighborhood cleanups not only help spruce up your street, a nearby park or public walkways, but they also help the environment and bring your neighbors together with a common goal.

It may not be a fun block party, but a successful neighborhood cleanup can be just as rewarding. Neighborhood cleanups take some planning and preparation beyond just posting about the event on a neighborhood message board or text chain. However, at the end of the cleanup, you’ll be able to feel good about the work you’ve done and possibly come away with ideas for the next cleanup, some new neighborhood friends, and maybe even some ideas on how to make your neighborhood safer.

Here are some tips to get started.

Identify a Need

Collecting plastics out of water.

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Are there a lot of leaves that need to be removed from storm drains? Perhaps, after a long winter, the neighborhood park needs a bit of a refresh along with some fresh mulch and paint on the equipment. Did the spring snowmelt reveal a lot of trash along the streets? Identify the needs of your neighborhood so you have a clear goal of what can be done during your cleanup day.

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Set a Time, Date and Location

After you identify an area of your neighborhood that could use a cleanup and estimate how long the cleanup might take, set a time, date, and location to meet. Weekends might be ideal, and you’ll want to schedule a window of time for the cleanup, say 10 a.m. to noon. Also, don’t forget to pick a location to meet so participants will know where to go for the event.

Do You Need Permission?

Depending on the area where the cleanup will take place, you may need permission. If it’s a city or school park or a stretch of highway, reach out to the owners of the property and let them know you’d like to organize a cleanup, what type of cleanup, and when you’d like to have the event.

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Get the Word Out

You’ll want to let neighbors know in advance of the cleanup so they can make plans to do their part. You can get the word out by posting on neighborhood social media groups such as Nextdoor, putting up fliers around the neighborhood (just make sure to remove them when the event is over), and dropping off fliers with your neighbors. The more people who know about the event, the more successful your neighborhood cleanup will be.

Also, don’t forget to mention any items participants should bring to the cleanup, such as sunscreen, bug spray and water to drink.

Assemble a Team

Young woman with group of volunteers.

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You may need a few volunteers to lead various parts of the cleanup. Have one person be the point of contact for volunteers and stay at the starting location. This person can help direct volunteers and answer questions. If you have a lot of volunteers, you may want to designate leaders who can take a few people to clean up a specific area and help keep the cleanup on track.

Gather Supplies

Think about what supplies you may need for the cleanup. Will you need trash bags and recycling bins? What about protective gloves? Are you going to offer water, coffee, or snacks to participants? “Asking for donations of trash bags, refreshments and equipment is a great way to keep your cleanup well supplied and financially efficient,” according to EarthDay.org. The organization notes that neighborhood hardware or grocery stores may be interested in donating supplies to help with the event.

You can also reach out to organizations such as Keep America Beautiful, which may be able to help with supplies.

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Where Will the Trash and Recyclables Go?

Volunteers holding recycling bin and sign.

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You’ll need to have a plan on where you’ll take the trash and recyclables once they are collected. Or you may need to arrange a pickup from your local public works department.
You may need to appoint someone to be in charge of helping participants separate the trash from recyclables. Did you know these 20 items can’t be recycled?

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Don’t Forget Safety

Safety always comes first. Encourage volunteers to dress for the weather and wear comfortable shoes and appropriate clothing for the cleanup. If you’ll be picking up trash along a roadway, you may want to wear reflective safety vests. Depending on the task, you may want safety glasses or masks. Talk to the volunteers at the start of the event and encourage adults to pick up glass and any sharp objects, and keep an eye on smaller children near water or any dangerous areas. Also, have a first aid kit on hand in case someone gets cut or stung.