Have you ever noticed the litter that is piling up in your local river or stream? It takes away from the beauty and safety of the waterway. Well, you can do something about it. By leading a waterway cleanup effort with others in your community, you can help make your river or stream a safer, healthier place for wildlife and people.
Rivers and streams provide 65% of our nation’s drinking water.
Millions of tons of trash end up in our nation’s rivers and streams every year. And it’s more than just an eyesore; it can contaminate your drinking water and threaten the life of all who depend on it.
You can organize a waterway cleanup in your community! Create the Good has partnered with American Rivers to make it easier for you to get involved. This how-to guide will take you step-by-step to organize your own river cleanup. It will take around 10 hours to prepare and recruit for the cleanup. And a half day to a full day for the event.
Through the National River Cleanup Program™, more than one million people have removed 13 million pounds of litter from rivers across America.
STEP 1: PLAN YOUR CLEANUP
Choose a Site
First, look for an area where there is a lot of litter (sadly, all too easy to find). Second, walk at least a stretch of the area to see how accessible it is for a group cleanup effort. Tips for choosing a site can be found in the Helpful Hints section of this guide.
If you need help finding a cleanup site, please contact a local watershed association or outfitter, or American Rivers at www.AmericanRivers.org/Cleanup.
Choose a Day and Time
Weekends are normally best for river cleanups. You should pick a date at least a month in advance so you have time to prepare and recruit. The length of cleanup is up to you – a few hours, a half-day, or an all-day event with lunch.
If you choose an all-day event, ask a local restaurant or grocery store to sponsor it by donating lunch and snacks for participants.
Get Permission from the Land Manager
Public or private land, you’ll need permission for your cleanup. If it isn’t clear who owns or manages the land, call your county auditor or land title office.
It’s usually easy to get permission for a cleanup on public land. Ask if the agency wants to help sponsor the event by providing trash bags or disposal.
With private landowners, focus on the positives of your cleanup. Explain that you want to improve the environment and participants will be respectful of the property. You can also mention that the cleanup is part of American Rivers National River Cleanup Program, a nationwide effort to beautify streams across the country.
Arrange for Trash and Recycling Removal
Start with Your Local Waste Management Company:
If They Say "No," Recruit Volunteers with Pickup Trucks:
Register your Cleanup with American Rivers
Go to www.AmericanRivers.org and register your cleanup. You can search the directory for easy-to-use maps of cleanup sites.
Register your cleanup four weeks in advance with American Rivers to receive organizing kits with materials such as trash bags, T-shirts and snacks!
STEP 2: RECRUIT
You want to recruit lots of volunteers for your cleanup. The more people you have, the greater your impact! To recruit, consider:
STEP 3: SPREAD THE WORD
Promote the cleanup in your community. It might inspire others to join or start a project of their own! You can spread the word by:
Measure your positive impact – track how many items you collect. Send the results and photos to volunteers after the event!
STEP 4: CLEANUP DAY!
Before you leave home
Kick off your cleanup!
Go to the American Rivers website, click “Report the Results of Your Cleanup,” and the National River Cleanup will post your cleanup statistics!
STEP 5: WRAP UP
At the end of the cleanup, be sure:
STEP 6: CELEBRATE AND SAY THANKS!
When your cleanup is finished, it’s time to celebrate! Have a picnic, cookout or lunch for volunteers, or if you’re all too tired and dirty, invite people to a celebratory event on another day!
Follow up with volunteers after the event to say thanks again for making the cleanup a success.
If you had any civic leaders, VIPs or reporters attend, send a formal thank you note with photos of your event and stats about your cleanup. This is a great gesture that might be helpful in engaging them for future events. This may also be helpful in starting a discussion about political action on river and stream protection!
STEP 7: INSPIRE OTHERS ON CREATE THE GOOD
KEEP UP THE GOOD!
Visit Create The Good for a wide range of opportunities to use your life experience, skills and passions to benefit your community.
Things to Keep in Mind when Picking a Site
River Safety Tips
It’s OK to make the cleanup fun, but remember SAFETY FIRST!
Understand Your Group
Check the Weather, Know your River’s Level and What the Level Means
Set the End Time Well Before Dark
Identify and be Aware of the Risks in the Outdoors
Use Common Sense
First Aid Kit
You should always have a standard first aid kit on hand for any cleanup events. For larger cleanups, consider bringing several kits as your group might spread out. Check if anyone in your group has first aid/CPR training or is a medical professional.
Protect your group from hazards by encouraging everyone to use:
Everyone should bring a bottle of water and some snacks to maintain their energy.
On the Water
If people in your party are boating, follow these ground rules to help the trip go smoothly and safely:
Garbage can be dirty, rusty, slimy, and/or sharp. Be careful when handling trash to avoid cuts and abrasions. Emphasize to everyone: Don’t be afraid to ask for help; don’t try to lift heavy objects alone.
Avoid Hazardous Materials