How To Host a Successful Clean Up

by Katie Martinez on March 1, 2019

“The best prize life has to offer is a chance to work hard at work worth doing.” – Theodore Roosevelt.

I started actively hiking nearly a decade ago, but it wasn’t until around 5 years ago, that I first began participating in large organized efforts to clean up some of our natural areas. As I continued to hike, and as social media began to highlight once unknown locations, I began to notice more and more trash on the trails. I would do my best to pick up what I could find, but I finally hit a trail that I couldn’t clean on my own. After going back the next day with a trash bag, and barely making a dent, I felt very defeated and discussed the issue on my own social media, mostly to vent my frustrations, and anticipating that others would not take notice of the issue. People did notice though, and four months later we hosted a clean up, that took out over 500 lbs of trash from a park and surrounding trails. Then couple months after we came back with even more volunteers, and took about the rest of what we could grab. This March we will be going back to the same park, this time working with the city to clean up the trash that has gathered since.

So many others have the heart and the drive to do the same in their own community, but at the same time, they are not quite sure where to start. Here are some tips that hopefully can help you to host your own clean up:

1. Find a location.

The first step of course would be to find a location that is in need of some cleaning and care. Take a walk through your community or your local trails. Are there any areas that you notice in need of a clean up?

2. Scout the location.

Take a look at the location and see where most of the trash is located. How many volunteers would you need? Are there any special considerations (ie waterways, weather concerns, etc.) that need to be planned for?

3. Contact city or county officials and local environmental organizations.

There are two main reasons for this. First, you will need to have permission from the governing body in charge of the area. These organizations more often than not welcome the help, but they are also privy to any health, safety, or environmental concerns that may present themselves in that area. Secondly, at times there are already groups trying to clean up the same area. This would be a great opportunity to connect with other like minded individuals, and further collaborate to make a even larger and more lasting impact on that area.  

4. Gather your supplies.

 A trash pickup can be as simple as carrying an extra bag with you (see @11thEssential), but if you are hosting a larger scale clean up, there are some supplies you would want to consider: Work gloves, trash bags, first aid kit, trash grabbers, hand sanitizer, buckets (for glass and sharp objects), and water (for you and your team).

5. Spread the word.

Set a date and time to host the clean up and gather your team! Take to social media, send out notices, register your event on the Adventure Aide app, and get the word out!

6. Figure out where you are going to take the trash after the event.

Recycling, hazardous materials, and trash items alike need to be separated and disposed of correctly.

Finally, as you organize your own clean up, keep in mind, that no matter how many people show up, even if you are alone at your event, your efforts are still making a huge difference in the world. When I posted the pictures of the park, I didn’t think anyone was watching- I couldn’t have imagined what was to come from me just going on my own to pick up some trash. You lead best by example, and thank you for your work.

Good luck on hosting your next clean up!

P.S. Come join us on April 20th for clean ups being hosted by different Adventure Aide Ambassadors and Aides around the country!  More details at