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Creative and Safe Options for Fall Cleanups

Did your Fall Sweep get canceled in 2020? Are you tired of waiting for the pandemic to end so you can clean up your community?  The wait is over!  With a successful pandemic Fall Sweep and Great American Cleanup under our belts, we have lots of great ideas for you to get out there and engage your community! Check out the creative ideas fellow affiliates have come up with to continue their cleanup efforts during these complicated times.  From contactless pick up of pre-made cleanup kits to drop off of hard to recycle items, there is something here for everyone!

Create a Cleanup Kit 

One of the most creative ideas our affiliates have come up with is the pre-assembled cleanup kit!  Whether you use a bucket, onion bag or trash bag as the container, you can fill this kit with all of the necessities for an individual or family to conduct their very own cleanup.  Keep Lewisville Beautiful even submitted this as a successful Green Bag Grant project and continue to use this idea throughout the pandemic.  Keep Texas Beautiful is always happy to supply your basic cleanup needs and you can use your local resources to supplement other items for the kit. Check out your local hardware store for bucket donations, ask retailers to donate bottled water and snacks or even a small swag item.  You can even approach the local scout troop for help assembling the kits.   

A typical cleanup kit might include:

  • Trash, clear recycle and/or mesh onion bags
  • Vinyl and/or cotton gloves
  • A small bottle of hand sanitizer
  • A few safety vests
  • A litter grabber or two
  • A small bottle or packet of sunscreen
  • A thank you card or swag item
  • Instructions  

The cleanup kit itself is great, but make sure you are considering safety in the big picture.  Provide an online sign-up for the kits where families can register for the number of supplies they need and schedule a pickup appointment.  Have a drive-thru or low contact pickup/drop-off system set up.  Keep Grapevine Beautiful organized a drive-thru system where families simply drove up, opened their trunk or staff opened the back door, and placed the kits in the car. They followed the same procedure to return litter grabbers, buckets and any other reusable items; which they sanitized before reuse.  You will also want to provide suggestions on when and where to dispose of the litter/recyclables they collect, how to let you know how much and where they collected litter and capture any fun photos they might have taken.  It's also not a bad idea to include COVID safety tips for picking up litter and removing gloves properly.  

Have fun with your kits, make them your own, and feel good that you are providing local families the tools to safely participate in keeping their community beautiful!


Stay Small and Spread it Out

Another way affiliates have continued their cleanup efforts is to stay small and spread it out.  Gone are the days when we gathered hundreds of volunteers in a park to complete an epic, one-day event.  To adapt to this loss of volume, affiliates have moved to a more spread-out approach where they offer either a week, month, or even seasonal time frame.  Individuals, families, and small groups are encouraged to clean up their own neighborhoods, local parks, and other public spaces.  You can even assign the spaces to each group to control and assure that all of your area is covered.  This allows the affiliate to engage the same amount of volunteers and cover the same amount of space without bringing everyone together at the same time.

Fort Worth has been using this approach for some time now with their annual Neighborhood Litter Stomp.  They encourage residents to feel pride and clean their own neighborhoods.  Keep Hutto Beautiful has gone even farther and turned it into a contest where the winning neighborhood gets to host "the Golden Hippo" statue.  These neighborhood-focused cleanups allow residents to truly invest in their own space and participate on their own terms with family and friends.  It helps build pride in their community, which can evolve into continued cleanup participation and encouraging their neighbors to do the same.

These smaller efforts are the perfect opportunity to use your cleanup kits, encourage social media traffic and allow more volunteers to participate on their own terms.  Join affiliates like Keep Abilene Beautiful, Keep Ennis Beautiful and Keep Mansfield Beautiful to have a successful, small-scale, spread-out Fall Sweep!


Assign Spaces

If you feel like your community needs to stick with the one-day event plan, you can still keep it safe.  Keep Fulshear Beautiful did a city-wide cleanup using the drive-thru method.  They had families and small groups drive-thru to pick up supplies and t-shirts in the morning, sent them to pre-assigned locations to clean, and then had them return to the drive-thru for a packaged lunch in the afternoon! They were able to conduct their entire cleanup in one day without any crowd gathering.  Other affiliates had similar success, like Keep Canyon Lake Beautiful and Keep Denton Beautiful.

You can also use the stay small and spread it out method with assigned spaces.  Some communities have assigned cleanup locations for their volunteers even if they allowed the group to pick their own date and time.  Make sure you provide volunteers with site-specific instructions like parking, restrooms, and litter disposal.  Have them take a photo of the group in front of a park sign or identifying marker.  Consider having a staff person check on or assist the group and make sure they know any restrictions or special instructions for the property.

This is also a great chance to use your cleanup kits and keep up with your families and groups through social media.  Create a hashtag for your event and consider holding a contest for the best photo or most unusual item found.  It will drive a lot of traffic to your social sites and make the event more fun!

Drop it Off

Not all communities have the option to hold cleanups, no matter how small the group or little contact is involved.   Affiliates decided to ask folks to clean up their own houses and properties instead.  Can't hold a cleanup event? Why not hold a drop-off event?

All over Texas, affiliates big and small held community drop-off events where they collected hard to dispose of items.  Since the pandemic began in early 2020, affiliates have collected 4,268 tires and 203,763 pounds of electronics for recycling, filled trailers with chemicals and old paint, and even invited folks to shred their sensitive documents.  All of this was done safely through drive-up, drop-off events held at a local recycling facility or in a community space like a large parking lot. 

Drop-off events are great because they offer your residents a chance to dispose of items you do not want in the landfill or on the side of the road.  These are also great opportunities to bring your community together through partnerships.  Reach out to the school district to utilize large spaces like the high school parking lot, invite your local solid waste and recycling providers, and various City/County departments to participate and collect items related to their organization. You could offer a prescription drug collection through local law enforcement, free document shredding, yard waste drop off and even a used clothes drop off for a local thrift store or shelter. The one-stop drop-off options are endless and only restricted by your imagination and drive-thru space.

Even though drop-off events are low to no contact, make sure staff and volunteers are safe and using the proper equipment to handle each item.  Provide clear instructions to residents on what can and can not be dropped off and how they should be passed off safely.  Make sure there is a good flow of traffic in and out of the area with plenty of space for each station to conduct their exchange safely. 

This might also be a great opportunity to hand out cleanup kits to residents and encourage them to clean up on their own time and in their own space.  Its also a great time to hand out educational materials, especially related to the proper disposal of the items you are collecting. Make it convenient, make it a community effort, but most of all, make it safe!


Social Distance with Social Media

As I mentioned before, social media is a great tool for these times.  It's the perfect way to keep in touch without having to physically be together.  Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are amazing tools to promote your event, capture great photos and videos during the event and even collect your data and verifications post-event.  It's also a great place to thank volunteers and announce any contest winners or even a report on your community cleanup efforts as a whole.  How many volunteers participated?  How much litter did you remove? How many tires were recycled and where did they go? How successful was your community in keeping Texas beautiful?

Social media can make your event/season fun and interactive.  Create a hashtag like Keep Salado Beautiful's #ksbcreeksandgardens.  Allow folks to post or submit using the hashtag and collect photos and videos of cleanup activity throughout your community.  Create a fun contest for the best photo, weirdest item found or even best cleanup fashion.  Keep Plano Beautiful held their Fall Sweep 2020 event in October and encouraged volunteers to wear Halloween costumes and send in photos.  What a sight to see a T-Rex picking up litter in the park!

Engage your local youth as well.  Consider having a TikTok contest where youth submit short clips of themselves doing an anti-litter PSA.  Hold a virtual art contest where students can create  3D art using litter and recyclables they collected during their cleanups.  Use the KTB Facebook group to brainstorm other ideas with fellow affiliates.   

Even if you are unable to provide cleanup supplies and encourage residents to get out and pick up litter, you can always create an impact and engage with social media and other online tools.  Hold a virtual webinar or education session, broadcast PSAs using local media outlets, and post educational materials on your social media platforms.  We understand the last few years have not been easy, but we encourage you to stay creative and continue to reach out to your community in whatever ways you can.

From cleanup kits to drop-off events and even social media campaigns, there is a way every community can continue to keep Texas beautiful!  Find a creative idea or two that works for you and get involved during this year's Fall Sweep.  Whether you connect directly with volunteers, inspire residents from a distance, or simply send out educational materials, every little bit counts. Need more ideas?  Reach out to fellow affiliates or KTB staff.  We are all in this together and together we will make this Fall Sweep a great one!


Fall Sweep registration and supply orders are now open! Fall Sweep 2021 will begin September 11, National Day of Service and Remembrance; include America Recycles Day on November 15 and wrap up the weekend before Thanksgiving break. KTB continues to support individual, family, and small group cleanup efforts and encourages everyone to follow their local, county, and state guidelines, as well as CDC recommendations involving the pandemic. Stay safe and be creative this year to make Fall Sweep a success for all!

Blog written by Karen Maldonado, KTB Project Manager

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