One of our family’s annual traditions is to do a springtime/Earth Day clean-up in our neighbourhood. We live within a stone’s throw of a primary school, a middle school, and a high school so there are lots of people moving through the neighbourhood each day and with that comes litter. We also live on a ravine which seems to be a magnet for plastic water bottles, coffee cups, and plastic bags.
This year, rather than just forging out as a family of four we decided to make this a community event and invite the whole neighbourhood out to clean up. We felt that if we cast a broader net and more people were involved in cleaning up the neighbourhood, then more people would take ownership and responsibility for the upkeep and cleanliness of our community.
Flyers were printed and distributed, our Don Mills Residents Association (DMRI) representative was contacted, and logistics were planned. We handed out over 200 flyers, door-to-door, to ensure we had many hands to cover lots of turf.
Although our first “Community Clean-up” may have been small in numbers, we covered most of the ground in the neighbourhood and collected an impressive (or depressing) pile of trash – 145kg (over 300lbs.) of it! There was a queen-sized mattress (pulled out of the ravine), 2 office chairs (again, out of the ravine), dozens of plastic water bottles, coffee cups, fast-food wrappers, juice boxes, plastic bags, and much more.
The neighbourhood looked much cleaner as we loaded up our Autoshare van and headed to the local transfer station to drop off the evidence of our collective efforts.
Looking back on the day, there are a number of lessons that I thought I would share:
- give people plenty of notice of your event and mention it to your neighbours every time you see them
- contact local schools and let them know about the clean-up
- hand out flyers to homes and post posters in well-travelled areas
- expect that those people that organize and volunteer for all of the other community events will make up the core of your troops, you’ll be lucky to get anyone else out
- get neighbourhood kids involved – they have lots of energy, don’t mind getting dirty, and love exploring
- start early in the day when people have the most energy
- collect email addresses for your next community event
Lastly, you will need to organize a drop-off spot for the full garbage bags and larger items – we had everyone put the garbage on our driveway – and arrange a van or pick-up truck that can haul everything to the transfer station.
It’s inexpensive, it builds community, it’s active, and it keeps our green spaces clean! We look forward to seeing more of our neighbours come out to this yearly event next spring.
By Rob Grand