The Great Global Cleanup

Small groups can make lasting impacts on plastic

The current state of the COVID-19 global pandemic continues to affect many facets of our daily lives. For many, it has resulted in condensed social circles as we continue to try to slow the spread of the virus. For EARTHDAY.ORG and The Great Global Cleanup, it means we have needed to shift from our traditional ways of having cleanups to safer systems that allow us to continue to battle the constant flow of pollution plaguing our global environment.

COVID has forced us to be creative in our events structure. We had to find ways to continue to provide and promote cleanup events, while maintaining the safety of ourselves and others. Even though major cleanup events with hundreds of volunteers working together are a great way to build community ties and clean up the environment, they are not the only option. Small group and individual cleanups (designed in compliance with local COVID regulations) are perfect alternatives that allow for safe and effective cleanups all around the world.

Not only may small group and individual cleanups be easier to organize, but multiple small actions can also build to create larger change that can span across cities, states and countries. Imagine if everyone went outside today and picked up all the trash that they found on a short walk. How much litter do you think we would be able to collect? How many organisms do you think we would be able to save from the effects of pollution? Lasting impacts are built upon small daily actions that add up over time, so something as simple as taking a trash bag with you on your next outdoor run to pick up litter is impactful.

Take the organization Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful for example. This group of motivated individuals partnered with Jacksonville State Historic Park in order to complete three cleanups with only 25 volunteers and still managed to remove over 9,000 pounds of waste. That’s over 360 pounds per volunteer!

The Executive Director of Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful, Kathleen Gibi, hit home the importance of continuing cleanups when she stated, “That’s how the change for our river will happen: through local partners and individuals who are eager about taking ownership to protect and improve their beautiful river community. It’s been truly inspiring for us to see these change makers take action — especially with the local leadership from Johnsonville State Historic Park.”

This statement holds true for all parks, rivers, beaches and community areas. Real change is always made by dedicated community members that are willing to take the ever-growing pollution problem head on. For us to make global change, we must have local action.

The hard work from Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful is only one example of how a few individuals’ hard work can have a major effect. This Earth Day in April, the Great Global Cleanup Campaign can support your efforts and help you organize a cleanup. To take action, register your cleanup event for everyone to see on our interactive cleanup map.

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Disclaimer: Please remember to check your local COVID-19 guidelines before planning any cleanups.

This post was last updated on February 19, 2021.