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How to Host a Great Lakes Cleanup

Join the #GreatLakes1Million Challenge and host a cleanup in your community.
Use these tips to make sure your beach or inland event runs smoothly!
Whether you’re gathering a few family members and friends or engaging a large group of volunteers, hosting a litter cleanup event is fairly simple. The supplies needed are minimal, and your efforts don’t have to last all day. Check out these tips for how to plan a community cleanup that can make a real impact.

Before Your Cleanup

Choose a Location
A good rule of thumb when trying to determine your cleanup spot: litter is where humans go. An area that gets quite a bit of human traffic will likely be where you will find the most trash. Inland cleanups are just as important shoreline cleanups; Great Lakes litter prevention starts at the headwaters. If you’re looking for a real cleanup challenge, check out this dumpsite database - a map of reported illegal dumpsites in Michigan.
Some other things to consider when picking your place:
  • Accessibility: adequate parking, trail or beach conditions, private vs. public land
  • Safety: deep water, car traffic, poisonous plants or hazardous animals
  • Bathrooms: this is important, particularly for longer cleanups
Pick a Date and Time

If you’re asking volunteers to show up, give them some notice. Plan your cleanup at least a couple of weeks in advance.

Establishing a start and end time for your event will set clear expectations for volunteers.

Gather Your Supplies
  • Cleanups usually don’t require much: some reusable bags or buckets, protective gloves and if you want to get fancy, some grabber tools. *To keep your event as low-waste as possible, ask volunteers to bring their own reusable supplies.

  • Sunscreen, closed toed shoes and a reusable water bottle are also great cleanup accessories. 

  • As the host, an Igloo full of cold water and low-waste snacks will be much appreciated by your volunteers.

Get Permission and Info on Trash Disposal
  • Large-scale events: you may need official permission, so be sure to reach out to the governing body responsible for the area you intend to clean. It’s likely those in charge will have invaluable information on the area and may even help host the cleanup!

  • Smaller cleanups: consider asking volunteers if they can take a trash bag or two home. Alternatively, if you’re on a public beach or in a public park, public trash cans are a great option.

Recruit Your Crew

Cleanups are more fun with friends and you can have a bigger impact! 


Clear marketing is key:

  • Include the what, where, when, why and how.

  • Is your event rain or shine?

  • List items you’d like volunteers to bring.

Recruiting methods:

  • Create a Facebook event page and share with local businesses, friends and family.

  • Send your cleanup details to local community calendars and newsletters.

  • Share your event details with us ( and we will share it on our website.

  • Create a flyer and distribute it to local businesses and community centers. 

  • Contact local businesses and invite them to the event or visit them in person to distribute event flyers that they can hang. You’d be surprised how many local businesses want to get involved in conservation and helping the community. 

  • Call or email your local newspaper, radio station and TV station with the cleanup details. They might just send a reporter out to write a story on the huge success of your cleanup!

Flash Trash Cleanup Flyer Example

Example Social Media Post


During Your Cleanup

Stay Safe
  • Always wear cleanup gloves. 

  • Look before your grab trash -- pay attention to any sharp or unknown objects. 

  • Place sharp objects like glass shards in a solid container, like a glass jar, and dispose of them safely with your trash.

Document Your Progress
Debrief and Thank Your Crew
  • Designate a person or two to collect a final trash tally.

  • Before announcing the final number, a couple of fun questions to ask the group:

    • What type of trash was the most abundant?

    • What was the weirdest/funniest thing they found?

  • Announce the final trash number -- people will be excited to hear the impact they made!

  • Thank your crew and take a group celebration photo with your trash.

After Your Cleanup

Share Your Data

Reporting what you collected is an important part of your cleanup event!

  • Add your cleanup data to the #GreatLakes1Million Challenge. Every piece counts!

  • Let your local news outlets know the results of your cleanup, how many volunteers you had, how much trash was collected, etc.

Inspire Others
  • Spread the word about your event and the #GreatLakes1Million challenge by sharing photos on social media. Make sure to tag @greatlakesgreatresponsibility. We LOVE seeing your cleanup photos. 

  • Encourage the people who took part to share their experiences with you – this might be in the form of photos or fun stories. You can use these to spread the word in person and on social media by telling people about your good work and encouraging them to do the same by joining the #GreatLakes1Million Challenge!

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