Neighborhood Cleanup (While Social Distancing)

girls doing neighborhood cleanup

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Have you ever noticed as spring rolls around and the snow melts that there is a lot of trash in your neighborhood? 

So much garbage has been hiding underneath the snow all winter! 

I noticed this every year, as I drive through our town but I admit that I never did anything about it. Life got busy, and our best-laid plans never panned out.  

This year, it’s different.  We are going to host a neighborhood cleanup!

Since we are all at home due to social distancing and stay-at-home orders, many of us find we have more time on our hands. Plus we need to entertain and teach our kids while they are at home 24/7.  

So one day last week, I threw out the idea to my three daughters that we should go clean up our neighborhood. 

I figured it would be a fun way to change up our daily walk  – a new daily activity we started to get out of the house and work more movement into our days.  

A neighborhood cleanup would give our walk a purpose, while also making fun, kind of like a treasure hunt… except for trash!

WHY SHOULD WE CARE ABOUT LITTER?

In order to get my kids on board with this idea, I needed their buy-in and for them to understand why a neighborhood clean up was beneficial. 

Thankfully, as an eco-friendly momma, who is aiming for a more sustainable and zero waste lifestyle, they hear me talk about these topics regularly.  

I often comment when I see litter on the streets. They hear me say:

  •  how sad it is, 
  • that people need to take care for our earth
  • how the animals might get hurt if they eat the plastic or trash
  • other ways the litter harms our environment. 

Thankfully, our girls are very empathic and compassionate too.  When they see litter, they get frustrated and have often told me that they will “call the police” if they see someone litter. I chuckle inside because I know they mean well and feel passionate to do something!

daughters doing neighborhood cleanup

Our daughters were especially outraged when we went on a recent walk near the creek in our neighborhood and saw a half of a plastic folding table popping out of the creek! 

“Mom, why would someone do that?  The creek isn’t a garbage can!” said my middle daughter.  

I told her I wondered the same thing and that we should do something about all the trash we were seeing on our walk the next day.  

My heart grew a few sizes that day to see them fired up with enthusiasm about doing our own neighborhood cleanup. The fact that they thought it would be fun to clean up the litter made me so proud of them! 

Our children are going to be the generation that is going to save our planet. It’s our job as their parents to instill this core belief in them when they are young.  

{Are you ready to start going green and living clean? Get this FREE 3-Day mini workshop. Start today! Perfect for zero waste beginners and busy families! Get the video for Day 1 below!}

PREPARING FOR A NEIGHBORHOOD CLEANUP

Luckily, there is not a lot of preparation that is needed before you head out for your neighborhood cleanup. 

If you’d like to teach your kids a bit about why it’s important to care for our environment and pick up litter, you can read one (or more!) of the following books.  It may give them a little more insight and help them see the value in this service project. 

I reference many of these books in my Earth Day Activity Guide for Kids but will list a few here for your convenience. This book list is ideal for elementary-aged children.

Eco-Friendly Book List for Kids

Earth Day Every Day – by Lisa Bullard

Earth Day Every Day tells the story from a young girl’s perspective, which is great for kids to connect to her voice right from the start.  She reminds us that all humans – or earthlings as she puts it – are responsible to care for and protect our Earth. Make every day Earth Day! If you have a young beginning reader, you can listen to a read-aloud of this story on YouTube and see the pages on video.

Not for me, please! I choose to act green – by Maria Godsey

Not for me, please!: I choose to act green is about a boy who notices all the damage caused by the trash around him and decides to say “Not for me, please!” Helpful facts about the global pollution problem are also included to help guide parents in conversations with their children.

I Can Save the Ocean – by Alison Inches

I Can Save the Ocean is about how Max, a little green monster, comes up with a plan to save the ocean after snorkeling through trash on his day at the beach.

Items Needed for a Neighborhood Cleanup

garbage bag for trash pickup

Once you think your children understand the importance of a neighborhood cleanup, then the rest of the preparation is easy. 

Gather the following items:

  • A garbage bag
  • Gloves (optional for picking up icky items)
  • Proper attire for getting a little dirty
  • Good outdoor walking shoes or play shoes

HEAD OUTDOORS TO CLEAN UP THE NEIGHBORHOOD

Head outside and plan your trip around the neighborhood.  If you have a large family, you could divide up into two groups.  Otherwise, plan your route and start looking for trash the moment you set out your door. 

Even our front yard had a piece of garbage in it! It blows from everywhere, including from trash cans on garbage pick-up day.  

Our kids really treated this like a treasure hunt and ran to pick up every piece of garbage they could find. They also found it interesting to see what type of items they picked up. 

old pen, litter

The most fascinating discovery was a pen that was found in the grass around the block from our home. This pen stood out to me because it was from my stepdad’s former employer.  He said the pen was at least 15 years old! 

I’m not sure how it got there since I never owned one of these pens myself, but the business was local. So who knows?

litter from neighborhood cleanup
litter from neighborhood cleanup

Other items found on during our cleanup included:

  • Soda can
  • Plastic water bottle
  • Plastic tie (long green strapping)
  • Pieces of plastic restaurant cups
  • Lots of cigarette butts (which is not surprising since they are the #1 littered item in the world)
  • An unopened box of Lipton chicken noodle soup
  • Dirty socks
  • Feminine products
  • Plastic baggies with dog feces
  • A playing card
  • Fast food wrappers
  • Plastic bottle caps
  • Plastic twist ties
  • Other random plastic pieces
  • And the list goes on…

BE PROUD OF YOUR SERVICE WORK

Completing a service project like this – even on a small scale – teaches children to value their environment, understand their part as a community member, and the importance of giving back to help others.  

They learned, without my explicit instruction, that we all need to do our share to keep the world we live in beautiful and healthy.  It was such an easy way to teach them and doing is always better than just talking about it. I’ve learned that lesson myself!

Well done is better than well said - Benjamin Franklin

I am beyond proud to be the parent of these three girls who were motivated not only to do it once but to ask me to go out multiple days in a row to keep cleaning up our neighborhood. 

In one week’s time, we went out 3 days to collect trash from the front yards and streets of our subdivision. 

So that’s 3 bags full of trash that will no longer be cluttering our environment, harming wildlife and potentially endangering the safety of the children in our community. 

This simple outdoor activity taught our girls not only why we should do service projects to help our community, but also got them out of the house with a purpose during this time of isolation. 

SPREAD THE WORD!

Unfortunately, during this time of unprecedented social distancing and stay-at-home orders in our world, we can’t organize group service projects.

Typically, these types of neighborhood cleanups are mobilized on and around Earth Day. 

neighborhood cleanup

This year, we won’t be able to do that, but we can still spread the word and ask our friends, family, and neighbors to just take a garbage bag along with them when they go on a walk and pick up the trash they see along the way!

Plus, it’s a great way to get out of the house, get some exercise and fresh air, and maybe wave to a neighbor in passing (while 6 feet away, of course)!

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neighborhood cleanup while social distancing

P.S. – Are you ready to start going green and living clean? Get this FREE 3-Day mini workshop. Start today! Perfect for zero waste beginners and busy families! Get the video for Day 1 below!

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2 Comments

  1. Amy
    April 16 / 9:34 AM

    This is such a great idea! I love that kids can be involved and it can be a way to get outside, learn about important topics, and help the neighborhood 🙂

    • Rebekah
      April 16 / 11:45 AM

      Thanks Amy!

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