Five ways to celebrate World Clean Up Day
On Sept. 17, the Cleveland Heights Green Team (CHGT) encourages Heights residents to participate in World Clean Up Day, when volunteers and partners worldwide work together to clean up litter and mismanaged waste from neighborhoods, parks, beaches, rivers, forests, and streets.
The World Clean Up Day Organization reports that in 2021 more than 8.5 million people in 191 countries participated in the effort.
"We know our community is ready to embrace this opportunity," said CHGT co-founder Alex Sitarik. "We have seen a tremendous improvement in litter reduction since the transition to bins in Cleveland Heights, but we know that there is still much work to do. Case in point, the CHGT recently attended a Noble Neighbors meeting in which residents shared their frustration with storm drains being clogged with debris. What was really encouraging was to hear them talk about how they are addressing the issue one block at a time."
In March 2022, CHGT, in partnership with FutureHeights, conducted a community survey to learn what Heights residents see as priorities in terms of sustainability issues.
According to Sarah Wolf, community-building programs manager at FutureHeights, survey respondents ranked climate change as the most important issue, closely followed by trash, litter, waste reduction, recycling and composting. Asked what issue they would be most willing to take action on, litter control was at the top.
"What we heard loud and clear," Wolf said, "is that litter control requires a multi-prong strategy that includes community action, litter prevention education, and enforcement of Ohio's littering code. While education and enforcement require coordinated work and resources, the good news is that the Heights community is willing and ready to act in their own streets and in communal green spaces."
According to CHGT, World Clean Up Day is not about one single action once a year. It is about believing that changes happen in people and through people. "It is a catalyst for creating positive change and on finding solutions to 'trash blindness' in our own backyard," said Sitarik.
CHGT suggests five ways in which Heights residents, organizations, and businesses can participate in World Clean Up Day:
- Schools execute "Operation WCUD," to inspire and reward students for participating in a cleanup of their school's grounds as well as neighboring blocks.
- Neighbors host a "Sunrise & Coffee" or "Sunset & Wine" clean-up block party.
- Parents organize a kids' "Litter Treasure Hunt" at a park or empty lot.
- Businesses join in a "Sweep & Spruce" of their storefronts and loading zones.
- Grassroots environmental groups conduct a "Stream Sweep" in one of the Heights' many waterways, ravines and lakes.
"Imagine what the Heights could look like if everyone just picked up one piece of litter," noted Sitarik. "World Clean Up Day gives us the opportunity to do so while connecting with our surroundings and with each other. It is all about community-building and enjoying a sense of civic pride. Who would have guessed that one piece of trash can do so much good?"
CHGT invites participants to share details of their events by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Events will be posted and promoted through social media at #worldcleanupdayintheheights. For more information, visit www.chgreenteam.org.
Catalina Wagers lives in Cleveland Heights' Fairfax neighborhood, and is a co-founder of the Cleveland Heights Green Team.