Clear your calendars, everyone, National CleanUp Day is coming up! Here’s what you need to know about the event, from why it is important to when and how to celebrate.
While National CleanUp Day is not a public holiday, it is celebrated widely and enthusiastically. It is one of several initiatives started by the nonprofit organization Clean Trails, which aims to “eliminate waste on all the trails that grace our public lands. We believe we can do that in a positive and proactive manner by educating, encouraging, and reconnecting outdoor users to our pristine places”.
National CleanUp Day calls attention to the enormous amount of waste that ends up in nature, where it travels from sources on land into our rivers, lakes, and, inevitably, our oceans. Litter not only blights the scenery but it severely threatens planetary health. A lot of the waste we produce contains plastic. Plastic particles, no matter their size, are harmful to plant life, animals, and can destroy entire ecosystems. For instance, cigarette butts are the world’s most littered plastic item and pose a deadly environmental threat due to their various hazardous compounds.
Campaigns like National CleanUp Day help us to prevent further harm to the environment and emphasize a respectful relationship between humans and nature.
National CleanUp Day: When and How to Celebrate
Mark your calendars! September 18 is National CleanUp Day 2021. The event is held in conjunction with World CleanUp Day, which takes place every year on the third Saturday of the month of September. Did you know? In 2018, the foundation behind the global event was awarded the UNESCO-Japan Prize on Education for Sustainable Development for its cleanup projects.
As part of an entire dedicated “CleanUp month,” there are other events happening throughout September encouraging people to get active and become part of a movement. Of course, you can get started any time you want! Here are a couple of ideas on how to celebrate:
- Join a cleanup. The National CleanUp Day Website offers tips for having a successful cleanup event, including a safety checklist to consider before getting started. If there are no events taking place in your area, how about starting your own? The initiative offers guidance on this as well. Make sure to check out all of their resources.
- If you’re ready to start “talking trash” you can help get the word out via social media. Take a look at the following hashtags: #NationalCleanUpDay, #SeaToShiningSea, #CleanUpAmbassador
- Ever heard of “plogging” or “trashtag”? As explained on the CleanUp Day Website, plogging involves any kind of outside exercise where you collect litter, and for a #TrashTag you simply take a before and after picture of the area you cleaned up and post it to social media.
Also note future dates for National CleanUp Day:
- 2022: September 17
- 2023: September 16
- 2024: September 21
- 2025: September 20
Green Living: Tips on How to Avoid Waste in Everyday Life
Clean Trails, the non-profit behind National CleanUp Day, advocates for “Leave no Trace,” a set of guidelines first developed as an educational program by the USDA Forest Service. Though the practice is aimed at protecting the environment during recreational activities in the outdoors, its core principles apply widely: to minimize our negative impact on the environment in all areas of life.
Besides joining National CleanUp Day or similar initiatives, you can further support their efforts by doing your best to avoid creating waste in the first place. Because even when we are careful to recycle or dispose of our waste properly, a lot of it ends up in landfills. As NPR reports, landfills are among the nation’s largest sources of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. And there is still the possibility that trash itself may spill and make its way into our soils and waterways.
What you can do:
- Think ahead: whether it is grabbing a bag to collect trash before you go on your next hike or planning your meals before going grocery shopping as to avoid food waste. Thinking ahead is in many ways central to living more sustainably.
- Avoid packaging waste by “precycling“: use solid dish soap, grow your own herbs, buy loose fruits and vegetables and always bring your own bottle! Buy food that is in season and buy it from local growers.
- Minimalist living: some practical tips and ideas are easy to follow and can make a real difference, not just for the environment, but for your own state of mind.
- Composting: as noted by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), by composting you can keep food scraps and other organic materials out of landfills where they take up space and release methane.
- Try to avoid as much plastic in your life as possible. There are various movements that will help you do so. Plastic Free July is one such campaign. It raises awareness about plastic pollution and offers guidance on plastic-free living.
If you’re curious about living without waste, also check out our Zero Waste Lifestyle Guide.
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