Mother and daughter cleaning up garbage
Photo by Pavel L Photo and Video/

Tips for organizing a garbage clean-up around your cottage

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Spring is here, and the snow is (finally) receding. Birds are singing, and the…is that a beer can in the bushes? Who threw four styrofoam cups in the firepit? And the ditches and culverts? Well, at this time of year, it’s kind of hard to tell them from the dump.

The end of winter is great, but snow covers a multitude of sins. And since there’s usually just too much mess to tackle all by yourself, here are some tips for organizing a cottage neighbourhood clean-up.

Get the word out

Use whatever format you usually use to communicate with your neighbours to let them know that a clean-up’s being planned—phone, Facebook, email, flyers or a poster up at the local Legion hall. If enough people are on social media, consider setting up a Facebook event or a simple website to provide a one-stop place for people to go for information (and to keep your phone from ringing off the hook).

Poll people in advance to see when most will be opening their cottages, and plan for some time after that. While you’re at it, contact your local community newspaper and see if they’ll post an ad or cover the event.

Make it worth their while

While everyone likes to see clean culverts and tidy thoroughfares, you’ll get more volunteers if you provide some form of incentive. See if local businesses will donate items to award to the person who collects the most bags of trash, the person with the most interesting piece of garbage or the person who gets the dirtiest in their pursuit of cottage cleanliness. If there are teenagers available, offer their services as babysitters for little ones who are too young to tromp through the muck.

Finally, the promise of a potluck lunch or dinner (and perhaps some liquid refreshment) after cleaning is finished will turn a chore into the opportunity to socialize and catch up—a nice thing to do after a winter away.

Muster supplies

Again, this is where a local store might be willing to chip in with donations of trash bags, gloves, insect repellant, refreshments, and reflective vests. (If you can’t get reflective vests, make everyone brightly coloured t-shirts or give them bandanas.) If you can’t get store donations, ask each participant if they’ll donate one type of supply, so everyone shares the cost.

Get organized

Do a reconnaissance walk or drive prior to the big day, and pinpoint areas that need particular attention. Draft up a map and assign people to cover those spots, and highlight where people can leave their trash bags once they’re full. Enlist neighbours close to the clean-up sites to do dump drives as needed. Then celebrate a hard job well done!