Help me pitch an environmental cleanup

Hey everybody, I’m looking for advice on the sort of language I should use in promoting an event I’m gathering up. Here’s the skinny: I’m organizing a bunch of people from the community to go down to the local river for a day of cleaning up, thanksgiving potluck, and a night of camping out.

I think it’s hard to get people excited about a “cleanup”, though, and was wondering if there were a better word I could use here. We’ll be clearing trails, building outhouses and benches for visitor use, doing some picking up of trash, and generally getting a new park ready for public use in the next spring.

“Cleanup” doesn’t really encompass any of that, and nobody gets excited about cleaning.


Oh I don’t know… the current mayor of Toronto won the last election running a campaign built around the idea of cleaning up, complete with a logo of a broom.

It really depends on who your audience is. Do they like flowerbeds edged to with a millimetre of their lives, and lawns that are mathematically smooth? Pitch it as ‘tidying up’. Are they concerned about pollution in the ecosystem? Pitch it as ‘restoring the natural balance’. Are they traditional law-and-order types? Pitch it as ‘ameliorating the effects of vandalism’. Are they recreational trail users and canoeists? Pitch it as ‘cleaning up after ourselves’. See, it’s all of these things at the same time. It’s just a matter of how you describe it. And your communication should start in a reference frame familiar to your audience.

We use to get great turnouts for “River Cleanups” or “Creek Cleanups” or “Beach Cleanups.” One of the big things we always did was get involved with other groups. Sometimes it was civic groups, scouts or just other environmental groups. The biggest events were usually the beach cleanups but I remember a creek cleanup where we had close to 100 people in the end and they needed to bring out an extra truck. We found two illegal dumping locations.

I think River Cleanup would still work. It never hurts to let people know they can feel good about themselves when they are done or the fun they can having doing a good deed.


I found our blurbs for two upcoming events, nothing spectacular but an example of what is pretty standard.

In Vermont, we have an annual “Green Up Day” in early May.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with using the word “cleanup.” It’s better to be straight and avoid potentially misleading spin. People do enjoy cleanups.

I volunteered for an organization that advertised an event as “tending a small woodland planting.” I was thinking we’d be doing watering, light weeding, maybe some mulching, petting the leaves delicately. But it was basically two solid hours of buckthorn removal. Which I actually enjoyed, but they should have just called it buckthorn removal in the first place.

If it helps, I found a formula for writing a good volunteer job pitch (taken from 101 More Ideas for Volunteer Programs):

Include the following five points within the body of the message (questions the prospective volunteer will want answered):
[li]Need: Is there a problem?[/li][li]Solution: Can this position/event help solve it?[/li][li]Fears: Will I be capable of helping with it?[/li][li]Benefits: What’s in it for me?[/li][li]Contact: How do I get involved?[/li][/ul]

I want to help with your cleanup. It sounds fun!

Great help, Chum!

Here is the first e-mail I’ve crafted; care to give me some thoughts on it? Do you have a good understanding of what is happening, is there anything you would change?