Creatively Adapting: Waterkeepers Encourage Solo Cleanups - Waterkeeper

Creatively Adapting: Waterkeepers Encourage Solo Cleanups

By: Malaika Elias

As we settle into this new COVID-19 reality, Waterkeepers across the movement are finding creative ways to engage their communities and create opportunities for volunteers to continue the fight for clean water. 

Every year on Earth Day, Waterkeepers put together cleanups in their communities that mobilize hundreds of volunteers. This year, on the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, that tradition continued in smaller pockets across neighborhoods where volunteers embarked on individual cleanup projects. 

Peconic Baykeeper

Peconic Baykeeper staff Sean O’Neill and Pete Topping set an example for their virtual cleanup volunteers by participating in a social distanced cleanup on Red Creek Pond. Six volunteers cleaned up and removed approximately 100 pounds of trash from marshes in the Peconic Bay Estuary. The most common finds included shotgun shell casings and mylar balloons, with a quart of motor oil being the most troubling find. They also had a couple of odd finds including a 10-foot drainage pipe and an abandoned boat!  

A Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper volunteer poses with collected trash from his neighborhood

Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper

Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper encouraged their community to engage in solo sweeps during Earth Week in lieu of their annual Spring Shoreline Sweep. Eighteen volunteers and 10 staff collected a total of 25 bags of trash and recycling! Participants were surprised to find a motorized toy plane, an industrial carpet, a full gallon of motor oil, and several single-use masks and gloves. Please remind your friends and family to properly dispose of their COVID-19 gear! 

Puget Soundkeeper

In an effort to encourage both social distancing and environmental stewardship, Puget Soundkeeper launched a Virtual Cleanup Campaign on social media in early April. The call to action: Asking community members to pick up trash in their neighborhoods. The campaign asked individuals to incorporate a trash cleanup during their routine walks, runs, bike rides, and outings during Earth Month by bringing a pair of gloves and a bag, taking a selfie or picture of the trash, posting it to Instagram, and tagging @PugetSoundkeeper with the hashtag #PSKVirtualCleanup. The campaign aimed to foster community building during quarantine by featuring individuals who were taking action against trash, inspiring a virtual community of cleanup heroes. Take a look at the results from Twitter and Instagram!

We hope all of you will be inspired to participate in solo-cleanups in your neighborhood too!


While Waterkeepers have done an incredible job at digitizing and adapting their programs in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, support is still needed as uncertainty continues to threaten their operations. Please consider donating to your local Waterkeeper organization! 

Feature image: An abandoned boat found near Red Creek Pond in South Hampton.