How to organize a cleanup
A how-to list of how to arrange your own underwater clean-up event.
This article is a follow-up to our two-piece article on being a sustainable diver and make a positive difference for the environment. Among the advice given was “organize a cleanup”, but a lot of divers are a bit lost as to how this is done best.
After all, if a cleanup is to have a real impact, it needs to be with quite a few divers participating, and that means logistics.
Below you’ll find a step-by-step approach that can help you arrange an ocean cleanup.
1. Find a site
If you live near water, there’s a chance that there’s cleanup that could be done. But some places are better than others.
In order to engage people, the place needs to be somewhere they can relate to. A local beach or reef, or a body of water that a lot of people pass by or use on a regular basis.
An offshore reef is a harder sell, especially for non-divers, as these are harder to relate to for most people.
Also, making sure that your location is close to human habitation also means that the need for a cleanup is likely to be greater.
2. Pick a date
Along with a site, choose a date. Make sure you give yourself enough time to plan the whole thing and get it off the ground. But not too far out in the future, making it an abstract, future event for people.
A few months in advance are typically fine. And do take other local events into consideration, so your event doesn’t clash with a big ocean swimming race, or a parade in town. Try to find dates that have a synergetic effect on your cleanup, such as the international World Ocean Day.
And do consider the season, as more divers are likely to turn up during the warmer season.
3. Choose a name
Shakespeare asked the question, “what’s in a name?”, but actually, a good name goes a long way.
Something in us is stirred by good names. “Reef cleanup” may be quite descriptive, but “Save our ocean!” is far more engaging.
A good, powerful name that invokes a lot of mental images and emotions is more likely to engage people in the event.
4. Get in touch with the local dive community
Once you have a site, a date, and have chosen a name, it is time to reach out to the dive community.
Contact local dive shops, diving clubs, and schools. Have them share the event with their users and through their web site, bulletin boards, newsletters, etc. Getting them onboard is a big part of winning the battle.
5. Get in touch with organizations
Contact regional, national, and international organizations dealing with marine environmental work, diving, and watersports, such as NAUI, PADI, or Project AWARE. Try to get them to sanction your event, and share it through their channels.
Having their name on your event goes a long way towards adding credibility to it.
4. Seek out sponsors
With the local dive community behind you and a well-chosen name, you’re ready to start thinking money.
People will essentially be donating their time and dive skills, but not all those interested might have their own gear, so making air-filled cylinders available can be a way to get more divers on board.
Try to get a local dive shop to sponsor this, as well as perhaps a special deal on rental gear. Also consider refreshments (water and soft drinks before, fruit, chocolate, sandwiches, and coffee and tea after) is also always popular. So consider getting in touch with local businesses that either support directly with this, or with funds for it.
Also consider making it a donation event, where divers pay a small fee to enter, and in return get a T-shirt (talk to a local print shop about sponsoring these) and perhaps a debris collection net (talk to a dive shop about sponsoring these) as a commemorative item, and where the proceeds go towards additional preservation work by donating them to a recognized organization.
If there are local business owners in your community that are divers themselves, start there, as they might be more inclined towards helping out.
5. Work the media
Getting media coverage for your event serves several purposes. First and foremost, it spreads the word on the need for marine conservation, generating awareness.
Media exposure also makes the event more interesting to sponsors.
Try local TV stations and newspapers, as they are most likely to pick up the story. Ideally, target local media with regional or even national representation, as there is a chance that the story will be featured in the daily summary of local news, reaching a larger audience.
Contacting media isn’t as scary as it sounds. Start by looking into local media stories to see which journalists cover relevant topics, and then reach out to them directly, by phone or email.
If you send a press release, consider following up with a phone call.
6. Work the (social) media
Today, broadcast media isn’t the only option. Use social media to reach additional people, by creating a Facebook page, Google+ page, and Twitter profile for your event, then using that to reach out to relevant groups on these media.
Other media might be more relevant, depending on what is popular in your part of the world, so these three are just suggestions. Update frequently, and remember that photos are always popular on most social media.
Once the event is done, don’t just leave it there. Follow up by reaching out to the community, sponsors, and divers, and thanking them for their participation. Share info on amount of debris collected, and the impact it does. Report the result to Project AWARE's dive against debris or NAUI Green Diver.
And consider collecting contact info from participants, and generate a mailing list, which you can these use to set up your next cleanup.
Now it’s your turn
Are you ready to host your own beach or ocean clean up event? If you have any questions let us know, and we’d more than glad to help. Leave any questions you might have in a comment below.