The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup (Canada)

“Empowering Direct Action and Providing Education”

The Goal

We want to empower citizens, of all ages, to take part in a local direct action conservation initiative while also encouraging them to make sustainable lifestyle choices.

Our goal is to address the environmental issue of shoreline litter by empowering people to take conservation into their own hands. We want people to become environmental stewards who take pride in their community and appreciate their local environment. Additionally, we hope to provide an opportunity for people to develop leadership skills and become more environmentally aware. Direct action initiatives like Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup not only leads to a tangibly cleaner environment, but also encourages people to ‘take the lesson home’ by making lifestyle changes which contribute to the overall cause. Further benefits include encouraging people to spend time outdoors and with other members of their community. We aspire to create a network of impassioned, educated citizens who aren’t afraid to make a difference.



The Solution

We created a program that provides resources for volunteers to lead their own direct action event in the form of a shoreline cleanup and provides waste reduction education via various communication channels.

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup has created the role of Site Coordinators, who all together make up the on-the-ground backbone of the program. Site Coordinators give the Shoreline Cleanup program a national reach and contribute to its success year after year. Our core team recruits Site Coordinators and provides targeted training and resources to them so they are prepared and feel confident in leading their own shoreline cleanup.

Site Coordinators come from a variety of groups, range all ages, and can decide to lead a cleanup for any number of reasons. Many corporate groups do cleanups as team building exercises, to fulfill volunteer hours, or as part of corporate environmental initiatives. We also welcome Site Coordinators from Scouts and Guides groups as well as schools. Participating in shoreline cleanups provide children and youth with a unique first-hand experience interacting with an environmental issue. Furthermore, local environmentally focused organizations, informal community groups such as dog walkers, and even just a family or group of friends are common.

Each individual Site Coordinator has the opportunity to make the cleanup event their own. Some go above and beyond with offering refreshments and educational materials for their volunteers as well as gaining media coverage for their event. Site Coordinators also collect and send in litter data from their cleanup, which goes towards our national litter database.

All results are shared through various communication channels including our website, newsletters, social media, and annual report. In addition, these communication channels are used to provide educational information regarding the larger environmental issue of shoreline litter and possible waste reduction solutions so there is less chance of litter making its way to shorelines in the first place.

Our team provides regular support to Site Coordinators by being readily available by phone and e-mail to answer all questions and work towards solutions to problems. Lastly, we ensure that the work of the Site Coordinators does not go unnoticed; by recognizing remarkable Site Coordinators through our communication channels and selecting Annual Achievement Award winners for both returning and new Site Coordinators.



The Results

The success of the Shoreline Cleanup program is directly related to the work put in by the Site Coordinators. In 2016, there were 2,320 different cleanup events with over 76,000 participants who removed more than 126,400 kg of trash from Canadian shorelines. Additionally, the number of returning Site Coordinators continues to grow with more than half returning each year. Many Site Coordinators, such as Gina Pizzo from Nunavut, have been participating for over 10 years. Others show their dedication differently, such as Nick Riemann from Edmonton, who conducted a cleanup in snowy weather with 1,000 students. This demonstrates how passionate the Site Coordinators are and the value they gain from participating in the program.

“I not only wanted to reduce the possibility of trash entering our oceans, I wanted to encourage folks to reduce the garbage they produce. It was so much fun I will definitely do it again.” Ellen, British Columbia



Insider Tips

  • Provide resources and an outline of responsibilities while also allowing flexibility for volunteers to incorporate their own ideas with their event.

  • Follow up in real time and provide great customer service by predicting needs and dealing with concerns respectfully and diligently.

  • Use communications to incorporate the feeling that volunteers are a part of a larger network with the purpose of addressing an important environmental issue.

  • Provide education around why the direct action is important and how to ‘take the lesson home’.

  • Provide recognition to ensure volunteers know their work is appreciated and valuable.

  • Take part in a shoreline cleanup in your home country.




  • Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup


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