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How to run community-led campaigns

If litter is a problem for you and your community, and you’re ready to do something about it, this guide is for you.

This guide isn’t about litter picks. If you want to do that there are links to some good litter pick guides at the end.

Instead, it’s about helping you get to grips with the things you can do to really tackle littering — raising awareness, educating others, building a litter prevention culture. In short, making a long-term difference to littering problems where you live.

11 ideas to get your campaign moving:

Give it a name

You might be forming a community group, launching a campaign or organising a one-off event. Whatever it is, a great name will help you promote your idea, get your message across and enthuse others to join in.

Your name should be memorable and meaningful, and form a rock-solid bond with your target audience.

Get some funding

Unless you’ve already got a wealthy donor lined up, chances are you’ll need some cash to get your ideas moving. Even if you’re just doing litter picks you’ll still need things like litter pickers, gloves, T-shirts, hi-viz clothing, and bin bags — and they all cost money.

If you’re planning to do more, like campaign posters and stickers, a new website or events, then money is going to come in really handy. Here are a few ideas on where you could get your hands on some:

  • Your local authority — get in touch with their environmental or cleansing department
  • Local shops and businesses — especially any who sell takeaway food and drinks
  • Friends, family and local residents — they’re often the easiest people to reach
  • Crowdfunding — an increasingly popular way to raise money for good causes, you’ll need some social media clout to get your message out too
  • Litter prevention charities — organisations such as Keep Scotland Beautiful supports and works with community groups on litter prevention initiatives
  • Supermarkets — many of them are happy to help local groups with money they receive from the 5p carrier bag charge

You’ll probably need a bank account to manage your community group funds. Banks offer community accounts for clubs, associations, and small charities. You should be able to avoid bank charges if your turnover is fairly low. You can form an unincorporated association without too much hassle.

Start recruiting

Many hands make light work, and you’ll have more success if you have the community behind you. Litter picks are a good way to get yourself noticed – but don’t stop there. Think about ways to enlist helpers. Here are some ideas:

  • Speak to your local paper — they might cover your newly formed group as a news story
  • Ask your neighbours — if they’re interested in getting involved, ask them to ask others too
  • Get friendly with local shopkeepers — ask if you can put up posters to recruit volunteers
  • Look for a free stand at local events — maybe in a shopping centre or library, at a coffee morning or local fair

Collect as many email addresses as you can so you can start communicating. Try not to hand out paper leaflets – they could become litter.

Communicate regularly

If you know someone who can build your website for free, that’s great. Don’t worry if you don’t, head for Facebook instead. In fact, even if you do have a dedicated website you should be on Facebook as well, and other social media platforms, such as Twitter and Instagram. Social media lets you communicate with your community easily and quickly and will probably feature heavily in your communications.

Running campaigns

You might have a specific problem to solve, like people littering outside a fast-food takeaway outlet, or a more general message, like risking a fine for littering.

Whatever your message, litter prevention campaigns work best when they’re context-specific. So try to keep your campaign focused on the specific problem.

The Zero Waste Scotland comprehensive litter prevention toolkit includes a range of context specific litter prevention ideas. There are materials for town centres, residential areas, parks, beaches and other locations where littering happens. The toolkit contains free, downloadable artwork you can personalise for your campaigns.

Anti-Litter Toolkit part one.

Anti-Litter Toolkit part two.

Context specific anti-litter matterials.

Tap into wider initiatives

Earth Day. Clean up Scotland. European Week for Waste Reduction. There are lots of events and activities you and your group can support and participate in. There might even be local events you can take part in.

If you want to boost your chances of getting some publicity for your group, ask a local celebrity or a local councillor to join your group for the day. This could give you bags more photo-story opportunities with the local press and give you a bank of material you can post on social media.

Adopt a street

Is there a street in your area that’s a well-known litter hotspot? Tackle it head-on by adopting the street and taking responsibility for keeping it litter free.

Speak to your local authority first to find out if they offer a scheme like this. They might be able to support you with litter pick equipment and bin bags. They may also be happy to create some signage which recognises your group’s ‘responsibility’ for the street.

Link with other organisations

There are other organisations out there with aims that match or complement your own. You could start by getting to know who’s who at your local authority. They may be able to provide support for specific projects. Their environmental or cleansing department, or both, will be your best bet.

Keep Scotland Beautiful carries out much of its work through volunteers and relies on community group support. They’re also keen to publish good news stories about litter prevention heroes, which could be good publicity for your group.

What about Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth? They might have a local group in your area – link up with them to discover ways you can collaborate.

Become an educator

If you’ve got the time, energy and confidence, why not offer to talk to local schools, youth clubs or scout and guide groups about litter prevention?

Teaching the next generation about the impacts of litter, and the benefits of a litter-free society, will help change attitudes in the longer term.

A competition or quiz will help make these sessions more fun and memorable for your audience - perhaps a challenge to produce artwork or a digital communication that promotes litter prevention on social media.

There’s lots of information in this knowledge hub to help you develop your presentation, including infographics.

Citizen science can also be a great way to engage pupils in litter projects. 

Empower your community

As the local litter prevention expert, you can help your community understand what they can do if their area is plagued by litterers or fly-tippers. Social media is a good way to get these messages across.

You can also represent your community’s views to the local authority, for example if people think that there could be improvements to the number, location, condition, type or visibility of bins in their area. And be their voice with local businesses, taking on the community’s concerns about litter coming from shops and businesses in the area.

Take some time to encourage and inspire others to follow your example. Having to do everything on your own can become a burden so it’s best to get a group of people around your who can share the load.

Celebrate successes

Don’t be afraid to shout about the good work you’re doing. If you carry out litter picks, count the number of bags you collect, the number of people involved, the types of litter collected — count everything you can. Take photographs of everything too and post regularly on social media — before and after shots will help people to see the benefits.

Praise and acknowledge local people who are doing their bit to prevent litter. When something big is happening that you’re involved in, call the local paper to find out if they’ll send a reporter or photographer along.

Planning a litter pick?

These guides will help you get it right:

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