Smiling girls at a beach cleanup

California Coastal Cleanup Day
Educators' Guide

On Saturday, September 21, 2019, California's beaches, rivers, lakes, and other waterways will be visited by 70,000 people intent on having a positive impact on our environment. Coastal Cleanup Day is the largest volunteer event in California and is a part of the International Coastal Cleanup, which takes place in 100 countries and 43 U.S. states. Your classroom or youth group can be a part of this monumental event!

Find a site hosting a cleanup on Saturday, September 21 on our Coastal Cleanup Day map. If you are unable to arrange for your students to get out to a shoreline cleanup on Saturday, you may be able to hold your event on Friday, September 20. Please contact your local county coordinator as early as possible to make arrangements. If you can't get out to a shoreline for a fieldtrip, you can do a Schoolyard Cleanup!

Find complete instructions on how to conduct a Schoolyard Cleanup as part of Coastal Cleanup Day, including lots of educational resources. Yes, you can still record your data and have it included in the Coastal Cleanup Day totals! If trash isn't picked up inland, it may find its way into a storm drain and then out to a waterway and eventually the ocean. Litter on land is future marine debris.

You can print out the California Coastal Cleanup Day posters for your school (available in multiple languages), as well as download graphics that can be used on websites and social media.

The information that follows will provide you with additional resources and activities to enrich Coastal Cleanup Day for your students. Please contact us with any comments or questions as you guide your students through this experience: (800) COAST4U;

BYO For Your Cleanup  |  Educator Resources   |  Creativity


BYO For Your Cleanup

Please plan ahead to reduce the waste generated by your cleanup. Following a "Bring Your Own" philosophy will allow you to save plastic bags and gloves that would otherwise be used during trash pick-up. Assign your students to bring work gloves (if available) and an item from home to use in collecting small trash items. (Larger trash items would need to be carried in bags, or hauled separately.) Some ideas for containers include:

  • Reusable bucket
  • Half-gallon milk carton, opened
  • Cardboard oatmeal cylinder
  • Plastic milk jug with the top cut off
  • Plastic 2-liter bottle with the top cut off
  • Reused plastic shopping bags

As containers are filled, dump them into a central collection site, such as a dumpster, trash can, or large trash bag. The items students brought from home can be recycled after the cleanup, or you can continue to reuse them by providing your students with potting soil and seeds to create a small wildflower or herb planter. Be sure to punch holes in the bottom first.

If your students are packing a lunch to eat during the cleanup, try to make it "trash free." This means that students will strive to include no disposable items in their lunches. (Be mindful of students who receive free and reduced-cost lunches at school, as it may not be within their control to pack a lunch. Presenting cafeteria waste reduction suggestions to the principal or superintendent may a good alternative if this is an issue for your students. If students receive lunch in disposable packaging, making a special point about recycling and composting all possible elements and placing remaining items very carefully in trash cans is a valuable exercise.) Some tips on packing a trash-free lunch:

  • Pack lunch in a reusable bag or lunch box.
  • Sandwiches can be stored in reusable containers or simply wrapped in a cloth napkin or kitchen towel.
  • Smaller items can be stored in reusable containers or tied up in a napkin.
  • Use a thermos or reusable bottle for drinks.
  • Fruit often comes in its own packaging—there's no need for a container for apples, oranges, or bananas.
  • Pack cloth napkins or towels and durable utensils when needed.
  • Avoid single-use items like paper bags, plastic baggies, chip bags, pudding cups, etc. Families can save money and resources by buying larger packages and sending individual servings in a reusable container.
  • Lunch boxes and containers are available for purchase in a range of prices, or food containers and jars can be easily reused to make a free "trash free" lunch kit. Old dish towels can be repurposed as napkins for lunches.
  • If you have access to composting, collect any compostable items like fruit peels and take them back to school after the cleanup.


Educator Resources

Visit this Schoolyard Cleanup Program webpage for extensive classroom lessons, informational links, recommended read-aloud books, videos, downloadable slideshows, and more.


Your students can create art or poetry based on their cleanup experience for the Coastal Art & Poetry Contest. Below are a few questions to help encourage their creative process.

  • What do you do at the beach?
  • What do you see at the beach?
  • What animals live on the coast or in the ocean off California?
  • How are people connected to the ocean?
  • What colors can you see at the beach?
  • What sounds do you hear at the beach?
  • What textures do you feel at the beach?
  • Why do you love the beach or the ocean?
  • What things may harm the California coast?
  • What does the ocean make you think of?
  • How does the ocean make you feel?
  • How can we protect the ocean?
  • Do you have a memory of being at the coast that was special/powerful/sad/comforting/mundane?
  • What would California/your life/your community be like without the ocean?
  • What is California/your life/your community like because of the ocean?
Artwork by Leo Yang, 2012 Coastal Art & Poetry Contest, 9th grade, Arcadia
Artwork by Leo Yang, 2012 Coastal Art & Poetry Contest, 9th grade, Arcadia

Find us on Facebook     Follow TheCACoast on Twitter     Join us on Instagram