In Honor of Earth Day 50, Stepping Up is Easy: A Virtual Cleanup

What day is it? It’s hard to know anymore, in the face of the pandemic response and seemingly austere regimen. Did you know that this week marks the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day celebration? It officially began with the coordination of a nationwide environmental forum by United States Senator Gaylord Nelson, in response to a UNESCO conference proposal by peace activist John McConnell to honor Earth. Who would have expected that the air, water, and habitats would suddenly begin healing while we (responsibly) hide away from the contagion?

Southbound onramp to Hiawatha from Lake Street, littered

Picking up litter along our busy roadways and trails will enhance our experience to get outside. But it will also discourage the accumulation of more litter.


Not everyone can outwardly celebrate Earth Day today, due to our familial needs or employment as essential workers. So we are doing so in our own cloistered ways, save for sharing many of our projects on social media. That’s what we would love to see from you! In response to the Keep Duluth Clean Virtual Cleanup Day, planned for Saturday, April 25th, is excited to see what street or alley cleanup projects you can initiate in your own neighborhoods. Hiawatha Avenue is looking pretty neglected. Lake Street could use some attention. Our river trails have seen increased traffic and more litter. Safely and responsibly, we can match nature’s resurgence by giving back. Litter begets more litter. By removing it from the landscape, we eliminate its magnetism for more mistreatment of our beautiful cities.

Stepping Up MN
From now until April 30th, post or send us your planned location where you choose to pick up litter or focus other cleanup efforts. Then share your photos by using the hashtag #steppingupmn, and we’ll feature them in a follow-up post. 

Some tips:
1) Be sure to wear gloves for handling any refuse.
2) Hazardous facilities are temporarily closed. If possible, please store any such materials safely until they are accepted again. Batteries should be placed in a clear plastic bag with ends covered with tape, in order to prevent fires. (A list of hazardous household materials can be found here.)
3) Limit your cleanup project to an individual effort or to your own household.
4) 5-gallon buckets can make litter pickup easier. Many of our neighbors have extra ones lying around. Get to know your neighbor!

Storm drain with leaves and trash

Taking on the clearance of a nearby storm drain keeps excess materials and litter from reaching our waterways.


Other ways to give back to your streets:
• Consider clearing out storm drains, as part of the Hamline University-based Adopt a Storm Drain program. Click here to adopt a storm drain near you.
• Sign up for free beer by adopting a street tree for regular watering. Brewing a Better Forest allows you to adopt an sapling near you, so it remains healthy on its path to providing shade and color to your walk. Click here to adopt a street tree near you.

About Christian Huelsman

Christian Huelsman leads the Minneapolis Alley Initiative for Neighborhood Stimulation, a personal creative hub promoting public alleys as venues for art and culture. He also leads Spring in Our Steps, a Cincinnati-based nonprofit committed to bringing a brighter future to the city’s public alleys and stairways, through cleanup, programming, and advocacy initiatives.