Clean your campus by Adopting a Spot!
Help keep your school campus litter-free by “Adopting a Spot!” The same way you would adopt a new puppy or pet, once you adopt a spot, you have the amazing opportunity to take responsibility for a designated location and keep it clean and healthy!
This toolkit address the following Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs) within the Performance Expectations of NGSS for Grades: 6-8 and 9-12
- Asking Questions and Defining a Problem
- Planning and Carrying out Investigations
- Analyzing and Interpreting Data
- Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking
- Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions
- Obtaining Evaluating, and Communicating Information
Why It’s Important
Litter damages the environment, harms animals and people, wastes municipal or district money, and makes communities feel neglected and under-valued.
What You Will Accomplish
Participants take action to ensure a specific campus area(s) stay litter-free.
Why Litter is Rubbish
The resources provided can be shown as a slideshow or printed out as individual worksheets for students to learn.
People Make A LOT of Litter!
You might only see a few pieces of litter on your street, but researchers found that on average there are more than 13 thousand pieces of litter per mile of American roadway. All together, it’s estimated there are 51 billion pieces of litter on all US roads at any moment.  If you add in ocean litter, there are more pieces of plastic in the seas than there are stars in the galaxy.
A plastic wrapper dropped in the parking lot doesn’t stay there for long. It gets blown to the curb, washed through storm drains into rivers, and out to sea. Scientists estimate that almost 9 million tons of plastic litter end up in the ocean—every year. This is the equivalent of five grocery bags filled with plastic trash sitting on every foot of coastline around the world. 
Litter affects animal and human health. It’s estimated that over 1 million land animals and 100 million sea animals die each year after eating or becoming trapped in litter. Litter also releases chemicals and microparticles as it breaks down in the environment. These toxic particles end up in the air that we breathe, the soil where we grow food and in the water we drink. 
Litter is Contagious!
When people see litter or others littering, they are more likely to litter themselves. In fact, research shows that about 15% of littering activities are motivated by existing litter in an environment. 
Watch these two short videos to learn why it’s important to keep your campus clean!
Why Litter is a Social Justice Issue
Communities with higher average incomes tend to have more waste hauling and sanitation services than those with lower average incomes making litter an environmental justice issue. People in underserved communities are more likely to live amongst trash, and the litter that accumulates in these areas can have serious health effects. Communities that are underserved are more likely to be affected by microplastics, harmful pieces of plastic that harm oceans and wildlife, because the food they eat is more likely to be contaminated by microplastics, creating a health hazard. In addition to the physical problems, studies have also shown that litter can have a negative psychological impact on humans due to the emotional connection people have with nature. It is important to make sure that all communities have the resources to remove litter.
Let’s think about it…?
- Describe places in your school or community where you see a lot of litter.
- What kinds of litter do you see? What are the most common types?
- Why do you think these items become litter so often?
- Why do you think you may sometimes look past litter when you see it?
How to Adopt-A-Spot
Follow the steps below to set up a successful Adpot-A-Spot Campaign at your school! Need help? Contact us!
Step 1: Assign Roles
- Determine who and how many students/staff are participating
- Invite attendees to support your clean up efforts. Use the Adopt-A-Spot Invite and Safety Guidelines Template
- Use the Adopt-A-Spot Sign Up Sheet to track additional participants
Step 2: Map It Out
Look at a map of your school or neighborhood. Make a list of areas that are full of litter and can be “up for adoption”.
It’s amazing how much more people care about something once they’ve given it a name. Just like you would name a pet, naming “your” spot can build a real feeling of ownership and pride. (Plus, it’s fun!)
Step 3: Prepare Your Materials
Gather your litter collection supplies and choose an accessible location where they can be stored.
- Garden Gloves
- Trash Grabbers
- Bags for trash and for recycling
- Clipboards with printed litter tracker for each team
- Writing utensil
Step 4: Make a Schedule
Decide a time to begin cleaning the litter in their spots. Set up a schedule to check on your spot and keep it clean daily, weekly, or monthly depending on the needs of your spot.
- Determine the start and end dates of your campaign. If it is ongoing, plan to check in from time to time to monitor your progress.
- Use our Adopt-A-Spot Team Organizer to help keep your team organized.
- Remember to keep your team safe!
Take pictures of your team working in “your” spot. Everyone loves to see themselves and their friends in action. It’s a great way to build a sense of belonging and community. Create a unique hashtag or social media page for your photos.
You never know what strange and unexpected items a litter pick-up will uncover. Keep a “treasures” list and read the list periodically. Being a litter-buster has a fun side!
Step 5: Track Your Impact
Each group that has a spot should track their progress with our Adopt-A-Spot Litter Tracker. Collect sheets weekly to keep track of your impact.
Take note if certain items are littered more than others, or at different times of the year – like fun-size candy wrappers after Halloween. Are there things you could do to reduce these items?
Recycle or compost as much of the waste as you can. (Contact your city or waste hauler to find out more)
Create a leader board or use the Litterati app to track your litter pick up to see who picks up the most. Offer a prize for the winning person, team, or classroom!
Step 6: Measure Your Success
Compile all the data that your teams gathered and complete Adopt-A-Spot Wrap Up Form.
How’d it go…?
- What were some small wins that happened during your project?
- Examples: we found a dollar coin, collected 10 bags of trash
- What could you do to up your game next time?
- Examples: use gloves, collect trash more frequently, write down what we found
- What’s the coolest thing you found?
- Examples: snowboard, diamond ring, left AirPod Pro Headphone
- Which items of litter did you find the most of?
- Examples: cigarette butts, plastic bags, plastic forks
- Adopt-A-Spot Team Organizer
- Adopt-A-Spot Invite and Safety Guidelines Template
- Adopt-A-Spot Sign Up Sheet
- Adopt-A-Spot Litter Tracker
- Adopt-A-Spot Slides
- Adopt-A-Spot Wrap Up Form
- Use the Litterati App to track your litter cleanup efforts: https://www.litterati.org
Congrats on completing the Adopt-a-Spot Eco-Toolkit!
Did you enjoy this toolkit? Find your next project here!