CleanUp the World



Clean Up the World is a community based environmental campaign that inspires and empowers individuals and communities from around the globe to clean up, fix up and conserve their environment.   Clean Up the World mobilizes an estimated 35 million volunteers from 120 countries annually, making it one of the largest community-based environmental campaigns in the world.


In 1989 a solo-yachtsman and builder, Ian Kiernan had a simple idea to make a difference in his own backyard – Sydney Harbor.  That same year, he enlisted the help of friends and held Clean Up Sydney Harbor Day (1989) which motivated 40,000 volunteers to remove rusted car bodies, plastics of all kinds, glass bottles and cigarette butts from the harbor and its surroundings.


Ian and his team believed that if a city could be mobilized to take action, then so could the whole nation. Almost 300,000 volunteers turned out on the first Clean Up Australia Day in 1990 and that involvement has steadily increased over the last 20 years.

With the publicity that Clean Up Australia received, those associated with the event began to receive inquiries from other parts of the world.  The staff of Clean Up Australia spent a year researching the possibilities for expanding their ideas internationally including writing to organizations that had contacted them and learning about environmental networks.  After gaining the support of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) (a partnership that has been a key contributor to the initial and ongoing success of the campaign). Clean Up the World was launched in 1993.


Core philosophies and approaches


Local capacity - One of Clean Up’s major values is to facilitate its participants maximizing and developing  the local capacity to undertake and sustain their own activities.  This has been a major driving factor in all of its campaign development.  In the early days a brochure was sent out to interested parties communicating the concept that “We have been successful in Australia, and we would be happy to share what we have learned to take the “Think Globally, Act Locally” concept to the next stage.”  Now members receive a membership kit and access to online resources providing tools to assist in implementing and promoting local Clean Up the World initiatives.


Maximizing resources through innovation -   Clean Up the World has always striven to maximize its finite resources by bringing value added to local partners.  For example, Clean Up has over the years focused on expanding its on-line resources, modeling for and supporting their members foray into this area as well.  A few different steps were taken:  membership kits were shifted from being sent in hard copy to being accessible online, and most recently Clean Up the World has launched a website that provides participants with profile pages incorporating Google maps that are featured on a global campaign map.  These pages can be shared with other participants, volunteers and supporters.


Strategic design and adaptation -  CleanUp the World’s successful evolution from Clean Up Australia was aided by strategic leadership – considering what they envisioned Clean Up the World would be so that its growth would be by design, and not just reacting to interest expressed.  Some of this has been aided by talking to like-minded parties around the world including Bonnie Koenig of Going International.


Adaptations to the initial Clean Up the World campaign have been made to adhere to the approach of encouraging local sustainability.  For example, initially the Clean Up the World weekend was always the same weekend for everyone.  Eventually, taking into consideration different seasons and other local considerations, guidelines were made more flexible.  So while participants are encouraged to conduct environmental activities on or around Clean Up the World weekend (always the 3rd weekend in September), Clean Up the World also is now designed to provide support to groups undertaking activities throughout the year. In addition, whilst the campaign commenced with a focus on clean ups, participants now undertake a variety of activities, including education and awareness raising, tree planting, addressing climate change and reduce, re-use and recycle.


More information about Clean Up the World, its activities and operations can be found and