Adopt-a-Beach™ Volunteer Frequently Asked Questions

Thank you for volunteering! We’ve put together some resources to answer all of your Adopt-a-Beach questions.

Despite “adopt” in the name, no long-term commitment is required. Join us for one cleanup or as many as you like. We want you to be a part of it!

Find a cleanup on our Adopt-a-Beach website. You’ll see a map and table showing all the upcoming cleanups. There are two ways to find an event near you:

  • Use the location and date search bars at the top of the page to narrow down the list, or
  • Zoom in and out on the map to look for cleanups near you.

When you have found a cleanup you want to attend, click “Register” and sign up!

Adopt-a-Beach cleanups are held across all five Great Lakes and are run by local volunteer Team Leaders. If you don’t see a cleanup in your area, explore becoming a Team Leader yourself and hosting a cleanup in your community. It’s easy to get started and you’ll help us collect litter data from an under-represented area!

Some cleanups can only accommodate a certain number of volunteers. A cleanup that has reached its capacity is considered “full,” and no more volunteers will be able to join that cleanup.

Some cleanups are meant for invited participants only. For example, a school might host a cleanup that’s open only to its students, or a business might host a cleanup that’s meant only for its employees. These cleanups are considered “private.”

It helps you and your volunteer Team Leader if your register in advance.

Registering means your spot is reserved, even if the cleanup becomes full. You’ll get paperwork, like waivers, out of the way electronically before the cleanup and receive confirmation and reminder emails with important details. If anything changes, like the start time or the meetup location, or if the event is canceled due to inclement weather, you’ll be emailed immediately. Registering also helps the Team Leader know how many volunteers to expect so they can make sure there are enough materials for everyone.

If for any reason you aren’t able to register ahead of time, you can register with the Team Leader as a walk-up if the cleanup isn’t full.

You’ll need a special registration link to join a private cleanup. Contact the Team Leader for the cleanup to get the link.

If your group is joining a pre-existing cleanup, please have group members register individually through the website prior to the cleanup.

If you would like to organize a specific cleanup just for your group, visit the Team Leader resources page to get started!

When an adult registers for a cleanup, they will be asked to indicate whether or not they are bringing any minors. If yes, they will be able to list these minors (names only) and register them for the cleanup.

Yes! If the cleanup is public and there is still space, feel free to share the information with others and have them register as well!

After you register, you’ll receive a confirmation email that contains social media links you can use to invite others. There will also be a link you can share via email.

Your Team Leader will bring any necessary cleanup materials. Simply show up at the start time at the listed meetup location and get ready to join fellow community members in protecting the Great Lakes!

We suggest wearing weather-appropriate clothing and comfortable, close-toed shoes. Unless there is severe weather or lightning, cleanups may still happen in the rain! We also recommend bringing a filled reusable water bottle.

Yes! Please post pictures, quotes, or thoughts from your volunteer experience; we’d love to see them! Tag us @A4GL on X or @Alliance4GreatLakes on Instagram.

The decision to cancel a cleanup is up to the discretion of each Team Leader. Keep an eye on your email. If your Team Leader changes the time or cancels your cleanup, you will receive an automatic email informing you of the changes. If there is no severe weather or lightning, many Team Leaders will still hold their cleanups in a light rain or drizzle. Bring your poncho!

You’re contributing to a one-of-a-kind database of Great Lakes beach litter. No one researcher or agency could collect this much information about the types and amount of litter on beaches. Scientists use Adopt-a-Beach data to study the sources of pollution, and this information helps decision makers make the case for policies that protect the lakes. Read more on our data and reporting page.

When a volunteer or Team Leader enters litter data for a cleanup, their data is added into a larger Great Lakes coastal litter database, maintained by the Alliance for the Great Lakes. Once a year, the Alliance sends our regional database to the Ocean Conservancy, which maintains a global database of coastal litter. Read more on our data and reporting page!

Absolutely! If you would like to organize a specific cleanup just for your group, visit the Become a Team Leader page to get started. Team Leaders must be over 18. If you are interested in inquiring about a longer-term project or partnership with the Alliance, please reach out to us at

Absolutely! If you would like to organize a specific cleanup just for your group, visit the Become a Team Leader page to get started. If your business or organization is interested in sponsoring the Adopt-a-Beach program, visit the Adopt-a-Beach sponsorship page.

Learn more about becoming a Team Leader and hosting your own cleanups. Reach out to us at

Join a Beach Cleanup

You can make a difference at your favorite Great Lakes beach. Join a cleanup near you – or host one of your own!

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