In the winter of 2020, the planning committee for the Framingham Earth Day Festival was gearing up for their 10th annual Festival to be held at the end of April. Preparations for the event were going wonderfully and our team was excited to celebrate the 50th annual Earth Day with several special aspects of our beloved event.
In March of 2020, when the global pandemic was first emerging, the planning committee was left with no choice but to cancel our 10th annual event. Our team gathered on Zoom and brainstormed ways we could continue the mission of the Festival during times of social distancing. We came up with over a dozen ideas, but over the course of multiple conversations one kept bubbling to the top. Encouraging small litter clean ups seemed like something that almost anyone could do anywhere they wanted in a safe, socially distanced way. We came up with the idea of creating a Facebook group to promote the idea, and on Earth Day 2020 our team launched the “Clean Up Framingham” Facebook group.
The group grew quickly. Within the first few weeks we had over 500 members who had logged hundreds of clean ups. People were stuck at home and were inspired by the actions of others as well as the beautiful Spring weather. Our members cleaned up their streets, local schools and parks near their homes. They did this with cheerful intent and posted pictures reflecting this positive energy. Quickly a community of like minded people was born consisting of people who cared about Framingham and how it looked. For many of us, during these challenging times, it was exactly the beacon of hope that we needed.
The members of our group have always been scrappy and resourceful. Folks found bags, gloves and grabbers at their houses and picked up trash anywhere that their daily walks took them. When their bags got full, they often found trash barrels or dumpsters to lighten their load as they cleaned on! Many folks realized how easy and fun it was and with the diligent effort of our growing membership Framingham was starting to look less trashy and more beautiful.
For 5 months we didn’t plan any group clean ups to be as safe as possible with the evolving COVID situation. In August of 2020, a member of our group reported some stashes of trash in and near Reardon park. An impromptu group clean up was planned for the following Saturday and around ½ dozen members showed up. In September of 2020 our team participated in World Clean Up Day with 3 organized clean ups at Learned Pond, Cushing Park & Hollis Street. This was an incredible day for our team as many of our most active members got to meet in person for the first time.
Things certainly slowed down as winter arrived, but members of our team kept cleaning up Framingham whenever weather allowed. With news of a vaccine on the horizon there was some hope that we could actually host the Earth Day Festival in 2021. As winter set in however, surges related to holiday travel and delays with the vaccine made it clear that getting 1000+ people together on the Framingham common in April was very likely not going to happen. The Earth Day team again circled the wagons to think about how else we could continue the mission of the Festival in 2021. Given the success of the “Clean Up Framingham” Facebook group our team decided to plan a large clean up around Earth Day 2021 and thus “The Great Framingham Cleanup” was born.
The Great Framingham Cleanup was planned for Saturday, April 17th as a distributed clean up event. We encouraged folks to work by themselves or form small groups to clean up trash wherever they wanted and post pictures of their progress on our Facebook page. We ultimately had 3 group clean ups that day, but many many folks did small clean ups on their own. That weekend, over 150 folks picked up well over 300 bags of trash and Framingham looked MUCH better as a result.
As part of the planning for that major event members of our group decided it was time to become a “real” organization. Our days as a fledgling group were behind us and in February we became an official chapter of Keep Massachusetts Beautiful, changing our name to Keep Framingham Beautiful in the process. Keep Massachusetts Beautiful launched in 2014 as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to the simple idea that “beauty matters.” A landscape littered with trash is anything but beautiful. Keep Massachusetts Beautiful focuses on four core impact areas in order to improve local communities: Litter Prevention & Cleanup, Waste Reduction & Recycling, Beautification & Community Greening, and Environmental Education. Keep Framingham Beautiful's mission now aligns with our parent organization: "taking action to make Framingham a cleaner, greener, litter-free place to live, work, and play.”
As a chapter within Keep Massachusetts Beautiful we now have access to help, resources and discounts on things like grabbers, shirts and other supplies. In preparation for the Great Framingham Cleanup our team ordered 160 bright yellow shirts that we distributed to participants as a show of solidarity as well as a safety measure. The shirts were not only for the event as our members wear them any time they do a clean up. You may have seen us around town, we stick out like a sore thumb, which is kind of the point!
During the rest of 2021 we have continued to lead organized cleanups at places like Route 9, Shoppers World, Framingham High School, Butterworth Park, Downtown Framingham, Nobscot and other "Southside Parks" We also partnered with Sustainable Framingham on a nips collection initiative to highlight the problem that nips pose in our community. We have begun establishing partnerships around the community as clearly more than one group of volunteers is needed to solve the litter situation.
Over the past 1.5 years, over 1000 individual clean ups have been posted to the group and a community of 1300+ members has enjoyed the camaraderie associated with making Framingham a cleaner place to live. We continue to distribute shirts, gloves & grabbers to folks that want them and only ask for a small donation to offset our costs. We have a vision of a litter free future for Framingham. In this vision there are hundreds of our members in their bright yellow shirts cheerfully cleaning up our streets, schools and parks so that everyone can enjoy a Beautiful Framingham.
You can follow the journeys of our members at our Facebook group: Keep Framingham Beautiful.