Originally published in the El Sobrante Chamber of Commerce newsletter
By Chris Conrad, Green Team volunteer
People love El Sobrante for its quiet neighborhoods, its natural beauty and its non-imposing downtown area. In “normal” times, it has a small-town feel, where people explore the hillside trails, get to know their neighbors and drop in on the small businesses that share in our sense of community and the 94803 zip code.
Our town is a mash up – a patchwork of Richmond and unincorporated Contra Costa County jurisdictions tossed together like a salad. But those of us who live and work here crave that sense of community that comes with small, attentive shopkeepers and clean streets.
Given the pandemic, these are not normal times. People are nervous about getting out and the trash blowing along our roads can make it feel like a ghost town, with cars rushing through, on their ways to someplace else.
Chamber, Library, neighbors are pitching in Sept. 18
National Cleanup Day, Saturday, September 18, gives us a chance to restore that sense of neighborhood pride and community spirit. Residents, students and local institutions are all pitching in from 10 am to 2 pm that day, to make our town sparkle and give us a “clean slate” for keeping El Sobrante clean and beautiful. The goal of this event, and moving forward, is simple. Clean up around our properties or homes. Pick up litter on nearby streets and “hot spots” that gather lots of trash. Provide adequate trash bins and receptacles to handle the garbage created by businesses, customers, tenants, etc. Let others know that throwing trash on the ground is not acceptable, so don’t litter in the first place.
The ES Public Library is doing its part by hosting our local clean up event, with onsite registration and equipment check out beginning Saturday at 10 AM, as well as a participant appreciation event with music and information tables from 2 to 4 PM, at the end of the day’s work. Trash bags and gloves will be provided, and grabbers will be loaned, as needed. Signs will greet people at the edges of town with an invitation to connect with us through our website, KeepElSobranteClean.info, and help out.
It’s exciting to see how much support there is for sprucing up our little town. The Chamber of Commerce is chipping in (thanks, CofC!), supporting the El Sobrante Green Team by funding some equipment. Individuals and businesses are chipping in a few dollars or in-kind donations, to help make the event a success, and by adding people-power to the cleanup.
Businesses instill civic pride – and gain happy customers
By now, you’re probably wondering, either “how can I get involved” or “what’s in it for me?”
Well, you asked the right question. Of course, we all benefit from a cleaner environment, but the benefits you take away from this civic outreach activity will depend on how much you bring to it. Many businesses here are small, so nobody expects you to break the bank.
Here are three things you can do at minimal costs for maximum benefits:
• Let your customers and staff know about our local National Cleanup Day event. We can provide a window sign for people to see and flyers to take to boost interest and participation in this event. Maybe you can keep a permanent sign-up reminding people not to litter.
• Look after your own property first. If you hire a crew to clean up your location, ask them to expand their area beyond the parking lots, down to the nearby sidewalks, surrounding vegetation and streets, where litter accumulates. If you don’t have a crew, spend the slower parts of the business day outside picking up litter, provide adequate trash receptacles for customers and the public, sweep the sidewalk, or freshen up the landscaping. Even better, work your way up the street a hundred feet past your property line, cleaning around the parking lot and back of the property. Reach out to neighbors and prospective businesses.
• Help sponsor this event and other cleanup activities year-round. We are volunteers, working on the cheap, so even a small donation of cash or supplies will go a long way. Maybe you can assign the tasks of cleaning up litter and emptying trash cans to a staff member to avoid the buildup of litter and debris along our roadways and sidewalks.
When people see you out in the streets and actively engaged with the community, they feel closer to you, see you as investing in the neighborhood and want to be your customers, knowing that your business cares about our community.
Here’s how you can get involved
The first thing to do is explore our website, KeepElSobranteBeautiful.info, to see the resources and plans we already have going. Maybe you can form a team for September 18 but, if not, sign up as an individual and encourage your employees to do likewise.
If you would like to donate money, in-kind items or something we can use to show appreciation to our participants, like beverages, snack bars or prizes – that would be great.
To give us suggestions or find out what other resources we have available, call either Mikki Norris at 510-685-8163 or Holly Trejo at 510-685-6268, or send an email to info@KeepElSobranteBeautiful.info. We’ll get back with you ASAP.
Most importantly, make keeping our town clean and litter-free a year-long commitment by assigning an employee to oversee the property and make sure trash cans are emptied regularly and in a timely manner.
Nobody expects one day to permanently solve our local trash problem, but one day can be the starting point for the community to make personal connections, show pride in our township and take an active role in making El Sobrante shine with the beauty that makes it so special.
Can you make that happen? It will take a little bit of work from each of us – but we can have a big effect on how we feel about our hometown and how passersby feel about us.
Chris Conrad is a local author and member of the ES Green Teams.