Peter Cornish talks to AsiaLIFE about the Clean Up Vietnam initiative and its Adopt A Spot project that has just received funding from the Danish Embassy. Photo by Romain Garrigue.

How did you become involved with Clean Up Vietnam?

I got involved with Clean Up Vietnam about three years ago. This was in the lead-up to our first annual Clean Up Vietnam Day and I offered to give a hand with promotion and marketing. 

The clean-up day was a huge success and mobilised thousands of volunteers who came out to our clean-ups in Ho Chi Minh City or organised their own around the country. We had international schools throughout the city joining in, as well as multiple businesses hosting clean-ups around their neighbourhoods. We had volunteer groups out in locations all over Vietnam, including Sapa, Hanoi, Nha Trang, Mui Ne and Phu Quoc.

After our first Clean Up Vietnam Day we were contacted by clean-up organisations and groups of volunteers all over the country who asked for our support. I took on the role of coordinating and providing support where able, this was mostly helping with organisational logistics, media coverage and donating clean-up kits to under-funded groups. We now function mainly as a support group uniting other clean-up organisations throughout Vietnam.

Since then the founder of Clean Up Vietnam, Scott Alderson, has married, become a father and moved from HCMC to Plieku. I’ve taken on more of a lead role, guiding the organisation into the future, coordinating with other clean-up organisations around the country and trying to raise funding. Ms Dung keeps it all together, in reality.

What is the Adopt A Spot programme?

After our first clean-up day we were approached by companies who wanted to include an environmental part to their CSR programmes and asked for our assistance. We used this as an opportunity to launch a social enterprise, Adopt A Spot which now supports businesses and organisations with their clean-ups, and helps with our funding.

We ask participating companies to commit to hosting a minimum of four clean-ups over a rolling 12-month period, and we ask that one of these coincides with our annual Clean Up Vietnam Day. Where possible, we encourage companies to adopt a spot near their workplace so that employees can take ownership of their efforts. Clean-ups are great for employee engagement and motivation, and are often used as a family day out with games and BBQs.

We charge a small fee for our support, which includes clean-up kits comprising gloves, tongs and bags. We also provide logistical support, health and safety guidelines and social media coverage. Acting to support the greater community, for each clean-up kit purchased we donate an equal number to volunteer groups around the country. After companies have completed their clean-ups we present them with a certificate that thanks them for their efforts and commitment.

Adopt A Spot has recently been awarded funding from the Danish Embassy Vietnam as part of their Green City Solutions initiative launched earlier this year in Hanoi and HCMC. We are delighted with this recognition of our work, and are now able to support more groups countrywide.

Companies or organisations who would like to take part in our Adopt a Spot programme are encouraged to contact us through the Clean Up Vietnam Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/cleanupvietnam) or drop a line to director@cleanupvietnam.org

We’ve heard about World Clean Up Day in September 2018, what is this?

World Clean Up Day is on September 15, 2018 and organised by Let’s Do It! World, who are a global civic movement that started in Estonia about ten years ago. They ask people worldwide to join a series of local, national and regional clean up events hosted by local organisers. There are now chapters in over 115 countries, including Vietnam, and World Clean Up Day will be a global day for cleaning up.

Clean Up Vietnam work closely with Let’s Do It Vietnam to support them as they prepare for the event in September next year. We will be helping them mobilise volunteers and coordinate their clean ups with groups around the country. The money we raise through Adopt A Spot will be used for this, especially with ensuring that volunteers have the clean-up kits they need.

How widespread is the support for Clean Up Vietnam and Adopt-A-Spot?

We are encouraged by the support we receive from the community and the growing clean-up movement as a whole. There are now groups all over the country who want to make a difference and who don’t mind rolling up their sleeves and getting dirty.

Groups like Keep Hanoi Clean and Green, run by James Joseph Kendall, are leading the way and really raising awareness of the pollution and litter issues in Vietnam.

We work closely with most international schools in HCMC, assisting where we can with their recycling programmes and clean-up events. The next generation are becoming increasingly aware of the environmental problems the world is facing and want to work towards a clean and green Vietnam.

2018 will be a big one for the clean-up movement here, especially in the lead up to World Clean Up Day. There will be a lot of events and anti-pollution initiatives happening over the coming months, including a 21-Day No Plastic Challenge run by local NGO ChangeVN. They plan to launch early 2018 and culminate the campaign around the same time as World Clean Up Day. Clean Up Vietnam will support them in doing this where possible.

How can people get involved?

There are many ways to get involved. If you’re part of an organisation that wants to show its commitment to a clean and green Vietnam, then get in contact with us about our Adopt A Spot programme and how we can help you organise your own clean-up.

If you would like to clean up your local community with friends and family, get in touch with us and we will help you organise a local clean-up event.

But most importantly we ask that people are mindful of their waste, to reduce the number of non-recyclables they are using, especially plastic, and to think about how they dispose of what they throw away. Clean Up Vietnam and the other clean-up groups will continue to do their work, but we’d prefer it if there wasn’t so much for us to clean up.