It Takes a Village to Clean an Island

Great Islands Clean Up

The Great Islands Clean-up is back! In honor of National Public Lands Day, come join your fellow islanders for the 2021 Fall Great Islands Clean-up (GICU) on Saturday, September 25th.

On Friday September 24th, The Exchange will be celebrating its 40th anniversary with special deals in the store, free hot dogs and lemonade, and gift certificate giveaways. Additionally, if you volunteer at this year’s Great Islands Clean-up you’ll be entered to win a $50 gift card to The Exchange!

This year’s GICU theme, It Takes a Village to Clean an Island, celebrates the history of the Clean-up and the efforts of those who have participated over the years.

The beginnings of The Great Islands Clean-up come from San Juan Island. Earth Day clean-ups were historically organized by the Soroptimists. The tradition was picked up in 2011 by locals Lori Stokes and David Delendorf, who organized neighborhood “Great Island Cleanups” for a number of years.

In 2014, inspired by Lori and David, Orcas resident Kira Bradshaw decided to organize an event for her island. Bradshaw enlisted the help of Orcas Recycling Services/The Exchange, San Juan Sanitation and Island Market, among other Eastsound businesses. The first Orcas Great Island Clean-up was a huge success.

In 2015 Orcas, Lopez, Shaw and San Juan Island all got onboard for what would be the first county-wide “Great Islands Cleanup” (plural). San Juan County Public Works got involved, offering organizational support and funding through state litter grant funds.

In 2016 Orcas introduced a fall clean-up, and since then other islands have joined in that effort as well. This will be the 6th annual fall GICU.

We look forward to seeing everyone out in the village! On Orcas, come by the Village Green from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to sign in and pick up supplies. You can bring your trash back to us at the Village Green by 2, or drop it off at the Exchange Transfer Station for no charge. Supplies can also be picked up at The Exchange (email us first! Thursday – Saturday during normal business hours. Please remember that most items traditionally considered “recycling” will be considered trash since what is picked up by the side of the road, and on beaches, is usually pretty dirty!

If you are on a different island, check the Great Islands Clean-Up Facebook page for regular updates, or contact a specific island organizer for more information:

Orcas Island organizer: Pete Moe ( / 376-4089)

San Juan Island organizer: Katie Fleming (

Shaw Island organizer: Jennifer Woodbridge (

Lopez Island organizer: Cyndi Smith (