Table of Contents
Why This Recipe Matters
Ingredients
Recipe
Nutritional Information
Submit a Recipe
Share how you’ve made a difference in your community to inspire others.
A sign by the highway that reads, "Adopt A Highway, Alligator Alliance."
Image Credit: Penny Britt/iStock via Getty Images

Most states have an Adopt-A-Highway program, allowing people, community groups, or organizations to volunteer or fund the cleanup of a roadway.

Why this recipe matters

Litter on roads causes serious safety and environmental problems. In 2020, the organization Keep America Beautiful reported nearly 50 billion pieces of litter along U.S. roadways and waterways.

Ingredients

  • Two-mile stretch of un-adopted roadway
  • Approval from your state department of transportation
  • In-kind donation letter template
  • Cleanup and safety supplies, such as:
  • trash grabbers
  • gloves
  • reflective vests 
  • Department of transportation safety guidelines
  • Volunteers who agree to adhere to state guidelines
  • Photo release

Recipe

1. Apply for approval from your state’s department of transportation.

  • Typically, volunteer groups, organizations, or businesses can adopt a two-mile section of a highway, depending on availability.
  • Contact your state’s department of transportation for an application to select which highway you’d like to sponsor.

2. Consider the time commitment and specific guidelines you’ll need to follow before committing.

  • Some states may require you to remove litter from the adopted roadway at least four times a year for a minimum of two years. 
  • Your local department of transportation has specific safety guidelines volunteers need to follow. Some safety tips include: don’t pick up sharp objects, stay in groups of two or more, and don’t turn your back to the road.

3. Gather supplies.

  • Once you’ve officially adopted a highway, your local department of transportation should provide the necessary safety training and materials. If you think you’ll need additional supplies, consider reaching out to a local hardware store for an in-kind donation of any or all of these items.

4. Pick the dates for your clean-ups and recruit volunteers.

  • It’s better to schedule clean-up dates in advance so all volunteers can plan to be available. We estimate that cleaning a two-mile section of roadway will take at least two hours. Don’t forget to pick a rain date in case the weather is poor!
  • Encourage people in your community to volunteer by putting up fliers at work, sending out emails, or creating a post on social media.

5. Remove litter from the adopted roadway at least four times each year.

  • On each clean-up day, make sure volunteers have the necessary supplies, wear their safety equipment, and follow the guidelines. If volunteers are comfortable with it (and complete the photo release included in the ingredients), don’t forget to take and share photos of the clean-up on social using #Idealist so we can celebrate with you.
  • Remind volunteers about future clean-up dates so they can plan to be available at the next one!

Nutritional Information

How this recipe has nurtured a community

“Being a native Texan born in Lubbock, Texas, I have always been extremely proud of our state and the cleanliness of our roads. I am happy to pitch in by sponsoring a highway and keeping our roads free of litter.”

— Kendra S., Texas

Finishing Touch

Many Adopt-A-Highway programs allow volunteers to plant flowers or other approved vegetation along roadways. If you’d like to take your project a step further, choose some native plants to beautify the highways in your state. You may even choose plants that invite butterflies or migrating birds.