Collective Curb Cleaning Practice

People raking the curb.To REGISTER as a participating Curb Cleaner for Fall 2021, go HERE!

Simple in design, but mighty in its impact, Curb Cleaning is a household practice that significantly improves the health of Como Lake and the Mississippi River. Yes, really. We did just say “significantly.” It is a self-led practice. Read on to learn the how and the why of it. But first…

Here is some GREAT NEWS!

This year, District 10 Como Community Council, in partnership with Capitol Region Watershed District, is taking the lead on promoting the practice of Curb Cleaning AND in expanding our network of Curb Cleaning neighbors!

FALL Curb Cleaning season begins Friday, Oct. 1st, 2021! Go HERE to REGISTER!

During autumn, our focus is leaves! All those wonderful leaves that twirl and swirl in the crisp, cool air and then click their way across our streetscapes will, inevitably, accumulate into generous mounds along our gutters otherwise known as our “curbs.” They do this in our alleys too, if you have one. Don’t get us wrong, we LOVE trees! And we LOVE jumping in leaf piles. We just have to admit to ourselves that, in the end, if left in the path of our stormwater runoff, these leaves will release a LOT of nutrients – phosphorus and nitrogen – into that stormwater and onward to our lake and river it goes via our storm drains. BOO!

Just remember this little mantra…

leaves + streets + runoff = pollution

  • It’s not just the leaves. It’s the fact they are on an impervious surface – the street. If they are on the grass when it rains, the nutrients they release simply get absorbed by the soil.
  • It’s not just the impervious street. It’s the fact that rain and snowmelt flows along our streets. They are a conduit. In fact, our streets are purposefully designed at a tilt, so that rain and snowmelt will be pulled by gravity to the nearest storm drain.
  • It’s not just the runoff. It’s the fact the runoff becomes infused with nutrients when there are so many leaves along the street’s edges.

All three interact to create the perfect pollution storm. If we separate one from the equation – leaves – then the cycle is broken.

Another factoid: If you didn’t know, Como Lake is already impaired due to excessive nutrients that feed noxious algae. This annual pollution influx coming from our neighborhood streets further degrades our lake and river water quality and damages the aquatic ecosystem. Which we don’t want. And hence, why we care.

Why it matters that we RESIDENTS do this

As Curb Cleaners, we are taking ownership of our own role, as neighbors in a community, in caring for our valued and shared community assets – our lake and river. We do that by caring for a human-scale “micro-zone” within our home community – our own curbs. Many of us do this throughout the year, removing not only fall leaves, but also summer grass clippings, and spring tree seeds. Doing our part augments the City’s sweeping of an industrial-scale “macro-zone” that happens only twice a year. Both roles are important – residents’ and government’s. Both are significant in improving the health of our beloved local waters.

Also important – by organizing ourselves into a network of neighbors who embrace this role of Curb Cleaner, we support and encourage and inspire one another. Networked neighbors make cross-block collaboration possible. It is motivating and sustaining knowing you are doing this in partnership with fellow caring neighbors. Also, we are leading by example and creating the conditions for a community-wide collective practice to emerge – a culture of curb cleaning.

Our hope is to inspire a critical mass of fellow neighbors to join with us, making our impact on our waters truly extraordinary. The fact is, water pollution, at its most fundamental, is a source problem. And we live at the source – our streets. This ONE practice – removing nutrient pollution sources from our own little stretch of street – is THE most cost effective way to improve our lake and river’s health, now and well into a sustainable future.

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“But HOW do I practice Curb Cleaning?” 

Okay, okay, we’re finally getting to that. It’s simple, really.

  • October 1st, begin monitoring the curbs that border your private property.
  • Once a week (or as needed) if you notice leaf litter has accumulated along the curb, sweep it up.
  • You can simply push it up onto your boulevard. This at least gets it out of the street where stormwater runoff will flow. You can then deal with the leaves when you’re ready to manage your yard leaves.
  • Or you can gather them up and move them immediately to a pile in your backyard, to breakdown into compost over the winter.
  • Or you can bundle them up and take them to the nearest county yard waste site.
  • Or you can bag them in a compostable bag and ask your waste hauler to pick them up (for a fee).
  • On November 30th, if you’ve registered, we will assume you would like your pollution source removal to be counted in our community-wide, aggregated measurement of Pounds of Phosphorous Prevented. Therefore, you’ll get an email asking you to report a.) how many feet of curbage you took care of and b.) how often you cleaned your curbage.
  • Questions? Email:
  • And now… Let the Raking Begin!

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