Editorial: Green Up Day and the meaning of community

This weekend, or any day this week or next, grab a Green Up bag and pick up a little trash near where you live. It will make you feel connected — a small part of a larger whole. Click here to read about what’s going on in your town.
And if you do, even if it’s just for an hour up and down your street for a block or so, you’ll be part of the state’s largest all-volunteer one-day event in which everyone does a little bit for a whole lot of good. Green Up Day is the first Saturday in May.
Last year, more than 22,000 Vermonters in all 251 communities grabbed those green bags and picked up more than 600,000 pounds of trash from more than 13,000 miles of local roads.
In Addison County, local residents picked up 26,000 pounds of trash, including 131 tires, 28 computers, CD players and televisions — plus five appliances — from the roadsides; trash that had littered our communities. Such effort not only helps beautify where we live, but also makes one’s sense of community, and place, stronger.
Middlebury’s former state representative and long-time Green Up coordinator Peg Martin, now 84 (and who says this will be her last year to lead the town’s charge), reflected in a story in today’s Addison Independent about why Green Up is such an important event.
“I’ve always had very strong feelings about community and the fact that in a community you do what you can, however you can do it, to participate and make things better for the whole community,” said Martin.
“Green Up has always seemed to me like a very simple … and in-your-face-thing to do. Lean over and pick up a piece of trash off the ground. And it’s something that a lot of people doing a little bit can make a great deal of difference. And that to me is kind of what community is about: those things that you do to support the whole.”
Martin, who was Middlebury’s state representative from 1987-1996, recalled how radical, and very Vermont, the idea of Green Up Day was when it was started under Gov. Dean Davis in 1970.
 “It was a pretty radical thing when it started off. You’re going to close down the interstate? Which is what they did the first year. I mean, can you imagine closing the interstate now? No way. The whole world would rise up and smite you. But that’s what they did. They closed down the interstate for a morning, and everybody went out on the interstate and picked up trash … It was very radical and very Vermont. And I think the persistence of it is very Vermont.”
Volunteer Green Up coordinators are helping make it easier for you to help by providing trash bags and drop off points in each town throughout Addison County. We’ve provided details telling you how to participate in each of the 23 towns in a companion story in this issue, and while not every town has a community event this Saturday, many do.
In Goshen, for example, coordinator David Sabatini is coordinating a barbecue for volunteers at the town clerk’s office at noon. Snacks are available at the Moss Glen Grange Hall in Granville for those dropping off bags of trash. Hancock is hosting a barbecue at the town office at 4 p.m. Leicester will host a barbecue lunch at the Town Hall at noon, along with a raffle; Lincoln hosts a raffle and picnic lunch at the fire station from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.; raffle winners must be present to win; Ripton has a barbecue, Weybridge offers refreshments and, in Orwell, there’s ice cream for volunteers and kids get a raffle ticket for each bag of trash they haul in. Find the details about your town on page 15.
So no matter what you’re doing this week be a part of a 47-year-old Vermont tradition and pick up a little trash — even if it’s for just an hour or two — and know that the small role you play is part of a much bigger whole. That should put a smile on your face, and spark a warm feeling of belonging in your heart.
Angelo S. Lynn

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