Editorial: Green Up Day is one of ‘those things you do to support the whole’

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.
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 started in 1970 under Gov. Dean Davis. At the time it was considered by some to be a radical idea, and Gov. Davis doubled-down on that notion by actually closing the interstate for a morning to send crews of community folks up and down the pike picking up trash. It was a bold and very Vermont-like statement to make then, and that it has become part of the community culture over the past 48 years reflects the persistence, and closeness to the land, innate to the Vermont character.
Last year, more than 22,000 Vermonters in all 251 communities grabbed 55,000 green bags and picked up almost 600,000 pounds of trash from more than 13,000 miles of local roads.
To put those impressive numbers in a more local context, recent Green Up Day events in Addison County have seen residents pick up roughly 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.
Volunteer Green Up coordinators volunteer to make it easier for all of us to help by providing trash bags, assigned routes, and drop off points in each town throughout Addison County. The Addison County Solid Waste District lists each town’s coordinator in an ad on Page 6 in today’s issue — check it out if you don’t know the coordinator in your town — along with a phone number for you to call. The Addison Independent will also provide a brief town-by-town description of Green Up events in this coming Thursday’s issue.
Many towns make it a social event, complete with lunches and fun activities. Last year in Goshen, for example, coordinator David Sabatinicoordinated a barbecue for volunteers at the town clerk’s office at noon. Snacks were available at the Moss Glen Grange Hall in Granville for those dropping off bags of trash.
Hancock hosted a barbecue at the town office at 4 p.m., while Leicester held a barbecue lunch at the Town Hall at noon along with a raffle. Lincoln typically hosts a raffle and picnic lunch, while last year Ripton hosted a barbecue, Weybridge offered refreshments and Orwell offered ice cream for volunteers — and kids got a raffle ticket for each bag of trash they dropped off.
Ideally, each community would consider Green Up Day an opportunity to boost civic pride and — in a fun competitive spirit — outshine their neighbors.
In past years, Middlebury’s Captain Green Up, under the alias of long-time MUHS football head coach Peter Brakeley, put a fun stamp on the community day but dressing up as a super hero with the goal of making it fun to spend part of the day picking up trash. Former first lady Dorothy Douglas, wife of Gov. James Douglas, is known locally to be a vigilant Green Day proponent year-around, picking up trash on her daily walks and identifying places in town that need sprucing up and then just doing it.
And it was Middlebury’s Peg Martin, a long-term state representative who has served as that town’s Green Up Day coordinator for 25-plus years, who perhaps spoke most eloquently about what Green Up Day is really all about in an interview we did with her last year.
“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,” Martin told us.
“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.”
So no matter what you’re doing this week, be a part of a 48-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.

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