ADDISON COUNTY / BRANDON — For Marci Hayes and her family scouring the roads and byways in their hometown of Goshen and neighboring towns has become a rite of spring.
“I’ve been doing it forever, since I was growing up,” said Hayes.
Of course, there is a reason behind the Hayses’ annual ramble that many in Vermont will recognize. They are taking part in Green Up Day, and Marci Hayes is Goshen’s Green Up coordinator.
“I’m motivated by the idea of taking care of the environment where you live,” she said. “It’s good practice to respect the land. And it looks better after.”
This weekend, people in each of Addison County’s 23 towns and Brandon will be celebrating Earth Day through the community tradition known as Green Up Day. Begun in 1970, Green Up Day is a statewide effort to clear roadside trash and brings families, clubs and schools together as teams and individuals fill provided bags with found litter and dispose of them at convenient, centrally located drop-off points. See a list of what's going on in your town by clicking here.
Green Up Day is unique to the state of Vermont. The practical act of picking up litter around town is augmented by the day’s celebration of Vermont’s close-knit communities and their commitment to maintaining the aesthetics and health of the land.
Six-year-old Abigail Hayes, Marci’s daughter, has been collecting litter for Green Up Day since around the time she learned to walk. This year, Abigail has organized her first-grade class at the Neshobe School in Brandon to do the same.
Picking up trash may initially seem like an icky way to spend a Saturday. But Hayes and other organizers find that people love the opportunity to get together and walk around the community — especially on a sunny day.
“If it rains you get fewer people,” said Mike Daniels, former major of Vergennes, who co-coordinates the Little City’s Green Up Day activities. “We get a lot done each year, but we’ll just have to see what Mother Nature does for us this weekend.”
Rain or shine, devotees will surely be out in droves.
“A lot of people actually really enjoy it,” Hayes said. “A lot of families volunteer and get right into it. It just feels good to clean up and get (the litter) where it belongs, it’s great for Vermont.”
And lest one thinks that 40-plus years of Greening Up has alleviated the need for the annual effort, Bristol Green Up coordinator Dave Rosen encourages everyone who can to spend at least a little time picking up their part of Vermont.
“Every year you think there’s going to be less trash to pick up, but every year it’s the same,” he said.
Many towns host barbecues and parties to spur volunteers and to say thanks.
In Middlebury, for example, Otter Creek Brewery will host a cookout from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., according to Middlebury coordinator Peg Martin, who emphasized the community-based nature of the tradition.
Martin noted that Pete Brakeley has led a Middlebury Union Middle School group in a Green Up Day clean up for 30 years, while the Middlebury Area Land Trust as well as Middlebury College environmental groups are involved every year. Around the county Scouting groups, students from the Northlands Job Corps Center, and even a Girls on the Run troupe scour particular roads and neighborhoods filling familiar green trash bags with garbage.
Townspeople also form more loosely affiliated groups.
“It’s traditional for people to go out with neighbors,” Martin said. “After awhile, we all get tired of driving up and down our roads and seeing trash.”