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Green Up Day: A Tradition of keeping Vermont beautiful

April 19, 2012

Daffodils and other blooms are beginning to bravely show their colors in the Northeast Kingdom. On May 5, help them grow by participating in Green Up Day. Photo by Christopher Roy

ORLEANS COUNTY, VT – The annual Green Up Vermont day is a long-time annual tradition of communities coming together to pick up roadside rubbish and keep Vermont beautiful. The event also serves to promote awareness of the environment, the problems associated with litter, and helps prevent people from throwing trash where it doesn’t belong. Green Up Day is always on the first Saturday in May.
May 5, all counties across the state and nearly all towns are joining together to participate. More than 15,000 volunteers participate every year picking up around 40,000 bags of rubbish.
Green Up Coordinators are available for contact in towns throughout Vermont with information on how to participate. Some towns also include special events like entertainment, barbecues, picnics, or entertainment for the day.
In Derby, volunteers are asked to meet at the green in front of the junior high school at 9 a.m. to begin the organized effort to clean up litter scattered though the roadways.
Green Up is a non-profit organization that receives about ten percent of its operating budget from cities, towns and the state of Vermont. The organization relies on donations from individuals and businesses.
The idea for a state-wide effort was born from a reporter in the late 1960s, Robert Babcock, Jr., who worked for the Burlington Free Press. As the story goes, he was driving around in the spring and was appalled by the amount of unsightly litter on the sides of the roads. He went to Montpelier to propose an idea of a state-wide effort to clean up. The idea caught on immediately and took off like wildfire. He was granted a leave of absence from his job in order to organize the event.
At the time, Deane Davis was governor.
"I was immediately much intrigued with his idea. At that time, we were pressing vigorously for environmental legislation on several fronts. It seemed to be just what we needed to excite Vermonters and to focus attention upon and support for our whole environmental program,” Davis is quoted as saying.
The first Green Up Day was April 18, 1970.
Vermont was the first state to designate a day to clean up the entire state, the organization’s web page states.
Many individuals, businesses, and others participate. VTrans is involved by distributing bags to the nine district garages, and then out to the towns for distribution.
Many educators get involved as well by encouraging students to participate in the Green Up Day annual poster and writing contests.
Green Up Day “(I)s also an example of communities working together. There are aesthetic, environmental, and economic benefits to this cleanliness,” said John Niles of Chittenden County.
“Green Up is more than a day in May. It is an attitude for a lifetime, an attitude toward our environment that Vermont is a precious place deserving our care and respect," one Vermont Green Up president said.
The Green Up Vermont website has an interactive page with information on how to contact coordinators and how to participate.

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