Green Up Day in Woodstock, VT
Story by Ellen Reader, serving with Upper Valley Haven
Having served in shelters during my two terms with VHCB AmeriCorps, I saw the Independent Service Project as an opportunity to stretch into some environmental work. I moved around between ideas and finally settled upon Green Up Day.
Green Up Day has been a Vermont tradition ever since the first one took place in 1970. It’s a day for Vermonters to get out and clean up litter from the road sides. It’s easy enough to participate on your own, but my goal was to organize a large group of volunteers for the day. Green Up Day happened to fall on the same day as a game for the roller derby team I play on. So, I started recruiting volunteers from my team. With an additional last minute recruit of a friend, our group arrived at the Woodstock Town Hall at 8 am with a group of 11 volunteers. We got our road assignment, trash bags, and recycling bags, and took off together to Hartland Hill Road.
It was a slow start with little trash to be seen besides the innumerable cigarette butts, which we diligently tossed into the trash bags. But as we made our way up the hill we began spotting more and more trash and recyclables, and some altogether odd things - a basketball sized ceramic chicken was by far the oddest. Pretty soon we had filled several bags and we still had the whole other side of the street to clean up on the way back down the hill.
We got waves and thank you’s from passing cars. We got competitive, in a friendly way, seeing who could find the best/biggest pieces of trash. We got to listen to one of the volunteer’s 2 year old son sing the most adorable rendition of “Take me out to the ballgame”. We also got to watch him carefully pick up little pieces of trash with his hand in a gigantic glove and gleefully throw it in the trash bag. Having such an engaged toddler was a highlight; instilling the idea of caring for your environment so young is important. On top of that, our group got to do something good for the environment while bonding as a team. I got to share my service with VHCB AmeriCorps with women (and a couple of men) that I spend so much of my time with. It felt great to bring the two together for a greater good. When we finished our assigned road we had filled 12 bags, 6 full of garbage and 6 full of recycling.
We ended the day feeling quite accomplished with our spirits lifted. We agreed this would become a yearly service project. Vermont is well known for its beautiful land and for how well it’s cared for. Participating in Green Up Day to do our small part allowed us to deepen our connection to our environment and to our fellow community members. My significant other grew up in Vermont and has described Green Up Day as a rite of passage to becoming a Vermonter. Vermont does feel even more like home after this day of service.