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Green Up Day is a longstanding Vermont tradition that began in 1970 at the behest of former Governor Deane C. Davis. Vermont was the first state in the nation to establish a day of grassroots picking up of litter.
Green Up Day was an idea that came from a reporter for the Burlington Free Press, Robert Babcock Jr. On a spring day in 1969, Babcock was driving to work in Montpelier from Waterbury and was appalled at how much litter the snowmelt had revealed.
When he got to Montpelier he went straight to Governor Deane’s office to propose a statewide citizen effort to clean up the roadways.
The first year of Green Up in Vermont, more than 70,000 volunteers worked along the interstates – which were closed for the day – to pick up trash.
The concept is simple and it works. It is citizen and volunteer based with an assist from town and state road crews who collect the bags once they are full. It is reassuring to know that the people who live here care enough about the environment to go collect the trash that people throw along the sides of our roads and byways.
It is heartening to watch what happens in the days leading up to the event as first the snow leaves the ditches revealing a winter’s worth of beer bottles and more.
It is a sure sign that spring is really here when town volunteer coordinators drive all over their towns tying bright green trash bags to sign posts and road signs.
Then the bags disappear from the signs and begin appearing – full – at the bottom of roads and road signs. Then the road crews take the green bags away.
It doesn’t all happen on the officially designated day. People collect the bags and the trash almost as soon as the bags are tied up. Sometimes you see the magic litter elves wielding the bags and doing their part to keep Vermont green, but mostly you don’t.
It works because of its simplicity and it works because people care.