‘In the foreground’: 51 years later, Vermont Green Day still inspires the community

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Saturday May 1st marked the 51st Green Up Day. During this unique springtime tradition in Vermont, thousands of Vermonters take to the streets to pick up trash and debris.

Garbage bags are still being counted, but the organizers Told The Rutland Herald as many communities reported record numbers of volunteers this past weekend.

This Vermont tradition was something student journalists at the Community press service wanted to dig. CNS is a project of the University of Vermont’s Documentary Reporting and Storytelling Program, and it dispatched dozens of young reporters across the state to speak with residents who attended Green Up Day.

Henry Epp of VPR spoke with Community News Service audio editor and University of Vermont student Leah Kelleher. Their interview is below and has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Henry Epp: So, Leah, you’re part of the team that put together an episode of the Community News Service podcast on Green Up Day. And you started with part of the story. So what have you learned about the history of Green Up Day?

Leah Kelleher: Well I think one of the most fascinating facts we’ve learned is that Green Up Day is actually a week older than Earth Day. The first Green Up Day was on April 18, 1970 and I think it’s quite fascinating. You know, we think of the ’70s as a time of green, and Vermont was certainly at the forefront of that.

And in fact that year, that first year, the freeway was closed from 9 a.m. to noon, which I know, at least for me, is pretty crazy to think about. And then after Green Up Day, a few years later, there was the first bottle bill that was enacted to help reduce waste. You know, people were seeing plastics and cans on the sides of the road while they were cleaning up that first Green Up Day. And Green Up Day survived, and it grew from there.

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Leah, you are from Vermont and you mentioned in the podcast how you grew up participating in Green Up Day, as did the executive director of Green Up Vermont, Kate Alberghini. Let’s listen to a bit of your podcast with her:

“From the Facebook posts and the various pieces of information that we get in Green Up Vermont about people who remember when they were kids of their Green Days and they remember the impact it had on their lives. We can do that. for generations to come. come on. And we just need to let these kids know they’re doing what it takes to be motivated to pick up this garbage. “- Kate Alberghini, Green Up Vermont

So, Leah, this idea that a lot of people grow up in Vermont has to do with nature, but at some point you kind of lose that connection, it looks like it’s something that Green Day is trying to counteract. Is it correct?

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Absolutely. And, you know, the organization itself sponsors a lot of different contests, one of which is a writing contest every year. And I had the chance to speak to this year’s winner. Her name is Casey Kendall. She is 9 years old, almost 10 years old. And she told me her poem was inspired by all the natural things she and her family do in Ryegate, where they live:

And you know, it’s not just Casey that’s on Green Up Day. Her little brother, Elliott, also won a poster contest sponsored by Green Up Vermont and her mom, grandparents, dad – they’re all longtime entrants too.

So, Leah, when you and your colleagues reported this weekend, what did you hear, especially from young people?

Well, we were really struck by the number of young people participating. Lots of little kids in particular, and whether organized in groups or with their families, it was really cool to see them there.

And a group that I met was actually behind my old college, Albert D. Lawton Middle School. They were all just saying how fun it is to be there, especially in this time of pandemic.

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Here are Annabelle, Helen and Maddy. They were part of a daisy troop in Essex. They shared some of the reasons they spent their Saturdays picking up trash:

“If you don’t collect the garbage, the Earth will not be healthy.” – Annabelle

“If we don’t pick up the garbage, Earth won’t be a healthy and strong place.” – Helen

“We collect garbage to keep the Earth healthy and strong so that it can support more people and also, we can also get plastic, paper and a lot of things that are disgusting to the Earth so that the Earth cannot. not breathe. And that’s it. “- Maddy

Do you have questions, comments or advice? Send us a message or contact journalist Henry Epp @TheHenryEpp.

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