Our opinion: Roll up your sleeves


Money is tight everywhere; so tight that there almost wasn't a Green Up Day in Vermont this year.

There had been concerns earlier this year that Green Up Vermont, the nonprofit group that sponsors the event that sees thousands of people collecting trash in green bags, might have to close because of financial worries.

No Green Up Day? Were we to see the end of a 44-year tradition?

The first Green Up Day dates back to April 18, 1970. The idea came from Robert S. Babcock Jr., a reporter for the Burlington Press who was driving to work one day and was appalled at the devastation caused by spring snow run-off and the unsightly litter. He approached then Gov. Deane C. Davis about a statewide effort, to be supported by the State Highway Department and large groups of volunteer citizens to clean up roadways all over the state.

That first effort was such a huge success that Green Up Day has become an annual tradition on par with Town Meeting Day. Neighbors and whole communities come together all over the state to show their appreciate for and pride in the beauty all around them, and where everyone steps up and takes responsibility for maintaining that beauty. The self-defeating attitude of, "let someone else do it; I'm too busy" has no place here in the Green Mountain State.

Obviously there are economic benefits to this annual tradition. Thousands of tourists flock to Vermont throughout the year to marvel at the amazing vistas and wondrous landscapes in each of the four seasons. Those views wouldn't be nearly as appealing, or marketable, if they were cluttered with unsightly trash.

Green Up's mission, as posted on GreenUpVermont.org, says it all: "to promote the stewardship of our state's natural landscape and waterways and the livability of our communities by involving people in Green Up Day and raising public awareness about the benefits of a litter-free environment."

Green Up Day has become such a big part of our identity as a back-to-the-land kind of state that we can't imagine it all coming to an end. Call us optimists, but we felt confident that someone would step up and help preserve such a worthwhile tradition. Our faith was justified when Green Mountain Power, the state's largest electrical utility, offered to help fill that financial gap and become the main Green Up Day sponsor for the next three years. A number of other prominent companies are also helping out.

But financial support is only half the battle. A successful Green Up Day also requires hundreds of volunteers - from those who have already spent countless hours helping organize and publicize local clean-up efforts to those who will be rolling up their sleeves on Saturday to clear the ugly debris from our roadsides.

Speaking at the Statehouse last month to kick off this year's clean-up efforts, Green Up Vermont President Melinda Vieux said keeping people interested in greening up every spring is more challenging because there are so many other draws on peoples' time and the organization has not been growing. So this year the organization is asking every Vermonter to revitalize and save what she calls an important statewide tradition.

"Let's build momentum now and look to make next year's anniversary, the 45th, the greatest anniversary yet," Vieux said.

This year, officials hope the volunteers will help scour 13,100 miles of roads and collect 40,000 bags of trash on Saturday, May 3. We urge every able bodied Vermonter, young and old, to do whatever they can on Green Up Day and every day to keep our state clean.


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