Students Express Interest in State “Green Up Day”



The poster winner for the 2018 student contest.


MIDDLEBURY – Vermont has a rich history of environmental sustainability – its residents pride themselves on their deep connection to the nature in which they live. Nowhere is this commitment to environmental stewardship more apparent than in efforts like “Green Up Day,” which has been a Vermont tradition for nearly 50 years.

Green Up Day, during which Vermonters volunteer to clean up the outdoors by picking up litter from roadsides, is the only statewide event of its kind in the United States. It is held the first Saturday of each May and is Vermont’s largest volunteer event.

In April 1970, former Vermont Governor Deane Davis launched the first statewide Green Up Day to tackle Vermont’s interstates. The state closed interstate highways from 9 am to 12 pm as volunteers cleared trash from the roadsides. Later, the event became a yearly tradition under the guidance of Vermont Green Up Inc., a nonprofit formed in 1979. Since then, Green Up Day has continued to gain participants. While only 1,000 people volunteered in 1979, today Green Up Day attracts 22,000 Vermonters in 239 towns and cities across the state; each year, volunteers clean over 13,000 miles of roadside, collecting 200 to 300 tons of trash.

Vermont Green Up Inc. distributes approximately 55,000 clean-up bags to Vermont communities annually, which may be picked up by citizens at a location determined by the town coordinator for the event. After they are filled with litter, the town coordinator arranges for the bags to be disposed of by the nonprofit. Anybody is welcome to pick up a bag and volunteer on Green Up Day.

The Middlebury community has participated in this event in the past, but there does not seem to be a great awareness of the event on the College campus. Bennett Pienkowski ’20.5, a member of the Sunday Night Environmental Group, which focuses on environmental problems and awareness on campus, noted that Green Up Day is not well known among their members.

“No one was aware of Green Up Day,” Pienkowski said, after speaking about it to other members of the organization.

Other Middlebury students are similarly unfamiliar with Green Up Day. Many first and second years were asked about the event, but none of those interviewed had previously participated in the event, and many had never heard of it.

Despite this lack of awareness, those introduced to the event showed interest in participating. Pienkowski said that Green Up Day is a very interesting idea, and hoped to speak about it during the group’s recent Sunday night meeting.

Brigid Connor ’21, was also very excited by Green Up Day and its potential to do good for the Middlebury community.

“I look forward to seeing the positive effects that the event will have on our community!” Connor said.

Such positive responses to the event are promising considering the future growth of Green Up Day in Vermont and in other states across the country as organizations strive to protect the environment. When asked why he got involved in Green Up Day, Steve Aikenhead, an organizer for 23 years, said simply, “I didn’t want to live in Verdump.”

This year, bags for volunteers from Middlebury will be available at the Town Manager’s Office and Library on May 5 and may be dropped off on the same day at the East Middlebury Fire Station and Department of Public works in designated trucks. Attendants will be available to assist volunteers. More information about participating can be found at the Vermont Green Up Inc. website.