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The Commons
Photo 1

Taryn Heon/The Commons

From left, volunteers Stewart McDermet, Robin Rieske, Robyn Flatley, and Kate Richardson were in charge at the F.E.E.T. (Frost, Elm, Elliot Triangle) Neighbors Green-Up table at the Restless Rooster on Elliot Street.

News

'Greening Up' in the rain

Fewer in number, damp but determined, volunteers engage in state's annual town roadside clean-up

Originally published in The Commons issue #407 (Wednesday, May 10, 2017).



BRATTLEBORO—Despite its being a cold, overcast, and rainy Saturday morning, citizens and corporate sponsors throughout Vermont participated in Green Up Day on May 6.

The local turnout was a bit smaller than in the past, but coordinators and volunteers at two Brattleboro Green Up sites expressed contentment with the ways in which the event was a success.

“Obviously, every day should be Green Up Day,” Robin Rieske said with a laugh.

Rieske, a certified prevention consultant for the Vermont Department of Health, was an organizer for the Green Up Day event held in West Brattleboro at the new fire station.

She said she thought the rain “was a huge hindrance. People did not come out in the same numbers that they have in the past.”

But Rieske has suggested to Green Up Day organizers up north that they consider holding a “Green Up Week.” Rieske emphasized that Green Up Day efforts don’t have to be limited to the designated Saturday, but that those who would like to participate can do so earlier in the week as well.

The participants

“We have a lot of young people that do [Green Up Day] for the Choose sNOw program at Mount Snow,” Rieske said. The program offers youths in grades 6-11 an opportunity to earn a Mount Snow Season Pass by attending two substance abuse prevention educational events and performing community service by participating in Green Up Day.

“So a lot of the kids who end up showing up are fulfilling their community service, which is awesome, because despite the rain, they came out,” Rieske said. She added that Choose sNOw youth constituted the majority of participants, many of whom also brought family members.

Brattleboro Subaru also was a major player in the Green Up event.

“[Brattleboro Subaru] has been a long-time corporate sponsor,” Rieske explained. “They do a lot of advertising and they donate money and all kinds of cool stuff, so [while] they have their cause as part of Green Up, we also have tables in West Brattleboro and at the Restless Rooster.”

At the dealership, Annabelle Crosby and Nola Sciacca welcomed participants and signed people in.

“We’ve done it quite a few years,” said Sciacca, daughter of Brattleboro Subaru owner John Sciacca. “It’s been rainy a few times.” But still, in her view, “a lot of people come and we always hope that people come and help keep it clean.”

The coordinator of the Brattleboro Subaru Green Up site, Carmen DiVirgilio, explained that being a central figure in the event “is part of the Subaru culture; we always want to do things to benefit the community.”

The dealership also put out a spread of doughnuts and coffee in the morning, and held a cookout in the afternoon.

Chucked out the window

“This year, we were commenting that there were a lot of people who were reporting fast-food bags, and people saw so many people throwing the bags out of their cars,” Rieske said.

Rieske said she also saw many beer cans and bottles in West Brattleboro.

She and other participants, as a result, began to wonder, “are we missing something in our education efforts about littering, and are we assuming that people know they shouldn’t litter? But we’ve stopped talking about [littering].”

Despite the trash that she and others found, Rieske reported that those who participated were energized and enthusiastic. “Some came back for their fourth, fifth, or sixth bag,” she said.

To Rieske, Green Up is an opportunity for reinforcing “basic” environmental literacy in education systems.

“It was a positive event,” she said. “People’s energy was really high. We didn’t have as many people because of the rain, but I think it was still a success.”

Rieske wanted to give an “extra shout-out to the Vermont Agency of Transportation, because they do all the highways, and we’re really there to clean up the roadways and the internal neighborhood areas.”

Said DiVirgilio, “We live in such a beautiful area, and unfortunately some people don’t respect that, so we need to make up for it and try to keep this place beautiful.”

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