The United Counseling Service team got a head start on Green-Up Day in 2012.
The United Counseling Service team got a head start on Green-Up Day in 2012. (Banner file photo)

BENNINGTON -- On Saturday, 20,000 Vermonters across the state will participate in the 44th annual Green Up Day, collecting and bagging trash, cans, bottles, and perhaps even a few surprises, from the sides of roads in their communities.

The Town of Bennington posted a notice earlier this month encouraging those interested in cleaning an area, street, or neighborhood to call the Town Office at 802-442-1037 to register. "We must know the area you will be cleaning up and where the trash will be in order to facilitate Town Collection. The Town will provide bags, however, the number may be limited so please call early," reads the notice.

Bennington Subaru, at 527 North Bennington Road, is listed as a bag pick-up and drop-off location for Bennington, according to the program's website, greenupvermont.org. Refreshments will be provided for all volunteers.

Where to sign up

Each town has a Green Up Day coordinator who can be contacted for more information regarding the specific process in each town. The coordinator for Bennington is RJ Roly, who can be reached at 802-442-1037; the coordinator in Arlington is Donna Squires (802-375-6680); the coordinators for Pownal are Hap Percey and Bark Schlesinger (802-823-5644 for the office, 802-379-1470 for the transfer station); the coordinator for Sandgate is the Town Office (802-375-9075); the coordinator for Shaftsbury is Karen Mellinger (802-447-1950); the coordinators for Sunderland are James Ennis and Diane King (802-375-1232) and Mark Johnston (802-375-2865); and the coordinator for Woodford is Ron Higgins (802-442-4895). The coordinators for other towns and their contact information can be found at greenupvermont.org, under the heading "How to Participate."

The first Green Up Day occurred on April 18, 1970. The event was the brainchild of journalist Robert S. Babcock Jr., who was at the time working for the Burlington Free Press. In Spring 1969, Babcock had been driving to Montpelier from his home in Waterbury when he noticed that the melting snow had revealed all manner of litter on the sides of otherwise pristine Vermont roads. Upon arriving in Montpelier, Babcock went straight to the office of Gov. Deane C. Davis, and proposed the creation of a statewide event, supported by the highway department and volunteer citizens, to clean up Vermont's roads.

"I was immediately intrigued with the idea," said Davis in 1984, "At that time we were pressing vigorously for environmental legislation on several fronts. It seemed to be just what we needed to excite Vermonters and to focus attention upon and support for our whole environmental program."

On the first Green Up Day, according to Davis, while 90 percent of the litter picked up consisted of bottles and cans, residents did discover $150 in cash, a dozen dead deer, one dead cow, a refrigerator, a revolver, two safes, a sleeping bag, a fishing pole, a bathtub, a bed, and a stolen purse belonging to a Boston woman.

Davis said that Green Up Day "greatly enhanced the pride of Vermonters in their state," and that "It inspired many Vermonters to refrain from thoughtless littering on our highways."

Last year, several towns set all-time record for number of volunteers, and more than 48,000 trash bags were distributed. "The ‘State' does not ‘do' Green Up Day," reads the program's 2013 annual report, "Careful use of resources minimizes Green Up Day's costs. The State appropriates funds that cover about 14 percent of our budget. Last year, appropriations from cities and towns covered 18 percent of our budget. These funds pay for supplies including [trash bags], promotion, education, and services of two part-time employees. We ask your community to contribute because when you support Green Up Vermont, you are not just supporting a program, but Vermont and all the people who live, and visit, here."

Derek Carson can be reached for comment at dcarson@benningtonbanner.com. Follow him on Twitter @DerekCarsonBB