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Citizens rally for 42nd Green Up Day

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Posted on April 30, 2012 |
By Andrew Stein



For a town-by-town chart of Green Up Day events, click here!

ADDISON COUNTY — What does Vermont’s 42nd Green Up Day on May 5 mean to you?

For Peg Martin, Middlebury coordinator for the statewide effort to beautify towns, it represents the harbinger of spring and a time for community collaboration. For Warren King, Ripton coordinator for the past 23 years, it’s a day to clean up the town and educate area children. And for Hannah Bristol, a sophomore at Middlebury College, it’s an opportunity to bring the community and college together, while uniting Green Up Day efforts with those of 350.org’s Climate Impacts Day.

In her tenth year as Middlebury coordinator, Martin looks forward to the camaraderie of next Saturday as towns across Addison County come together to clean up their roadsides and public spaces.

“People get together with their neighbors and green up,” she said. “It really is a very significant community day, where everybody says, ‘this is our town — let’s get together and officially launch spring.’”

Those who pitch in on Saturday, said Martin, will find a handsome reward at a cookout from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Otter Creek Brewery. The Green Up festivities, she said, will continue into Sunday.

From up high in the Green Mountains, Warren King will kick off this week by teaching kids about Green Up Day at Ripton Elementary School and Ripton’s Branch School.

“It certainly is important to get kids thinking that it serves a purpose to clean up trash where it doesn’t belong,” said King. “We do warn them that some kinds of trash can be hazardous: There could be toxic and sharp materials, like needles, that they should avoid.”

Ripton residents who help out on Green Up day will receive a big thank you for their efforts at a barbecue from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturday at the Ripton town shed. But for King, the biggest thank you of all, is that which Vermonters can give to their state.

“Green Up Day gives us an opportunity to go out and clean up the town and make it look like the image we want to convey of the Vermont we love,” said King.

Just up the hill on May 5, Hannah Bristol and the Sunday Night Group — a Middlebury College environmental club — are planning an event to promote climate change awareness for Climate Impacts Day. The global event organized by 350.org, an international environmental organization headed by Ripton author and activist Bill McKibben,seeks to remind the world of the many natural disasters wrought this past year by climate-related causes.

The theme for Climate Impacts Day is “Connect the Dots,” and the crew at 350.org is hoping people around the world will do just that, realizing these environmental disasters are not isolated incidences. McKibben and local environmental activist Gregory Dennis will lead a similar event in Waitsfield. It just so happens that the worldwide event falls on Green Up Day.

When Bristol and the Middlebury College students realized the two days of action coincided, they decided to create an event to celebrate them both. Running from noon to 2 p.m. at the Middlebury College Snow Bowl, the college festivities will feature a full slate of music, fun activities and community speakers.

The Middlebury College Pep Band and the Snake Mountain Bluegrass band will belt out tunes. Numerous information booths from local environmental organizations will be on site. And free food provided by Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op and Otter Creek Brewery will be available.

The event will host a range of activities for kids, like face painting and crafts. Junior Abigail Borah, who was escorted out of United Nations climate talks last year for her passionate speech panning Congress and political gridlock on environmental issues, will speak alongside former state Rep. Christopher Bray about environmental developments and policy. And the day will culminate in a group photo that organizers will post to 350.org with other photos from events around the world.

“I think people should come because this is an incredibly pressing issue,” said Bristol. “But the rest of the country and world isn’t at the same place we are. I’m from Virginia, and I’ve been consistently impressed by the way Vermont has been able to rally around environmentalism. We are leaders here.”

Martin shares a similar view.

“It’s a pretty amazing thing,” she said about Green Up Day. “I don’t imagine there are many other states that have the spirit behind it to do this type of thing.”

Reporter Andrew Stein is at andrews@addisonindependent.com.

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