Vermont was the first state to designate a day to clean up the entire state. Started in 1970 by Gov. Deane C. Davis, our unique tradition continues with thousands of Vermonters taking care of Vermont.
"THE FIRST GREEN UP DAY"
As described in the words of Governor C. Davis, on August 30, 1984
"GREEN UP DAY launched Vermont's environmental ethic and has been a strong and continuing influence in generating support for the environmental movement in Vermont.
"The first Green Up Day was on April 18, 1970. The idea came from Robert S. Babcock, Jr., then a full time reporter for the Burlington Free Press. It had its genesis on a clear spring day in March 1969 when Babcock, driving to work in Montpelier from his home in Waterbury, became appalled at the devastation caused by spring snow run-off and the unsightly litter thus revealed. Upon arriving in Montpelier he came to my office in the State House and proposed the inauguration of a statewide effort, to be supported by the State Highway Department and large groups of volunteer citizens to clean up the highways of the state.
"I was immediately much intrigued with his idea. 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.
"I promptly set up a top caliber Steering Committee to lead and coordinate this ambitious project. The State Highway Department personnel were enthusiastic and their enthusiasm quickly spread to other State Agencies eager to be involved. As citizens about the state began hearing about the project and offering their services, it became apparent to me that we had "a bear by the tail" and that we had better make it a success. Success was indispensable. Failure would do as much harm as success would do good. Hence, we decided not to put on a hastily put together program for spring of 1969, but, rather, to take the necessary time to plan and organize, and we set the date for the first Green Up Day to be one year hence on April 18, 1970.
"At my request the Burlington Free Press gave Babcock a leave of absence, and for several months he worked full time on the project. He served as chairman of the Steering Committee with Theodore (Ted) M. Riehle, Jr., and they and their committee did a masterful job of planning and executing the project. Support came from all areas of the state and from a long list of citizen groups. A few of them are: college students, high school and elementary school students, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, 4-H Clubs, teachers, school administrators and many, many others.
"The more we worked and planned the more excited we all became. When the big day came we were thrilled to see over 70,000 Vermonters out on the roads picking up trash, hauling trash and supervising the action. A large number were young people whose enthusiasm was contagious and their work invaluable.
"As a measure of safety we closed the Vermont Interstate Highway from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon. Each exit was manned by a Vermont State Police Officer of Deputy Sheriff or a member of a local police force, to deny access and to route travelers to alternate routes and t explain to them what was going on. Some of the traveling public were angry or annoyed but were immediately cooperative and complimentary when the project was explained to them. A Green Up litter bag and a bit of literature was given to each traveler and we received many letters from out-of-staters traveling that day complimenting the state for the program.
"I flew over the state highways and some of the town roads during the day in a helicopter, touching down wherever we saw a group of workers on the highway, to talk things over with the workers and lend support in any way I could. What an exciting experience it was!
"The results were far beyond our expectations. Four thousand truck loads were reported hauled by the Highway Department comprising over 20,000 cubic yards of trash removed from the Interstate and other state roads, and another 20,000 cubic yards, or more, were removed from town roads. Ninety-five percent (95%) of the 2,400 miles comprising the Interstate and other state roads were cleared and an estimated 75% of the 8,300 miles of town roads.
"County Chairmen estimated that 90% of the litter consisted of beer bottles and cans. Other unusual items recovered were: $150 in cash, a dozen dead deer, one dead cow, a stolen purse belonging to a Boston, Mass., woman, a refrigerator, one revolver, two safes, a sleeping bag, a fishing pole, a bathtub, one bed and many small dead animals such as voles, dogs, cats, and raccoons.
"We believe this was the largest statewide, voluntary, unified citizens' effort ever organized in Vermont.
"It greatly enhanced the pride of Vermonters in their state.
"It inspired many Vermonters to refrain from thoughtless littering on our highways.
"It set the stage for continuing clean up programs that have resulted in Vermont highways being known far and wide as the cleanest in the United States.
"It helped pass the bottle bill and a whole long list of other environmental legislation.
"It helped set the tone for what we proudly call our Vermont 'Special World'."
GREEN UP MAKES HISTORY!
In the 1960's and 70's, Vermont was on the cutting edge in environmental sensitivity. As U.S. Senator George Aiken's remarks reveal in the May 4, 1971 Congressional Record :Download Senator Aiken's Congressional Record Statement
(500k PDF will open in new window)
Green Up Day continues to thrive! In 1979 the Green Up endeavor became a private undertaking through the establishment of a private, non-profit corporation called Vermont Green Up, Inc. In 1997, it began "doing business as" Green Up Vermont. Its efforts now reach out to promote the Green Up ethic and spirit year round through its slogan, "Live the Green Up Way Every Day!"
Funding for Green Up comes primarily from private businesses and individuals through charitable contributions. As well, Vermont's towns and the State provide a portion of funding support. Each year the Legislature appropriates a modest sum to come as a small grant through the Agency of Natural Resources. Each year Green Up Vermont requests a contribution from every town, based on the town's population, with the amount ranging from $50 to $300.
Green Up Day is truly "Vermont's environmental ethic."
The same year as the above writing, Governor Davis, as President Emeritus of Vermont Green Up, Inc., wrote a note for the Annual Report saying: "Vermont's natural beauty needs year round attention."
Twenty years after the first Green Up Day, Vermont Green Up's president Leonard Perry noted that: Green Up is more than a day in May. It is an attitude for a lifetime—an attitude toward our environment that Vermont is a precious place deserving our care and respect.
Green Up can occur at any time, at any place.
Together we share the goal of keeping Vermont a clean, safe, beautiful place
to live, visit and enjoy.
Twenty-five years after the first Green Up Day, Chittenden County Chair John Niles wrote that "The Green Up ethic—Green Up Day—is valuable because it reminds Vermonters that we care how our State looks. It is also an example of communities working together." About the 66 tons of debris collected… "This material is now off roadsides or waterways, and out of parks. There are aesthetic, environmental, and economic benefits to this cleanliness." A couple of years later, Wendy McArdle (Chittenden Co. Chr.) wrote: "Organize a Green Up Day Team: we all learn the meaning of stewardship by participating in this State-wide litter cleanup."
Through Green Up, Vermonters take care of their communities
and the community of Vermont.
Green Up is for everyone, for all of Vermont.