Saturday, April 23, 2011

Green Up Day

I have split feelings about Vermont's Green Up Day. I have been living in Vermont for over a decade. Because neither my wife nor I have any roots in Vermont, I often get asked why we moved here. I usually say something about the high quality of life or the beauty of the landscape or the sense of community I have here. I often mention that we don't have billboards here nor do we have Adopt a Highway. We have Green Up Day instead. People take time out of their busy schedules to clean up their own roads. They gather the kids, put on their old clothes and gloves and head to the ditches. This is a great thing.

Green Up Day was started in 1979 by Governor Davis. Only 10% of it, currently, is funded by the state. The rest is funded by a non-profit called Green Up. It is always scheduled on the first Saturday in May. This year it is May 7th. We pick up our green plastic bags and sign up for a stretch of land at the town office then we are ready to go. I volunteer with the Westford middle school kids who Green Up the Friday before so that they do it on school day. I wait by the town garage near our dumpster to collect and co-ordinate the trash. We give out prizes for the most interesting piece of trash. On Saturday, I clean up my road and sometimes a sliver of route 128 if I have the energy left. People drive by, honk and wave giving me a thumbs up. I've been in Westford for about 5 years and I can think of 100 people already that know my name. I often forget this until Green Up Day when I hear those beeps and see a neighbor I know behind the wheel. It is a good reminder of why I moved here.

On the flipside of this, Green Up Day brings me down a bit. I spend a good part of that Saturday each year picking up cigarette butts, beer cans, soda cans, hard liquor bottles, fast food wrappers and lottery tickets. By the end of the day, as my back is crying in pain, I feel a real disdain for that slice of humanity that can't keep their trash in their cars. I realize that some of the trash is accidental trash that flew out of someone's window or garbage can. But we have all been on the highway while watching that lit cigarette get thrown out the window. Who are these people? Why do they think this is okay? This makes me angry. Each year a sin tax makes more and more sense to me even if it would only be used to fund Green Up Day. It works for me. Tax the hell out of them.

Recently, Vermont's current government representatives sparred over the sin tax, namely a tax on cigarettes. The tax would fund Gov. Shumlin's new healthcare proposal. The problem with this is that having a healthcare that is dependent on people smoking doesn't seem to be very forthcoming. If people decide to stop smoking where will your revenue stream come from? One of the arguments against the sin tax is that it will drive business over the border into tax-free New Hampshire, but wouldn't it drive the litter into New Hampshire as well. This works for me.

1 comment:

Olga said...

OMG. I feel exactly the same way. And I have even had the sin tax idea for any fast food or convenient store purchase that is clearly intended for in car consumption.