Winooski River Clean Up Volunteer Effort

New to the Seventh Generation team, Jacqueline is a recent graduate. This is her first time writing a blog for Seventh Generation but welcomes new endeavors with open arms, just as she does all new opportunities. She shares her experience cleaning up the Winooski River, part of Seventh Generation's program to have employees contribute the equivalent of 1% of their time - or 20 hours - to volunteer work.

I just started here at Seventh Generation a month about and a half ago, after moving to the area from New York a little over three months ago. Since moving here, I’ve been looking into local community service opportunities in the area, and one day at work I saw a flyer for a Winooski River clean-up at Salmon Hole Park for August 29th that United By Blue (UBB) was hosting. I did lake shore clean-ups a few times each semester back in college, so I was immediately interested and signed myself up for the event.

I was so excited when I arrived at the Salmon Hole Park in Winooski, and couldn’t wait to meet the other environmentally-conscious people that would be helping out that day. The UBB team was there in their matching navy blue company t-shirts, along with about 10-12 community members of various ages, waiting for the start of the event. I was walking up to the tent UBB had set up, and at that moment I realized that what we were about to do was, in a way – on a small scale – a perfect example of the goodness in people individually, as well as the potential for goodness in humankind as a whole. There’s just something kind of amazing about a group of people coming together on a Saturday morning to take care of the earth in such a direct way.

I’ve always been one to see the good in people before the bad, and having this demonstration of human goodness in front of me made me feel wholly positive and happy. Of course, in the grand scheme of things, what we were doing is just a drop in the proverbial ocean. There is much, much more that needs to be done to heal the wounds we’ve caused on our environment. But when I was walking up to the tent that day to join the other clean-up volunteers, that thought crossed my mind and had a humbling effect on me. It was a great way to start the day!

The river clean-up started with an introduction of the UBB team members, as well as a community member who would be taking us across the river in canoes, so we could clean that side of the river and park as well. Then the team talked about UBB and the pledge it has to remove one pound of trash from U.S. waterways for every item their company sells. To fulfill this pledge, the company does waterway clean-ups every other weekend in various cities across the U.S., which is what brought them to our corner of north Vermont. The clean-up was fun and effective, and we ended up finding some really strange, interesting things. In fact, the team held a contest for guessing the overall weight of everything we’d collected and had everyone vote on the strangest item that was collected. Among the noteworthy items found were three bicycles (two of which had rusted over completely, as if they had been at the bottom of the river for a few decades!), two car tires, a severely rusted scooter, and a computer motherboard which ended up winning the group’s vote for strangest item found!

All together, we collected 385lbs. of trash in the two hours we were there. Imagine if a group of 12 people did two hours of work cleaning parks, waterways, and public areas every Saturday. That would be 140,525lbs of trash picked up each year!! The Burlington area would be pristine! I am so very glad I went to the clean-up. I left feeling completely happy, positive, and centered. In my experience these past few years doing community service, it’s really true what people say about doing good making you feel good.