I have been taking photos everyday--sometimes twice a day--of the mind-boggling flooding, along with what seems like half of Chittenden County that has been pouring the down hill to take photos of the waterfront--even ECHO's parking lot. I've been watching people snap the classic landscape flood shot, the artsy drift wood close-up, and the "I was there when it happened" photo but no one seems to be looking at all of the the garbage that has also colored our waterfront. The mix of natural materials with manufactured garbage will make cleaning up after the flooding expansive, very expensive, complex and I fear smelly as the days warm.
There is garbage mixed in with all of the driftwood. I did a quick inventory while policing ECHO and aside from the random broken flip-flop and old leather shoe, most of the trash was plastic. This is no surprise since plastic floats, it is made into nearly everything and takes forever to break down--almost literally. But where is all of this garbage coming from? Neighborhood streets, yards, parking lots, river banks...you name it. Wherever trash is not thrown in a garbage can or recycled, it gets carried by the rain and snow melt into rivers, streams, creeks and makes it's way into Lake Champlain. Now with the record shattering flooding, it is coming back to haunt us like ghosts from an earlier time. Unlike watching a scary movie, we can change the ending of this ghost story.
Daily we all can make purchasing decisions to buy products with less packaging or with biodegradable packaging, and simply buy less stuff. We can make sure we recycle all that we can and make sure our garbage and recycling is secured so that it does not blow away and add to the problem. And we can also participate in Green Up Vermont Day on May 7, 2011, visit www.greenupvermont.org for more information. I've been cleaning up garbage with family and friends along road sides, in parks and on the Burlington waterfront for almost as long as Green Up Day has been around, but this year the flooding throughout Vermont will really change this years events. But will it change people's behaviors?
Photos by: Julie Silverman/ECHO (C)