Greenport woman is out picking up your trash

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Cigarette butts, water bottles, pizza boxes, and even a teabag were some of the items of trash that Ashley Staron found on her Monday morning garbage hunt on Greenport's Front Street.

You’re walking through Greenport eating an ice cream cone and when you finish, you toss the napkin — where?

Ashley Staron, 22, of Greenport, has been watching and finding evidence that too many residents and visitors are simply dropping those napkins — as well as soda cans, coffee cups and cigarette butts — on the ground.

“The village could actually save money if people would clean up after themselves,” Ms. Staron said. What’s more, the beauty of the village she and so many others love would be preserved for future generations.

To prove her point, on Monday morning, she spent several hours walking along Front and Main streets, the southern end of Third Street and the block of First Street ‘by the IGA supermarket picking up other people’s trash.

“I thought it would be a fun idea, just as an eye-opener,” Ms. Staron said. “Maybe it’s not the locals, maybe it’s just the visitors.”

She developed her environmental awareness as a student at Green Mountain College in Poultney, Vt., a school that’s dedicated to an environmental liberal arts program and encourages hands-on experiences.

“Green Mountain really had a huge effect on me,” Ms. Staron said. She secured a grant for $8,500 and worked for three years to create a low-impact outdoor classroom using slate and gravel and landscaping the site, which is still used as an amphitheater, seating 40 to 150 people. She finished it just before her graduation earlier this year.

“When you do something like that, it makes you appreciate the environment,” she said. “It will outlive me.”

The 2007 Southold High School graduate admits she wasn’t always environmentally aware and probably dropped her share of trash during her high school years. But when she went to Green Mountain to pursue an undergraduate degree in elementary and special education, she was exposed to the school’s environmental curriculum, which had a profound effect.

“It has to do with education,” she said about turning people’s minds around about how their littering affects the environment.

This summer, before beginning her studies at Sierra Nevada College for a master’s degree in teaching English as a second language, Ms. Staron has worked as an assistant manager at the Chowder Pot Pub in Greenport.

When she scoops up an empty wrapper from oyster crackers, she’s quick to tell customers that she’s doing it to ensure that it won’t end up in Mitchell Park or Greenport Harbor.

She read that by 2148, there may not be fish to eat because of pollution, but too many customers respond, “I won’t be around for that.”

What Ms. Staron wants them to think about is that if such littering and polluting continues, neither will the village.

“Everyone should want Greenport to outlive them,” she said.

[email protected]