Greenport residents turn outrage into doing good on Earth Day

Contorting her long, slender frame through the brush at Clark’s Beach in Greenport, village resident Mindy Ryan was reminded of an old game she used to play.

“Remember Twister?” she asked the handful of volunteers within earshot.

Ms. Ryan was one of about a dozen local residents who twisted their way through thorn bushes and other hazards to clean up as much trash as they could in three hours Saturday morning. 

The idea for the Earth Day cleanup blossomed on Facebook, after Greenport resident Chris Hamilton posted about an incident last week in which he witnessed part-time residents who improperly dumped their residential trash in municipal cans near the IGA. Villagers took to the post to share their mostly aggravated thoughts on that particular incident and a general concern over litter and trash in their community.

Mr. Hamilton decided to channel that energy into something positive — the Earth Day cleanup of Clark’s Beach.

“I think it was great because it got a lot of exposure,” Mr. Hamilton said of last week’s incident. “It’s really about educating people and making them accountable for themselves.”

The group on Saturday, which included a few young children, filled a village pickup truck with dozens of trash bags stuffed with everything from beer cans to flip flops and abandoned chairs. They cleaned from the roadway to the shoreline, but found there’s even more work to be done, with much of the litter simply out of reach.

Some of the cleanup volunteers with the trash they collected. From left: Mary Bess Phillips, Mindy Ryan, Bob Hamilton and Chris Hamilton. (Credit: Grant Parpan)

Ms. Ryan said the trash at Clark’s Beach is similar to what she sees throughout the village on her early morning runs. Frustrated, she also turned to social media this month to lament littering. And she’s begun to take action.

Each day at the end of her run she takes out a trash bag and fills it with garbage she collects along the side of the road. She’s also encouraged other local residents to do the same, and they’ve all begun posting the photos to Village Trustee Mary Bess Phillips’ Let’s Talk Village of Greenport Facebook page. She’s calling it “The One Bag at a Time Project.”

“You have to get past the outrage and feel good about doing good,” Ms. Ryan said. “Just stop the anger and do something, like all these people are. You don’t have to save the world here, but one bag at a time, everybody pitches in.”

Ms. Phillips, who arranged for the village truck used to haul the trash off the beach property Saturday and also took part in the effort herself, commended Ms. Ryan and Mr. Hamilton for shining a spotlight on litter issues in Greenport.

“People are realizing that litter is really destructive and what you throw on land when you pollute will actually end up in the water,” she said.

Mr. Hamilton said Earth Day serves as a good reminder to do something good for the environment. And it was an added bonus to have children involved.

“It’s about teaching the younger kids to have respect and responsibility,” he said. “I’m hoping it spreads and more people get involved.”

Molly McShea hauls a bag of trash of the beach. (Credit: Grant Parpan)
Greenport resident Jerry Cibulski walks off with some litter he found in the brush. (Credit: Grant Parpan)
Poppy Johnson was among the first to arrive for the cleanup. (Credit: Grant Parpan)

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