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Earth Day 1970

Earth Day 1970

by Bob Woodruff

There was a lot of energy and excitement around the nation and the world leading up to the first Earth Day, 43 years ago. Here on the Island, the newly fledged VCS was looking for a project that would make a splash – ideally, one that would also have a long-term impact. Recycling was a new concept, and seemed like a good one to promote on this special day. If my memory serves me, the Town of West Tisbury had already made a commitment to recycling by building concrete bins at “The Dump.” Some of us still call it “the dump,” and in those days it was just that, an open pit into which everything, including the proverbial kitchen sink would be tossed. Once, a lovely Victorian bathroom sink was carefully placed at the brink of the pit by someone who hoped it would be “recycled,” and it has graced our home ever since! 

So, the plan for Earth Day was to have a couple of dozen high school students pull my giant ox cart from Owen Park in Vineyard Haven to Edgartown, via the State Beach in Oak Bluffs, and collect as much roadside litter as possible. The recyclable items (mostly beverage bottles and cans) would be separated from the trash and trucked to the new West Tisbury bins. 

It was a beautiful April day, cool and clear, with the air filled with kids’ laughter and the rumble of the iron-shot wheels. The students were full of energy and committed to make a difference. They pulled the cumbersome cart for hours and filled it several times with bottles, cans, and trash from the roadside. Every time it was filled, a pickup would back up to it, make the transfer, and race off the dump. We didn’t quite make it to downtown Edgartown, but we got as far as Trapp’s Pond on the south end of the State Beach by sunset. We must have collected a ton of glass and metal. And so was born a new concept of what is “trash” and what is a “resource” on this island, with its limited space for waste of any kind. Most important of all, a new generation of Islanders learned how to make a lasting, positive impact on their environment.