Thursday, March 17, 2016

Partnership for Green, Clean: Beautiful - South Burlington

   Let's take a stroll down Williston Road, South Burlington, VT and view the beauty and any scars that diminish the beauty. 

It's not your fault
          ...but it may be your responsibility. 
                                                 Seth Godin

Statutes and local ordinances will continue to require periodic strengthening to reaffirm social norms against littering, and encourage pride in public places.

Storefronts are like castles. Litter is the moat.
We are not attacking; litter free is barrier free.

Kudos to the two woman who work at ClearChoiceMD for cleaning up the 30+ cups from the bushes next to the bus stop. This is a prime location to consider placement of a city owned and serviced trash bin, I think.


Littered places can suggest a local relaxation of sanctions against littering or a more general relaxation of social control.

South Burlington Partnership for Green, Clean: Beautiful

After traveling along South Burlington roads from July through December accumulating over 1,000 miles on my bike odometer, I have recognized great individual neighborhoods and businesses.  Yet many feel our city lacks a discernible identity.
How do we create a discernible identity for our city as opposed to simply being a gateway to get from one (other) place to another- to get to somewhere else?

The challenges are many, the answers widespread. A common theme is ownership, responsibility, and inter-community relationships. Infrastructure like the City Center design and build require collaboration of business, city, and citizens. Reaching our aspirations for the city as described in the comprehensive plan is no less so. The City’s comprehensive plan sets forth a vision whereby South Burlington is “Affordable & Community Strong, Walk-able, Green & Clean, and Opportunity Oriented.”

The “Green and Clean” effort remains a challenge highlighted by the 2.3 tons of bagged trash collected by South Burlington residents on Green Up Day May 2, 2015. It’s time to realize that even the most glamorous building, the smoothest paved road, the most walk-able and bike friendly cities are diminished, disgraced, and dirtied by even a few pieces of litter. Green, clean, beautiful are adjectives all cities aspire to; few take them up as a daily commitment ingrained in every citizen, every business proprietor, and every student. The vision is established. Now let’s face the challenge, and identify the many answers needed.

First, let’s create a joint collaboration, a partnership of business community, city, and school district representatives to discuss, and to develop a plan for both messages and actions necessary to make the words green, clean and beautiful a cornerstone of the city’s identity. When we make a community service commitment to instill “Green and Clean” into our neighborhoods and business districts, it helps to build pride in place. Then green and clean becomes a part of who we are as a community-so much more than just bricks and mortar.

Together lets set the bar high, create a multi-faceted approach toward litter prevention, and year round clean up to facilitate a clean city image. Let’s create a Golden Broom Award presented annually to the local business displaying the best clean storefront / process and results. Together let’s create a marketing campaign and classroom appropriate presentation addressing behavioral change, encouraging personal responsibility - litter education to reinforce social norms. Create local public service announcements and tag lines instilling a sense of public ownership, responsibility, and pride for a clean city. Let’s promote the South Burlington Adopt-A-Block program. Pay tribute, with formal recognition of these volunteers and their outstanding example of ownership and responsibility of public landscape.



Our city should aspire to be the cleanest in the nation. We are well on our way; shall we settle for mediocrity or reach for the top? Imagine South Burlington as the cleanest city in the USA. A partnership of business, school district and the city is the answer to our clean challenge- a cornerstone to community identity.

If we come together, business, city, school, and citizens, to stitch green and clean as one of the threads of South Burlington’s fabric, South Burlington will become a destination more than a gateway, a place renowned for being green, Clean, and beautiful.

   Clean City wanna - be? Can we do better, South Burlington? 

References:  “Other researchers (Plas and Lewis 1996) have suggested that environmental variables of town design contribute significantly to fostering a shared understanding of a sense of community, critical to the sustainability of living environments.”

Littered places can suggest a local relaxation of sanctions against littering or a more general relaxation of social control.

What is the system of informal institutions, such as local behavioral norms, that prevents people doing what is most convenient for themselves? In simple terms, it comes down to most people being aware of local behavioral norms and of the possibility of their transgressions being noted by others, and to the balance between the cost of conforming and the embarrassment of being singled out for failure to conform.

As Farrier (1992:87) points out, the penalties for environmental offences are more important as a means of reaffirming social norms for potential offenders than as a means of changing the future behavior of offenders who are apprehended.

The nature of the litter problem must, therefore, be serious and a source of immediate concern, if significant participation is to be forthcoming.
Secondly, the participation literature emphasizes that an inclusive style which gives the participants a vision of a transformed society, combined with a concrete set of proposals to achieve that vision, makes members more willing to risk an alternative mode of behavior. In addition, institutional and community based support systems are critical if one wants those who are traditionally disenfranchised to get involved in the process (e.g. Korten 1986, Gran 1983).

Finally, individuals, organizations, informed outsiders, and governments must work to create and sustain a participatory research and development framework within a neighborhood or community. Trust is integral to the success of this process. The literature (e.g. Drucker 1986) notes that most participatory initiatives require acts of partnership. Partnerships are built over time, and require concerted effort and trust. Trust building is a process within which demands are made on the participants, thereby testing the partnership. Trust is earned.

…reported considerable success because of a concerted effort that involved residents, business operators, and industry. Encouraging citizens to understand and take ownership of both the problems and the solutions meant that litter incidence was not ‘blamed’ on any one group of individuals. This project was also unique as it focused on adult education as much as the education of children.

Consequently, litter education at primary school can be regarded as part of early learning about social norms and the behaviors expected of citizens in society. Community education about litter through social marketing (e.g. DEC 2005a) helps maintain awareness of these norms and behaviors throughout adulthood.

Statutes and local ordinances will continue to require periodic strengthening to reaffirm social norms against littering, and encourage pride in public places.

There is ample evidence from the literature that there are a number of ways of obtaining the sense of local ownership and relevance that enables social norms against littering to be effective. These include: 
• community participation in the design and management of public space; 
• coupling local litter education with community involvement strategies; 
• building on community place attachment; and
• appealing to community pride in marketing and education campaigns.

Read why it is important to think of our cities as commons,     The City As a Commons: From Flint to Italy

Bernie publishes photos reflecting Vermont values of Green and Clean and Community. He urges us all to, pick up litter and maintain a litter free environment through caring, community, and contribution in order to protect our water, wildlife, and human health.