Worcester residents have many things in common, and there are plenty of city characteristics we can bond over. The hearts on street signs, the seemingly endless road construction, the diverse offerings of local cuisine, and of course: the charm of Worcester drivers. Worcester residents are also able to agree on some of the most important issues across the city and mobilize as groups to motivate and implement change. If we can agree on the issues that need to be prioritized, we can also come together as a community and contribute to the solutions. 

Worcester’s litter issue is evident. Trash is accumulating on sidewalks, in alleys, and in our green spaces. Illegal dumping, lack of understanding, and deflection of responsibility are all reasons the problem has persisted for years. This is a city-wide issue and requires a city-wide solution. It’s essential that, as a community, Worcester residents all take responsibility for their individual role in the issue and make efforts to alleviate it any way they can. If individuals and small groups can come together to work toward a solution, eventually, we’ll be able to resolve the litter issue for the long-term.

Worcester Green Corps youth workers pose in front of bags of litter they removed from Worcester streets, summer of 2021.

There is strength and power in numbers. As the fastest-growing city in New England and the second largest, Worcester is abundant with diverse people and resources. At the Worcester Green Corps (WGC), we’re working to bring together various groups and organizations from around the city and giving them the tools and opportunities to address Worcester’s waste issues. The responsibilities vary from data collection, litter cleanup, outreach and education, and increasing awareness of the issues. We’re able to work in collaboration with groups who may have thought that they had no role in the issue and may not have imagined what their contribution to the solution would look like. 

We’re also having conversations with long-term residents and community members to understand how they envision the future of Worcester, and what they think the biggest contributors are to the litter issue. We constantly receive feedback from community leaders and are working to develop innovative solutions. By having these conversations, we’re able to inspire one another and think in unique ways to design programs and system-level solutions we may have not considered otherwise. Afterall, a community-wide problem requires a community-wide solution. 

The WGC has held seven volunteer events so far, bringing together 170 volunteers of all ages from across the city. We’ve had the support of various groups at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Clark University, and Assumption University. Berkshire Bank and the United Way of Central Massachusetts have also supported our cleanup and beautification efforts. We’ve received support for our greenery projects from the Worcester Community Action Council and the City of Worcester and have relied on assistance from the city’s Department of Public Works for our cleanup efforts. 

Individuals from around the city have reached out and asked how to get involved in the movement, knowing that their individual contributions can be valuable when part of these collective efforts. Through the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, we’ve been able to communicate with many local businesses and entrepreneurs to help them understand the extent of the issue and what their role in the movement can be. We’ve been able to educate individuals on best practices and how to improve their recycling purity. We’ve also started working with FreshStart508 to mobilize even more individuals to assist in our cleanup efforts; this nonprofit organization has been instrumental in our outreach efforts with Worcester Public Schools. 

In the first few months of our programming, we’ve had conversations with hundreds of people around the city. It’s clear from these dialogues litter is one of the most widely recognized issues in the city, and there’s a strong desire among many to envision and contribute to a long-term solution. By coming together with these individuals and organizations, we’ve already been able to create tangible change and show residents they’re not alone in their concerns. To get involved in our movement, reach out to me, Miranda Hotham, at mhotham@worcesterchamber.org or call (508) 753-2924. 


Miranda Hotham is the Worcester Green Corps Coordinator (housed at the Worcester Chamber.) She can be reached by email here.

This story was originally published in the November 2021 edition of Chamber Exchange: The Newspaper, a quarterly publication of the Chamber. All newspaper editions are archived here.