By Miranda Hotham
Worcester Green Corps Coordinator
The summer of 2023 marks the beginning of the third year for Worcester Green Corps and is one of our busiest summers to date! We are so lucky to collaborate with so many organizations across the city, and to have received such generous sponsorship for a variety of projects.
After our first two years, the WGC has managed to remove over 23,000 pounds of litter from the streets of Worcester. Through the Worcester Community Action Council’s YouthWorks program, we have been able to work with over 100 youth workers throughout our first two years. This year, we welcomed 23 new young adults to our WGC team, and so far, we have had a very active summer! In addition to our regular cleanups, we also host our Career Pathways program at the National Grid Sustainability Hub, with the generous support of the United Way’s After School Out of School Program. This year our youth workers have learned about the importance of green spaces, the US waste crisis and landfill diversion, Worcester’s water systems, clean energy, social entrepreneurship and innovation, and urban solutions for food insecurity.
This summer our youth workers have had lots of hands-on opportunities to learn about plantings and pollinator gardens. Every week, we tend to our median on Billings Square, which we are able to care for with the kind support of Servpro Worcester. We also have been assisting with the community gardens at Worcester State University, where our youth workers have learned about the importance of pollinators and how we can help them live in healthy habitats.
This year our summer team is also continuing with our Recycling Education Campaign for the second year in a row. Last summer, we teamed up with the City of Worcester and Casella Waste Management to better educate residents in the city about recycling best practices. In the summer of 2022, our 26 youth workers went door-to-door and examined the recycling bins left on the curbs. Our youth workers identified any contaminants and left behind educational materials to help households improve their purity standards. In the fall, we continued the auditing process with Clark University’s National Residence Hall Honorary (NRHH) club, where they continued to distribute educational materials on a weekly basis.
In addition to our recycling audits, the city included recycling information on the side of all new recycling bins, and regularly attended community events to distribute education materials as efficiently as possible. We also worked collaboratively on marketing materials to circulate on social media so that our residents would be able to learn about how to properly recycle.
In October of 2022, the City of Worcester officially placed a ban on plastic bags in our recycling stream. Any bagged recyclables or bins with a high level of contamination were left behind on the curb. After a few weeks, it became evident to our waste haulers that there was a significant reduction in contamination from plastic bags. As a result of these combined efforts, Casella has named the City of Worcester a recipient of their 2023 Sustainability Leadership Award. A recent audit of the Auburn Materials Recovery Facility found that combined contamination dropped from about 20% to less than 10%. This is a reduction of more than 1,000 tons of contaminated material from the City of Worcester’s processed recycling, which could result in a savings of over $100,000 in processing costs. We hope that moving forward, our community members will continue to dedicate themselves to recycling best practices, and we can continue to demonstrate an ideal curbside collection program.
WGC is also thrilled to collaborate with the city’s Sewer Division to help eliminate illegal dumping in our city’s catch basins. Sponsored by the Worcester Arts Council and the WooSox Foundation, we have worked with lead artist Sharinna Travieso to contract with other local artists to create beautiful murals that will help raise awareness about this important issue. Many residents do not realize that the drains on the sidewalk are directly connected to our local bodies of water. We have worked with the Sewer Division to identify 13 of the city’s most polluted catch basins, and our eight artists have already begun the process of adding these important murals to our streets. Check out the murals at the Worcester Public Market, Polar Park, Elm Park, Beaver Brook Park, Green Hill Park, and more!
We are looking forward to even more collaborations this fall, including more art installations, community gardening events at the Green Island Community Center, and another recycling event with Green Team Junk. We already have a number of volunteer events in the works, and we hope to get even more scheduled throughout the fall. To get involved in any of our projects, or to launch a new collaborative program, please contact coordinator Miranda Hotham, at firstname.lastname@example.org.