Keeping Huntsville ‘Green’ is team effort between City and volunteers

single-meta-cal September 7, 2017

A Realtor is conducting a dizzying, confusing tour through Huntsville with future residents. Yes, Highway 53 becomes Jordan which becomes Patton and Governor’s Drive just turns into Highway 431, and everybody who’s been here more than 15 years still calls it Rideout Road. But, don’t worry, you’ll get used to it.

Somewhere along the way, inevitably the visitors remark, “This is such a clean city.”

As Joy McKee, director of the City of Huntsville’s Green Team, says proudly, “Here in Huntsville, we don’t litter.”

Well … sadly, annoyingly, thoughtlessly, some still folks do.

But there’s a large army of folks picking up after them.

Huntsville’s tidiness is another example of teamwork within the City of Huntsville. First, there are the environmental regulations and the management from the Department of Natural Resources and Water Pollution Control that keep the skies and water clear.

Then, there is the effort from Landscape Management and the Green Team program, with its many initiatives. With Green Team, it becomes more teamwork between the City (upper case C, as in government) and the city (lower case C, as in the residents).

If everybody picks up one little piece, there’s no litter.” — Joy McKee

The Green Team coordinates an “Adopt-a-Mile” clean-up program that has expanded to also include “adoption” programs for streams, rivers, specific spots, parks and even a tunnel. They range from individuals to massive corporate projects to that make sure those areas remain litter-free.

“Whether it’s one person or a business, it adds up,” McKee says. “If everybody picks up one little piece, there’s no litter.”

The numbers are astonishing:

  • There were 85,000 volunteers for Green Team programs last year.
  • Some 190 miles of streets, roads, streams, rivers and trails were cleaned
  • More than 5,100 people were involved in an “Adopt-a-Tunnel” program.
  • Some 95,813 pounds of litter and debris was collected.
  • Six graffiti sites were removed or abated.
  • More than 82,832 volunteer hours were donated.
  • To have paid City workers to have accomplished all of the above would have cost $1,999,564 in tax dollars.

In saving all that green, it’s important to again put the emphasis on “team.” The clean-up process includes paid city employees, the community service program and inmate labor.

The success has been increased through ambitious outreach programs, educating students in classrooms and making presentations to businesses, civic clubs and neighborhood associations. Frequently, City Council members will champion “clean-up days” in their districts, again encouraging teamwork and neighborhood pride.

Residents are encouraged to report trouble spots through the Litter Hotline (256-53-CLEAN) or through Huntsville Connect and they may volunteer to serve with Green Team by visiting its webpage.

Relating the story of a woman who had been a Green Team volunteer for more than 10 years, McKee says, “These are people we’ve made believers in doing what they can for their neighborhoods. It’s what makes our city different.”