If you’ve ever enjoyed a litter-free walk at one of Huntsville’s greenways or a hanging basket of pretty flowers outside a downtown business has brightened your day, you likely noticed and appreciated our City’s natural beauty.
If you enjoyed the shade from a tree planted in Huntsville’s public spaces or recently took advantage of the free vegetable plant giveaway for home gardens, you might not realize where those trees and plants came from, but you relish how vibrant the green looks in the City.
If street sweepers brushed away debris on your road or your child came home from school excited to start recycling, you might not be aware there is a City office working behind the scenes to make Huntsville a more beautiful and sustainable place to live, work and play.
Operation Green Team, a Keep America Beautiful affiliate and division of the City of Huntsville’s Landscape Management Department, is responsible for all these services and more.
Green Team’s mission is centered around eco-friendly educational outreach, for adults as well as children. In addition to the many educational programs and field trips they arrange for local elementary and middle school students, Green Team has volunteer opportunities year-round for citizens of all ages.
“We get groups from area businesses, organizations and churches who want to give back to the community by helping cleanup efforts and through Adopt-A-Mile, Adopt-A-Stream and Adopt-A-Spot,” Green Team Manager Niki Sothers said. “We also have a few individuals who are very dedicated to helping us at events and just cleaning up on their own time.”
Sense of pride
Landscape Management provides maintenance and landscaping for 60 parks, preserves and greenways, 75 athletic complexes, multiple playgrounds, and numerous rights of way within Huntsville’s 228 square miles. As a result, volunteerism is an important component of what makes Green Team successful and keeps Huntsville beautiful.
“We organize cleanup days, but we like to let the neighborhoods take the lead,” Director of Landscape Management Brian Walker said. “When people help take care of their own neighborhoods, it instills a sense of pride that becomes self-perpetuating.”
Green Team’s seven staff members are the operational backbone, providing beautification, litter mitigation, school programs, special events and cleanup events in different parts of the City.
“We wouldn’t get businesses to come here if it looked like we don’t care about our City,” Walker said. “Infrastructure matters. When people from companies who are thinking about locating their business in Huntsville get off the plane and drive through Huntsville, they see how attractive it is and they can tell that we care. They know their employees and their families could have a good quality of life here.”
The next generation
Growing the next generation of environmentally conscious citizens is important for the sustainability of Green Team’s vision.
“Green Team’s mission is educational outreach,” Green Team Coordinator David Worley said. “We want to grow our school programs. If we can teach kids early that small, earth-friendly habits can lead to big, positive changes, then they are more likely to grow into adults who take care of the environment.”
“We provide the tools and the resources, and all of us are very passionate about taking care of our environment,” Sothers added. “We hope our enthusiasm ignites that passion in others too.”
Green Team offers a myriad of volunteer opportunities. The Adopt-A-Mile, Adopt-A-Spot or Adopt-A-Stream programs especially need help returning their volunteer base to pre-COVID numbers. If you or your business, organization, church or neighborhood are interested in these programs or other ways to volunteer, contact Niki Sothers.