Lately, at the Whitingham Transfer Station, residents have been pleasantly surprised by the efforts of its new attendant, Jennifer Betit-Herzig, to make a trip to the transfer station somewhat akin to stopping by a friend’s house for a chat rather than dreading the sights and smells of a typical waste disposal site.
Herzig was born in Whitingham, growing up in the Betit family home in Whitingham Village, with father John, mother Grace, and 13 siblings. Herzig was a personal home health care aide, certified nursing assistant, and employed in several other positions in the Colrain, MA-Whitingham area before she and her husband took over the First Stop, the only gas station in town, on December 1, 2010.
Then came Tropical Storm Irene on August 28, 2011. The aftermath of the storm devastated large areas of Vermont including Jacksonville Village, and First Stop struggled to remain a viable business. When the opportunity arose to apply for the position of transfer station attendant, Herzig didn’t blink. Asked how she feels about the job, she replied, “I like it. I like it a lot.”
How much she likes it, and perhaps a reflection of how much she likes her hometown, is evident by the care she has taken to enhance the grounds.
There is the large pot of mums gracing the entrance to the attendant’s shed, neatly arranged to suit Herzig’s style and emanating contemporary music. There are framed local pictures and art on the walls of the shipping container, and a receptacle for much handier disposal of recyclable paper and cardboard. There is Herzig’s willingness to assist with hefting bags into the box, a service definitely not in her job description or expected.
There is also the Swap Shop where books, magazines, snowboards, appliances, etc. are displayed, as well as a board in the office where residents can post items they are looking for or trying to get rid of.
Although Herzig hopes to add the option of a central place to collect compost, something many townspeople may be reluctant to do on their own. The idea is still in the mulling-it-over stage while state authorities are encouraging Vermonters to compost at home. According to a publication by the Chittenden Solid Waste District, “In 2012, the Vermont Legislature unanimously passed Act 148, a universal recycling and composting law that offers Vermonters a new set of systems and tools for keeping as much as possible out of the landfill. The first thing the Legislature did was jettison the concept of waste itself.”
Most Vermonters embrace the concept of recycling for environmental reasons, as well as even greener reasons: saving money. But by 2020, the law will ban food scraps from the landfill entirely, in the meantime encouraging the cultivation of compost that is considered black gold in the garden. For some, the prospect of doing this in the backyard is daunting, especially if you have hungry critters in the neighborhood.
But not being able to bring composting materials to the Whitingham Transfer Station as yet hardly dampens the enthusiasm of many who have found a much cleaner, cheerier, and more accessible place to transform a rural household necessity from banal to audacious, even pleasant, all thanks to Herzig in service to the community.