|The City of Berkeley's trash compactor has
been converted and now hauls organic waste.
“I use a garbage truck. At our events we use compactors for hauling organic waste, and sort bag by bag. By being thorough we simultaneously maximize soil-making, while minimizing all trash otherwise destined for the landfill," says Mary Munat, aka “Green Mary.” Her interview with Inanna La Fevre was for the Women's Environmental Network. "I never realized I could be so passionate about garbage, or more importantly about non-garbage!”
The Green Mary event greening business provides eco-education, event greening, composting service hauling and covers the entire San Francisco Bay area, from Santa Cruz to Mendocino and often in locations much more distant. The company’s goal is “zero waste events.” Composting and recycling aside, the Green Mary crew supplies real dishware and explores best practices and materials on a event-by-event basis, doing everything possible to divert waste from landfills.
In the several years prior to her greening business, Munat was a volunteer coordinator for the Health and Harmony Festival, an annual Sonoma County music festival event. It was there she heard Julia Butterfly Hill speak about her dedication to the environment. Inspired by Julia’s speech Mary recalls her life “changed in an instant.” Thus was Green Mary born.
Seven years later, the company has nearly 100 seasonal employees and provides waste diversion for upwards of 100 events a year. Events range from small non-profit luncheons and conferences to marathons and large music festivals such as the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival which brings about 750,000 music lovers to Golden Gate Park each October and sends 85% of its “waste” away as reusable, compostable or recyclable.
Mary has an extensive network of resources for every part of eco-event production - local organic produce, bicycle valet parking, alternative energy sourcing, the hauling of used vendor oil, and the emcees who shout out the green message from the stage. Earth Tip signage is created and placed around the event to give participants ideas for how to live lighter once leaving the event – ways to get off junk mail lists or the importance of drinking shade grown coffee, for example. One sign image that encapsulates American reliance on bottled water compels the future-oriented attendee to rethink the plastic bottle in her hand.
When asked her process for building the business, she said, “Baby steps are important. That is to be patient, to recognize that systems change slowly.” From workable EcoStations of color-coded compost, recycling and trash containers, to an enthusiastic crew, she engages participants at every level to think about the environment that provides everything they are using. As of 2010, she and her dedicated “Green Team” are responsible for diverting thousands of tons of “waste” from landfills and changing the way events are produced around the Bay Area.
When asked about the future Mary dreams of the day that “greening services” become obsolete as changes on every level of society embrace waste-free events. "We’ll be bringing our own cups, our reusable water bottles. Bottled water is a thing of the past, we’ve got wven fabric napkins and non-plastic utensils. There'll be biodegradable wares made of locally grown bamboo, hemp, and birch, all features of reduced reliance on fossil fuels for their manufacture or process." “There is endless room for imagination and empowerment in living lighter every day,” says Green Mary, “That’s what I dream about, and I dream in color."