Serving All of California
Located in Sonoma County
PO Box 4957, Santa Rosa, CA 95402
About Green Mary, formerly, and still in some circles, known as Mary Munat
I have always been “an environmentalist,” having grown up in very rural Vermont. As far as trash went, we hauled all the “waste” from my family’s ski lodge to the dump on an infrequent basis and there participated, alongside the residents of the five surrounding towns, in sorting all our bags to get down to minimal trash (“real” waste that no one could do anything else with). From little kids to old folks, we would put stuff for donating in one shed, toss tin in one cubicle, aluminum in another, paper, cardboard, plastic, glass (BY COLOR). And we would VISIT there, catch up on one another’s lives. This was super rural, our town had 122 people, so you pretty much had to go to the dump to get news of the rest of the “world.” After the mega-sorting was accomplished, only then we would drive to the pit where we would pay for before tossing the minimal remains.
From this auspicious beginning, I naturally, eventually entered the glorious greening world in the year 2000. I was working as the volunteer coordinator (ahem, unpaid, so volunteer volunteer coordinator) at Sonoma County’s Health and Harmony Festival in 2000 where I heard environmental activist Julia Butterfly-Hill speaking about her experience living up in a redwood tree for 738 days. She youthfully, bravely climbed to 180’ to take a stand for our natural resources. In a planet-fueled speaking tour, the fiery young woman pulled no punches at our local festival in jabbing at our eco-oversights and drew our attention to the overflowing trash cans at this “progressive” gathering. “THAT is where you tell your story… you cannot put on a party for the people, talk about the planet’s well-being and at the same time spit on her, your hostess in all things.” She stood for, and still stands for, a dramatic shift in approach where we think first and always about the source of all we receive and then logically, lovingly, tremendously reduce our detrimental environmental impact.
Green light bulbs went off for me at the end of that speech, and I ran from the gathering in tears and the wheels began spinning around how to get rid of waste at public events. One of those moments where nothing makes sense and purpose is born. Within three years, unbeknownst to me then, I was on a path to help birth a now-burgeoning industry. First there was The Health and Harmony Festival and year after year, the word spread, our passionate eco-activist Green Team grew and together we have shared the zero waste gospel and, in 2019, greened over 350 event-related days.
Through event greening, a steady aim has been to shift the focus from a throw-away culture to reliance on re-usable wares. Recycling is NOT a sustainable path and behaving as though it is, merely enables events and participants and is ultimately harmful for the planet. Given how much has been provided for event attendees, there has grown to be a perceptible sense of entitlement. It’s as though we expect all wares to be provided us, our waste to be hauled away for us, the grounds to be cleaned up after us, and the earth to give and absorb until… she can no longer do so.
Recognizing that recycling and composting of waste at public events is a far cry from practicing zero waste lifestyles and event production, I strongly advocate around the need for reusable wares – toward that end, I started collecting dishes from thrift stores, friends, folks looking to purge their dishware and began an eco-lending library so that small local events could use real dishes . The planet is not for our resource consumption or dumping grounds, and we need view it with long-term sustainability in mind and at heart, at the root of all our practices. Easy for everyone, the lowest hanging fruit, is bringing our own utensils, napkins, and of course water bottles and coffee mugs!
At large events, until fully re-usable wares are permitted by health departments, we recognize the need to do what we can to minimize waste to the landfill so we choose the most highly recyclable and compostable food service wares and ensure that everything that can be composted or re-used is diverted from the landfill. We communicate with producers and food vendors around best practices and product choices, bring in water refill stations, and watch year by year as awareness and participation grow and dumpster sizes shrink!
Our Green Team employees (surging to 100+ by the peak of many busy greening seasons) passionately strive to re-create the event industry from the earth on up. From set-up to grounds cleaning, hauling and sorting, to diverting everything that can possibly have another life, I like to lead gently and enthusiastically from the shrinking landfill dumpster on out. I have served on the local AB939 to contribute solutions to Sonoma County’s waste issues and have recently re-joined the technical council of the California Resource Recovery Association’s Green Initiatives, Venues and Events. A prime passion is supporting food recovery and I am intensely focused on re-routing good food to feed either people or animals before resorting to sending it to soil building at a compost facility. We focus on getting food from businesses and events to shelters and homeless camps regularly and at all hours. I was a driving force behind the passage of Sonoma County’s plastic bag ban, am a green events trainer through the City of San Francisco and have recently been certified through CRRA in Zero Waste Principles and Practices.
Green Mary greened events have ranged from Joshua Tree to Mendocino, from Ft. Bragg to Lake Tahoe, but now we focus on the San Francisco Bay Area in thinking globally and greening locally. We take into account all the components of the work we do and choose the most sustainable options given all the information at hand, including handing off events to more local greening companies and networking across the country to ensure smart practices at the deepest levels. We apply a carbon tax to all our events to offset our participation and driving and contribute those proceeds to The Climate Center.
The awesome Green Team and I strongly believe in sending event participants away with more eco-information than they showed up with and strive for the best diversion rates at each event, often reaching up to 95% of event waste kept out of the landfill. We will know our overall mission has been fulfilled when our services are no longer required because everyone will know how to take care of their own needs and their own event-related waste. Until that time, we can help you help the planet~