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!