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When the Queens of Green gather to talk trash

  • For susan swartz

Greening is a verb to Mary Munat. It's also her profession as an eco-enforcer at concerts, festivals, weddings and other large gatherings.

Zero waste is her game. Green Mary is her name.

When she talks about "greening" an event she means erecting 12 foot tall sign posts identifying eco-stations with separate bins marked compost, landfill and recycle. She posts "earth tips" like one inside porta-potties that say you can save 523,900 trees by replacing one roll of regular toilet tissue with recycled paper. She leans on organizers to bring in water refill stations with paper cups in favor of selling one-time-use plastic water bottles and encourages vendors to use biodegradable plates and utensils.

Sitting shoeless in her Santa Rosa home, a Chihuahua in her lap, Mary says her goal at events like the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in Golden Gate Park and the upcoming Sebastopol Apple Blossom Festival is to eliminate as much plastic as possible and install composting bins so that at day's end there's no litter on the ground and only bona fide garbage to add to the landfill.

She can make a living doing this, she says, partly because the public is finally getting hip, even enthusiastic, about recycling, and also since 2004 there's been a California law, AB2176, that says any public large event or venue has to provide for waste diversion.

Green Mary claims success even at one in San Francisco, "a drunken orgy love fest with naked people on stilts" that had 80 percent diversion," meaning most people kept their wine bottles out of the salad scraps.

Not everybody gets it, of course. Green Mary tried to convince a wine and beer supplier at one event to forego plastic in favor of biodegradable paper cups.

"I told him that it takes 500 years for plastic to break down in landfill. I told him that more than a million sea birds die every year from ingesting plastic pellets. And he said, 'I can live with that.'"

She groans. "May he come back as an albatross."

The Vermont native believes she was born with a "green heart." She once broke up with a man who refused to cut back his shower time and thinks that people should start thinking of greening as sexy and wasting as a turn-off.


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