Greening your garbage

Oscar the Grouch, that lovable Sesame Street character who lived in a garbage pail, has nothing on Mary Munat.

Sure, the green puppet sang about how much he loved trash. But Munat — "Green Mary" for short — feels the same way, and puts her passion into action, striving to help organizations produce zero-waste events and championing other environmental causes.

Munat's main businesses are "greening services" and waste diversion. Her target customers: event organizers. When she's hired, Munat becomes a green consultant, advising the organizer on how to prevent waste from ending up in landfills. She also sorts all garbage produced at the event by hand, composting and recycling whatever possible before the trash is carted away.

"I never realized I could be so passionate about garbage," quips the 49-year-old Windsor resident. "It's not just a career for me; it's a way of life."

This way of life began unexpectedly, in 2001. Munat was the volunteer coordinator for the annual Health and Harmony Festival in Santa Rosa, and she heard eco-activist Julia Butterfly Hill speak about the more than two years she spent living in Luna, a redwood tree in Humboldt County.

As Munat tells the story, the speaker interrupted her own presentation to scold the (largely progressive) crowd for overflowing garbage cans at the back of the facility.

Munat left the talk in tears and vowed to make a change.

The next year, Munat started with light greening at the Health and Harmony Festival. Her business, formally named "Green Mary," of course, grew from there. Today, her company has nearly 100 seasonal employees and provides waste diversion for upward of 100 events each year.

Events range in size from small nonprofit luncheons and conferences to marathons and large music festivals such as the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco.

"Our work at these events is not only about the immediate impact, but also about raising awareness," she said. "If we're not educating the attendees and participants about how they can change their lives, we're doing nothing but enabling."

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