The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

July 8, 2008

Berkeley’s Green 4th of July

I love living in the Bay Area. Especially after reading Life Less Plastic’s post about all the plastic and Styrofoam at her city’s Taste of Chicago festival.

Here are some images from Berkeley’s Independence Day celebration at the Marina:

I especially love that the garbage containers are labeled “Landfill” and explain what goes to the landfill and why it’s important to choose recyclable or compostable alternatives. All the disposable dishware at the event were compostable. And there were water stations for filling up reusable bottles.

The “greening” of this event was the doing of my friend Mary Munat, aka Green Mary. In February, I wrote about Janice Sitton, my event greener friend in San Francisco. Mary is my other event greening friend, and she’s been doing it since 2000. Here’s how she got inspired to do this work, excerpted from her web site:

Mary’s epiphany came in 2000, while listening to Julia Butterfly-Hill at the annual Health and Harmony Festival, in Santa Rosa, California.

As Butterfly-Hill recounted the tale of her attempt to save her beloved Luna, a heroic mission during which she lived hundreds of feet off the ground for nearly two years–all to save a tree, the audience wiped their tears with virgin paper napkins and relieved their thirst from single-use plastic water bottles. They quieted their hunger with non-organic foods, enjoyed while served ironically on the tree-destroying paper plates which may have killed Luna, and walked away from her talk, perhaps talking her talk, likely not walking it.

This was Mary’s opening, a green rebirth.

Deeply affected, Mary entered the zero-waste arena on that moment. She has walked her talk through festivals around the state ever since.

By 2005 her experience included several years of festival volunteer coordination. She has since focused on people and resource management, with a keen eye for waste reduction at San Francisco Bay Area events, coordinated with local municipalities, attended meetings and affected gatherings large and small.

2005’s Harmony Festival also succeeded in diverting approximately 85% of the “trash” from the landfill. Five tons of compost was separated from the waste stream.

Additionally, free water refill stations placed throughout the festival grounds helped to divert upwards of 30,000 single-use water bottles from the “recycling” stream. Even the sale of single-use water bottles was banned. “They ask at the table, ‘Do you have a glass?’ In the new ethic of re-usability, they must bring their own–then also carry it home. Or we provide biodegradable cups.”

Mary wrote to me:

My primary filter through which I view the world is trashy. I see plastic bags blowing where others see the wildflowers beyond the barbed wire fence; I think of the Himalayas and the oxygen tanks littering the majestic mountains; I see the ocean and think of floating pellets; I go grocery shopping and try to get local cheese in a dairy state and cry over the selections from New Zealand, the Midwest and Ireland. I teared up when a woman in front of me in line said she didn’t care whether her groceries were bagged in paper or plastic and cried when I left the store.

Mary’s an energetic inspiration for me, and I was thrilled to run into her at the Berkeley festival on Friday and to realize that she was responsible for making the event as trash-free as possible. While the food may not have been as great as Chicago’s Taste (my grilled chicken kebab was so smoky, I felt like I’d just had a cigarette) at least there was less trash left behind.

Once darkness started to descend, Michael and I left the festival grounds and headed towards the Bay to stake out our spot for watching the fireworks. Our friends joined us on the cold, hard rocks to wait.

While we were waiting, I entertained myself taking artsy fartsy pictures of the moon,

and once they finally started, artsy fartsy pictures of the fireworks

until the fog rolled in…

and we couldn’t see anything but foggy light in the sky. At the very end, I figured out how to keep my camera shutter open longer.

Kinda cool but also kinda scary, huh? How’s that for your rockets’ red glare? A sobering thought at the end of a pretty fun day.

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15 years ago

Thanks for the great info. This will help me to see if our local creek clean up can go greener.

15 years ago

Thanks for the information on Green Mary. Wow, that opened up my eyes about seeing the disposable nature of public gatherings…and the potential for recycling all around. Keep up the good blogging, Beth.

Lisa Sharp
15 years ago

How amazing!!!!!! We can’t even recycle glass anywhere in the town I live in. :(

Condo Blues
15 years ago

We had the same plastic recycling containers at our recent Comfest (a big festival of local music, local food, and local artists/businesses) in Columbus, Ohio. I really wish more of our local street festivals had recycling bins present. Our city recently moved from recycling just #1 & 2 plastics to recycling #1-7 plastics! In addition to paper and metal of course.

15 years ago

Wow! Berkley really sounds like a wonderful place to live. And it sounds like you had a great 4th! Love the pictures!

Green Bean
15 years ago

How cool! Berkeley is miles ahead of most of us in terms of community-greening. I recently visited my sister there and, once we got of the BART train, were greeted by Zip Car and City Car Share cars everywhere. They have a city wide food composting program and no one blinks at my sister keeping chickens.

I guess my only beef with Berkeley is it still is a bit “fringe.” I don’t mean that in a negative way but in a way that it is hard to convince the rest of the country to go the way of Berkeley. They come up with the ideas but then those ideas need to be brought mainstream. I don’t see any reason why their “trash system” couldn’t be seen at every city and community event across the country, though.

15 years ago

I missed you at the Berkeley Marina! I was there from about 11AM on the grass with a view of the road in and the freeway with the traditional Afro-Cuban rumba jam. It was nice over there.

I have to say, I was impressed with the ground squirrels, er, recycling efforts, too.

The water bottles were awesome – James and I both had our insulated cups and refilled them from the bubblers when we were out walking around.

We bailed at 7, though – and went home – we would have been able to see the fireworks from his back deck except for the fog… but, hey, that’s a 4th of July tradition in these parts…