Mother Earth Living

Goddess of Garbage: Carol Tanzi

With a wave of her wand, interior designer Carol Tanzi turns trash into treasure.
By Laurel Kallenbach
July/August 2004
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Photo By Morgan Cowin

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When interior designer Carol Tanzi adopts her Goddess of Garbage persona—poof—she turns trash to treasure.

Birth of the goddess: An award-winning interior designer in Burlingame, California, Tanzi is appalled when clients throw out functional furnishings while redecorating. Keen on educating people about reuse and recycling, she created her alter-ego, the Goddess of Garbage, and coined the word recyclizing: acquiring found materials or throw-away objects and using them as home décor.

Working magic: Tanzi takes junk and creates things of beauty: wall art from Styrofoam packing material, stools from painted tire rims, old radiators for desk legs, and discarded granite slabs for tabletops. “Recycled decorating keeps garbage out of the landfill, conserves resources, saves money, and exercises your creativity,” she notes.

Dumpster etiquette: Ask first; in some places, Dumpster diving is illegal without permission. Never enter a Dumpster after rainfall because it’s slippery. Wear boots, thick gloves, safety goggles, and an orange jacket so garbage trucks can spot you.

Most heavenly find: Framed oil painting of Abraham Lincoln in mint condition that Tanzi gave to a Lincoln memorabilia collector.

Divine secret: Glass shops often have remnants they’ll give you or sell for pennies.

 A few miracles: An all-recyclized studio apartment and children’s recycling tutorial center (shown in photo) for the South San Francisco Scavenger Company. The Goddess won an American Society of Interior Designers award for decorating the principal’s office at Palo Alto’s AchieveKids School with old textbook spines.

Spreading light: Tanzi hosts a Bay Area cable TV talk show, “Issues and Topics;” is writing her first book, Let’s Talk Trash; and publishes a recyclizing newsletter:

“I want people to find out you can decorate a room with garbage and do it in good taste!”
Carol Tanzi

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