Green warrior is out, but the good fight continues

Yale's recycling coordinator is laid off.

Michael Marsland

Michael Marsland

Yale Recycling's C. J. May ’89MEM is being laid off after 22 years. View full image

C. J. May ’89MEM, whose wiry frame, Windex-blue eyes, and graying ponytail are easily recognized around campus, has personified Yale’s recycling efforts for 22 years. He is a Yale institution, but now he’s a casualty of an effort he helped to institutionalize. As a result of budget cuts and the integration of recycling into other Yale departments, May’s job will be eliminated in June.

May was hired in 1990 as recycling coordinator to turn a largely student-run recycling operation into a more formal program. Over the years, he got Yale to recycle electronics, helped arrange to use grease from the dining halls to make biodiesel, and organized “spring salvage” events to keep furniture and other discarded student goods out of the dumpsters.

“With recycling there was a big face—mine,” he says. “I used to be a guerrilla warrior. Now there are many green people behind the curtain. It’s moving so fast, it’s passing me by. But in some ways, that’s the way it should be. It’s kind of like seeing the end of the Wild West.”

May lives a green life. The front gate of his home in New Haven’s East Rock neighborhood is made from the sides of old cribs. Chickens in his backyard provide eggs. Years before “locavore” entered the vernacular, he and his wife, Becky Seashore ’88, began trying to eat only foods grown in Connecticut.

In recent years May has developed a magic act that promotes environmental causes. He calls it “resourcery” and takes the show on the road occasionally. But he’s still looking for a day job. “As far as I know,” he says, “Yale isn’t hiring any environmental magicians.”

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