1979 : The Ecology Center is such an exciting place to be; we get so much support and enthusiasm for our work. People come by to share news and ideas and learn about the whole range of environmental issues. So many people want to explore new ways to do things that
Mother Earth News and the Whole Earth Catalog fly off the bookstore shelves. I especially
love the recycling program because it gives everyone something to do where you can see the
difference in the trash can right away. You can look at that big pile of paper and know we are
saving a lot of trees and energy right here. —Kathy Evans
1989: “One thing about the Center… it was then and it still is. There aren’t many community-based organizations that have stayed in existence. Why? Because there’s still a need for it. It has not gotten diverted from its basic purpose. It has not blown apart like other groups. The Ecology Center plods on. Nothing shocking… nothing extreme. It didn’t take a good guy/bad guy approach. It showed how things should be done and expected people to catch on.” —Peter Heylin
First board president Peter Heylin worked one day a month at the center; board members in the early years took turns staffing Saturdays. Heylin cofounded bottle-recycling facility Encore! in 1975, which Wine Business Monthly deemed an effort “ahead of its time”; recycling wine bottles became more difficult after the introduction of pressure-sensitive labels. In summer 2009, a Napa-based venture with high-tech equipment capable of removing the labels kicked into gear.”
1999: “A lot of people got their start being turned on to other people, resources and ideas at the Ecology Center, and then went on to do other things. It would have been different had the Ecology Center not been there for people. One of the reasons it’s hard to track is because the way that the Ecology Center functions is to not really ‘own’ much of anything, in terms of campaigns and issues, but to try and be a resource and a springboard. I think that a lot of the people that worked on Styrofoam or plastics issues, or started community recycling centers, or brought projects into the schools, or started community garden groups, or creek restoration groups, wouldn’t necessarily credit the Ecology Center. There was this general sharing of ideas without ownership. It was a different way of spreading the word. The point was to get it out there and spread it as widely and as far as possible, and I think, given what we see today, that was very successful.” —Karen Pickett, Bay Area Coalition for Headwaters
2010: “One thing that I value most about the structure of the Ecology Center is its flexibility. We’re able to offer so many services to so many people. We provide essential services such as waste reduction, sustainable food production, community food security, and nutrition. We can offer highly affordable classes on sustainable activities such as urban gardening, gray water systems, soil fertility, energy savings, carbon footprint reduction, and so many others. Our programs promote youth empowerment, community organizing, and environmental justice. We are able to model and teach sustainable practices while we actively participate in policy and planning discussions. It’s exciting to be involved on so many levels at once, and I feel our ability to reach out and help people is only growing.” —Raquel Pinderhughes, president, Ecology Center board of directors
YEARS OF SERVICE
Berkeley Ecology Center founded by a photographer, a commercial pilot, two schoolteachers, and a
water expert, Ray Balter, who was also a printer and hoped the center could sustain itself through commercial printing. The Ecology Center opened at Allston Way and Oxford, with a bookstore, library,
meeting rooms, offices, and a print shop.
Earth Day, 1970:
The Ecology Center receives its 501c3 status, the first such organization in the nation to apply for and receive nonprofit status.
The Ecology Center receives a federal grant for one year to run a recycling center at Sacramento
Street and University Avenue in Berkeley.
January 18, 1971:
Two Standard Oil tankers collide under the Golden Gate Bridge, and hundreds of volunteers rush to save oil-soaked birds and wildlife. The Ecology Center is a focal point for coordinating the volunteer effort.
The Ecology Center reorganizes as a membership organization with a staff of three, a nine-member
board of directors, and two honorary directors. “By paying the staff next to nothing for ninety hours
a week we managed to get out of debt,” said thenboard chair Peter Heylin.
Conscientious objectors arrange alternative service at the Ecology Center; besides staffing the center, many of the early recycling volunteers were COs. A speakers’ bureau is established.
A second recycling center opens at Martin Luther King Jr. Way and Dwight Way. A third site opens at Channing and San Pablo Avenue. In June 1973, the Ecology Center inaugurates curbside pickup of newspapers. In October, the Ecology Center sponsors the first National Recycling Convention
in San Francisco.
Issues of the day include opposition to a proposed southern crossing of the bay and a proposed mall on the Berkeley Marina. The Ecology Center champions waterfront preservation, protection of
Sunol Regional Wilderness from development, and helps campaign for Proposition 20, which creates the California Coastal Commission.
The Ecology Center inaugurates ENCORE! (Environmental Container Reuse) to recycle wine bottles. That facility is first housed in West Berkeley, then Emeryville, finally at 2nd and Gilman Street.
The center moves to a small storefront at College Avenue and Derby Street, causing a cutback in meetings.
California Waste Management Board advances $90,000 to establish multi-material curbside recycling, adding cans and bottles to pickups.
Campaigns include opposition to Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, initiating urban farming days at the student farm on Oxford Street, compost distribution, plant pest identification classes, rabbit raising demonstrations.
Urban Ore, Community Conservation Center, and the Ecology Center form the Berkeley Recycling
Group to negotiate contracts with the City of Berkeley. The city awards recycling contract to Engineered Waste Control (EWC). After a battle, Berkeley voters choose Measure G, keeping
recycling in the hands of the Berkeley Recycling group. Measure G also mandates fifty percent recycling over a five-year plan. In 1984, Berkeley recycles 25 percent of its solid waste (1,490 out of 7,800 tons a month).
The Ecology Center loses its lease and moves to cramped quarters in the University Avenue Co-op. The new home leads to a rejuvenated center thanks to the synergy with the co-op and its members.
Farmers’ Market organizers seek sponsorship of the Ecology Center for a new Farmers’ Market.
Farmers’ Market expands to year-round schedule and is running at capacitywith thirty farmers. Most farmers leave a box of produce for the Daily Bread Project, distributing food to the needy. Ecology Center Recycling Manager Kathy Evans receives the top recycling award in the state, Recycler
of the Year.
The Ecology Center helps pass Berkeley’s Stop Styrofoam Campaign, leading to a local ban and inspiring communities around the country. Recycling curbside collection goes from monthly to weekly. In November, the Ecology Center moves to its current home at 2530 San Pablo Avenue in Berkeley.
The Ecology Center newsletter becomes Terrain magazine.
A Berkeley health report shows diet-related disease in low-income neighborhoods, which historically have less access to healthy foods. The Berkeley Food Policy Council, of which the Ecology Center is a
member, proposes Farm Fresh Choice, a program to bring fresh produce into lower-income neighborhoods. Farm Fresh Choice becomes an Ecology Center program in 1999.
Coauthoring Berkeley’s Zero Waste policy with city staffers, the Ecology Center helps start the Bay Area Zero Waste working group and the California Product Stewardship Council.
The Ecology Center adopts the Berkeley Eco-House. Founded in 1999, the EcoHouse serves as a
demonstration house and garden where community members can learn about accessible and affordable ways to adapt existing spaces. Classes and tours are held regularly on-site.
The Ecology Center hosts the first annual Sustainability Summit, held in the fall, to showcase efforts of the city of Berkeley, nonprofits, and individuals to improve sustainable practices. Subsequent events are sell-out affairs.
Climate Change Action groups begin meeting at the center in August. Participants learn how to minimize their carbon footprint and how to lead groups of their own at work or in their neighborhoods.
The Ecology Center signs a ten-year recycling contract with the City of Berkeley.