The Berkeley Co-op pioneered consumer education and protection, ingredient labeling and unit pricing, and influenced Berkeley politics. It was the place where many initiatives were launched, including recycling, and the Ecology Center’s history is entwined with the Co-ops. ” In 1970, the Co-op began selling organic foods. On the first Earth Day that spring, volunteers from the Co-op, the Ecology Center, and Ecology Action . . . banded together at the Co-op Garage on the corner of Sacramento and University to begin recycling in Berkeley and set the tone for a new decade. The Co-op put forth a bold and far-reaching consumer legislative program, and lobbied vigorously in Sacramento and Washington. Members petitioned for the first bottle deposit law, and lobbied against electricity rates increases. They opened a separate natural foods store in 1971, removed enzymes from Co-op brand detergent, banned smoking, and distributed condom information” (For All the People: Uncovering the Hidden History of Cooperation, Cooperative Movements, and Communalism in America).
The Berkeley Historical Society is featuring an exhibit called “Consumers Cooperative of Berkeley–A Noble Venture.” The exhibit explores the positive spirit that built the most successful co-op supermarket in the nation. Click here for more information on the exhibit, open till September 24.