We find ourselves between the intensity of an unprecedented global crisis and the dawn of a new normal. After a long season of fear, bitter loss, and disappointment, we are witnessing the scales tip in favor of recovery, discovery, and renewed strength, as evidenced by the work of a new administration and forward movement on global initiatives.
We could not have gotten here without your support!
Throughout the past tumultuous year, the Ecology Center team has served our community through our weekly Farmers’ Markets, Curbside Recycling program, EcoStore, and Resource Center. The Youth Development team has facilitated virtual safe spaces for our Youth Environmental Academy (YEA) scholars to navigate the changed landscape, working together to reimagine green leadership and youth-led climate advocacy.
YEA scholars also launched the Youth Farm Box program, a weekly produce box pilot program designed to serve people who are in a high-risk category for contracting COVID-19. This collaborative effort, funded by the City of Berkeley’s Healthy Berkeley program, demonstrates the power of youth-centered and youth-led programming and the value in investing in our future leaders.
This year, our Food and Farming team has stepped up to address the significant increase in food insecurity caused by the pandemic. It is projected that 42 million people may experience food insecurity this year, up from 35 million before the pandemic. The Ecology Center’s statewide Market Match program helps advance food security by matching federal food benefits at farmers’ markets. Our Food and Farming team is leading an effort to include $15 million in the state budget to ensure continued support of this matching. This funding will provide substantial financial support to continue essential food security programs, like Market Match, that reach frontline communities in need, support local agriculture, and aid in economic recovery. The need has never been greater to continue our work.
Be a part of this historic commitment to the community. Please support our advocacy for food security.
The Ecology Center is working toward a vision of zero waste, equitable access to healthy food, sustainable resource use, and a safe and stable climate. This vision includes advocating for local and national climate initiatives that prioritize addressing the inequities and injustices suffered by frontline communities. For example, while we must make urgent progress toward a fossil fuel free future, forthcoming policies and processes must center on equity to ensure the voices of communities hit first and worst by the climate crisis are not excluded.
The 2020 Climate Equity Action Fund Ballot Measure HH, which would have created a fund to finance equitable climate action initiatives and programming, did not pass, however, we cannot afford to slow down our efforts. Low-income, frontline, BIPOC, and other marginalized communities who would have greatly benefited from a climate equity action fund, remain disproportionately adversely impacted by climate change.
The world has never been more vulnerable to environmental destruction, and frontline communities will suffer the most. Innovative policy development and implementation and community organizing must happen now. Climate action cannot wait.
This Spring, we collaborated with the Berkeley Climate Action Coalition network to introduce the City of Berkeley’s Existing Buildings Electrification Strategy, which focuses on eliminating our dependence on fossil fuels by developing policies that identify options for decarbonizing its existing building inventory. Through more intentional, inclusive, and community-driven processes, we can collectively invest in sustainable solutions and meaningful actions that tackle the climate crisis at its root.
Leading into the pandemic, our groundbreaking Single Use Disposable Foodware and Litter Reduction Policy was being replicated across the state and country, and shifting to a reuse and waste reduction model was just starting to gain momentum. With the pandemic, the plastic industry exploited the crisis to rollback efforts that reduced single-use plastics and to elicit fear and uncertainty around the safety of reusables. In this time, we have seen plastic scrap markets close and a massive increase in non-recyclable plastic in our recycling program. And while the health restrictions on reuse have been lifted, the damage is done.
The Ecology Center will continue to work with the City of Berkeley on implementing the Single Use Foodware and Litter Reduction Ordinance, while being sensitive to the stresses local businesses are facing. We are working to eliminate plastics that we now know cannot be recycled by Berkeley’s recycling program through a public and replicable process. We are supporting a whole slew of plastic legislation in Sacramento, as well as backing exciting new federal legislation like the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act of 2021.
We will need your support to get back on track. All of this work is urgent and requires innovative sustainable solutions that move beyond recovery.
The Ecology Center is also working on securing a new 10-year contract with the City of Berkeley to continue operating our community-driven, mission-based curbside recycling program. We hope to expand recycling education and access, to address the long standing disparities in participation for renters and the growing issue of contamination. As the Market Match program continues to expand throughout the state, increasing access and affordability of fresh whole foods to low-income families, we are championing game-changing policies and strategies that tackle key issues at their core. We’re also ramping up our informational content and offerings with uniquely curated workshops, classes, campaigns, and sustainable living products that will educate, engage, and inspire.
It’s clear that the future is all about collaboration: a combination of tools and great minds. Now is the time to chart a new vision for how we can emerge stronger from this global crisis than ever before, and take a path forward that focuses on solutions. We believe that together with your help we can succeed.
Looking forward to the progress we will make together in the year ahead,
Executive Director, Ecology Center