Second Sustainability Summit Spreads the Word

Its bike racks filled to capacity, the Krutcher Theater on UC Berkeley’s Clark Kerr Campus provided a perfect venue for the daylong second annual Berkeley Sustainability Summit, hosted by the Ecology Center. The summit offers a platform where those working on environmental projects can share information and avoid reinventing the wheel or duplicating efforts.

Four series of six speakers talk about their programs, and after each series, the speakers retire to their respective tables in the back, so the audience can descend upon them for more questions and discussion. Major issues are purposefully spread across the four panels, says Ecology Center Executive Director Martin Borque, because this strategy promotes “the cross-fertilization of special interest groups.” As the environmental movement has grown, it has diversified and become specialized. This format desegregates the specialties, reuniting climate change with waste, water, food, land use, and transportation issues.

The first speaker to cause a stir was the City of Berkeley’s climate action coordinator, Timothy Burroughs—nicknamed the “Measure G guy.” Measure G was approved by 81 percent of Berkeley voters in November 2006. It mandates 80 percent decrease from 2000 levels of greenhouse gas emissions in Berkeley by 2050. Burroughs broke down greenhouse gas emitters into broad categories: 50 percent from transportation, 25 percent from home energy consumption, and 25 percent from business and institutional energy consumption. He presented a short list of workable, long-term solutions that everyone can do. Those ideas and others suggested by residents are featured on the web site

Martin Edwards from the Cooperative Grocery (COG) piqued curiosities with his Bay Area-centered food revolution. While food cooperatives are not new in this corner of the world, the concept’s last major bastion, the Co-op, closed in 1988. The COG promises to bring “fresh, local, seasonal, sustainable,” food to neighborhoods ill served by grocery stores. The new cooperative is a stickler: all products must meet at least six of nine criteria that define sustainability. The COG harkens back to earlier forms of cooperative groceries, wherein members were required to work a few hours at the grocery to keep prices low. But COG is also reinventing the co-op for the wired generation, offering online shopping and a blog. The new store on the Berkeley/Emeryville border opens the first week of November.

CNN-dubbed hero and Boing Boing-proclaimed champion of DIY culture James Burgett founded the Alameda County Computer Resource Center, which recycles computers and electronics while providing ex-convicts with jobs (see Spring 2007 for more). Burgett has personally prevented thousands of tons of toxic waste from entering our landfills, but the resource center is in trouble. Due to recent rezoning of the West Berkeley industrial area, he may have to close up shop to make way for car dealerships along the freeway. To learn how you can help the Alameda County Computer Resource Center and the people who are its motherboard, visit its web site at

The Bread Workshop provided pastries, and Clark Kerr Dining catered lunch; both are certified Green Businesses. Three Stone Hearth, a “community-supported kitchen,” offered closing snacks. The positive outlook and energy were fortified by dozens of local businesses, organizations, and agencies dedicated to Berkeley’s green vision. The summit’s most stringent critic, organizer Amy Kiser of the Ecology Center, judged the event a success. “This year, many attendees traveled from other cities and states to learn about all the sustainability projects and initiatives happening within Berkeley,” she says. “So much is possible within a single municipality! It’s gratifying to export our best ideas.”

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