After a 4-year hiatus, Ecology Center members gathered in person for the annual Earth Day and Birth Day event. This year marks the 53rd year since the Ecology Center received its nonprofit incorporation on the first Earth Day in 1970. What began as a local volunteer-run recycling project became a front runner for the now commonplace residential recycling services across the nation, and has since expanded in scope to lead in the areas of Zero Waste, Climate Action, Food and Farming, Sustainable Living, and Youth Development.
Members—longtime, entirely new, and many in-between—gathered at the San Pablo store and resource center in Berkeley, where the floor was transformed with café tables, a buffet, a makeshift bar, and a soapbox podium. We sampled fresh and prepared foods provided by 16 Berkeley Farmers’ Market vendors and sipped organic wine and craft beer, donated by De Nova Wines and Fieldwork Brewing Company.
All of the Ecology Center Board members attended the event, including our newly appointed Board Secretary Craig Kometani-Dittmann. So there was ample opportunity to talk directly with the individuals who make up the governing body of the Ecology Center. The Board Vice President Kad Smith shared his personal and moving story that encompassed his arch from joining the Ecology Center’s Youth Development program as an in-trouble youth—an experience that helped fuel his passion for the causes of racial justice, prison reform, civic engagement, and the liberation of all marginalized people across the globe—to today as he pursues his JD at the University of San Francisco School of Law and serves as Board Vice President at the Ecology Center. Click on this link to read more about: the Ecology Center Board of Directors.
The Ecology Center Executive Director Martin Bourque thanked Ecology Center members for their ongoing support through the challenging years of the pandemic. The Community Engagement Director Denaya Shorter spoke about this year’s innovative climate equity initiatives. The Farmers’ Market Program Manager Daniel McChesney-Young, who also tended bar for the evening, thanked several Berkeley Farmers’ Market vendors,
“Our food came from Farmers’ Market vendors including Coracao Chocolates, Stepladder Creamery, Avalos Farm, Brokaw Ranch, Oya Organics, Dirty Girl Produce, Kaki Farm, Full Belly Farm, Riverdog Farm, Queen of Sheeba Honey and Flying Disc Ranch. Special thanks to Flatbread Queen Bolani and Morell’s bread for their 100% donations.”
Throughout the evening, stories emerged from Ecology Center members whose own histories intertwined with this 53-year-old organization.
Bob Stern, former Ecology Center Board member, not only delighted fellow attendees with his stories about his time at the Ecology Center, including about hiring our current Executive Director, but he also stayed late, rolled up his sleeves, and put away dishes as part of the clean up.
Terry Harrison, one the original consultants on Ecology Center’s curbside recycling pilot program in 1974, attended with his wife Carol. He gave us pause to reflect on how far this organization has come. This 1974 clipping from the Daily Cal serves as a small portal back to Terry’s groundbreaking work with the Ecology Center: Ecology Centers’ Free Curbside Pickup Recycles Berkeley’s Old Newspapers
Bob Kelleher, who has been an Ecology Center member for fifty years, came to the Ecology Center Store and Resource Center on San Pablo Avenue for the first time for this event, and we were so delighted to finally meet him in person!
Rick Codina, former Ecology Center staff and editor of its Terrain print newsletter, turned out for the gathering with a binder filled with original print publications. He described the evening in this way,
“BACK TO THE SOURCE. Fifty years ago, I hired on at the Berkeley Ecology Center, crushing bottles for recycling and driving newspaper pickup trucks. I went on to be a staffer, putting together the monthly newsletter and organizing events. I returned to the Center for an Earth Day anniversary celebration to find a thriving organization with incredible staff and great community programs. I also found another old veteran Terry Harrison, with wife Carolyn, who helped start the original newspaper pickup program and a wine bottle reuse operation. Sometimes, you can really go home.”
There were so many interesting people at the gathering with varying influences and avenues that brought them to the Ecology Center. Some were regular Berkeley Farmers’ Market shoppers, others held a deep interest in the Ecology Center’s work on the Single Use Disposable Foodware Reduction Ordinance and plastic free work, while still others spoke of how volunteering at the Ecology Center has given them a way to participate in their community.
As the evening came to a close and we washed, dried, and put away the last glass, we all at the Ecology Center felt a deep sense of gratitude and well-being knowing that our community is so strong and supportive. We look forward to greeting you at our next members’ gathering!