Public Comment

Commentary: Networking with Sustainable Berkeley

By Martin Bourque
Tuesday March 13, 2007

Sustainable Berkeley formed last year to help foster collaborations towards a more sustainable future across sectors in Berkeley. It offers a rare glimmer of hope that people from business, government, universities, and the community can work together towards common goals in spite of the many divisions, which continually prevent the success of such efforts.  

While the Daily Planet has focused its reporting on the nature of the contracts between Sustainable Berkeley and the City of Berkeley, it has missed the amazing outcomes to date. 


Community sustainability internships 

Sustainable Berkeley leveraged a strong partnership with the Chancellor’s Advisory Commission on Sustainability to provide internships to community efforts outside the University. These are now supporting efforts towards increasing green collar job opportunities, exploring the solarization of the Berkeley Unified School District, making access to healthy foods more affordable by developing a natural grocery cooperative, and to reducing the harmful impacts of pharmaceutical disposal at our medical facilities. 


Sustainable business outreach 

Sustainable Berkeley has been providing outreach and education to restaurants and the largest energy users with funding from PG&E, under contract with the city. Sustainable Berkeley offers a single point of contact to businesses, while reducing the inefficiencies of having representatives from multiple agencies competing for the limited time of these business leaders. 


The Berkeley Sustainability Summit 

In October of last year Sustainable Berkeley provided logistical and other support to the Ecology Center in launching the Berkeley Sustainability Summit. This one-day event included 24 brief presentations on successes in business, housing, gardening, creeks, youth engagement, food justice, health care, university, city government, and many other sectors. The report and DVD from the summit are available at  


Green Gathering 

Sustainable Berkeley co-sponsored the city’s third Green Gathering last year with more than 160 local leading organizations, agencies, businesses, and individuals celebrating the achievements of local entities towards reaching a city-wide triple bottom line: environmental protection, economic development, and social equity. Keynote speakers included Dan Kamman of the Berkeley Institute for the Environment and Van Jones of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. This gathering allowed deep cross sector networking to occur, building a foundation for future collaborations.  


Champions of Sustainability Awards 

Sustainable Berkeley’s awards program received over 30 nominations from business, education, and community groups working to make Berkeley a model of sustainability. The winners represent the best work in combining environmental excellence and economic vitality with social equity efforts. Awardees include: Vital Vittles, the Alameda County Computer Resource Center, Sun Light and Power, The BioFuel Oasis, Rising Sun Energy, and Cal Dining. 


Climate protection 

The contract under current consideration by city staff and elected officials is to lead a multi-stakeholder process to identify and evaluate the many options our community can take towards meeting the Measure G climate protection goals. Whether this should be untaken by a city staff, a pubic commission, or task force, or by Sustainable Berkeley or some other group, is up to Council to decide. Regardless of where or how it happens, this critical work must be completed quickly if we are going to reduce our disproportionate climate impacts. 


It is unfortunate that no reporting has been offered by the Daily Planet on any of the above successes, and that the collaboration has been portrayed as being intentionally exclusive and self-serving.  

I believe it is time for our many uncoordinated sustainability initiatives to work in a more collaborative, efficient, and effective way. I believe that no one sector (government, business, academic, community) can take the lead on this alone. I believe that Sustainable Berkeley is the best chance we have towards those ends. I hope you will join Sustainable Berkeley in making Berkeley a leader in climate protection and environmental sustainability. 


Martin Bourque is the executive director of the Ecology Center.