When the Revolution Is Over, the Work Begins
Cities across the country are taking the lead in reducing their environmental footprint. Now that the plans are drawn, the real work begins.
The environmentalists have won. Nearly 50 years ago Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring documented in rending prose the widespread use of chemicals and pesticides, ushering in the modern environmental movement. It was the first point in a line leading through the Clean Air and Water acts, energy efficiency standards, recycling programs, anti-littering campaigns, fuel-efficiency standards for cars, Earth Day, Kyoto, Al Gore, your neighbor buying a hybrid and cities everywhere enacting wide-ranging plans for a cleaner future.
Today nearly all the discussion is framed around climate change and the looming specter of rising seas and weather-related disasters. There’s a lot of talk about the ways people can help keep greenhouse gases from entering the atmosphere — by driving less and buying more renewable energy — but not about connecting the dots with other environmental actions. If the goal is heading off climate change, how does the urban farming movement help, exactly?
East Bay cities enacting bold strategies to reduce their impact on the environment are becoming savvier about explaining the linkages between these actions. Instead of jumbling them together loosely in a big container marked “the environment,” these actions are beginning to coalesce as integral pieces of an overall sustainability strategy that requires us, first, to live within our means. Aggressive strategies to pull recyclables and organic material out of the waste stream, building bike lanes and expanding transit and growing local food aren’t just individual actions anymore, but linked elements of a sustainable city. Pull any of them off, and the whole suffers.
The front line in the environmental movement is indeed us, the emitters and trash-throwers and buyers of nonessential gewgaws, and we are the ones who are asked to sacrifice by swapping out our light bulbs and driving less. But move farther back along the product lifecycle and there are a host of responsible parties, both public and private: retailers that ship tiny products in big boxes filled with Styrofoam; electronics manufacturers that build magically small Wayfinders that are impossible (not just difficult) to pull apart for recycling; cities without municipal recycling or composting programs; utilities without renewable energy programs.
But now that we’ve had a couple years to study the issues, we’re seeing that environmental sustainability doesn’t have to mean “asceticizing” ourselves back to some grubby preindustrial past. There are economic opportunities in using more wisely what we have, a revelation that has gotten enviros, industrialists, venture capitalists and unions working together on solutions that local governments are adopting. And with enough money and resolve, their plans could actually work.
To meet strong greenhouse gas–reduction targets, as President Obama has suggested he will pledge to do, we need to invent and create and manufacture our way to that goal, and all of that activity creates jobs. This might seem a little counterintuitive to those who keep getting told to use less by reducing, reusing and repairing. But technology — from micro wind turbines, to LED lights that use a tiny fraction of energy, to low-flow toilets, to algae that makes fuel, to thin solar panels on every roof — will be our friend. The industrial revolution got us into this mess, and the information age can get us out. And that means thousands of people put to work, not just making wind turbines, but doing high-level research and development. Because that’s where the money is. And the markets.
What we’re coming closer to is a Grand Unified Plan that closes the energy and waste loop for good by solving many problems with a single solution. For example, transit systems get cars off the street, which means fewer potholes and less pollution. It also means people will try to live close to the line, leading to greater density and less sprawl, and therefore more open space and fewer roads that need to be built. It also means more businesses, which means walking or riding a bike more often, which means people probably get a little more exercise because they’re not stuck behind the wheel all day. Power that system with clean electricity from wind turbines, and blamo. Grand Unified Plan.
Every environmental concern has examples of this one-for-many scenario. If we composted we could stop overusing fertilizers, which wash out to sea and kill ocean life. If we used less water on the thirsty line crops we plant in the desert, we could restore ecosystems, use less energy transporting that water over the Tehachapi Pass and increase air quality. If we built renewable energy facilities, we could stop importing foreign oil, stop drilling off our coasts, start getting electricity for free and bring thousands of manufacturing jobs back.
What follows are the best examples of these plans, a look at how cities and regions are using comprehensive, organized planning to look beyond a single issue and find the grand opportunities in moving over to a cleaner future. We know now that we can have it all — more jobs, a renewed emphasis on science and technology and a rediscovery of shared values. We have a long way to go, but at least we know the way. And by sharing examples of what works, the East Bay continues to be a part of the solution.
Electricity and Energy
For a state that is responsible for inventing the most ingenious things that plug in, turn on or light up, California doesn’t use much electricity compared to the rest of the country. Since 1980 its per-capita energy use started trending down even while the rest of the country’s was heading up. Even though the state gains almost half a million residents a year, Californians individually don’t use any more electricity than they used to. But before we start patting ourselves on the back for our thrifty ways, consider that we live in a balmy environment with higher than average energy prices — we don’t need as much electricity as everyone else, and we pay more for it. But we need to do better.
Ideally, we would live in energy-efficient houses and get all of our electricity from renewable resources, and California’s groundbreaking climate change law, AB 32 (also known as the Global Warming Solutions Act), aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 — in large part through clean energy. While the massive potential in energy efficiency has been called the “real Saudi Arabia” by energy advocates, the low-hanging fruit of swapping out our light bulbs, eliminating the vampire loads from appliances that stay on 24/7 and wrapping our homes in insulation won’t do nearly enough. California has zillions of megawatts of untapped renewable energy potential in wind and solar, and each of the state’s three investor owned utilities (Pacific Gas and Electric, Sacramento Municipal Utility District and Southern California Edison) has made investments in new renewable energy generation, from massive wind farms in the Delta to the nation’s largest solar photovoltaic array in the Mohave desert. But it’s just a start.
The governor’s ambitious goal of getting 33 percent of the state’s electricity from renewable energy (up from the original goal of 20 percent) is widely regarded by energy policy experts as being out of reach (the state is at about 11 percent now) unless the state can buy renewable energy certificates from other western states. The problem in building renewables is not just in getting financing for new generation, which can be difficult due to the high capital investment, long payoff time and only intermittent tax breaks, but there are real technical hurdles building transmission lines and adapting the aging electrical grid.
But some communities think they can get clean energy faster and cheaper by forming their own electric companies. A 2002 law allows cities to make their own plans for acquiring electricity in an arrangement called Community Choice Aggregation, or CCA, and it’s being pursued now in San Francisco and Marin County. Oakland and Berkeley are still investigating the possibility of forming their own CCA, with local citizen’s groups like the Local Clean Energy Alliance helping lead the charge. According to David Room, the alliance’s coordinator, the reason for starting a local CCA is severalfold, but first is getting a cleaner mix of electricity than that provided by PG&E. A local CCA can also collect the public goods charge, a line item intended to fund energy-efficiency programs. While acknowledging that important work is being done in the East Bay Energy Watch program to make use of the money raised through the charge, Room says the estimated $8.5 million collected annually in the East Bay has been hard to trace. A key advantage of CCA, he says, is that cities can do more with local control. “Community Choice is one of a city’s most cost effective tools to garner large-scale reductions of greenhouse gas emissions. Managing energy efficiency, demand response and renewable energy locally under the rubric of a CCA is much easier than getting people out of their cars.”
Who’s Doing This Best:
Alameda. With its community-owned power company Alameda Power & Telecom, the city gets more than 80 percent of its power from renewable resources while keeping money in the community for solar and energy-efficiency initiatives.
Eat local. We’ve heard it before, and it makes sense that getting your food from Vacaville is better for the environment than having it trucked up or flown in from Chile. But the issue is much bigger than simply getting onions at the farmers market. Food is the nexus where many societal ills meet, and two groups in Oakland are working to improve access to healthy food in areas where choices are limited. The first is a unique coalition in Oakland called the Hope Collaborative, which is developing sustainable food systems where policy is focused on the most underserved populations. The second is the Oakland Food Policy Council, which studies the city’s “food system” as a whole and makes recommendations toward improving the system of growing healthy food and getting it into the hands of the people who need it the most, through stores, farmers markets, farm stands and schools.
One of the main problems is access. In West Oakland, for example, there are more than 50 liquor stores but only a single grocery store — the Mandela Foods Cooperative, which opened across from the West Oakland BART station in June 2009. The drawbacks to eating from a corner store are obvious — it’s expensive and extremely unhealthy. But while simply courting a big retailer to come in and set up shop might solve the food-equity problem (by bringing healthy food closer to residents), it won’t do a thing to promote two other major issues: ensuring the food is local, and keeping the money in the community. When residents shop at a locally owned business, more of that money stays there.
Heather Wooten, a planning and policy associate at the nonprofit organization Public Health Law & Policy in Oakland and the author of the food-system planning blueprint for the city that recommended the establishment of the food policy council, describes this many-for-one benefit. “For a lot of people, it’s not just environmental sustainability. What really matters to residents is that when you localize the food network, you’re localizing the wealth capture. Local businesses capture wealth ... in many places before it leaves the community.”
This linkage of local food retail to local production and distribution networks is a big job, but there are many organizations working on the second part, getting their hands dirty in overgrown abandoned plots in Oakland. City Slicker Farms is one of them. Focusing on West Oakland, City Slicker has built a half-dozen community gardens, enlisting the community in growing fruit trees and produce, all distributed to residents through farm stands and farmers markets. Linking local food production with locally owned businesses that distribute and sell food to the community helps people to eat better and enables cities to keep their money in their coffers. It can also create local jobs. “Everyone deserves the right to fresh, affordable food,” says Barbara Finnin, City Slicker’s director. “And many in the flatlands can’t get it. The food we grow in West Oakland is for people living here.”
Who’s Doing This Best:
New York City. Following the success of Pennsylvania’s Fresh Food Financing Initiative, a program that began in 2007 to increase markets and grocery stores in underserved communities, NYC unanimously approved zoning changes in September 2009 that would encourage supermarket development in Harlem, the South Bronx and central Brooklyn through zoning changes and tax incentives. This latest effort at bringing larger grocery stores with dedicated space for fresh produce and dairy has met with broad support from urban food policy experts. All that’s left is to see how much the community takes advantage of it.
Waste and Recycling
Tossing a bruised tomato in the trash might not seem like a big deal, but there are definite consequences when organic material like food scraps and yard waste are simply thrown away rather than composted.
The problem is twofold: first, the organic waste gives off climate-changing methane as it slowly decomposes, which is bad for the environment. Second, by taking organic material out of “circulation,” growers have to amend farmland with massive amounts of fossil fuel–based fertilizer instead of the rich compost we could be providing them. Composting, along with recycling, is known as waste diversion, and California is leading in both. Though getting an accurate estimate of how much we divert is elusive (the California Integrated Waste Management Board stopped counting the amount of waste diverted as a percentage in 2007), California’s diversion rate in 2007 was 58 percent. In 2008 Oakland’s was 65 percent. Twenty years ago, California was diverting about 10 percent of the waste stream, and the concern then was less environmental than practical — many in the state believed that we were running out of landfill. But reducing waste has farther-reaching implications than just methane or fertilizer. It takes immense resources to extract, transport and manufacture virgin materials, and experts say replacing these virgin materials with far more energy-efficient recycled materials is the real opportunity. A recent report by the Washington, D.C.–based Institute for Local Self-Reliance called Stop Trashing the Climate estimates that if the country diverted 90 percent of discards from landfills by 2030 — achieving what is now known as “zero waste” — it would reduce global greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to closing one-fifth of the nation’s 400-plus coal-fired power plants.
While participation in residential recycling and composting programs
and properly disposing of e-waste is the best way for residents to reduce the greenhouse gas impact of the stuff they use, there’s another good way to reduce waste — not produce it in the first place. Redesigning products and packaging so they are easier to take apart and recycle is a big opportunity for manufacturers, and one that recently has been recognized and measured. San Francisco and Oakland are pushing “extended producer responsibility” programs that require electronics manufacturers to take back their gizmos at the end of their useful life and dispose of them properly. When the producers are on the hook, so the story goes, they make products that are easier to take apart and recycle, less toxic and more durable. Moreover, they’ll do it at a lower overall cost than trying to devise ways to recycle every new generation of iPod and cell phone.
Who’s Doing This Best:
San Francisco. No. 2 in SustainLane’s 2008 U.S. City Rankings for greenest city and a solid leader in waste diversion nationwide at 72 percent, San Francisco is the leader in getting recyclables and compostables out of the landfill. But Oakland isn’t far behind at 65 percent and shares long-term goals for diversion with San Francisco’s Department of the Environment, aiming for 75 percent diversion by 2010 and zero waste by 2020.
Transit and Transportation
Are cars over? Call it the $4 a gallon scare of 2008 or a collapsing economy or just simply getting fed up with sitting in traffic, but we’re driving less and getting on transit more. And it’s not just East Bay residents.
Nationwide, public transit saw its biggest gain in ridership in 25 years in the last quarter of 2008, with more trips on transit than anytime in the previous half century (ridership has gone down a few percentage points in 2009). You can thank — or blame — lighter wallets for the surge. People head for BART and the bus when gas prices inch up: As soon as gas hit $4, ridership across the board went up 10 percent, according to the American Public Transportation Association. This is
especially good from an environmental perspective for California in general, but in particular the Bay Area, where more than half the greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation (though admittedly much of it from diesel truck traffic).
The fear for transit officials (and frankly anyone concerned about climate change) is that once the price signal is removed, people will just get right back in their cars, especially with gas prices having come back to earth again in the last year. There is a general consensus that oil supplies will begin running out in 40 years, which might seem like a long time for a 7-year-old, but it will seem like a commercial break for the rest of us. The looming End of Oil will be here soon enough, and the petroleum exporters will be the ones left holding all
the cards in the waning days of ever-increasing oil prices. That’s why interconnected transit systems, with easy linkages between them and a single transit pass to speed people through their commute are more important than ever. This can be hard to implement, since transit agencies often span city and country boundaries and traditionally don’t communicate much with each other. Our own Bay Area attempt at a single farecard, Translink, has been a disaster — years overdue, millions of dollars over budget, and it still doesn’t work on BART.
Several measures to improve transit have passed in the last year — including California’s high-speed rail bond, the North Bay’s Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit and major new funding for bike and pedestrian programs from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission — and they show a subtle shift in priorities away from planning for cars toward slow, incremental improvements in the transit infrastructure.
The real opportunity today is improving bus transit, says Stuart Cohen, the executive director of TransForm, a decade-old transportation policy group in Oakland. “There are two ways to think about what Oakland needs — better infrastructure and smarter policies,” he says. “We need to revolutionize bus service, since we won’t get any more BART lines. Improving our alternatives means improving buses. If you have buses that act like trains in terms of speed and reliability, it will break us out of this view of buses as inferiors or transportation of last resort.”
Cohen points out that the alternatives to driving — walking, riding bikes and taking the bus — only work if people feel like they aren’t going to get run over. This is the main job of the city’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Facilities Program, which has installed more than 90 miles of bike lanes in Oakland. There are also organizations working on getting kids back on their bikes, riding to school like in the good old days. One of those is Cycles of Change, run by Grey Kolevzon, who won a 2009 Community Hero award from the Crissy Field Center in San Francisco. His group operates bike education and distribution centers in the East Bay — refurbishing bikes and teaching kids how to get around on them. “There isn’t much of kids using bikes to get around anymore; the streets are perceived to be unsafe,” he says. “There’s been a noticeable drop in the number of kids walking to school, so ‘Safe Routes’ has become a national priority.”
Who’s Doing This Best:
Portland. Our rainy neighbor to the north with the fabled $200K houses and stellar school system has one thing working for it that even visitors can enjoy: great transit. The key to its success is “linkages” that make it easy to go from tooling along on a bike lane to getting on the bus to transferring to the light rail to heading downtown on the free streetcars. Not only did the streetcars make it easy to boogie around, but they also led to incredible local development. It cost an estimated $57 million to build in 2001, but Portland has seen more than $3 billion in development within a few blocks.
The Green Economy
When it comes to strategies for pulling us out of the economic doldrums, one bright spot is that our response to looming environmental issues might actually help save the economy. The new green economy is a growth industry that can create jobs while helping businesses transition to becoming more environmentally sustainable, according to local organizations working on matching a willing workforce with employers in need of trained help.
The green jobs movement, championed visibly by Oakland’s Green for All, isn’t just about training workers to install solar panels (though those job training programs are the tip of the spear). It’s also about the Ph.D.s developing battery storage to store energy from renewable resources like wind and solar, working on upgrading the wildly inefficient electrical grid by making it smarter and bringing to market the next generation of biofuels that don’t come from things we eat (like corn) but from things we don’t (like algae).
The idea here is a recurring theme in the green movement: There is great potential for innovation in research and development and an enormous market waiting to support these new technologies — which generally promise to save us money in the long run. Decide to save the planet by investing in energy-efficient appliances or buying renewable energy, say, and that effort supports a phalanx of researchers, manufacturers, retailers and installers. Becoming more environmentally sustainable will save us money in the long term and will help us today by creating jobs, reinvigorating domestic manufacturing facilities and buoying the economy. Just follow the money: Venture capital spending is drying up for previous staples like biotech and telecommunications but is available for electric-grid battery storage and alternative energy, technologies that will help wean us off coal while saving money.
Included in the energy bill signed at the end of 2007 was the Green Jobs Act, a $125 million fund to promote jobs in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and biofuels development. The premise was simple — a heavy investment now in renewable energy and energy efficiency is an opportunity to retrofit infrastructure and train workers. If that sounds suspiciously like another massive public works program from the last century, that’s because it is.
“We’re calling for a green New Deal,” says Kate Gordon, a senior policy advisor for the Apollo Alliance, a Bay Area organization that is promoting this vision. “It’s the intersection between green energy and good jobs. There’s a great opportunity here for business growth, green jobs and reinvigorating the middle class. [The green jobs movement] is bringing labor and business together and creating new markets, new opportunities. Unions are seeing this as a great way to get members. Communities are seeing pathways out of poverty. Enviros are moving from a relatively narrow environmental agenda to transforming the economy.”
The way this could work is laid out in the Apollo Alliance’s blueprint for lawmakers called The New Apollo Program, which launched in October 2008. It’s a fascinating, whole-economy look at what could be: moving to clean energy, investing in better transit, retooling our manufacturing sector to churn out wind turbines and plug-in cars, funding basic energy research, training green-collar workers and enacting an economy-wide cap-and-trade program on greenhouse gases. It’s a bold agenda, but one that this broad coalition is betting its future on.
Who’s Doing This Best:
We are. The East Bay, and Oakland in particular, have several innovative programs that promote both green research and development and job training. The East Bay Green Corridor Partnership works at a regional scale on the linkages between research at Berkeley Lab, manufacturing facilities in Richmond and the ready workforce in Oakland. In October 2008, Oakland launched the Oakland Green Jobs Corps with seed money from the Oakland City Council to provide training to low-income workers who would then apprentice with a local solar manufacturer or green builder. The first class of 42 students graduated in June 2009, and half of them were placed directly with local companies. Berkeley also has a rebate program for residential solar and an energy efficiency requirement when a house is sold, both of which create demand for trained green-collar workers.
In the story of Western population growth, water has always played a leading character. And now after three parched years in one of the driest periods of time in California history, that story has become a tale of scarcity as we try to do more with less of this crucial resource. Just look at the numbers: In 2006–2007, spring and summer in the northern Sierra was the driest since 1921 and runoff was a little more than half of normal (melted snowpack provides the west with 70 percent of its water). 2009 saw some relief, with several months seeing higher-than-usual rainfall, but when the gauges are measured, 2009 is still expected to end with only 68 percent of average rainfall. Cities up and down the state have instituted water-conservation measures and watched grimly as the levels in their aqueducts drop. The East Bay Municipal Utility District instituted serious water rationing from May 2008 to July 2009 and has continued voluntary rationing for residents.
But Californians have been here before — weather in the state routinely swings
from heavy rainfall to blistering drought, and water managers have learned to gamble. After the wettest year on record in 2005–2006, when California was drenched by 172 percent of normal rainfall, the state continued to give away all of its water and is now waiting for the elusive wet season to recharge its aqueducts and underground aquifers.
Ground Zero in the fight over the waning resource is the Delta. The 1,153 square-mile confluence where the Sacramento River from the north and San Joaquin River from the south meet and dump into the San Francisco Bay is the source of water for two-thirds of Californians — the origination point for agriculture and projects that move water to the south and east.
But of all those who rely on the Delta’s water, the millions of people who use it for drinking and flushing and hundreds of bird species that pass through on their journey along a migratory flyway, one small fish has grabbed attention more than any other. The 3-inch-long delta smelt, a species listed as threatened in 1993, is an “indicator species,” one that scientists study to determine the overall health of the waterway. And when populations of the tiny fish started dropping, in large part because too much water was being withdrawn for human use, a federal judge beginning in August 2007 severely limited pumping from December until June, the smelt spawning season. This pummeled state agencies up and down the state that were counting on the water and constrained the supply for agriculture in the Central Valley, amounting to what many were calling a “regulatory drought” on top of an environmental one. EBMUD wasn’t affected by pumping restrictions since it gets its water from the Mokelumne River, but surrounding agencies and Southern California were.
Water restrictions crimp both agricultural and urban use, says Heather Cooley, senior research associate with the Oakland-based Pacific Institute, a nonpartisan research group that studies state water issues. But water conservation and efficiency can help reduce these impacts. California agriculture uses three-quarters of the state’s water, a use that could be reduced by 17 percent, according to a recent Pacific Institute analysis. While urban use is comparatively small, most new demand comes from growing urban areas. An earlier Pacific Institute report found that urban water use could be reduced 30 percent just by replacing inefficient fixtures and appliances and installing water-wise landscapes. “It is a combination of largely existing technologies and behavioral changes,” says Cooley, “but it requires a fundamental change in how we value and manage water in California.”
Who’s Doing This Best:
While many cities are instituting innovative water-conservation measures, the Orange County Water District is doing something truly innovative to increase the use of recycled water and recharge groundwater supplies. Its Groundwater Replenishment System takes treated wastewater and allows it to percolate down to the underground aquifers where most of the OC gets its drinking water, instead of flushing it out to sea.
Guidance for Cleaner Living
Turning the East Bay into a 21st-century green utopia has never been easier. This is a sampling of the increasing number of green-related Web sites, businesses and agencies with a stake in protecting the environment.
Alameda County Computer Resource Center
The ACCRC, a nonprofit organization, reuses or recycles electronic waste, including computers and monitors or anything that plugs into an outlet. Drop off appliances — excluding large items such as refrigerators — at the facility, open 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Mon.–Fri., 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Sat. 620 Page St., Berkeley, (510) 528-4052, firstname.lastname@example.org, accrc.org
Alameda County Green Business Program
ACGB, coordinated by the Association of Bay Area Governments, a regional planning agency, certifies environmental performance in businesses and public agencies, promoting them based on their commitment to operate in more environmentally responsible ways. greenbiz.ca.gov
Alameda County Household Hazardous Waste Facility
Throwing batteries and fluorescent lights in the trash is illegal, so dispose of them and many other hazardous items at this facility, open 9 a.m.–1 p.m. Thu.–Sat. 2100 E. Seventh St., Oakland, stopwaste.org
Bay Area Air Quality Management District
Spare the Air: The Bay Area Air Quality Management District regulates the stationary sources of air pollution in Bay Area counties. Its Spare the Air Program disseminates information about air pollution and encourages citizens to change behavior patterns — like curb driving in favor of public transportation — to prevent it. Air quality forecasts and advisories: (800) HELP AIR, 939 Ellis St., San Francisco, (415) 749-4900, baaqmd.gov, sparetheair.org
Bottles and Cans.com
Visit this Web site, an educational tool of the state’s Department of Conservation, to find out information on the California Refund Value bottle- and can-redemption program plus why, what and where to recycle CRV beverage containers plus tips on starting a recycling program and more. Or, hear it from the Division of Recycling Hotline, (800) RECYCLE, bottlesandcans.com
California Federation of Certified Farmers’ Markets
CFCFM is a statewide membership organization of Certified Farmers’ Markets, meaning the county agricultural commissioner has approved the site as a place where farmers sell only products they grow themselves. Such CFMs in California must follow California Department of Food and Agriculture standards. cafarmersmarkets.com
City of Oakland Public Works Agency
Environmental Services Division: This division oversees everything from creek and watershed protection and energy efficiency to environmental compliance and green building practices, and it’s all summarized on this Web site, which also lists other environmental organizations, online periodicals and information on local lecture series. 250 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, Suite 5301, Oakland, (510) 238-7283, oaklandpw.com
East Bay Municipal Utility District
EBMUD, the publicly-owned utility that supplies water and provides wastewater treatment for portions of Alameda and Contra Costa counties, offers information on water conservation and recycling, such as rebates on low-flow toilets, appliances and landscaping, as well as data on water irrigation, water-conservation devices, self-survey kits and on-site water surveys.375 11th St., Oakland, (866) 403-2683, ebmud.com
The Ecology Center is an environmental nonprofit advocate and ecology center dedicated to increasing environmentally sustainable living practices. It offers classes, handles Berkeley’s curbside recycling pickup, produces a magazine and does demonstration projects and more. 2530 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, (510) 548-2220, ecologycenter.org
Ella Baker Center for Human Rights
The Ella Baker Center utilizes public advocacy and outreach in the Green-Collar Jobs Campaign, working to ensure eco-equity
for the poor and underserved. The GCJC — along with the Oakland Apollo Alliance — initiated the Oakland Green Jobs Corps to ensure that new “green-collar” jobs in construction, technology, agriculture and energy go to those who most need the jobs. 344 40th St., Oakland, (510) 428-3939, ellabakercenter.org/gcjc
Flex Your Power
Flex Your Power is California’s statewide energy efficiency marketing and outreach campaign, a partnership among California’s utilities, residents, businesses, institutions, government agencies and nonprofit organizations to save energy. The campaign includes a comprehensive Web site with a searchable database of money-saving rebates, grants and loans that local utilities offer customers to help offset upfront costs for many energy- and water-saving measures. 2962 Fillmore St., San Francisco, (866) 431-FLEX (3539), fypower.org
A service of Green Jobs Network, this blog offers news and resources for those seeking environmentally and socially responsible jobs. Find information about green recruiters, solar jobs, green job fairs, green career books, green job boards and more. greencollarblog.org
Green For All
Green For All is an Oakland-based national organization focused on making the green economy inclusive for all, especially low-income people. It pushes for local, state and federal job creation, job training and entrepreneurial opportunities in the green economy while fighting poverty and pollution by linking constituencies, generating public awareness, promoting best practices, providing technical assistance for job initiatives and creating an active online community. 1611 Telegraph Ave., Suite 600, Oakland, (510) 663-6500, greenforall.org
Since 2001, GRID Alternatives has been working to bring the power of solar electricity and energy efficiency to low-income homeowners, and to develop renewable energy solutions that are environmentally, socially and economically sustainable. The Oakland-based organization also provides community members with training and hands-on experience with renewable energy technologies. 3833 Manila Ave., Oakland, (510) 652-4730, gridalternatives.org
This PG&E center offers technical assistance, training in energy conservation and efficiency, and information on incentive programs for consumers and businesses. Plus, replace your appliances with Energy-Star rated models to earn a rebate from PG&E (pge.com/res/rebates). 851 Howard St., San Francisco, (415) 973-2277, (800) PGE-5000, pge.com/pec, pge.com/myhome
StopWaste.org, the Alameda County Waste Management Authority and the Alameda County Source Reduction and Recycling Board, operating as a public agency, runs this Web site of green resources on topics from recycling, hazardous waste disposal and green gardening to environmental purchasing, green building and more for residents, businesses and industries, schools and local governments. 1537 Webster St., Oakland, (510) 891-6500, stopwaste.org
Sustainable Business Alliance
The Sustainable Business Alliance, a membership organization of sustainable companies, promotes sustainable business practices, nurtures environmentally savvy businesses, advocates for environmentally progressive policies and programs and seeks to improve the environmental profile of East Bay economic activity. P.O. Box 11944, Berkeley, (510) 757-4954, sustainablebiz.org
The city of Oakland is developing an Energy and Climate Action Plan to find ways to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions in its own government operations and throughout the community. The Oakland Sustainable Community Development Initiative was conceived to produce sustainable community development recommendations and action steps to make Oakland greener. Reports on Oakland’s ECAP and SDI are available online. sustainableoakland.com
A community forest outreach that has planted and distributed more than 12,000 trees throughout the Oakland and Richmond areas since 1998, this nonprofit organization provides tools for improving community and the ecosystem, including instructions on how to plant trees, and an Urban Forestry Program at Oakland elementary schools and daycare centers. 835 57th St., Oakland, (510) 601-9062, urbanreleaf.org
Research by Kathy Hrastar