Berkeley: Brower Center holding its first Earth Day Festival

BERKELEY — Spinning like a hub within a hub, the David Brower Center is gearing up for its first-ever Earth Day Festival.

The all-afternoon festivities will offer hands-on workshops, moderated speaker panels, live music, art activities, food tastings and more from noon to 6 p.m. April 18 at the center, 2150 Allston Way.

Short films, valet bike parking and an ongoing exhibit featuring photographers Lisa K. Blatt and Christina Seely complete the free opportunities, although a $10 donation is suggested.

“Berkeley has always been known as a center for activism,” says Michael Anzalone, the Center’s Director of Programs. “Our goal is to demystify what’s happening in the social and environmental issues.”

What’s happening in the center’s “most green,” LEED platinum-rated, high-tech equipment-stocked building that includes conference rooms, an atrium gallery, a 178-seat theater and 24,000 square feet of offices, is a lot.

Three core initiatives — educational exhibits and programs, housing for resident organizations, and serving as a conference center for nonprofits and businesses — bring over 25,000 people annually to the nonprofit organization named after longtime Berkeley environmentalist David Brower.

“Our namesake was born and lived in Berkeley so there’s a lot of history here,” Anzalone says. “We have folks working locally on global issues.”

The spectrum of resident companies’ concerns is reflected in the Earth Day panels, which zoom in on carbon farming, climate-friendly consumption, creative reuse, recycling, and related subjects intended to help people take socially and environmentally healthy actions in their homes and neighborhoods.

Anzalone says the younger generation — grade school and college students and young adults — are continuing the work of their elders who started the environmental movement.

“It’s ingrained in their existence; it’s not just the fringes,” he says. “Young people are truly concerned about what’s going on in their environment and communities.”

He says school gardens, youth community organizations and social justice clubs, and honors like the Brower Youth Awards, given by Earth Island Institute to honor young leaders in the environmental movement, are signs of hope for Earth’s future. After several years of focusing on the center’s internal operations, Anzalone is pleased to open the doors and look outward.

“Earth Day is an important element in showing ourselves as a waypoint in the environmental and social action circuit,” he says.

Carrie Bennett, information program coordinator at the Ecology Center in Berkeley, will host 15-minute reuse and fix-it workshops throughout the afternoon.

Three craft tables will have visitors making envelopes and origami boxes out of old calendars, maps and cards; quick-sewing coffee cozies made with discarded shrunken wool and decorated with displaced buttons; and using natural paste and newspaper to fashion seed planting sheets for the garden.

“The spacing is ideal, so when they lay it down, there’s no need to replant,” Bennett says.

Conversations and media coverage about sustainability can get blurred, Bennett says. “Earth Day is a marker. We’re more aware of what we need to do. We get together in a fun, creative environment and see what’s on the horizon.”

The energy of people who visit the Ecology Center storefront or engage with the center online is astounding, she says. “They ask great questions, they report back on what they find. They give us evidence they’re engaged every day in sustainable action.” Bennett says.

Anzalone says face-to-face interaction, even with the connectivity provided by digital technology, can never be replaced and is a founding principle of the networking that happens daily at the center.

Bennett says people don’t want to poison themselves or their environment. She sees hope in the pooling of ideas and predicts the shared enthusiasm will result in redesigned products with less packaging, manufacturing that recycles as it creates, and an endless supply of people who care about each other and the planet they inhabit.

If You Go: Earth Day Festival noon to 6 p.m. April 18 at the David Brower Center, 2150 Allston Way, Berkeley. Admission is free, but a $10 donation is requested. Valet bike parking will be available. Details: or 510-809-0900.

(original article)