Panel discusses city, campus collaboration on sustainability

UC Berkeley and the city of Berkeley have at least one thing in common when it comes to sustainability: both hope to achieve zero waste by 2020.

For the campus, this is part of a systemwide effort across the University of California to cut down on waste as well as a key component of its Climate Action Plan. Similarly, the city of Berkeley also has a climate plan that includes the same goal. These goals were a few amongst many topics addressed at “The Environmentally Sustainable City” panel discussion at Berkeley City College Wednesday night. The conversation revolved around ways the campus and the city can collaborate on sustainable goals such as their zero waste plans, access to public transportation and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“Both the campus and the city have very similar interests in terms of making the city of Berkeley the best place it could possibly be,” said Timothy Burroughs, climate action coordinator for the city’s Office of Energy and Sustainable Development and one of four panelists at Wednesday’s discussion. “A lot of the things you can do to make a community better are things that benefit in terms of sustainability.”

The discussion was the second of three in “The University and The City: Ideas for Partnership,” a panel series aimed at fostering a strong partnership between the city that is sponsored by the Office of Mayor Tom Bates, Berkeley City Councilmembers Laurie Capitelli, Darryl Moore and Susan Wengraf, the UC Berkeley Office of Government and Community Relations, among others. The first panel was held Sept. 21 on the possibility of a student supermajority City Council district, and the final panel will be held Nov. 9 on late night activity in the city.

Aside from Burroughs, the intimate audience at the city college heard from Jason Trager, the environmental sustainability officer of the campus Graduate Assembly, Claire Evans, the lead coordinator for the campus Compost Alliance, and Lisa McNeilly, director of sustainability for the campus. The discussion was moderated by Jason Mark, editor of The Earth Island Journal.

Panelists brainstormed different ways in which the two entities can collaborate on improving the environment, such as connecting groups on campus more effectively with the surrounding community and exploring different grant opportunities that could benefit city projects.

One area with room for improvement, panelists said, is collaboration on educating the public about important environmental issues.

“The more I do it, the more I learn how poorly we’ve done communication,” McNeilly said. “We’re really good at getting people’s attention, but we’re not quite as sophisticated in putting out the messaging in a way that really drives permanent behavior change.”

J.D. Morris is the lead environment reporter.