The Ecology Center in Berkeley has grand dreams. Its mission is to build a sustainable, healthy, and just future for the East Bay, California and beyond. Since its inception in 1969, the organization has been working steadily toward those goals. From farmers’ markets and the Farm Fresh Choice food justice program to its EcoHouse, which demonstrates the viability of carbon-neutral living, the Ecology Center is leading the way in practical approaches to sustainability.
“We are a multi-issue organization,” says Executive Director Martin Bourque. “We deal with everything from ants to ozone.” One of the pillars of the Ecology Center’s work is providing infrastructure that supports sustainable living, and its Curbside Recycling program, started in 1979, was the first in the country. And yet, despite impressive achievements in waste reduction and diversion, an excellent credit rating and a generally sound financial standing, the Ecology Center faced a challenge when it needed a loan to buy new recycling trucks. Bourque found that, in today’s strained economic climate, mainstream lenders wanted an unprecedented level of control over how the loan was spent. At the same time, the Ecology Center’s board had decided to actively look for financial partners that shared the organization’s values and mission—so they approached New Resource Bank about the loan.
New Resource sees organization’s strengths
From the outset, it was clear that New Resource took a different approach from large commercial banks. “Their due diligence was exceptional,” Bourque says. “They took the time to understand our income streams, the risks we face, what our strengths are.” He was also impressed with the bank’s Client Sustainability Assessment, which brought up a few green improvements that even the staff at the Ecology Center hadn’t thought about.
New Resource offered the Ecology Center a $1.01 million loan at a competitive interest rate with a repayment schedule that took into account other loan repayments the Ecology Center owed, making it an irresistible deal. “And the interest we’ll pay to the bank,” Bourque says, “will go into financing organizations with values similar to ours. We’re very happy about that.”
Next major waste-reduction goal within reach
With fresh funding, the Ecology Center bought three new split-bodied trucks, which allow for the use of a divided recycling cart, meaning cans and bottles can be kept separate from paper and cardboard. This way, the Ecology Center can keep up its exceptional recycling standards and make collection even more efficient. The upgrade comes at a crucial time. Having helped the City of Berkeley reach the milestone goal of 75 percent diversion of waste from landfills by 2010, the Ecology Center now has its eye firmly on the next big goal: zero waste by 2020.