New Tour Offers Participants a Look at Berkeley's Green Side

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Carrying lime-colored reusable bags filled with "eco-goodies," dozens of participants lined up at the corner of Hearst and Shattuck avenues on Monday afternoon to start the second leg of a newly established green tour.

East Bay Green Tours, which launched on Nov. 11, aims to inform participants about green technology and green businesses that are currently operating in the East Bay, particularly those operating in Berkeley. The tour is a non-profit arm of Rasa Travel, a Berkeley-based company that provides tours exploring social cultures and wellness.

"My goal is to bring attention to our area as an inspiration to people around the country," said Marissa LaMagna, founding director of Rasa Travel. "We really want to reach out to different groups and help make their communities more sustainable."

The tour started with a walk through Downtown Berkeley, with stops at green-certified restaurants where sustainability presentations were made by restaurant staff and members of local green energy companies.

The second part of the tour traded in walking for riding on a biodiesel bus that uses solar energy to power its audio system. The bus visited a variety of green businesses and community gardens.

At one of the gardens, participants stopped by the EcoHouse, a home rented out by the Ecology Center that serves as a model for how residences can actively be more sustainable.

The EcoHouse uses solar energy for most of its power and utilizes a gray water recycling system that pumps water from the shower, laundry, and bathroom sinks into a homemade wetland, which filters the water and allows its passage back into the ground.

Another tour stop was Green Motors, the Bay Area's first all-electric vehicle dealership. Though Operations Manager Birch Early said that electric cars were still in their developmental infancy, she said the future of the cars is bright.

"I think it's just a really exciting time to be in transportation because now it's not just a one-fuel paradigm," she said.

Tour participants, most of whom were not Berkeley residents and instead came from cities surrounding the Bay Area, said that they could picture electric cars becoming a part of their own communities.

"I'm on this tour because I want to bring green application into my community," said Kim White, from Vallejo. "This tour is providing us with a lot of practical details. It's not just theory-it's how to apply green principles."

The application of green principles is something that has been in the minds of local leaders since 2007, when Bay Area officials enacted the East Bay Green Corridor Partnership to promote green businesses in the area.

Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates said the tour may help the partnership effort succeed.

"It's great that the people are seeking ways to promote Berkeley and the East Bay as leaders in the green economy," he said.


Mai Fung covers environmental issues. Contact her at [email protected]

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