What's so special about April 22? It's Earth Day, of course. And Earth Day has its origins right here in the Bay Area.

It was in 1969, at a U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization conference in San Francisco, that a peace activist proposed a day be devoted to honoring planet Earth. The following year, on April 22, 1970, a U.S. senator founded Earth Day, holding the first official environmental teach-in.

Now, more than 192 countries take part in Earth Day festivities and many celebrate Earth Week — a full seven days of Earth-friendly fun.

Our local community colleges -- Berkeley City College, College of Alameda and Oakland's Laney and Merritt colleges -- join in Earth Week with all manner of Earthy festivals, events, workshops and good old-fashioned teach-ins.

Laney College will be the focal point of Earth Week activities at the Peralta Colleges with the "Peralta Ecology Festival" at Lake Merritt Estuary. The EcoFest, now in its ninth year, will be held 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 24.

This very green event is free and open to the public.

It is all about water and watersheds this year, complete with nature walks and gardening information -- including 50 ways to save water. The EcoFest also features a smart transport expo with low-carbon mobility at the forefront. Come see the latest in bicycles, Segways, hybrid cars, hybrid-electric cars and fully electric cars. There will also be public transportation and rideshare advocates there to answer questions about lowering your carbon footprint and helping Mother Earth breathe a little easier.


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The Laney Culinary Arts Program will provide eco-friendly foods, including vegetarian morsels, and you can pick up a bag (recyclable of course) of organic produce and green grocery items. Each bag contains a customized sustainable recipe that you can make at home. For more information on all the EcoFest events at Laney College, see http://web.peralta.edu/psc/.

Berkeley City College is also holding Earth Week events sponsored by the Global Studies Program. There will be a poster exhibit in the BCC atrium, talks entitled "Food Rebellions: Crisis and the Hunger for Justice" and "Dirty Energy/Clean Solutions," as well as a documentary on the history of the environmental movement, "A Fierce Green Fire," plus other events you won't want to miss. For a full calendar of festivities, visit http://www.berkeleycitycollege.edu/wp/blog/2014/04/10/5390/.

Earth Week at Peralta culminates with the "Bay Area Sustainable Symposium," a free, open-to-all conference focused on building resiliency and climate adaptation. Featured speakers include Oakland Mayor Jean Quan and Alameda Mayor Marie Gilmore as well as other key representatives from local resiliency, public health, emergency management and community-based organizations. Discussions will be held on preparation and response to climate disasters, the importance of building local food systems and exploring innovative sustainable water systems.

The symposium will be from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. April 25 at the Laney College Odell Johnson Theatre, 900 Fallon St., in Oakland. Lunch will be provided for those who preregister. There will also be a special guided sustainability tour on April 26. For more information, visit http://sustainablepacific.org/2014Sustainability Conference.html.

Reach Jeffrey Heyman at jheyman@peralta.edu and follow him at Twitter.com/JeffHeyman.