2016: A Year In Review

A look back at The Ecology Center’s accomplishments and impact.

A Transformative Year
Annual Review 2016

A Transformative Year

Our Founder reflects on The Ecology Center's impact in 2016.

2016 was a year of tremendous growth and opportunity for The Ecology Center.

The groundwork laid this year will continue to reap benefits far into the future for our organization and our planet.

Our theory for change is simple. By building vibrant spaces and community around them, we redesign our future and transform our relationships to our shared environment. We reimagine how we eat, drink, buy, and live. We create solutions that allow us all to thrive. 

Central to this effort is The Ecology Center’s headquarters — a model of sustainable solutions being put into practice. This year, we’ve continued to hone our learning landscapes and offerings to empower visitors to make change at home, work and school. Improvements included redesigning our general store Tools for Change to communicate the scope of our work and provide tools to activate sustainability at home. With the support of our community, we’ve also raised enough funds to begin construction on an interactive outdoor kitchen classroom that will model low impact, garden to table cooking for students of all ages.

As our organization continues to grow, our model scales. This year, we were able to help many communities implement these solutions to create huge positive impact. We’ve collaborated with a handful of partners to re-create this model of a community center in cities like Irvine, Santa Ana, and Carlsbad. We also continue to support our growing school garden network to imagine ecosystems as learning environments, and gardens as centers for community change.

In 2016, we saw major wins in each of our programs and initiatives, pushing us further towards community transformation.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • We hosted over 20,000 visitors on site for hands-on programming, skills learning, and community celebration. We welcomed community to dozens of events, including festivals, potlucks, workshops, and our Community Table dinner series.
  • We graduated 25 Eco-Apprentices from our Permaculture Design Certification course to activate eco-design in their communities.
  • Our third annual Handmade: A Maker’s Market welcomed thousands of community members to support 40 local artisans in craft, culture, and local economy.
  • We successfully hosted two legendary farm dinners in partnership with local and global culinary leaders, including sustainable food heroine Alice Waters. At two Green Feast events, we raised over $400,000 in support of The Ecology Center.
  • We partnered with several developers, organizations, and cities to program and build spaces that impact a greater community.
  • We hosted our first Grow Your Own! school garden summit with dozens of local leaders in edible education.
  • We launched a brand new website, with dynamic capabilities to provide more tools and resources to our online community.
  • We signed a 20-year lease agreement with the City of San Juan Capistrano. We are incredibly grateful to continue to expand our offerings on-site and throughout our local community.

Throughout many iterations of growth and opportunity, we remain committed to the idea that ecological oases are at the center of an abundant future. These inspirational spaces are brought to life through community engagement, reconnecting us to each other and our planet.

We are so grateful to our dedicated community of supporters, partners, members, volunteers, and staff. Together, we are working towards a more vibrant future. Together, we ensure our families, communities, and environments thrive.

2017 is already abundant with opportunity, and I look forward to continuing to share our progress with you. Thank you for coming on this journey with us!


Evan Marks

Founder & Executive Director