We are not alone…
The severe California drought is part of a world-wide water crisis, a tidbit confirmed by Laura Allen, an expert on all things water. On Mar. 23, at the Los Altos Library, Allen presented a vivid picture of this crisis through expansive charts and pictures that told that story.
“Do you know where your water comes from?”
“Do you know where your water comes from ?” Allen asked an audience that filled the library program room. After brief comments on municipal water systems, we delved into the range of practical options for reducing water consumption in our homes.
High on the list? Everything from repairing simple leaks, to collecting rainwater and reusing household greywater, we learned that we can conserve a significant amount of water daily that collectively will make a difference.
In particular, laundry-to-landscape greywater systems are both low cost and simple to install. Allen explained the operation of several greywater systems and audience members had an opportunity to sign up for a hands-on greywater workshop.
Laura came to the talk with a large box filled with her new book, “The Water-Wise Home”. All copies were sold out by the end of the evening. The book is available at storey.com.
Have you ever noticed that 280 has become increasingly noisy? Ever wonder what it’s from? Or what can be done about it? Here’s your answer.
Noise levels from Highway 280 have become increasingly annoying for many people in parts of our community, measuring 60 to 80 dB at various times throughout the day. A new technology, already used by Caltrans on other parts of 280, called rubberized asphalt, reduces pavement noise by up to 90% (about 9-10dB) by improving the efficiency of tires. In addition, the environmental impact of roadway particles ending up in streams, makes for a potential mess in the precious water we do have.
The compound reduces the mini explosion that occurs when tires squeeze air above the roadway. The explosion causes tire and roadway particles to launch into the atmosphere and eventually settle on the ground and nearby streams. The explosion is the sound one hears from the tires of a passing vehicle. You can learn more about it here.
Since 2009 CalTrans has been repaving certain areas with this new technology (including areas of 280, north of us). The Town Council sent a letter to Caltrans requesting the same treatment for our segment of 280, but Caltrans informed them we’ll have to wait six years to have the asphalt applied. A copy of the Town’s letter can be found here.
One reason Caltran cited was a lack of complaints from residents in this section of 280. The stretch of 280 that runs through Los Altos Hills is the most populated portion of 280 between Hwy 85 and Hwy 92 and the group generating the petition insists it is “impacting quality of life and property values in our community”.
This petition requests immediate repaving from Page Mill Road to the Foothill Expressway Overpass. The petition will be sent to State Senator Jerry Hill, Assembly Member Richard S Gordon, and Caltrans Area Director Bijan Sartipi.
Click to learn more about the topic or sign the petition.
Twice yearly, GreenTown Los Altos holds its ReCycle Bike Drive. It’s a great opportunity to donate that bike you just don’t use anymore that would make someone in need, truly happy. We know. We’ve seen it.
The spring ReCycle BIke Drive is happening Sun. May 3 from 10AM to 1PM at the Blach and Egan Middle Schools.
Thanks to the many participants, both volunteers and donors, the semi-annual event collects over 50 bicycles that are cleaned, tuned, and given to local students. The generosity of our community is amazing.
Watching a no longer used bike transform into an object of joy for students is incredible to experience. I wish everyone who donates a bike could see the impact to students because of this program. Hope to see you there!
Yes, “green” can be done and it will be beautiful!
Saturday, Feb. 28, an open house on Marion Ave. in Palo Alto showed the way to how building green pays off in more ways than you can imagine.
Designed by architect Tali Hardonag and built by Chris Donatelli, the house has 92 Green Points with more pending. As a point of reference, the Palo Alto building code only requires 50 points.
The owners wanted more than the minimum. Eleanor, one of the owners, put it simply, “Wendy and I wanted to do the best we could for the earth.”
So how does one collect that many Green Points?
According to the architect, some of it is very simple and obvious:
- Add insulation to hot water pipes
- Install energy star appliances
- Put out a sign to let the neighbors know this is a Green project.
The other Green Points come from making choices. What appeals to the owners, what is the budget, what makes sense for the site. For this project that meant:
- The use of recycled fly ash in the concrete
- Durable and fire-resistant roofing materials
- High efficiency toilets and plumbing fixtures
- Advanced ventilation practices
- Low-VOC paints
- Energy efficient lighting and controls
- Solar hot water heating
- Solar photovoltaic and much more.
But it is more than the points. The end result is a beautiful home that is well built, comfortable and good for the health of the owners and the planet.
Well done, Eleanor, Wendy, Tali and Chris.
GreenTown’s GreenTalk Feb. 18 featured two great speakers sharing two great ways to save energy, and MONEY.
First up was David Siddiqui from Green Evolution Consulting. David told us about the main sources of energy loss in the home. It can be simple problems, like leaky or disconnected heating ducts, which apparently happens all the time with the typical house sprouting a 30% leakage rate. Clearly a huge waste of energy, and MONEY.
Button Up Energy Loss, Lock In Savings
To figure out where you’re “losing” energy, David recommends a whole house energy assessment instead of dissecting the problem contractor by contractor. Once the assessment is complete you’ll have a road map for improvements that make sense. The payoff? Improved comfort, better air quality, increased home value, and to boot, you’ll save MONEY.
Speaking of MONEY, there’s other ways to get money for energy improvements including rebates from Energy Upgrade California and PG&E, as well as good financing options available. For more info contact David .
Second speaker was Curtis Tongue, OhmConnect. Curtis told us about a demand response program is the proverbial win/win. It enables you to make MONEY for your school by reducing your electricity use.
A what? Demand response? With a Payback???
When energy demand is high, think a hot day in August with all the state’s air conditioners blasting away, then all available power plants will have to be on. The last ones turned on will be the least efficient, the dirtiest and the most expensive. In fact, Curtis told us that 15% of the cost of all electricity is for the 1% of electricity at peak demand prices.
With that much cost involved, PG&E will pay you not to use power. This is where OhmConnect comes in.
Their models reliably predict expected use (demand) and if you turn off your appliances, lights, air conditioner, etc. for just one hour you will make MONEY. It’s pretty simple, OhmConnect sends you a text, you cut your power and PG&E doesn’t have to turn on that inefficient, dirty power plant.
So how does this help a school? Since the dollars for a few hours here and there really aren’t huge, people find it more satisfying to pool them with other folks as a school fundraiser. The dollars add up and it really helps. Springer’s PTA did it!
Interested? You can sign up at OhmConnect, it’s free, it’s fun and you can start making MONEY for the community.
By Gary Hedden, Energy Chair, GreenTown Los Altos.
It’s that time of year. The 2015 Silicon Valley Water Awards are open for application submissions. It’s your chance to nominate the water heroes in your community.
As California enters its 4th year of drought, water conservation continues to be of utmost importance to maintaining our high quality of life. Communities are renewing their efforts to stretch strained water supplies, and creative ideas are in high demand.
Now in its seventh year, the Silicon Valley Water Conservation Awards highlight innovative water conservation efforts that can serve as models for others. The Awards recognize leadership that has advanced water conservation in San Mateo County, Santa Clara County and Alameda County from Hayward south.
Applications and nominations for the 2015 Silicon Valley Water Conservation Awards are now being accepted. The closing date is February 27, and winners will be recognized through news releases and at an awards ceremony on March 23 in Palo Alto.
The 2015 Award Categories Are:
- Government Agency/Water Utility
- Greenscape Management
- Water Champion
To learn more about the Water Awards and how to apply or nominate a candidate, please visit http://www.WaterAwards.org.
RSVP for the Awards Ceremony at http://www.svwca.brownpapertickets.com.
GreenTown is involved with many issues that you’ve made clear you care about. Those related to sustainability, going more green, climate change to make, and even leave, our world a better place. Here’s some upcoming events and meetings we thought you’d like to know about:
.2/7 The March for Real Climate Leadership 11:30AM-3PM
The March for Real Climate Leadership, Sunday, Feb 7, from 11:30AM – 3PMFrank Ogawa Plaza, 14th & Broadway, in Oakland, California.
The March will take place on Feb. 7th, beginning at 11:30 am at Frank Ogawa Plaza, 14th & Broadway, in Oakland, California, ending with a Rally at Lake Merritt Amphitheater at the South end of Lake Merritt.
Thousands of people from all across the state will gather in Gov. Brown’s hometown on February 7 to demand that he step up. The March for Real Climate Leadership will be the largest climate rally in California history. It is being hosted by a broad group of partner organizations including the Sierra Club. The March will bring thousands of people from across the state into the streets of Oakland on February 7 to call on Governor Brown to ban fracking, stand up to Big Oil, and move beyond fossil fuels to 100% renewable energy.
Parking in the area may be extremely tight due to the large crowd expected. Traveling by BART is the recommended choice. If you can’t travel by BART, Loma Prieta Chapter members are encouraged to come on the bus leaving from San Jose’s Diridon Stationat 9:30 a.m., and picking up riders at the downtown Palo Alto Caltrain station (Urban Lane at Wells Drive) at about 10:15 a.m.
Bus tickets are only $20 each and must be purchased in advanced to secure your seat. Buy your tickets online.
If you are a current student and the regular $20 bus ticket price would be a hardship for you, please send your name, your current school name, your email address and a phone number where you can be reached to Bus Captain Brian Haberly beginning on Feb. 1 and we will let you know if there are still subsidized student tickets available.
Be sure to wear a Blue top or shirt, comfortable walking shoes, and bring a sign about climate change or fracking, and snacks and water.
Questions? Please Email Brian Haberly.
2/8 Redwood Grove Restoration Workday 1-4PM & 2/21, 9:30AM-12:30PM: 482 University Ave., Los Altos, CA.
Come Volunteer! See the difference you can make by improving habitat for native plants and animals. Register here. Dates subject to change.
2/18 GreenTown Talk: Button Up Your Home: Get Energy Smart, 7-9PM – at Los Altos Library. For more info email. Speakers Speakers: David Siddiqui, Green Evolution Consulting and Curtis Tongue, Founder, OhmConnect, will discuss the main sources of energy loss in your house and how you can get rebates and financing to get energy smart.
2/22 Gamble Garden Class - 9:30AM-11:30AM - Learn how to replace or shrink a front lawn using flowering and edible plants. $25 members; $35 non-members. At Gamble Garden, 1431 Waverley St., Palo Alto. Email or visit website for more info.
Get Involved With GreenTown: Attend A Team Meeting
Water Team Meeting, Feb. 11, 1:15-2:30PM Los Altos Chamber of Commerce, 321 University Ave. At our monthly meeting we discuss how to deal with and make a difference in, local water issues.
Bike Team Meeting Feb.13, 12-1PM at Los Altos History Museum, 51 S. San Antonio Rd., Los Altos.
Our monthly meeting to plan/organize bike/walk activiities for the upcoming month. Look forward to seeing you there!
More to look forward to:
3/12 Innovations in Water Conservation, Los Altos Hills Town Hall, 26379 Fremont Road, Los Altos Hills, 7-9PM- Hear about the district’s impressive “Advanced Water Purification Center”, producing 8 million gallons a day of potable water.
Innovations in Water Conservation
As our economy and population grow, so must innovations in water conservation and water reuse. Garth Hall, Deputy Operating Officer with Santa Clara Valley Water District will offer an overview of water supply and demand locally and statewide. The District’s most impressive innovation is the new Advanced Water Purification Center, producing 8 million gallons a day of potable water. Small scale innovations are also advancing. Forrest Linebarger, CEO of Inhabiture will discuss smart irrigation controllers, time of use water meters, home water usage reports, and other water saving innovations for homes and businesses.
Garth Hall, Deputy Operating Officer, Santa Clara Valley Water District
Forrest Linebarger, CEO, Inhabiture
Contact Kit Gordon, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sponsors: CalWater, City of Los Altos/Environmental Commission, Los Altos Hills Environmental Initiatives Committee, Purissima Hills Water District, Santa Clara Valley Water District
Garth Hall, Deputy Operating Officer, Santa Clara Valley Water District
Garth is a Civil Engineer with a wide variety of experience in water management and environmental planning. Prior to his work at SCVWD, he held a director level position at PG&E. He holds a Master’s degree from Stanford University and a PhD in Hydrology and Water Resource Science from University of the Witwatersrand.
Forrest Linebarger, CEO, Inhabiture
A graduate of UC Berkeley, Forrest has spent decades committed to sustainable design and building. He has created environmentally sensitive designs that are cost competitive with conventional construction. He is nationally known for his design of zero energy homes, use of green roofs, and innovating means of creating healthy indoor air environments.
How to Create Your Own Water-Wise Home and Landscape
March 23, 7-9pm, Los Altos Library
With simple plumbing alterations and smart landscape changes, every home has the potential to create a sustainable water supply with an ecologically productive landscape. From reusing greywater, to collecting rainwater, to installing waterless composting toilets, our collective efforts can transform our home water systems. A recent study found that households saved an average of 15,000 gallons a year after merely installing greywater system. Learn how you can transform your own home so it conserves and reuses our precious water resources, while growing a bountiful garden. This presentation will teach you how. It will also include national trends, codes and regulations, costs, health and safety considerations, and system examples.
Sign up for a greywater workshop at seminar. Laura will also be selling her new water conservation book.
Sponsors: GreenTown Los Altos, Sierra Club – Loma Prieta Chapter, Santa Clara Valley Water District
Contact Kit Gordon, email@example.com
Laura Allen is the co-founder of Greywater Action and has spent the past 15 years exploring low-tech sustainable water solutions. She leads classes and workshops, including the first greywater training program for professional installers, and participates in writing state-level greywater and composting toilet codes. Laura is the author of The Water-Wise Home: How to Conserve, Capture, and Reuse Water in your Home and Landscape (Storey Press, 2015). She was named 2014 Water Champion by Silicon Valley Water Conservation Awards.
Most people start off the new year wanting to somehow be different than last year. A New Year’s resolution. A vow to make a bigger difference. A choice to make a change.
At GreenTown, we’ve kicked off four new initiatives in our core areas of Water, Watts (all things energy), Waste and WoW (Walk or Wheel). These complement our already full slate of events including creek cleanups, bike valet parking, educational meetings, ReCycle Bike Drives, community outreach, the Glass Pumpkin Patch, and the Farm to Table dinner and create more opportunities for community involvement.
Our initiatives need volunteers, so as you read about them, think of wearing some of these impressive shoes:
Water program: Defy the drought by getting to 15% “brown” in our town.
Like you, we continue to be concerned about the drought because we know though we’ve had minimal rainfall, it’s not nearly enough to get us out of drought territory. Hopefully, you already reduce water consumption and support a native garden instead of a water thirsty lawn.
Our water program members are very active, spreading the word about drought tolerant native plants, water wise irrigation, and educating water wise leaders. We hope you are the example in your neighborhood. This year, we plan to get to 15% of homes in Los Altos & Los Altos Hills without drought thirsty lawns. Look for more talks and information about easy things you can do to help conserve water and join the Governor’s 20% club. If you want to be part of the team, contact us.
Watts (all things energy related): Grow our installed solar base to 1500.
In the solar energy realm, we have a very specific goal: to cover 1500 Solar Roof tops in Los Altos and Los Altos Hills, up from the current number of 1297. With Electric Vehicles (EVs) as a beneficiary of solar, along with Community Choice Aggregation, and lower solar panel cost, now is the time for everyone to head closer to net zero energy use at home.
Look for more information in the coming months as we aim to be the greenest community in the State. If you want to be part of the team, contact us.
WoW: Increase involvement at every school.
Our third new initiative is in our WoW program. This year’s goal is strengthening our WoW program by identifying a PTA WOW volunteer at each public school in the Los Altos School District as well as Montclaire Elementary school. Currently 45% of the elementary and 70% of the middle school students, bike, walk, or roll (skateboard) to school each day.
In addition to local volunteers, we need a new bike/walk program chair, inspiring others to take action and assist Los Altos reach the bike friendly community silver level. If you want to make a difference and part of finding a solution, contact us.
Waste: Make compostables pervasive.
Our last initiative involves our Waste program. With the recent ban on Styrofoam, the goal is expanding our compostable program to community groups and our schools. The compostable co-op offers a 25% discount on World Centric products, a sustainable alternative to buying plastic materials that increase our landfills. Compostable materials provide a sustainable product to serve food at various events in and around town. With the public schools assistance, we are promoting awareness and process for sorting lunchtime waste. Educating students about the which items go into which waste bins increases the diversion to our landfills, both at school and home.
If you want to be part of the compostable revolution, contact us.
Whatever your interest, we appreciate your continued support and making a difference in our community which inspires action. I look forward to seeing you at one of our many events or program meetings.
When it comes to renewable energy, the politicians are always asking, “Is this stuff for real?” Dr. Dan Arvizu has the answer and he shared it with a packed house at the World Affairs Council talk in Los Altos, Jan. 7, 2015.
Yes, renewable energy is for real. We don’t have to invent anything, we have the technology today to make the grid work with 80% renewably sourced power.
That was the message Arvizu delivered, a positive one for receptive ears.
Through wind, biomass and solar, there can be enough power to reach the 80% goal by 2050 and with some tweaks to make the grid a smart system, it can be reliably distributed. We still need some breakthroughs in storage technology to get to 100%, a challenge for the future.
So why isn’t it happening? According to Arvizu, the political will isn’t there to stand up to cheap fossil fuels, except perhaps in California with the leadership of Gov. Brown. Dr. Arvizu met with Brown who made it clear he wants to cut the use of carbon in half, which is important, as public policy is what will create the change.
The top three nations generating renewably sourced power in 2012: China with 90 Gigawatts, US with 86, and Germany with 71. For both China and the US, over half was wind power, but for Germany over half was solar. And he pointed out that Germany is the same latitude as southern Alaska! The good news is that the US has over 40 Gigawatts of solar in the pipeline, so we are moving in the right direction.
The other part of NREL’s mission is efficiency. Half of the energy produced from burning fossil fuels is lost as waste heat. Cars are inefficient. Buildings are inefficient. Surprisingly given its location, NREL’s headquarters in Golden, Colorado is a net zero building with 1350 employees, constructed at less cost than a similarly sized building designed to standard code. So it can be done without exorbitant costs. He did mention that it takes some adaptation by the workers. No space heaters tucked under desks!
Several time he referred to a slide calling for a Profound Transformation to take us from today’s unsustainable energy system to a future system that is reliable, efficient, carbon neutral, secure and resilient. His point was that we need to make that transition now, not 30 years from now.
After the slide show he entertained Q&A. Some highlights:
What’s the latest on battery technology? This will be a profoundly disruptive and important technology, but getting the price down is difficult.
Where is photovoltaic heading? Costs are coming down and the goal of SunShot (an initiative of the Dept. of Energy) is $1/W but the big challenges are the soft costs, all of the paperwork and permit costs.
How do you get people to value a sustainable future? His answer was a bit vague, but some folks just approach things differently. He gave a couple of examples. In Singapore, you have to buy a 10 year permit to drive a car and it costs $100,000. The result? People take public transit. In Sweden, a car registration costs almost as much as the car. In the US, we value “rugged individualism” so none of that happens which means sustainability also takes individual choice to make it a reality.
What changes can we ask for at the local level? Again, his answer was a bit off target, but still interesting. He told us about 5 utilities getting together to plan for future changes. This was notable in that they would even get together, and even more notable in that they would share confidential data. He was there so he saw it!
How will the grid work in the future? He had a lengthy talk about the distribution pipeline and the direction of energy flow, but finally settled on an interesting story. NREL is studying the impact of using car batteries to smooth out the energy flow in the pipeline. Toyota is asking should we build electric cars to supply energy during peak demand using cars that are parked, and the power companies are asking what will happen to the grid if car batteries are supplying power during peak demand? Hmmm, makes one wonder if NREL is getting funded by both sides for the same question?
Why didn’t you mention nuclear as an energy option? It’s in the mix, but they need to be held to the same high sustainability standards as all the other sources, and that is a problem for nuclear.
Final thought, renewable energy and energy efficiency make so much sense, let’s do it!
Written by Gary Hedden, Energy Chair, GreenTown Los Altos.
In Gov. Jerry Brown’s second inaugural address Jan. 5, he proposed three ambitious environmental goals for the next 15 years: increase from one-third to 50 percent the electricity derived from renewable sources; reduce today’s petroleum use in cars and trucks by up to 50 percent; and double the efficiency of existing buildings and make heating fuels cleaner.
Can we achieve any of those goals here in Los Altos? The answer is a definite yes – and in far less than 15 years. How? By implementing our Climate Action Plan (CAP).
In December 2013, the Los Altos City Council adopted the CAP, with the target of reducing our community’s greenhouse gas emissions by at least 15 percent by 2020. It focuses on actions we can take regarding transportation, energy, waste, water and municipal operations.
How can we achieve that first goal of having 50 percent of our energy derived from renewable sources?
One way is to install more solar photovoltaic panels on homes and businesses. Another option is for Los Altos to form – or join – a Community Choice energy program. Community Choice energy allows local communities to contract directly with renewable energy providers while continuing to allow PG&E to distribute the power on its lines and provide customer service. The advantage is that we can simultaneously double the renewable energy we receive and reduce our electricity costs. This could take us 80 percent of the way toward reaching our CAP target.
Two existing Community Choice energy programs – Marin Clean Energy and Sonoma Clean Power – currently operate in the state. Each formed a Joint Powers Agency (JPA) where representatives from the participating cities govern the program, ensuring local control.
Mountain View, Cupertino and Sunnyvale are studying the formation of a JPA to initiate a Community Choice energy program in Santa Clara County. Los Altos could join also.
How could we reduce petroleum use in our cars and trucks by 50 percent?
Two obvious ways are by driving less and making use of alternative fuels. Our CAP calls for fully implementing our Bicycle Transportation Plan and our upcoming Pedestrian Master Plan, which will make it safer and easier to bike or walk in Los Altos.
We can also drive vehicles that don’t use petroleum, like electric cars. We have already begun doing that.
Did you know that Los Altos has one of the highest concentrations of electric vehicles in the state? Our CAP includes providing the infrastructure for electric-vehicle charging stations by building standards that include prewiring for commercial and residential developments. We have already installed three public charging stations. Replacing our city fleet vehicles with hybrid or electric vehicles is part of our CAP as well.
How can we double the efficiency of buildings? The David and Lucile Packard Foundation headquarters provides an excellent example of a net-zero energy building – one that produces as much energy as it uses. A zero PG&E bill!
Part of our CAP is to adopt net-zero electricity building standards for new residential and commercial buildings. And adopting higher energy-efficiency standards when remodels occur can help improve existing buildings while simultaneously reducing the energy bill.
I am always impressed by the commitment of Los Altos residents to sustainability and clean energy. Let’s continue to lead the way to a greener future.
Mayor Jan Pepper
Note: Reprinted with permission from Los Altos Town Crier: