Ready To Stroll? GreenTown Celebrates Walking In Oct.

by Arnold Ambiel

It’s fall. Some people are ready to roll, but we hope even more are ready to stroll!

Fall is a perfect time to walk in Los Altos and Los Altos Hills. Cooler days bring out bold fall colors making walking to many local events attractive. Unlike bicycling, most walking activities can start right out our front doors and enjoyed by anyone from 8 to 80.

Wherever you live, you can walk to one of our community’s seven shopping districts, local parks and schools to enjoy the outdoor beauty. If you’re a new resident, the City’s Bike Map is a useful resource which includes secret passageways that join many of our neighborhoods and make great fodder for a tricky treasure hunt!

Have you noticed political candidates walking in your neighborhood? With election season in full swing, such precinct walks highlight the best way to get to know your neighbors and build community: walking! Make sure to ask the candidates how they’ll support our local environment, if elected. Additionally, our neighborhood schools are an easy walk for most residents. And this year is a special year for walking to school – the 20th anniversary of Walk to School Day – so make sure you walk with your child on October 5th!

We asked Wes Brinsfield, BPAC Chairperson his take. “While the physical and mental health benefits of walking are well documented, what I really enjoy about walking in the Los Altos area is the sense of community that I feel.  It’s so easy to meet and talk with people – friends and strangers alike – while walking through our Los Altos neighborhoods.  Our city is mostly flat, mostly warm and sunny during the days, and there are lots of things to see and do within 1 to 2 miles of almost any starting point within the city limits”.

Join the fun! Events to walk by:

Oct 1 – Bay Day Walk

Oct 1/2 – Los Altos Fall Festival – Walk/Bike to Downtown

Oct 5 – 20th Annual Walk to School Day

Oct 7 – First Friday

Oct 15 – Walkathons – Many of our local elementary schools hold their walkathon fundraisers on October 15. There are a lot of tired feet in our towns that night.

Oct 21 – Homecoming Parade – Los Altos High School

Oct 31 – Halloween (watch for all the walkers that night!)

Resources for where to walk

City of Los Altos Bicycle Map (includes all of the secrets passages between neighborhoods)

Los Altos Hills Pathways Map (purchase at LAH City Hall)

City of Los Altos Pedestrian Master Plan – with suggested routes to school

Bay Trail Map

Mid Peninsula Open Space Maps

City of Los Altos Bike Map

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Farm to Table Year Three, Oh What A Night!

gtla-f2t-slider-2016Each year for the last three years, GreenTown has held an annual fundraiser in October. Year after year it has surpassed our expectations. Besides being a high energy, fun party with environmentally savvy people the catering is superb and wine abundant! What more could you ask for?

This year, the event will be held on Oct. 22, 5-8pm at a lovely private home in Los Altos. The Farm to Table dinner is our only major fundraiser. Which is why we’re hoping we can break all records for attendance. Your participation at the event helps sustain and grow GreenTown’s environmental impact in our community. Are you wondering such as what? Here’s part of this year’s results:

Water: Spread the word about the drought

  • Conducted two educational creek cleanups
  • Hosted speakers on a range of topics
  • Led a native garden bike tour.

Waste: Increased landfill diversion through education

  • Worked with four Los Altos schools to improve their waste management and maximize diversion from the landfill.

Watts: Made clean energy a reality!

  • Heavily advocated for a locally-controlled clean energy agency. This new energy choice program, has committed to providing 100% carbon free electricity to all homes and businesses in the region, including yours! Look for more info in Spring 2017.

WoW!: Encouraged more biking | walking | public transit

  • Upped our educational efforts on bike safety,
  • Supported development of a pilot bike safety education program in Los Altos School District and sponsoring Bike Day! on the green this August.
  • Provided gently-used bikes to under served youth in Mountain View and San Jose.
  • Staffed bike parking to make it easier for you to bike to events around town.

We know you support, and want these activities to continue. So join us at this year’s Farm to Table Dinner to demonstrate your support. Reserve your space here.

If you are unable to attend, please join us by donating (any amount is appreciated) and/or volunteering your time.

Bike Day Was A BLEND of Fun!

GTLA Gary Linda

Linda Ziff and Gary Hedden of GreenTown

From the blender bikes churning out smoothies to the Safe Moves Bike Rodeo. From ABC (air, bike, chain) safety checks to checking out an easy to build bamboo bike, Bike Day was nothing short of a fun day. These pictures tell the story!





GTLA blender bike

Smooth ride? Smoothies powered by….whoever gets to ride the blender bike. Drinking them? Well, anyone can do that!









GTLA bike day kids








GTLA bike day gary bamboo bike

Calfee Designs has a build-your-own-bamboo-bike kit. Shown here is Jason Cruz with our own Gary Hedden.









GTLA bike day Mike

Safe Moves had about 100 kids visiting their Bike Rodeo. Mike McTighe and Bill Howard welcomed everyone!









GTLA bike day 2

Bill Howard teaching the first Safe Moves class. Questions anyone?

GTLA bike day mom and kid

Lucas got the aren’t-you-lucky-to-be-first safety vest!


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Smell The Coffee? Because The Water Smells Like “Geosmin”.

A message from Santa Clara Valley Water District:

If you have noticed an earthy smell in your tap water, we want you to know that we are aware of it and are working to correct the odor that, while unpleasant, does not pose a health concern.

The smell is affecting parts of Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, Campbell, Saratoga, Monte Sereno, Cupertino, Mountain View, Los Altos and Los Gatos, and to a lesser extent south San Jose, and is purely aesthetic. Our water still meets or surpasses drinking water standards.

The earthy odor is caused by geosmin, a compound produced by algae that has recently bloomed in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and the San Luis Reservoir, where the water district gets more than half of the water it supplies to northern Santa Clara County. Geosmin is not an algal toxin, so the safety of the water is not impacted. However, the human nose is very sensitive to geosmin: some people can smell it at extremely low levels – as low as 1.3 parts per trillion (ppt). Levels up to 48 ppt have been measured in the source water and treated water.

At present, we expect the intense geosmin odor to subside in a few days as the water already in the distribution system works its way out. We have changed the source of water at our Rinconada and Santa Teresa water treatment plants to a local reservoir that has not been affected by the same odor. We are also increasing treatment at our three water treatment plants to rid our treated water of the unpleasant smell.

As we work to mitigate geosmin’s effect on our water, customers who do experience a taste or odor can chill their tap water before drinking in order to make taste and smell issues less noticeable. It is not necessary to boil water as the water is safe to drink and meets all state and federal public health standards.

The water district will strive to improve the taste and smell of the water in this unusual time. We put the highest priority on providing safe, clean water to Santa Clara County.

Learn more about taste and odor issues at

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These Kids Are Smiling! The Pay Off Of reCYCLE Bike Drive

If pictures tell a story, these scream happiness. The kids and staff at the staff at Theuerkauf School, recipients of some of the bikes we collected at the reCYCLE Bike Drive in May.

Thanks to the Los Altos Community Foundation for funding the drive. The bikes you deliver to GreenTown at the reCYCLE Bike Drive, to fix, clean up and send to those who could use a set of wheels are making some kids very happy.

So keep that in mind next time you’re cleaning out any unused bikes in good shape. Deliver it to us, and you’ll be delivering smiles!

IMG_0013 IMG_0018 IMG_0038 IMG_0040 IMG_0043IMG_20160602_091903

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Water Reduction Rebates Are Back!

GTLA web native plants

Native plants are an easy way to landscape beautifully while saving water.

The good news came on June 14 at the Santa Clara Valley Water District meeting.  They set a 20% target for water reduction and reinstated rebates.

At the meeting, the SCVWD lowered its water use reduction target from 30% to 20% under 2013 levels. The Board emphasized that residents should continue their efforts to conserve.

On July 1, 2016 the SCVWD will reinstate the Landscape Rebate Program and the Irrigation Equipment Upgrade Rebates. If you’d like to know more, find details here.

We have to ask why take such action? The drought continues although it was eased by last winter’s rainfall. Local reservoirs and percolation ponds are close to full, however, our groundwater levels have not recovered.

In Santa Clara County, our groundwater aquifers are our largest source of water storage. This helps us to get through dry summers and drought. After pulling 100,000 acre-feet of water from our aquifers in 2014 and 2015, we ended 2015 with 232,000 acre-feet. In drought terms, this is Stage 3: Severe. Above 300,000 is normal and before the latest drought we had 340,000-350,000 acre-feet in groundwater aquifers.

So we still urge residents to do what they can to conserve. Like attending local events such as Sherri Osaka‘s talk July 21, 7-8:30PM at the Mountain View Library.

The talk, sponsored by the California Native Plant Society entitled “Design-It-Youself: Native Plant Garden”, has a clear focus:  “You are finally ready to remove your lawn in order to save water, lower maintenance time and create habitat. But you want to create the design yourself. Come to this talk, and learn the principles of garden design. See an example of a design from start to finish. Pick up some handouts of different designs you can use and modify. And get ready to put pencil to paper!”

And look to GreenTown for more ideas flowing your way!


Celebrating Energy Savings At Los Altos H.S. Yup $86K Worth!

Sybil Cramer being interviewed for Los Altos High School’s school paper, The Talon.

The utility of the future is here.

A crowd of supporters heard those words from Richard Adams, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship with the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL), at the June 8 celebration of the one year anniversary for the Battery Storage and EV Charging System on the Los Altos High School campus. “You are sitting under it,” he said, referring to the photovoltaic panels in the parking lot and pointing to the nearby charging stations and battery storage facility. “This is the look of local, distributed energy.”

Sybil Cramer led the effort to get charging and battery storage on campus. She saw an opportunity to get a system installed by Green Charge Networks, at no cost to the school district, and school officials took notice.

As Mike Mathiesen, Associate Superintendent of Business Services put it, “We are in the business of education, but we like to be on the leading edge, and if we can save money on our energy costs, we’ll do it.” And save they did, $86,000 in utility electric bills this past year!

Santa Clara-based Green Charge Networks, the largest provider of commercial energy storage in the US, was recently acquired by ENGIE, the largest independent power producer and supplier of energy efficiency in the world. Mark Triplett, COO, Green Charge Networks, said, “This battery storage pilot program was just an idea two years ago.” It has now shown that energy storage can effectively smooth variations in energy supply and demand. PG&E is watching closely. This is important as we move to more and more renewable energy content. For the schools it’s simple, it runs in the background offering inspiration while saving money. That’s a nice combination.

Thank you Sybil for making this happen!

Gary Hedden

Energy Lead, GTLA

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Ask GreenTown: “Where do I recycle electronics?”


Do you have suggestions for a local place for e-cycling?


Indeed, it’s harder and harder to find a place to recycle electronics because of changes in the market. Several options are available:

  • The easiest way is to first try Mission Trail. They’ll collect one piece of electronic waste at curbside, once every six months.  Contact them to let them know you plan to set it out and see if it affects the number of bulky item collections on your account.
  • For general resources review this:
    • Looking at the list of California approved e-waste collectors/recyclers on CalRecycle’s website. In addition to Goodwill, GreenMouse and A&J Electronics Recycling take ewaste. Both have been responsible electronics recyclers, e.g., hard drives get destroyed and most of the recycling happens in the state. But these things change so your best bet is to call them and see what they are doing now. You can find them on this list.
  • Several other local venues will take ewaste:
    • For no-charge drop off there is also the Sunnyvale SMaRT Station with a drive-through drop-off, more details here.
    • ABC Storage on Wyandotte Street in Mountain View has info here.
    • Goodwill Silicon Valley is taking e-waste according to their website
    • Hope Services in Mountain View, takes ewaste daily. Check it out here.

One question to ask any recycler is if they are working with an e-steward recycler. E-stewards is a certification program to ensure very responsible electronics recycling. There are relatively few of these recyclers but these are the ones we should strive to find. Goodwill claims that they are working with an e-steward recycler and that they destroy all hard drives.

Thanks for the very relevant question!

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Parking Your Bike In Town Never Looked So Good!

The leadership team of GreenTown Los Altos was at the ribbon cutting ceremony for unveiling of Cuppa Joe, one of six bike racks that made the cut in a design competition run by Los Altos Public Arts Commission. Kacey Fitzpatrick (closest to bike) designed the winning rack, which is located on Main Street and GreenTown Los Altos sponsored post it.

Pictured left to right are Arnold Ambiel, Mayor Jeannie Bruins, Margie Suozzo, Kacey Fitzpatrick, Gary Hedden, Linda Ziff, Jana Schlanksker, Linda Gass, Corinne Debra.



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Community Forum Yields Impressive Ideas! Thanks To YOU!

GreenTown received much good input at the community meeting that will help us create goals relevant to our community’s needs. We thank you!

Feedback and good ideas continue to flow in, following GreenTown Los Altos’ (GreenTown) Community Forum held on April 18, 2016, at the Los Altos Library.

More than 35 people attended the meeting, including Los Altos residents, local officials and small business owners. GreenTown speakers gave updates on the group’s four current program areas: Water, Waste, Watts and WoW! (active transportation modes, specifically walking and biking).

Karen (KJ) Janowski kicked things off with an intro of Margie Suozzo who delivered an overall GreenTown update ; Gary Hedden spoke about watts/energy; Barbara O’Reilly shared program updates on water; and Arnold Ambiel talked about reCYCLE bike drive progress.

Corinne DeBra who’s been surveying Los Altos residents on what they’d like to see more of in terms of future GTLA program activities helped facilitate a feedback session during the meeting. She asked attendees about environmental issues most important to them they’d like to see addressed, and about challenges and opportunities associated with these issues. Participants were also able to write down issues of their choice on post-its placed on the walls, segmented by program area, allowing all attendees to view and share ideas on the spot.

Topics during the feedback session ranged from transportation to community building.

  • Alternative modes of transportation (cutting down on automobile trips), by walking and bicycling, and taking transit were discussed, as well as barriers to doing so. Great observations included: In Manhattan, people walk for a mile or two…but I live 1/2 mile away and I don’t walk into downtown Los Altos.”
  • Attendees discussed creating a sense of community, e.g. a community garden, involving church groups, and doing more that might involve young families and/or create activities that appeal to people of all ages.

While holding community forums is a GreenTown tradition, this is an especially good time to connect with people on their top environmental and energy issues and priorities.

GreenTown is prioritizing and planning activities for 2016-2017 in four program areas: Water, Waste, Watts and WoW! (active transportation modes, specifically walking and biking). And community input is essential at these times.

And as the organization approaches its 10-year anniversary, much progress has been made; however, there’s still plenty to do. We’re looking forward to a future where water stewardship is the rule, resources being used wisely are the norm, more waste is being diverted from landfills, where bicycling isn’t just for recreation anymore, and where renewable energy will be playing a larger role in our lives and our businesses.

If you have ideas, drop us a line at