Confused About Going Native? Best Drought Tips

Stumped on where to go for drought tips. GreenTown has info:

Websites for Drought-tolerant Gardens:

And go here to find out about Santa Clara County Water District’s rebates.

Are Those Toxins In Your Skin Cream? Yup.

Coal tar? Parabens? Butyl what? When was the last time you thought about what you were putting into (and on) your body through your skin? Maybe it’s worth a look to avoid potential problems.

As an organ, the skin absorbs much of what is applied to its surface. So the majority of synthetic chemicals layered during a conventional skincare routine get soaked up by the skin, thus entering your bloodstream. GTLA 15.6 cosmeticsThese chemicals can accumulate in the body throughout life, especially if the liver and kidneys aren’t doing a good enough job filtering and flushing toxins out.

At high concentrations, they can not only wreak havoc on the endocrine and reproductive systems or even cause cancer but the manufacturing and use of products also impacts the environment. If there’s any doubt, check out reputable sources like Canadian-based David Suzuki’s “Dirty Dozen Cosmetic Chemicals To Avoid” or’s list of toxic chemicals or even the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) site where they admit “Under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, cosmetic products and ingredients do not require FDA approval before they go on the market.”

Should ingredients in cosmetic products really be a concern given their wide distribution, sold in nearly every store and being used by so many people seemingly without harm? Evidence from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) show that certain ingredients may act as allergens, irritants, carcinogens, hormone disruptors, pollutants, or environmental contaminants. So what can you do?

Some Ways To Go Green In Cosmetics:

  • Search the EWG’s database for toxicity.
    • Search products you use, including safety ratings and whether the ingredients are considered toxic.
  • Understand how to read labels so you aren’t swayed by often faulty marketing claims.
    • Anything can be written on packaging to convince consumers to buy products. It’s wise to check labels to know the exact ingredients and concentrations.
  • Ban unhealthy and toxic products from your household.
    • Erring on the safe side is better in many dimensions, from the environment to preventing future harm in the form of allergies, asthma, fertility problems, or cancers.
  • Simplify your skincare routine.
    • Minimize products and keep in mind that just like food, as a rule products with less ingredients are often safer.
  • DIY products.
    • Simple DIY recipes and tips abound online and in books. Buy some basic materials and have a cosmetics-making party.

Oh No? Oh Yes! FDA Has No Say On Ingredients

Although the Safe Cosmetics Act was introduced to Congress in 2013 to give the FDA the authority to create and enforce safety standards, it hasn’t been passed yet. Which means, believe it or not, the FDA doesn’t currently have the authority to force companies to test their products for safety. Even more, according to PETA’s cruelty-free company search, animals are not safe either given animal testing is still used by hundreds of companies.

So What Can You, As A Consumer, Do?

Since US cosmetics aren’t regulated, it is up to consumers to protect themselves and the environment by evaluating ingredients and sending a message with their dollars. A win by any measure.

Author: Malar Ganapathiappan

Category: Make-up, Toxics · Tags:

Will You Reduce Water Use By 32%? Try These Tips.

Remember this number: 32.

Water use by type. Source: Linda Gass

That’s the percent mandated for Los Altos residents to reduce water starting in July. Knowing how water is used is a good starting point for hitting that reduction number.

Landscaping (50%):

With around 50% of water typically used for irrigation, your lawn is the best source to tap for most savings. Cutback irrigation to about 1/3 of 2013 use, no more than twice a week.

Install drip or subsurface irrigation which is 95% efficient, making it 35% more efficient than spray watering so if you haven’t looked into it, now is the time.1

Climate appropriate native plants require only 1/10th the water of lawns. Why? The shallow roots of turf require significantly more water to maintain than native plants, which can survive on a minimum amount of water. Native plants initially need watering weekly, then monthly or less after roots are established.

Mulching around trees and plants can help in preventing water from evaporating.

Cover your pools for minimal evaporation.

Using a running hose when washing concrete, asphalt, or a vehicle is forbidden.

How the Other Use Areas Can Be Minimized.

Toilets (10%)

Efficient toilets can reduce the amount of water flushed by 20-60% compared to older models.2 “Ultra Low Flow Toilets” use 1.6 gallons per flush, “High-Efficiency Toilets” use 1.28-.8 gallons per flush while older pre-1990 models use 3.5 – 5 or more gallons per flush.3 Switching to a high-efficiency toilet can save 19 gallons per person each day.4

Dual flush toilets have separate flushes for liquid and solid waste.

Toilets can be flushed with saved water from warming up taps.

Shower (10%)

Low-flow showerheads can save 2.5 gallons per minute.4

A five versus 10 minute shower saves 12.5 gallons from a low flow showerhead and 25 gallons with a standard 5 gallon per minute showerhead.4

Turning off water while washing hair (daily) can save up to 150 gallons per month.4

Water from taps that are warming up can be captured and used for plants or to flush toilets.

Laundry (10%)

Only running full loads in a washer will save both water and energy.

A water-efficient washer can save 16 gallons/load.4

Greywater can be utilized by directing water used by washing machines to outdoor landscapes, thereby reducing need for outdoor watering.

Leaks (9%)

Finding and fixing all leaks can eliminate 9% of average water usage. A free house call from a Santa Clara Valley Water District representative can help detect leaks and determine other ways to save water.

A toilet with leaks can waste around 200 gallons a day. Yes, a day.2

Faucets (8%)

Faucets usually run at 2 gallons per minute, so closing the tap while brushing teeth or shaving can save over 200 gallons per month.2

When hand washing dishes, closing the tap and using the sink or a basin uses half the amount of water than running an open tap when washing dishes does, which uses up to 20 gallons of water.2

Baths (1%)

A full bathtub can hold up to 70 gallons of water so filling it halfway or less can save 12 gallons.4 Shorter showers use less water than a bath.

Water can be caught in a bucket while it is warming up and used to flush toilets or water plants.

Dishwashers (1%)

The dishwasher can be used more efficiently by only running full loads on the “light” setting instead of normal cycle. Refraining from rinsing dishes before loading into the dishwater can save up to 10 gallons per load.2

Author: Malar Ganapathiappan



Unleash The Power On Your Roof: #GoSolar!

Unleash-H-BannerThe sun is shining and if you don’t have solar on your roof, all that clean energy is left untapped.

This is a problem that GreenTown Los Altos’s Energy Chair Gary Hedden was bent on solving. So we created GreenTown Los ALtos’s “Unleash the Power On Your Roof”, a program aimed at providing solid deals from solar vendors to increase the number of solar rooftops in Los Altos and Los Altos Hills.

Catch Your Rays. Raise Your Efficiency.

With several vendors signed up, we know that now is the time to check out the power on your roof. If you’re interested, please let us know.

Hurry! Program Runs April 1 – June 30

The program’s benefits, including access to information and a financial deal you won’t want to pass up, run from April 1 – June 30. To help educate prospective buyers, and debunk any solar myths keeping buyers at bay, we’d like to host small gatherings. For this, we’re looking for anyone who has installed solar to be a spokesperson, or what we’re calling Solar Stars, to help others through the process. If you’re interested, please let us know.

Category: Climate Change, Energy, Uncategorized · Tags:

Gulp. The Drought? It’s Actually Worldwide

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

For further information you can look at Allen’s instructions for tapping your house into a grey water system here or go to

Hey 280, What’s That Noise?

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.


Category: Air Quality, Polution, Uncategorized · Tags:

May 3rd: reCYCLE That Unused Bike. Feel Good. Repeat.

GTLA 15.05 recycle bikeTwice 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!


Category: Uncategorized · Tags:

Build It Green. Build It Beautiful.

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.


The home’s architect and builder, who pulled off an impressive feat of “green-ness” without sacrificing beauty or comfort.

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


    Home owners Wendy and Eleanor, showing off their new home.

  • 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.

Category: Uncategorized · Tags:

Button Up Your Home, Save Energy & Money.

GreenTown GreenTalk Feb. 18

Audience members were treated to an energy education at GreenTowns’ GreenTalk Feb. 18. Pictured: L-R – Curtis Tongue (OhmConnect), Margie Suozzo (GreenTown Los Altos), David Siddiqui (Green Evolution Consulting).

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.

So what are you doing to button up your home? Share with us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

By Gary Hedden, Energy Chair, GreenTown Los Altos.

2015 Silicon Valley Water Awards Are On!

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.

GTLA 2.15 SV awardsDo you have a model program or practice to share, or know of others who do?

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
  • Business
  • Organization
  • Greenscape Management
  • Innovation
  • Education
  • Water Champion

To learn more about the Water Awards and how to apply or nominate a candidate, please visit

RSVP for the Awards Ceremony at