12092016Fri
Last updateWed, 07 Dec 2016 3pm

News

Despite recounts, Registrar plans to call races

Despite an ongoing hand recount, clarity is about to arrive for the Los Altos and Los Altos Hills City Councils – and current top vote-getters Lynette Lee Eng and Roger Spreen are expected to be named winners tomorrow, according to the Santa Clara Co...

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Schools

JustREAD helps local English learner students

JustREAD helps local English learner students


Courtesy of JustRead
JustREAD volunteer Elenora Nelson works with a sixth-grader at Crittenden Middle School.

JustREAD seeks to broaden its impact on local students’ lives by adding to its volunteer pool.

The 12-year-old nonprofit organizat...

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Community

Los Altos Rhodes Scholar sees health within a community's greater context

Los Altos Rhodes Scholar sees health within a community's greater context


Doyle
 

From guide dogs to culinary architecture, Los Altos native Alexis Doyle has worked across fields as a young scholar, but she had to learn to knit it all together – not only as a pre-medical student, but as a candidate proving her b...

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Sports

Coach gets a kick out of Spartans

Coach gets a kick out of Spartans


Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Mountain View High’s Gerson Perez, right, battles a Sacred Heart Prep player for the ball in last week’s season opener.

Now in his 28th season as Mountain View High’s boys soccer coach, Jim McGuirk has s...

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Comment

The last hundred years: A Piece of My Mind

Some time back I stumbled across a binder that my mother had created when she took a class on writing memoirs back in 1998. At that time, I remember she tried to interest me in her writing, but I was busy and just nodded, glad she had found something...

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Special Sections

Blast from the past

Blast from the past


Gary Anderson/Special to the town Crier
The Donut Derelicts – a group of local car enthusiasts – check out the 2016 Mustang GT California Special convertible. The car is an homage to the 1968 model.

 

What better place to display a car wit...

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Business

Maltby finds a new home – not too far from home

Maltby finds a new home – not too far from home


Megan Winslow/Town Crier
Restaurateur James Maltby now operates the restaurant at the local Courtyard Marriott.

When James Maltby closed his namesake restaurant last summer after a rent hike, many Los Altos residents wanted to know where the res...

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People

ANNE KESTEN BERNSTEIN

Long time Los Altos Hills resident, Anne Kesten Bernstein, born July 12, 1931 in New York City, died peacefully in the comfort of hospice care on November 15, 2016.

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News

Despite recounts, Registrar plans to call races

Despite an ongoing hand recount, clarity is about to arrive for the Los Altos and Los Altos Hills City Councils – and current top vote-getters Lynette Lee Eng and Roger Spreen are expected to be named winners tomorrow, according to the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters.

Readmore

Business

Maltby finds a new home – not too far from home

Maltby finds a new home – not too far from home

Megan Winslow/Town Crier
Restaurateur James Maltby now operates the restaurant at the local Courtyard Marriott.

When James Maltby closed his namesake restaurant last summer after a rent hike, many Los Altos residents wanted to know where the restaurateur would end up next. It turns out that he ...

Readmore

Sports

Coach gets a kick out of Spartans

Coach gets a kick out of Spartans

Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Mountain View High’s Gerson Perez, right, battles a Sacred Heart Prep player for the ball in last week’s season opener.

Now in his 28th season as Mountain View High’s boys soccer coach, Jim McGuirk has seen it all. He’s worked with good teams that...

Readmore

Community

Los Altos Rhodes Scholar sees health within a community's greater context

Los Altos Rhodes Scholar sees health within a community's greater context

Doyle
 

From guide dogs to culinary architecture, Los Altos native Alexis Doyle has worked across fields as a young scholar, but she had to learn to knit it all together – not only as a pre-medical student, but as a candidate proving her bona fides for a Rhodes Scholarship. She joined the...

Readmore

Comment

The last hundred years: A Piece of My Mind

Some time back I stumbled across a binder that my mother had created when she took a class on writing memoirs back in 1998. At that time, I remember she tried to interest me in her writing, but I was busy and just nodded, glad she had found something to interest her after my father’s death. No...

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Spiritual Life

Spiritual Briefs Dec. 7 2016

LA Lutheran offers ‘Soothe Your Soul’ sessions

Los Altos Lutheran Church has scheduled three “Soothe Your Soul: Prayer & Poetry” reflection sessions, 6:30-7:15 p.m. today and Dec. 14 and 21 in the sanctuary, 460 S. El Monte Ave.

The evenings – designed for those ...

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People

ANNE KESTEN BERNSTEIN

Long time Los Altos Hills resident, Anne Kesten Bernstein, born July 12, 1931 in New York City, died peacefully in the comfort of hospice care on November 15, 2016.

Readmore

Schools

JustREAD helps local English learner students

JustREAD helps local English learner students

Courtesy of JustRead
JustREAD volunteer Elenora Nelson works with a sixth-grader at Crittenden Middle School.

JustREAD seeks to broaden its impact on local students’ lives by adding to its volunteer pool.

The 12-year-old nonprofit organization provides academic support for middle and high ...

Readmore

Special Sections

Blast from the past

Blast from the past

Gary Anderson/Special to the town Crier
The Donut Derelicts – a group of local car enthusiasts – check out the 2016 Mustang GT California Special convertible. The car is an homage to the 1968 model.

 

What better place to display a car with direct links to the 1960s American muscle car tr...

Readmore

Stepping Out

'Christmas Ballet' leaps into Mtn. View

'Christmas Ballet' leaps into Mtn. View

David Allen/Special to the Town Crier
Dancer Rachel Furst leaps in Smuin's “The Christmas Ballet,” scheduled to run today through Sunday in downtown Mountain View.

Smuin's annual production of “The Christmas Ballet” is scheduled to make a stop in Mountain View this week.

With ballet, tap, swin...

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Obituaries

ANNE KESTEN BERNSTEIN

Long time Los Altos Hills resident, Anne Kesten Bernstein, born July 12, 1931 in New York City, died peacefully in the comfort of hospice care on November 15, 2016.

Readmore

Magazine

Holidays in the heat: Commemorate Christmas south of the equator

Holidays in the heat: Commemorate Christmas south of the equator

Courtesy of Camping
Patrons of Camping, a restaurant in Buenos Aires, enjoy the warm weather during last year’s holiday season.

When I relocated from Mountain View to Buenos Aires in July, I knew I’d be stepping into winter. I packed my rain boots and heavy coat, and I set aside my longing for a p...

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Going green underground: You CAN take it with you when it comes to environmental values

Photo Town Crier File PhotoA field of flowers or a terrace of trees – green burials offer an environmentally friendly alternative to today's marble-stone cemeteries.
Lowering your carbon footprint – it’s all about switching from regular bulbs to CFLs, recycling garbage and buying produce from local farmers. It’s the least we can do while we’re here to sustain a future for generations to come.

Lowering your final footprint? It’s all about the options available to the environmentally conscious – a way to stay green even after you die, a way to help push up the daisies, so to speak – a way to return as dust to the earth with minimal harm to the Earth.

It’s called a green burial – highly popular in England and beginning to gain attention in the United States. Green burial is a natural alternative to what has become a traditional burial – embalming, casket and marble gravestone. And it’s cheaper.

 

Back then and now

Once upon a time before the Civil War and funeral directors, it fell to family members and close neighbors to prepare and dispose of the remains of a deceased loved one. The body was lovingly washed, dressed and set in the parlor for visitation. Burials followed.

The Civil War, with soldiers dying far from home and the large number of deaths, changed that. Embalming with arsenic to preserve bodies for the train ride home became a trend. Then came formaldehyde, metal caskets, concrete for burial vaults and steel to reinforce the concrete.

“The current burial process, besides being expensive, wastes great quantities of natural resources. It separates us biologically and psychologically from our host planet,” according to Jane Hillhouse’s message at www.finalfootprint.com. “And, perhaps more importantly, it strives to keep us separate from our loved ones at an important time in both lives.”

Hillhouse owns the Half Moon-based Web company that offers biodegradable-receptitacle options for burials.

Cemeteries use vast amounts of fertilizers and water for expansive lawns. From casket to vault to

mausoleum, cemeteries degrade the natural landscape.

Today’s cemeteries and gravesites are here forever although no one will remember those who are buried there 50 years from now. That rankles Deborah Meckler, president of the Funeral Consumers Alliance (FCA) of Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.

“That land is useless,” Meckler said of modern cemeteries. “It’s destroyed as a natural ecosystem – as open space.”

But with cemeteries and plots filling fast and burial costs on the rise, another option for remains’ disposal has become popular. High heat

“The trend definitely is toward cremation, which I think is sad,” Meckler said. “Cremation has two downsides – the energy used in drying a body and the particulate matter emitted.”

You don’t want to be downwind of a crematorium, Meckler said.

With dioxins, nitrous oxide and concentrations of mercury from amalgam fillings in teeth, as well as smoke particulates, cremation is far from being Earth-friendly.

 

Go green gone

With a strong national lobby in the National Funeral Directors Association, Meckler said the FCA was established to educate the public about options for the disposition of remains.

“The funeral industry was packaging service options – people were being charged a lot,” she said.

The FCA successfully lobbied the Federal Trade Commission to prohibit the practice. Consumers are presented with individual options when burying loved ones.

With a bachelor’s degree in natural resource management and conservancy, Meckler’s mission goes beyond protecting consumers to protecting the Earth and educating the public about green burials.

“People seem very interested in this, but most people don’t know about it,” she said.

As open space is procured for green-burial sites – Forever Fernwood in San Mateo County is one such example – Meckler hopes laws can be changed to enable burial sites to be reused after 50 years, long after a body has decomposed. And grazing pastures are a waste of space, too.

“There’s no reason not to use agricultural lands (for green burials),” she said.

 

Green rules

The rules for going green underground are simple – and cheaper on the pocketbook, Meckler said.

• Bodies cannot be embalmed. Contrary to popular belief, embalming is not usually required by law.

“It doesn’t stop the smell, it doesn’t stop the decay. It just makes you look better,” she said.

• Burial containers must be biodegradable. Untreated pine boxes, shrouds – Final Footprint offers wicker coffins – the container must return to earth like the body.

• Levels or horizons of the plot must be removed and returned, level by level. Meckler said it’s important not to mix the different layers of soil in order to protect the living organisms.

• Natural grave markers only are allowed, including a log piece or stones with written or chiseled names. Some green cemeteries issue GPS data on the location.

“But it should just look like open space,” Meckler said of a green-burial site.

And it’s important to understand the difference between a burial and a funeral – just because a burial is simple doesn’t mean the farewell needs to be, she added.

“You can have lavish flowers and music. A green burial doesn’t negate the excesses of a funeral,” she said.

 

Lessons learned

For Meckler, it’s important to prepare a dead loved one for burial rather than handing the body over to strangers. The FCA’s Web site offers advice and guidelines in returning to the traditions of bygone days.

Surprisingly, people aren’t appalled at the idea.

“They’ve cared for loved ones in hospice – for many, they want to do it. It’s no big deal,” she said. “Touching is very important to get that sense of ‘goneness.’”

Others don’t want to discuss death.

“One of our taglines is, ‘Would it kill you to talk about?’” Meckler said.

But while older adults often do want to talk about their deaths and their disposition wishes, children don’t always want to hear about them.

“It’s good to put it in writing,” she said.

And as leaching arsenic from Civil War soldiers’ embalmed bodies becomes a problem in groundwater in the East, Meckler hopes green burials become the trend.

For more information, visit www.fcapeninsula.org or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Contact Mary Beth Hislop at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Submit a Letter to the Editor

The Town Crier welcomes letters to the editor on current events pertinent to Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and Mountain View. Write to us at 138 Main St., Los Altos 94022, Attn: Editor, or email editor Bruce Barton at bruceb@latc.com. Because editorial space is limited, please confine letters to no more than 200 words. Include a phone number for verification purposes. Anonymous letters will not be printed.

You can also have your say right here at losaltosonline.com – scroll to the bottom of any story to add a comment. 

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