Mon12222014

Go Green

GreenTown on the go: Environmental volunteers focus on year ahead

Photo Town Crier File Photo When students return to local elementary and middle schools, GreenTown Los Altos will again sponsor the Walk or Wheel to school program, which launches Oct. 5.

Just months after newly appointed Keith Turner resigned from his duties as executive director, GreenTown Los Altos leaders have refocused their energies and goals on the group’s grassroots: GreenTown is, once again, an all-volunteer organization.

First named Cool Los Altos, the non-profit environmental group now known as GreenTown Los Altos has been wracked with leadership problems after Executive Director Kacey Fitzpatrick, Cool Los Altos co-founder, resigned from the full-time, paid position following a management-infrastructure reorganization in July 2010.

GreenTown members thought they needed executive leadership with administrative capabilities in a new director and invited Turner on board, according to Margie Suozzo, GreenTown chairwoman for the leadership team. Turner’s tenure ended five months later in April.

“The fit just wasn’t right,” she said.

But all of that’s in the past now, said Suozzo, who has assumed an overseer’s role – unpaid – to help the group focus on its four primary programs and promote environmental education for all.

Coming off Los Altos’ recent success among other cities participating in the Drive Less Challenge – “We (came in) fourth on a list of nine communities,” Suozzo said – a new challenge arises with the upcoming school year in promoting green transportation.

Once again, GreenTown is encouraging elementary- and middle-school students to bike or walk to school by subsidizing incentives and the Zap-machine software that records students’ green miles from tracking devices on bike helmets or backpacks. Nationally known as Freiker or Boltage, GreenTown has its own name for the program – Walk or Wheel (WoW) – which includes using scooters, skates or carpooling.

Suozzo said a baseline would be established at participating WoW schools, and in coming weeks, GreenTown plans to promote the program, culminating in a celebratory kickoff Oct. 5, Walk-to-School Day.

“Our goal is to get 20 percent more than that baseline by the end of the school year,” she said.

GreenTown members also lead first-Saturday bike rides during spring and summer months to encourage adults and families to ride their bikes.

“We want to engage people to show them it’s not that hard to get from here to there,” said Mary Gospe, marketing and communications chairwoman. “And it’s fun.”

And anyone 8 to 80 is a target, she said.

GreenTown also sponsors a bike safety expo in March. Suozzo said the Los Altos School District didn’t use $30,000 last year earmarked for bike and bike-safety issues. She wants to ensure that doesn’t happen again.

Another important focus is GreenTown’s water stewardship and conservation program, which educates people on how water is used, how pollutants reach the watershed and how to conserve resources. Premiering in October, the Los Altos History Museum’s newest exhibition, “Shaped by Water: Past, Present and Future,” will further help inform the public, Suozzo said.

The group’s water-reduction chairman, Joe Eyre, is collaborating with California Water Service Company to crunch data on Los Altos residents’ water use, particularly outdoor watering, which accounts for approximately 50 percent of consumption in Los Altos and 80 percent in Los Altos Hills.

“Conserve outdoor water,” Suozzo said.

The education campaign will include information on harvesting greywater and rainwater. An added incentive for conservation – Suozzo said the first 25 residents who sign up for a free Santa Clara Valley waterwise audit by Sept. 30 will be entered in a drawing for a $100 gift certificate for native plants.

And GreenTown’s water-stewardship program includes at least two creek cleanups each year.

GreenTown members are participating in downtown development meetings to promote bike and walking paths, underground parking, parks and high-density building structures for sustainable land use.

“We’ll weigh in on these issues, but we’re doing a little less lobbying,” Suozzo said.

Other programs include the business co-op, which advocates that schools and restaurants switch from Styrofoam to compostable food containers.

Upcoming activities include showcasing energy efficiency and renewable energy at house parties in leading-edge homes. One such event is scheduled 4-6 p.m. Sept. 18 at the residence of Waidy Lee in Los Altos.

“Her home is completely carbon neutral,” Suozzo said.

For more information, visit www.greentownlosaltos.org.

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