It's a fact – Californians throw away enough waste each year to fill a football field 25 miles high. The Green Ribbon Citizens Committee tackled solutions to the problem at a gathering Oct. 6, sponsored by GreenTown Los Altos, a nonpartisan grassroots organization encouraging sustainable environmental responsibility.
More than 50 Los Altos and Los Altos Hills residents attended the event, titled "Let's Talk Trash," to learn about the waste generated in the community and ways to reduce it. GreenTown Executive Director Kacey Fitzpatrick encouraged input from citizens on proposed municipal policies and community programs to deal with the mounting problem.
"Your input is critical," Fitzpatrick said. "As we prepare recommendations for real, achievable municipal and communitywide actions to create a sustainable environment, we'll incorporate your concerns and priorities to reduce our waste locally."
Green Ribbon committee co-chairmen Margie Suozzo and Don Bray presented research on the composition and disposition of the community waste stream.
"Nearly half of the waste that goes to the landfill from Los Altos is organic waste that can be composted," Suozzo said. "Diverting this from the landfill would (prevent) significant methane emissions that contribute to climate change."
Using a conversational meeting model and state-of-the-art voting devices, participants sat at tables of six, discussing and prioritizing their most pressing concerns – lack of education, waste reduction, recycling, composting and toxic and e-waste.
Environmental education garnered the most support, with 48 percent voting it a top priority. Ninety-three percent of participants said they learned something new as a result of attending the meeting, and 97 percent committed to taking personal action to reduce waste in their lives or in the community.
GreenTown has scheduled another community meeting to prioritize and vote to establish its final waste- and water-reduction recommendations, which will be presented to the Los Altos City Council.
"Voting night is an opportunity for citizens to be heard about what they think the city ought to do," Fitzpatrick said.
The meeting is scheduled 6:30 p.m. Nov. 5 at Christ Episcopal Church, 1040 Border Road, Los Altos. The public is invited.
For more information or to register for the Nov. 5 meeting, visit www.greentownlosaltos.com.
Peg Champion is an environmental communicator, project manager and member of the GreenTown Los Altos leadership team.