U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson (D-Wisc.) announced in September 1969 that his office would coordinate an “Earth Day” project April 22, 1970, to cast a political spotlight on the environment. What began as an attempt to bring environmental issues to the attention of Congress sprouted into a spontaneous national grassroots campaign.
Los Altos and Los Altos Hills residents continue to embrace Nelson’s legacy and message years later, with various events scheduled to commemorate Thursday’s 40th annual Earth Day.
To kick off the event-filled week, Los Altos Hills reopened the town-owned West-wind Community Barn to the public April 18 after months of construction. The project began as a seismic retrofit for the historical but dated facility, then the town budgeted additional funds of nearly $400,000 to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.
Los Altos Hills Mayor Breene Kerr, an early supporter of the project, said Westwind is the first working barn in the United States to achieve at least midlevel LEED certification, a point system that evaluates a building’s environmental upgrades.
According to Kerr, the barn should generate at least as much energy as it uses annually with the installation of solar panels and a solar water-heating system. The barn already sports a cool roof, constructed with sustainable material to regulate indoor temperatures.
Kerr said that with the green add-ons, Westwind Barn is now a world-class equestrian facility. The barn maintained its structural integrity throughout the seismic retrofitting.
The town nearly closed the barn last year when Supporters of Westwind, a local non-profit group, raised $150,000, not enough to cover the necessary upgrades. The town had agreed to match the non-profit’s donations, but in the end assumed responsibility for the balance of the $1.5 million project.
At Sunday’s reopening celebration, Westwind’s spacious outdoor areas featured information booths relating to Earth Day, including representatives from the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District and the Purissima Hills Water District.
Kerr, who officiated at the ceremonial barn-door opening early in the afternoon, hosted tours, pointing out the environmental upgrades to hundreds of visitors throughout the day.
Barn Manager Crystal Petralli said the horses, displaced during construction, are scheduled to return to Westwind May 1.
For more information, contact Petralli at 941-7222 or visit www.westwindbarn.com.
Redwood Grove hosts activities
Beverly Tucker, Los Altos recreation coordinator, said the department has scheduled a celebration at Redwood Grove nature preserve Saturday that promotes Earth Day’s goals.
By forgoing electricity for a public-address system and not serving trash-generating food, Tucker said the event will have a low impact on the environment.
“We’re trying to be sensitive and embody the spirit of Earth Day,” she said.
Acterra, an environmental education non-profit that has partnered with Los Altos on the months-long Redwood Grove restoration project, is scheduled to host a forum on gardening with native plants 10-11 a.m. at the 482 University Ave. facility.
The Youth Science Institute, a Silicon Valley science education non-profit, will exhibit birds of prey, including a hawk and vulture, at 11 a.m. Representatives from the institute will explain how the birds hunt, catch and eat their food.
Visitors can join a noon walking tour of the preserve and learn how the city plans to maintain the eco-system for years to come.
Tucker said the city is trying to minimize traffic at the event, so activities are spread throughout the day. The institute encourages visitors to bike to reduce congestion and pollution. Green Teams from Los Altos and Mountain View High schools’ bicycle valet program will be available.
The city of Los Altos, Acterra, GreenTown Los Altos and the Youth Science Institute co-sponsor the event.
For more information, call Tucker at 947-2889 or visit acterra.org/programs/stewardship/redwood_grove.html.
GreenTown Los Altos, a local grassroots organization that promotes sustainable practices, has scheduled Stanford University Earth Science Professor Robert Dunbar to discuss the current state of climate change and what to expect in the future 7:30 p.m. today at the Los Altos main library, 13 San Antonio Road.
Dunbar, W.M. Keck Professor of Earth Science, specializes in high-resolution studies of climatic and oceanic variability during modern times as well as over the past 50 to 12,000 years. He will address the most commonly held misconceptions about climate change and how scientists differentiate between manmade and natural effects.
For more information, visit www.greentownlosaltos.org.
Bullis Charter School
works toward trash-free zone
Bullis Charter School students are scheduled to participate in trash pickup day 9-11 a.m. Saturday.
The students are scheduled to meet at Community Plaza in downtown Los Altos for cleanup duty. Walking routes and supplies will be distributed, according to organizer Chris Vargas.
Vargas anticipates approximately 60 students to participate.
“This is their initiative,” he said.
Foothill College conference
plugs water-wise techniques
A Foothill College Waterwise Landscape Conference, “Slow the Flow,” is scheduled 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.
Instructors from Foothill’s Horticulture & Design Department and landscape and green professionals will share the latest techniques and technologies for landscape water conservation.
Topics will include lawn conversion, water harvesting and how to analyze a water bill. Workshops will demonstrate how to plan a water-wise garden, schedule irrigation controllers, modernize existing equipment and integrate plant and mulching techniques.
Owen Dell, author of “Sustainable Landscaping for Dummies” (For Dummies, 2009), is the featured speaker. His “Eco-Friendly Landscapes” talk will focus on ways to create a water-thrifty landscape that is better for the environment yet still beautiful and enjoyable – and at minimal cost.
Other speakers include Sherri Osaka, Frank Niccoli, Dan Svenson, Tom Bressan, Marsha Prillwitz, Peter Estournes and Chris McNairy. Local water district directors Patrick Kwok (Santa Clara Valley Water District) and Robert Anderson (Purissima Hills Water District) will join the discussion.
Cost for the conference is $55. Parking is $2.
Foothill is located at 12345 S. El Monte Road, Los Altos Hills.