Hedden

Gary Hedden participates in a 2018 GreenTown Los Altos event.

Altos resident Gary Hedden is a passionate environmentalist who certainly ascribes to the “think globally, act locally” philosophy. He’s also, as he put it, “a relentless optimist.”

That optimism drives him in his work to improve the environment. From promoting cycling to recycling, from water conservation through “Lawn Begone” events to a 500-tree planting campaign, Hedden has been tireless at enacting change for the

better.

The local environmental advocacy nonprofit GreenTown Los Altos, of which he is a member, is so appreciative of Hedden’s work that the group recently named him its Environmental Hero for 2021. Hedden is scheduled to be recognized at GreenTown’s virtual fundraiser, scheduled 7 p.m. Thursday.

The retired chemist came by his environmental activism relatively late in life. It wasn’t until he retired in 2009 that he began regularly volunteering at the Los Altos History Museum and GreenTown Los Altos – then in its formative stages. He has served on GreenTown’s board the past 10 years.

Hedden said it was his work on the “Shaped by Water” exhibition at the History Museum in 2011 that served as momentum for further involvement. Since then, it’s been a steady flow of volunteer work.

He organized the first Historic Bike Ride in 2012, combining his love of both history and cycling by leading riders past various landmarks throughout the city. Later, he founded a “Lawn Begone” bike tour of local homes that altered landscaping to conserve water.

He’s also led bike rides on the summer and winter solstices, encouraging riders to observe the Earth’s beauty by riding at night. He’s hoping to bring back bike tours next year.

Hedden has spent much of his time working with young people, such as members of the Los Altos High School Green Team. Team members have worked with Hedden on his latest 500 Trees campaign, with the goal of planting 500 trees throughout town. Undeterred by the pandemic, he’s already led the planting of 220 trees.

He’s also active in GreenTown’s internship program, which has had approximately 30 student participants thus far.

“Working with kids is so important because they’re the next generation,” he said of the need to pass on environmental awareness – and urgency.

Last summer he organized the “Lunch With GreenTown” series – virtual events featuring 10 speakers over five weeks with talks posted on GreenTown’s YouTube channel.

Infectious enthusiasm

Hedden’s impact reaches well beyond the museum and GreenTown. He’s served on the Los Altos Environmental Commission, and helped initiate the city’s first climate action plan in 2013 – a plan that is currently being updated. He was also instrumental in encouraging community choice energy to come to Los Altos through Silicon Valley Green Energy. He hosted Energy Days in downtown Los Altos, helping passerby learn how to save energy in their homes.

“His energy and enthusiasm for all things sustainable are both boundless and infectious,” said Margaret Suozzo, a GreenTown member and a past Environmental Hero. “Gary loves to bike and knows that it’s good for the planet. He does it for that reason, for sure, but he also does it because it’s fun. And let’s face it – Gary knows fun. He wants to introduce everyone to the fun and ease of biking around town and beyond. In the process, he’s helping to inspire a love of the planet and building

community.”

GreenTown’s fundraiser, titled “A Fresh Start for the Planet,” includes a talk from Joe Lampe of Redwood City-based Mango Materials. The company is working on something potentially revolutionary – turning methane from biogas waste into a biodegradable biopolymer called PHA, which can then be used to replace the plastic in packaging and the polyester in clothing.

The event also will feature student speakers, music from local singer-songwriter Tami Mulcahy and an online and live auction. The group has set a fundraising goal of $10,000.

To attend the event and for more information, visit greentownlosaltos.org.