It may not be a major leap, but the city of Los Altos is taking steps to get its environmental act together in the wake of a council-approved edict.
Eliminating bottled water at council meetings is the start of its "green" commitment, begun when the Los Altos City Council committed to sign the Mayors Climate Protection Agreement at its Jan. 22 meeting.
The lobbying efforts of Cool Los Altos spurred the council action, which included a $15,000 study to evaluate municipal greenhouse gas emissions. The grassroots group, comprising 10-15 local residents, lobbied the city for increased environmental awareness and action.
Los Altos City Manager Doug Schmitz requested that bottled water no longer be served in council chambers, replacing it with pitchers of tap water. The change created an 80 percent reduction in bottled-water usage among city staff, according to City Clerk Susan Kitchens.
In contrast to tap water, which undergoes more stringent purity standards testing, advocates consider bottled water detrimental to the environment. According to the Container Recycling Institute, 86 percent of plastic water bottles used in the United States become garbage or litter. Incinerating used water bottles produces toxic byproducts such as chlorine gas and ash containing heavy metals.
The cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles have restricted the purchase of bottled water, which saves funds and reduces greenhouse emissions, said Kacey Fitzpatrick, a Los Altos resident and Cool Los Altos team leader. The group continues to push the city to discontinue stocking bottled waters.
"We're all very excited that change is starting," Fitzpatrick said. "It's really satisfying for citizens to feel like they can make a difference at a grassroots level."
Some council members are leading by example. In cooperation with Cool Los Altos, Councilman David Casas agreed to start a "low carbon" diet, which will include evaluating his household and creating a personal carbon footprint.
"A lot of people want to do something, but they aren't sure what they can do," Fitzpatrick said. She added that re-evaluating lifestyle choices could make residents think about the bigger picture.
The environmental impact of Cool Los Altos is spreading beyond council chambers. The Los Altos Community Foundation (LACF) board agreed Jan. 19 to support and endorse the group's efforts.
"It is a great idea, no matter what you believe, to become energy efficient," said LACF Executive Director Roy Lave. "It just makes sense, no matter how you feel about the geopolitical."
To demonstrate its support, LACF awarded Cool Los Altos "designated fund" status, enabling supporters to make tax-deductible donations to the group.
The long-term goals of Cool Los Altos members are to certify green businesses and develop a task force to encourage greater community involvement.
For more information on Cool Los Altos, visit www.CoolLosAltos.org.