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Acterra's staff and friends have been working in the field of environmentalism for decades. If you have not been able to find an answer to your question in the resource section of this website, please send us your question and we will do our best to answer it. You will receive a response to your email address within 5 business days.
Meet Our Experts

Debbie Mytels - Community Change Processes

Patricia Becker - Organic Gardening

Jessie Denver - Household Chemicals

Bruce Karney - Solar Photovoltaic (PV)

Arvind Kumar - Native Plants

Maija McDonald - Recycling

Laura Stec - Sustainable Food and Cooking

Debbie Mytels Image
Debbie Mytels — Community Change Processes

Debbie has been called "an environmental entrepreneur" for her skills in working with start-up projects and involving community volunteers. Her current role is to develop new programs for Acterra. Before working at Acterra, Debbie served five years as Outreach Director at the Foundation for Global Community. Debbie has also served leadership positions in several other organizations, including the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, Canopy: Trees for Palo Alto, the San Francisquito Creek Watershed Council, and Leadership Midpeninsula. She served for six years as Executive Director of the Peninsula Conservation Center, one of the forebears of today's Acterra. During that time she created the Business Environmental Awards and worked with commercial property owners to establish the first recycling program for businesses in downtown Palo Alto.

Before working in environmental groups, Debbie worked seven years for the Palo Alto Unified School District as coordinator of parent/community involvement and as a volunteer leader of the city-wide PTA Council. A Palo Alto resident for over 30 years, Debbie has been an active leader in many local organizations, including the Loma Prieta Chapter of the Sierra Club, Midpeninsula Access Corporation, the Center for Economic Conversion, Collective Roots Garden Project, and the Midtown Residents' Association, of which she was a co-founder. Educated at UC Berkeley and Stanford, Debbie has three grown children and five young grandchildren.

Patricia Becker Image
Patricia Becker — Organic Gardening

Patricia Becker has been with Common Ground since 1994. First as Educational Programs Manager and in 2000, she became the Center Director. Patricia spent several years living and working at Hidden Villa Organic Farm and Wilderness Preserve where she held a variety of positions, concluding as Manager of the Volunteer Programs. Patricia is a previous Ecological Farming Association Board Member where she served as Secretary for several years. She is currently on the Ecological Farming Conference Planning Committee. She was previous manager of the Palo Alto Gourmet Vegetarian Dinners sponsored by Peninsula Macrobiotic Community. Additional Patricia has a special talent for inspiring guiding students to a healthier lifestyle with yoga and macrobiotic nutritional coaching sessions. Patricia also has a passion for teaching Anusara Yoga, Thursday mornings at Avalon Art and Yoga Studio.

Jessie Denver Image
Jessie Denver — Household Chemicals

Jessie Denver is an environmental professional with over 12 years of experience in the environmental field. She has researched the latest scientific evidence on the environmental, human health and energy impacts of compounds of emerging concerns as they enter wastewater treatment systems and San Francisco Bay. She also has advised the development of health education and pollution prevention programs for both the City of San Jose and the Environmental Protection Agency. Jessie has also participated on regional and national workgroups analyzing emerging contaminant issues, co-authoring white papers and presenting and conferences across the United States.

Previously the City's Energy Officer, Jessie is currently coordinating San Jose's Solar America City Program. In these positions, she has developed and managed energy efficiency and renewable energy projects for the City’s extensive building portfolio. She is currently working with internal and external stakeholder groups to develop a sustainable solar infrastructure that removes market barriers and encourages the adoption of solar technologies by residents and businesses in San Jose.

Jessie is a faculty member in the Environmental Studies Department at San Jose State University where she has taught a number of courses including Green Building Design and Introduction to Environmental Issues. Jessie holds a Master’s degree in Environment & Community Planning from Antioch University (focus on Green Building and Renewable Energy) and a Bachelor’s degree from Humboldt State University in Environmental Science.

Bruce Karney Image
Bruce Karney — Solar Photovoltaic

Bruce Karney has worked in the solar industry since 2007. He's helped more than 600 homeowners go solar, including 119 in Mountain View. He'll happily answer basic and technical questions about solar PV.

Arvind Kumar Image
Arvind Kumar — Native Plants

Arvind is a director of the California Native Plant Society, and the vice president of its Santa Clara Valley Chapter. He is on the steering committees of the Going Native Garden Tour and the Gardening With Natives group. He writes the Gardening Green column for the Loma Prietan, the newsletter of the local Sierra Club chapter. He is a graduate of Acterra's Be the Change class of 2006.

Since 2002, Arvind has led the California Native Garden project at Lake Cunningham Regional Park in San Jose. He has introduced native bulbs to Keep San Jose Beautiful's daffodil distribution program.

In his day job, Arvind is a Software Manager at KLA-Tencor in San Jose. He has degrees in Electrical Engineering and Information Systems.

Maija McDonald Image
Maija McDonald — Recycling

Maija has over 17 years experience in the solid waste management field, and has participated in many waste management and recycling technical assistance projects.

Maija has conducted waste characterization studies and commercial sector waste assessments. She was the project lead on a multi-tenant office building recycling program for the City of San Jose, and was the lead on a project to provide technical assistance to County government facilities throughout Santa Clara County. She has assisted businesses throughout San Jose, Cupertino and Morgan Hill in increasing recycling activities, and optimizing their waste management systems. Additionally, she conducted waste audits for the City of Palo Alto to help businesses to become green certified.

While working for the City of Palo Alto Recycling program, she designed and implemented a survey of compost workshop attendees. During its inaugural year, Maija worked as one of two co-coordinators for the Shop Smart campaign in Santa Clara County, supervising volunteers in setting up waste prevention displays at local supermarkets. At the Peninsula Conservation Center in Palo Alto, she established and maintained a magazine recycling program.

Maija has represented Acterra (formerly Bay Area Action + Peninsula Conservation Center) as a voting member on the Santa Clara County Technical Advisory Committee on Recycling and Waste Reduction Issues for over 10 years. She provides backyard compost consultations for the Santa Clara County Home Composting Education Program. Maija has a B.A. Psychology from the University of California at Davis.

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Laura Stec — Sustainable Food and Cooking

Laura Stec is a chef, author and educator who enjoys teaching about the artistry, health and energetics of cooking. She trained at the Culinary Institute of America, the School of Natural Cookery and the Vega Macrobiotic Study Center, developing her specialty - contemporary-nutritional, high-vibe organic, California cuisine.

Laura worked in restaurants across the U.S., including the Left Bank and Flea Street Café in Menlo Park, CA., before opening her own private chef and consulting business, which offers corporate wellness programs and Green Cuisine workshops to business. Currently, she is Corporate Chef for Pescadero Foods, Inc., sustainably farming Wattle & Combs’® 100% pasture-raised eggs for market, and creating a product line for the National Schools Lunch Program (using local produce). She is also Culinary Health Educator for Kaiser Permanente Medical Group. For over 20 years, Laura has been promoting “the most positive effect we can have on the environment begins on our dinner plate,” with environmental organizations such as the Sierra Club, the NRDC, The Humane Society, Environmental Resources Defense Council, and Acterra. (Laura was on staff at Bay Area Action from 1994 - 1998, and Acterra from 2001 - 2011) With 38 years combined experience in the food and environment sectors, Stec now partners with EcoSpeakers.com, speaking to groups across the globe. Her book, Cool Cuisine – Taking the Bite Out of Global Warming, co-authored with Google Science Fellow and professor Dr. Eugene Cordero, has been reviewed in 16 countries and 7 languages.