What you can do locally to protect our environment


3 Things You Can Do to Reduce Climate Change While Sticking to Your New Year's Resolutions
New York Times Article  January 3, 2018

Explore the switch to an Electric Vehicle (EV). 
Acterra’s Go EV! Ambassadors are EV owners who are willing to share their experiences with you – and let you test drive their car if you like! The cars range from Teslas to Leafs to KIA Souls to Fiat 500s to Chevy Bolts and more! Contact Ariane at ArianeE@acterra.org or sign up here to request your EV consultation by phone or in person.

Consider your options for going solar. 
Google’s Project Sunroof gives you an easy way to plug in your address and your monthly electricity costs to determine how much money you could save by installing a solar system. The website offers you options for leasing, or financing for loans or outright purchase. It also calculates an estimated payback time, and suggests the best size system to install, based on your home situation. The site describes the types of inverters available, gives tips on choosing a solar contractor and provides links to local installation companies.

If you’re ready to go solar, contact SunWork for an estimate. 
As a non-profit, SunWork works with volunteers and trainees, thus reducing the cost of their installations. This makes solar more affordable for those who have low electric bills or who have low-cost municipal energy (like in Palo Alto). They also offer a free orientation session that explains the basics of solar, electricity and construction. It’s aimed at homeowners and potential volunteers alike. Go to www.sunwork.org and click on Upcoming Events for details.

Get started with a Clipper card. 
Hopping onto a bus or CalTrain is much easier if you have a pre-paid Clipper card in your pocket — and you get a reduced fare, too. Go to www.clippercard.com to sign up for your personal card and load $20 onto it.  Then you’re all set to try out using any one of a dozen Bay Area transit systems to head to the ballpark, a shopping expedition, a night on the town – or just a meeting in a nearby city.  

Purchase and install an advanced power strip
Also known as “Smart Strips,” these power strips not only provide surge protection and multiple outlets, but they help reduce your “vampire load” – the electricity wasted when plugged-in devices like speaker systems, printers and other peripherals pull a small but continuous amount of electricity from the socket — even when you think they are “off.” These “vampire loads” can add about $200 in annual energy costs for an average home; you can reduce this by spending about $35 for a “smart strip.” They are easy to install and when you turn off your main device (computer or TV monitor), it cuts off power automatically to unneeded peripherals, while keeping the power on for routers or video recorders. Learn more here.

Discover how much energy your appliances and electronics use.
To learn if your electrical equipment has a vampire load, you can use a “Kill-a-Watt” meter. These handy tools cost about $25 and are useful for a variety of electrical measurements. But if you’re not an electrician and only want to learn about how much energy is being wasted in your home, you can borrow one from your local library. All the libraries in San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties carry them; ask at the Reference Desk. They come with instructions, and you can read more about them here.

Learn about your energy choices and opt up for 100% green electricity through your Community Choice Energy provider.

In San Mateo County, Peninsula Clean Energy, the county’s non-profit electricity provider, is now delivering electricity to homes and business throughout the county at a lower rate than PG&E. And you can also “opt up” to receive 100% renewable and carbon-free electricity via the Eco100 option that will only cost the average family $2.50 more per month. See www.peninsulacleanenergy.com/opt-up/ for details.

In Santa Clara County, the non-profit Silicon Valley Clean Energy (SVCE) serves all electricity customers except those in Palo Alto, Santa Clara, and San Jose. SVCE customers can choose the Green Start program for 100% carbon free electricity (50% renewables and 50% hydropower), or opt up to GreenPrime for 100% renewables (wind, solar, etc.). Go to www.svcleanenergy.org for more information.

In San Jose, the City Council voted in 2017 to create a Community Choice Energy department and selected its first Director of Community Energy.  In January 2018, a Community Advisory Commission was appointed. To encourage San Jose to offer a high percent of renewable electricity, contact San Jose Community Energy Advocates.

In Palo Alto, the municipal utility (CPAU) offers 100% carbon neutral electricity and natural gas to all customers. 

In Santa Clara, starting January 1, 2018, the municipal utility (Silicon Valley Power) provides all residential customers with 100% carbon-free electricity, while all customers may also “opt up” to a 100% renewable electricity mix.

Plant Fruit Trees and Take a Home Gardening Class. 
The Master Gardener Program of San Mateo County offers free workshops in cities throughout the county.  Learn about composting, water conservation, pest control without chemicals, how to diagnose plant problems, and much more. They also offer a phone hotline for help, a month-by-month garden calendar, school garden resources, and a coast-side demonstration garden.

The Master Gardeners of Santa Clara County offer several demonstration and teaching gardens in Palo Alto, Sunnyvale, Cupertino, San Jose, and South County. This group also provides a hotline for phone questions, a Green Gardener program for landscape professionals, and an annual “Going Native” garden tour, among other programs.

Get Some Exercise in our Local Open Space Preserves. 
The Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District offers dozens of docent-led hikes each month. There are 23 preserves from the hills above San Mateo to Mount Umunhum above Los Gatos. Get some exercise and enjoy the vistas by taking a hike in these taxpayer-supported open spaces; they are yours to enjoy! Check out the calendar of scheduled hikes and the trail maps.