GreenTown Los Altos

LAHS GreenTeam: Engaged Environmentalists Score An A+


Jan 2019


Darryl Willis of Google connects with a few of the LAHS Green Team members.

Youth is rising! Sixteen-year-old Greta Thunberg of Sweden has gotten a lot of media attention lately for holding adults accountable for the climate crisis. Through her strike against climate change and harsh words to world leaders, she is ramping up the urgency in the mind of the public. “You should feel like the house is on fire,” she notes to leaders at Davos.  And her words are having an impact!  This type of youth-activism gives me a great sense of hope and promise for our future and the future of our planet.

I feel similarly inspired and hopeful after attending the fifth annual, “Students for Green High Schools Conference” at Google’s Sunnyvale Campus on Saturday, January 26th. Organized by the Los Altos High School Green Team, the conference is a testament to the power and promise of youth!  GreenTown Los Altos has been a proud sponsor of this conference for the past two years.

According to club Co-President, Anya Gupta the goal of the conference is to bring environmentally-minded students together to inspire and learn from each other to strengthen the culture of sustainability on [high school] campuses. Ninety attendees from twenty schools and organizations attended the conference–the largest showing since the conference started.

Plenary speakers included:

  • Darryl Willis, VP Oil, Gas and Energy at Google, shared Google’s efforts to increase renewables, including that the company’s data centers are now run by 100% renewable energy. Did you know that behind the U.S. and China, data centers are the third largest consumer of electricity? Willis also gave a sneak peak into several energy-saving Google X projects.

    Students staffing the registration table.

  • Gulshan Kumar, Director of Sales at Pathwater, described the company’s journey to combat the single-use plastic water bottle with a low-priced, reusable, aluminum alternative.
  • Pamela LeonardSilicon Valley Clean Energy (SVCE)’s Communications Director reminded participants that electricity in Santa Clara County is 100% carbon-free! She also shared SVCE’s ambitious goal of significantly reducing regional carbon emissions as well the community energy agency’s approach to getting there. From a baseline of 2015 emissions, SVCE has already reduced regional CO2 emissions by 16.7 percent!

In addition, four schools and one youth organization presented a summary of the activities that they are focusing on along with some of the challenges they have encountered. A few highlights include:

  • LAHS’s Anti-idling Initiative. This initiative, in partnership with GreenTown, was motivated by a Pinewood environmental club presentation at the 2018 conference. Mountain View High School, along with a few other sch

    Speaker Gulshan Kumar of Pathwater.

    ools, has also contacted GreenTown to discuss starting an anti-idling campaign at their school.

  • Harker Green Team’s Buy Better Boba Campaign. Apparently, several clubs offer boba to attract potential club members. The Harker green team worked with them to provide an alternative to single-use plastic cups and straws for boba, procuring supplies for, and assembling mason jars, glass straws and straw cleaners along with a fun sticker. Boba is a bugaboo of the GreenTown Skip the Straw initiative, so this option looks promising!
  • Burlingame’s Film Fest. Last year was the first year and it was a huge success. The Burlington Environmental Club now has significant funding for this year’s festival and has opened it up not only to Burlingame High School students, but also to students throughout the Peninsula.

In addition, the conference organizers seated students in groups with representatives from several different high schools to encourage better inter-school communication. These groups also worked on brainstorming solutions to challenges offered by the organizers. These brainstorming sessions resulted in posters that were shared via social media with all participants. Plenty of networking time was allowed for participants, as well.

Overall, it was an amazing conference! Students were fully engaged and learning from the presenters and from one another. During the several years that I’ve been attending this conference, I’ve seen it grow in numbers and sophistication.

But perhaps the best thing about the conference is it creates community and empowers students! Being an environmentalist can feel lonely, at times. This conference provides a way for young advocates to share best practices and connect with, and inspire, each other. And that they do.

By the end of the conference, I sensed a little more wind in the turbine-like sails of the student attendees who, fresh with ideas and contacts, were ready to bring wrap their campuses in “green “energy thinking.  Well done Green Team! You’ve succeeded in creating a peninsula-wide community of environmental youth that will no doubt leave our planet just a little bit better off!

A big shout out to Sybil Cramer, winner of the 2018 GreenTown Environmental Hero Award for her work as liaison to the Green Team and LAHS Go Green Committee Chair extraordinaire and to club advisor Greg Stoehr, who has supported the Green Team since 1997 or before!


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