GreenTown Los Altos

Supporter Spotlight


Why Sybil Cramer Supports GreenTown Los Altos


Sybil riding the wave of water bottles at the “Shaped by Water” Exhibit (photo courtesy of Joel Bartlett)

Sybil and Steve, her husband of 24 years, have lived in Los Altos since 2000. She is passionate about environmental issues and hoped to make our community a greener and healthier place – and she certainly has!

Sybil has been an active parent volunteer on green issues at Los Altos High School and the MVLA High School District for the past five years.  Even though her son, Michael, graduated almost two years ago, Sybil remains the parent liaison for the student Green Team and an active member of the Parent Teacher Student Association’s Go Green Committee.  With her support, Los Altos High has implemented a number of waste reduction programs, rainwater harvesting and education programs.  Last year the school achieved Green School Certification from Santa Clara County and recently won an award as Outstanding Green Star School in the Bay Area.   In addition, Sybil arranged for LAHS recognition awards for their green accomplishments from the California State Assembly, Santa Clara Board of Supervisors, and ABAG.

Sybil finds working with students energizing.  “Sometimes, they just need clarification, practical information or introductions to the right people.”  It’s especially gratifying when she introduces students to “real world actions” in the larger community; part of her work with GreenTown Los Altos has been as a liaison with the high schools since 2008.

The indefatigable Sybil also works for the Alliance for Climate Education as the high school outreach representative for the Peninsula and South Bay.  In January, she arranged a day of presentations and speakers at Mountain View High School.  Science classes learned about the causes and consequences of, and solutions for climate change.  Two years earlier, she had orchestrated the K-14 Green Schools Summit at the request of MVLA district superintendent, Barry Groves.

Sybil also helped to plan the “Shaped by Water” exhibit installed at the Los Altos History Museum through 4/22/12.  She serves as a docent for school field trips.

In her spare time, Sybil enjoys photography and drawing.  With two of her “exceptionally wonderful neighbors,” she is putting together a Walker’s Guide to the Trees of Los Altos Avenue.

Why the O’Reillys Support GreenTown Los Altos

It’s not everyone who knows exactly how many cases of empty beer bottles will fit in a Prius, but Barbara O’Reilly does.  Barbara began waging a war on waste after a 2007 Bioneers conference where she had a “sickening awakening to the realities of what ingesting plastic does to birds and sea life.”  Shortly after that, she and her nonagenarian father started a recycling program in Pescadero to raise money for a local church.  In one and half years, they diverted 60,000 bottles from landfill and earned $4,000 for the church.  So, that is how she knows that precisely 25 cases of beer bottles will fit in her hybrid!

Barbara and Kevin, her husband of 45 years, have been involved in GreenTown Los Altos since its inception in 2007 as Cool Los Altos.  They helped to get signatures on the petition asking the Los Altos City Council to endorse the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement.  Both the O’Reillys have been very involved in waste reduction and water stewardship programs with GreenTown, including waste diversion efforts at Los Altos community events, writing guidelines for managing waste at events, adopting a portion of the Permanente Creek in Los Altos, running two creek cleanup events in 2011, and working on the “Shaped by Water” exhibit now at the Los Altos History Museum.  Personally, they’ve been composting their kitchen waste since the 70s!

The O’Reillys moved to Los Altos more than four decades ago, attracted by the “warm weather, lovely neighborhoods and great schools.”  Both are retired now.  Their two sons are grown and living in San Francisco.  Barbara is a former teacher and an entrepreneur who co-founded Dove Professional Apparel (yes, it started in their Silicon Valley garage!).  For 16 years they provided locally manufactured uniforms for health care professionals.  Kevin’s career in education included teaching, counseling, and administration, including seven years as principal of Gunn High School.

Barbara and Kevin are often at GreenTown events.  Just look for the couple with the big, warm smiles and don’t be surprised if Barb introduces herself as “Garbage Girl.”

Tam Patane, Member of GreenTown’s Marketing Committee

Why Tam Patane Supports GreenTown Los Altos

Tam Patane and her husband, Jeff, moved to Los Altos about 12 years ago, attracted by its trees and its quiet streets where people seemed to enjoy walking and riding their bikes. Tam and Jeff love dogs and currently share their home with three of them – Yogi, Boo Boo, and Banshee.

Tam is a former human resources manager, who discovered her flair for graphic design and made a career change. She earned a degree in graphic design and began doing contract work for her alma mater, St. Francis High School, and for Castilleja School. She now has her own graphic design business. “I’m a very spatial person. I like to design things that look great so that people want to really spend some time reviewing the piece.” About two years ago, Tam began applying her design skills as a volunteer for GreenTown and she has since created print ads, flyers, posters and signs for us. She is particularly proud of the “walk or wheel” banners she created for Egan Junior High, and Springer and Santa Rita Elementary Schools. “I love graphic design and enjoy being able to contribute to my community.”

In her spare time, Tam enjoys bicycling and photography and, of course, dogs. Drawing on her interests in photography, graphic design, and canines, she has published a couple of books – “Dogs Do Smile!” and “Loki, Mischief Maker.”

As for her environmental concerns, Tam would like to see more bike racks and bike paths in Los Altos as well as safe routes for casual cyclists to use in town and to connect with neighboring communities.

Why Laura Teksler Supports GreenTown Los Altos

Laura Teksler and her two sons

Laura Teksler is a relative newcomer to Los Altos, having relocated here almost three years ago from Menlo Park.  She and her husband, Boris, chose Los Altos for its schools, proximity to Boris’ job at Apple, and its central location.

A long-time board member of environmental non-profit Acterra, Laura was first introduced to GreenTown Los Altos when we applied to Acterra for fiscal sponsorship.  She was intrigued by our vision for the downtown area and began volunteering as a member of the GreenTown policy committee.  “I’m particularly interested in a redeveloped downtown that is bike- and pedestrian-friendly and that can serve as a good community center,” says Laura.  She also serves as the co-leader of the GreenTown “First Saturdays” bike rides, family friendly rides that explore routes through bike and pedestrian pathways, parks and shopping areas.

Laura enjoys hiking in our many local open space areas and practicing martial arts with her family.  Laura and her two sons, ages 8 and 10, are currently testing for their black belts and Boris recently earned his black belt in the Korean martial art, Kuk Sool Won.

For Laura, GreenTown is a great way to be involved at a very local level.  “This is where I am raising my family and I want it to be a wonderful place to live.  I plan to be here for many years and I want to do my part to make it the nicest place I can.”

Why Jana and Mike Schlansker Support GreenTown Los Altos

Mike and Jana Schlansker

Jana Schlansker has lived in Los Altos for 19 years since her oldest child started kindergarten. Her two sons have since graduated from Los Altos High School and a daughter currently attends Egan Junior High. As a longtime volunteer in the schools, Jana is well-connected in the community. She likes the small town feeling of Los Altos; the people here are “friendly and enthusiastic about contributing to our community in many different ways, large and small.”

Jana and her husband, Mike, love the outdoors and enjoy hiking and cross country skiing. An avid vegetable gardener, Jana has composted kitchen and yard waste for 20 years. She also tends a veritable orchard in her back yard with apricot, plum, nectarine, apple, orange, grapefruit and lemon trees. The Schlanskers place a high priority on energy conservation and renewable energy. By using fluorescent lighting, LEDs and solar panels, they now have an annual electric bill that runs under $40.

Jana first got involved in GreenTown Los Altos about 2½ years ago when she responded to a request for help with administrative tasks. “I have always cared about the environment and this seemed like a way that I could contribute.” She soon became the right hand woman to Founding Executive Director, Kacey Fitzpatrick. Among other things, Jana manages our volunteer and donor databases and has learned some new skills by doing so. Often working behind the scenes, she plays an important volunteer role for the organization, keeping things humming along.

Why Ken Hitz and Dawn Yules Support GreenTown Los Altos

Dawn Yules and Ken Hitz

Ken Hitz and Dawn Yules chose to settle in Los Altos six years ago after living and working in places as diverse as Venezuela, Hong Kong, Costa Rica, Germany and Kansas.  One of the many attractions of Los Altos was its proximity to their families.  Ken’s parents and a brother live in Los Altos Hills and a sister resides in Mountain View.  Dawn is a Bay Area native and grew up in the Willow Glen area of San Jose.

Ken and Dawn (see photo taken in Antigua, Guatemala) have a particular affinity for preserving and understanding ancient cultures.  They are active supporters of the Foundation for Anthropological Research and Environmental Studies, which seeks to preserve important archaeological sites in Guatemala.  As Ken says, “You can’t do this work without preserving the environment.”  They are also involved in wilderness conservation and cultural preservation for the Maasai in Kenya.

Their environmental concerns include local issues and they are generous financial supporters of GreenTown Los Altos.  Ken and Dawn first became aware of GreenTown through the organization’s work on local waste issues.  In fact, Dawn’s paper on “Our Trashy Future,” written as part of her bachelor’s degree program in international business management, drew on some of GreenTown’s research on waste management concerns.
When making purchases and investments, environmental impacts are top-of-mind for Ken and Dawn.  As an example, when they installed landscaping at their family winery in Los Altos Hills, they made sure that it was all native vegetation with low-water requirements.  When they recently bought a car, it was an electric vehicle.  As Dawn says, “How we spend our money can have a significant impact on the environment, which is why we feel supporting GreenTown is one of the best investments we can make.”

Why Don and Suzanne Bray Support GreenTown Los Altos

Don and Suzanne Bray are Bay Area natives and have lived in Los Altos since shortly after their marriage nearly 20 years ago. They are the parents of three children, all of whom attend Los Altos public schools (Egan Junior High and Los Altos High).

Don and Suzanne Bray

Don is the co-founder and President of AltaTerra Research, a professional services firm providing research and consulting on clean technologies for the business marketplace. Don first got involved with GreenTown about three years ago and quickly began to contribute to the organization in several ways, including co-chairing the Working Group on Water and Waste. In that role, he helped to organize community forums and to write and present a report and recommendations to the Los Altos Environmental Commission and the Los Altos City Council. The efforts of this working group influenced the new waste contract recently signed with Mission Trail Waste Systems. Don now serves on the Los Altos Environmental Commission.

Suzanne is currently participating in the year-long Acterra “Be the Change” environmental leadership program and focusing on land preservation. She recently signed on as the vice-chair of the GreenTown education program.
Don and Suzanne have enjoyed being involved in GreenTown. They like getting to know a broader circle of people who share a common interest and like being able to contribute when time permits. The Brays are also donors to GreenTown, and they hope that their contribution will encourage others to donate, too.

“There are lots of groups trying to make change at a state level but GreenTown focuses on Los Altos and Los Altos Hills. Working at a community level, you can really get things done,” says Don. Suzanne adds, “We’ve lived here a long time and there’s a good chance our kids will end up here. When you love a place like this, you want to do what you can to make it a great place to live.”

Why Mary and Mike Gospe Support GreenTown Los Altos

Mary and Mike Gospe moved to Los Altos 13 years ago with two young sons, now students at Los Altos High School. In 2002, they took the plunge and started a business together, co-founding the Los Altos-based marketing and sales consultancy, KickStart Alliance.

Mary & Mike Gospe

Mary & Mike Gospe

Recently, the Gospes have added “suburban farming” to their busy lives. A couple of years ago, they decided to replace their lawn with an extended garden, growing a variety of organic vegetables, including tomatoes, corn, zucchini and peppers. They also have a dozen fruit trees, including Satsuma mandarins, and a huge asparagus patch. This past year, they added three chickens to the mix and now enjoy fresh eggs as part of their vegetarian diet. “Anything you grow, including the eggs, tastes much better than store bought,” says Mike.

The Gospes have been involved in GreenTown Los Altos since it sprung out of the Sierra Club Cool Cities campaign. Mary walked door-to-door to gather signatures on a petition urging the city council to sign the Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement. Mary has been instrumental in putting in place key elements of the GreenTown marketing infrastructure, including our database of supporters, emailing tools, and other communications. She currently chairs the GreenTown marketing committee.

Mary and Mike also have helped to plan, execute and facilitate numerous GreenTown events. They appreciate the opportunity to be part of an organization that is active locally. “We like being involved in something beyond our regular jobs, something with a little bit more purpose. It’s fun to work with great people who are environmentally conscious and are working to make positive changes in our local community.”

Why Mary Clark-Bartlett and Russ Bartlett Support GreenTown Los Altos

Mary Clark-Bartlett is a resident of Los Altos and the CEO of Epicurean Group, a contract food services company headquartered on Main Street. Mary co-founded the company in 2003 around the concept of providing fresh, natural, organic food prepared from scratch. (Mary is seen here with her husband Russ Bartlett).

Mary Clark-Bartlett and husband, Russ Bartlett

Mary Clark-Bartlett and husband, Russ Bartlett

With her focus on high-volume food preparation, Mary is attuned to all the issues of kitchen waste from food byproducts to serveware and take-out packaging. As a result of their insistence to compost and avoid harmful packaging products, Epicurean was the first contract food service company to earn a Santa Clara County Green Business certification.

Mary first got involved with GreenTown Los Altos a couple of years ago as a donor and an advisory board member. She was the inspiration behind the GreenTown Co-op, which enables participating restaurants and food service providers to purchase compostable food containers for just a few cents more than the cost of Styrofoam. “It took over a year for me to negotiate the special pricing and it’s very satisfying to be able to move the program forward. Mike Barnes and a team of dedicated volunteers deserve special kudos for their work with our Los Altos restaurants,” says Mary.

Mary supports GreenTown Los Altos because it “helps people in the community to become aware of everyday things that impact their environment.” As an example, she notes, “Biodegradable is not compostable. Biodegradable can be 70 percent plastic!”

Why Linda and Harvey Ziff Support GreenTown Los Altos

Linda and Harvey Ziff have lived in Los Altos for 36 years and are probably the only GreenTown Los Altos volunteers who can claim that four generations of their family live here now! Linda’s mother lives in town and so do the Ziff’s daughter, son-in-law, and two adorable grandchildren.

Harvey and Linda Ziff

Harvey and Linda Ziff

Linda first learned about GreenTown Los Altos about 1½ years ago and was impressed with what the organization was doing. She quickly got involved and began learning about and helping with waste diversion, under the tutelage of longtime volunteer, Barbara O’Reilly. Linda is currently working on the GreenTown Co-op program, helping restaurants to kick the Styrofoam habit and “go compostable.” “It’s all about education,” says Linda, a retired teacher. “We need to educate restaurant owners about how bad polystyrene is for the environment, what composting is all about, and how they can replace the polystyrene with more environmentally-friendly, affordable packaging.”

Linda likes volunteering for GreenTown Los Altos, in part, because of the other people involved. “I am so impressed with the people involved. They are well-informed, enthusiastic, and fun to work with,” she says. Linda and Harvey also support GreenTown Los Altos financially. “We like that it’s a local organization. We feel that we can have an impact and make a difference in our own environment. It makes ‘changing the world one step at a time’ seem doable.”

Why Mike and Pam Barnes Support GreenTown Los Altos

Mike and Pam Barnes have lived in Los Altos for almost five years and lived in neighboring Cupertino for a total of 26 years. Mike is retired from the high-tech business, most recently having spent over 20 years at Intel. Pam runs a tax practice.

Pam and Mike Barnes

Mike began volunteering for GreenTown Los Altos two years ago, after attending a talk about polar bears. Mike and Pam jumped right in and took the Low Carbon Challenge. Mike wanted to invest some of his time and energy in making a difference for the environment. He was particularly attracted to working with GreenTown because it is a local, grass roots organization. “I could see that a local group with some good volunteer energy behind it could speed up the process of change and have a real impact,” says Mike. Mike’s work with GreenTown has included data tracking, promoting GreenTown events, tabling at community events, and supporting last winter’s coat drive. Now, he serves as the cochair of the GreenTown Co-op, helping restaurants to eliminate polystyrene take-out packaging by enabling them to buy compostable products at deeply discounted prices.

Mike and Pam are significant donors to GreenTown Los Altos. “We both feel strongly about doing what we can to make the environmental changes that the world really needs. Organizations like GreenTown need money to underwrite the out-of-pocket expenses to make change,” says Mike. “There’s lots of work to be done but a critical mass of local people can really make a difference. We see that over and over again.”

Why the McBirneys support GreenTown Los Altos

Maddy and John at San Sebastian

Maddy and John McBirney are longtime Los Altos residents. John grew up here, attending Almond School beginning in 1960. Together, they have lived here for 20 years and raised two daughters, Amelia and Mo. As avid cyclists, they appreciate the ease of getting around town on their bikes. Their personal concern about the environmental effects of energy consumption prompted them to install solar panels on their home.

“We support GreenTown Los Altos because we are really concerned about environmental issues. We think that our town should be more concerned and involved with safeguarding the environment for our children’s future.” Maddy says she strongly believes that starting in your own community ripples outward to the larger world. Not only does Maddy volunteer her time with GreenTown, but the McBirneys also donate to GreenTown. “We give money because no volunteer organization can exist without funding,” added Maddy. The McBirneys like that GreenTown is a small, energetic organization. “It’s a take-action kind of group. They don’t just sit around and talk about things.”