Residents of Cupertino, Palo Alto, Mountain View, and Los Altos joined together Wednesday night to discuss sustainability successes, challenges and opportunities for the future at Greening Silicon Valley.
They gathered at World Centric, a company that makes natural, compostable products like plates, cups and trashbags.
“People know Silicon Valley for technology and innovation but there are some incredible things happening here with sustainability,” said former Palo Alto mayor Peter Drekmeier.
With Drekmeier moderating, the evening began with a presentation from the event’s four guest panelists—Mountain View’s Environmental Sustainability Coordinator Steve Attinger, Cupertino’s Sustainability Manager Erin Cooke, Palo Alto’s Assistant Director of Environmental Services and Public Works Phil Bobel and Demetra McBride, the Director of the Office of Sustainablity and Climate Action for Santa Clara County.
In addition to the panel members using the time to update the audience of about 50 on the progress that Palo Alto, Mountain View, Los Altos and Cupertino have made, the night was also a time for community members to express their concerns and share their ideas about sustainability.
Water conservation was a shared concern.
“When waste water comes to a water treatment plant, it’s 99 percent water,” Bobel said. “Why shouldn’t it be saved?”
For this reason, Palo Alto is working toward developing and introducing new water recovery strategies. In the South Bay, the Santa Clara Valley Water District is already building the $65 million Silicon Valley Advanced Water Purification Center water recycling plant off Zanker Road in Santa Clara with money from San Jose, the California Department of Water Resources, and an $8.25 million grant from the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
In addition to tangible solutions, joining forces and unifying within the Silicon Valley was proposed as a way improve sustainability.
Both Attinger and Cooke explained that simply engaging within your community and getting involved with local government can be incredibly beneficial.
“All of you have so much more influence and importance than any of us up here has,” Attinger said.
McBride added that the Silicon Valley is incredibly tied to the entire world because of our production streams, so ensuring sustainability elsewhere is important, as well.
As for goals for the future, Attinger had a list of goals that he would like to see enacted in the next decade or so.
“One thing that I think will be a benchmark for our future society is the idea that we’re living in a cradle-to-cradle, (cyclical society) with less waste,” he said.
“We’ll have a society where non-automobile transportation is the norm, where 50 percent of each region’s energy is coming from renewable sources generated locally, 50 percent of our food coming from within the surrounding 500 miles.”
After the presentation, the audience was given time to interact with the speakers and share their thoughts more intimately. This was a chance for the panelists to ask the attendees questions and learn from them.
The event focused more on general plans and hopes than what exactly could lead to a more sustainable Silicon Valley, but a simple look around the building helped answer that question. Bikes were locked to every street pole surrounding the building, refreshments were served in World Centric cups and the windows and doors of the building were left open instead of turning on the air conditioner.
The goals and ambitions for a greener Silicon Valley may seem hard to accomplish, but the Greening Silicon Valley event showed that every little bit helps.