ACTERRA: Action for a Healthy Planet

Rating: 4.95 stars   77 reviews

Issues: Environment, Water

Location: 3921 E Bayshore Rd Palo Alto CA 94303 USA

Mission: Acterra brings people together to create local solutions for a healthy planet
Target demographics: improve the local environment to protect the entire planet
Direct beneficiaries per year: over 8,500 volunteers getting engaged in hands-on and solutions oriented opportunities. Since they were created our programs prevented 2M lbs of CO2 from entering the atmosphere and over 10M gallons of water from being wasted.
Geographic areas served: Bay Area
Programs: Stewardship: Providing hands-on environmental education in urban ecology, water conservation, and habitat restoration. The program is currently restoring sites throughout Santa Clara and San Mateo County. Plants for the restoration work are grown at our own native plant nursery. The Business Environmental Awards recognizes and celebrates Bay Area corporate environmental leaders. Any private or public business entity, division or facility located in Alameda, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara or Santa Cruz County is eligible to apply. Non-profit organizations are eligible if environmental work is not their central mission. Energy Program: Help communities take action to reduce global warming by making their homes more energy efficient. We trains volunteers, provides home energy audits and creates awareness of sustainable living practices.
2014 Top-Rated Nonprofit
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EIN 23-7064937
650-962-9876
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Community Reviews

Rating: 5 stars  

I am an instructor at De Anza College and I have had the pleasure of working with Acterra for many years. Joanne McFarlin, a Senior Ecologist with Acterra, works tirelessly to ensure my students are provided with meaningful and inspiring experiences each year. Joanne leads field trips, teaches my students about stream health and water quality, and provides hands-on restoration experience through volunteer opportunities. She shows students in very tangible ways how an individual can make an impact on the environment through their choices and through community involvement.

Last spring (2014), we expanded our relationship with Acterra when Joanne invited us to partner with them in a restoration project at McClellan Ranch. Students in my class collected baseline data for the project, recording the incidence of invasive species of plants in the meadow at McClellan Ranch. To do this, Joanne and Barbara Banfield (Cupertino's City Naturalist) taught students how to perform point-intersect transects and to identify several species of plants. Honors students in my class compiled the data and wrote a report for Joanne to use in her official report. The data collected last spring will be compared to data collected by students in future classes so that changes in meadow species composition can be quantified as the restoration proceeds. I am extremely grateful to Joanne and Acterra for providing my students with the opportunity to do "real science" and to participate in the restoration of McClellan Ranch. Acterra provides my students with invaluable experiences, and I thank them very much.

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1 previous review
Rating: 5 stars  

I am a teacher at De Anza College and have worked with Acterra, specifically Joanne McFarlin, an Acterra ecologist, for a number of years. Each spring and summer, Joanne puts together an amazing experience for our biology students. She provides hands on experiences that include water quality monitoring, vegetation mapping and analysis, and habitat restoration. She teaches students how important the everyday choices we make are to protecting our environment. She is so passionate about empowering students that they can't help but be changed by the experience. Joanne also serves as an adviser to many students who do their research projects at McClellan Ranch or on Stevens Creek. She responds to their emailed questions, shows them how to use equipment and generally supports their efforts. Her help is one of the reasons students are able to complete research projects they are proud to present.

Our partnership with Acterra was especially rewarding last spring in part because Joanne agreed to meet with many of my students to work on restoring habitat at Blackberry Farm. Students volunteered to spend a Saturday doing this, and I asked for a little write-up about the experience. I was so impressed by what students had to say about the experience. They were emotional! They were passionate! They said they were working together in a community for a common good. It was much different than what I expected them to say about hours of manual labor in the hot sun. To illustrate this, here is an excerpt from one student essay: "The restoration workday at Blackberry Farm was led by Joanne McFarlin of the Acterra Stewardship Program. The organization of Acterra seeks to find ways to inspire and educate the communities in the Bay Area with the mission of creating healthier local environments. After spending the morning weeding out the hedge parsley with other classmates, I saw how meaningful the whole experience was. Not only did we do a nearly clean sweep of the invasive hedge parsley, I also saw a group of people united under the mission of Acterra: to create local solutions in creating a better environment. This experience showed me that it really is feasible to get a group of people together to tackle on some kind of problem, at least at the local level. That is how a movement really starts, after all, is when more and more people learn about a local cause. I really commend the people of Acterra for taking charge and inspiring the people in the Bay Area to be mindful of the environment and, whenever possible, to take matters into their own hands by volunteering or simply making better choices, such as recycling." Couldn't have said it better myself. Thank you Acterra and especially, thank you Joanne!!

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

The experiences I have had with Acterra have all been positive. I do not know of anything that should be changed.

How would you describe the help you got from this organization?

Life-changing

How likely are you to recommend this organization to a friend?

Definitely

How do you feel you were treated by this organization?

Very Well

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2013

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Rating: 5 stars  

Acterra is an amazing organization working to protect and restore the environment in the bay area. I have worked with them many times and every experience is a joy with volunteers and students. Their commitment and quality of service is testament to their dedication to environmental stewardship and is a critical asset for those living in the bay area. I cannot praise them more highly!

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Rating: 5 stars  

Acterra has been an invaluable resource for our high school:

Acterra has helped students at our high school get involved in all sorts of community service.

Acterra members have also helped lead field trips and taught students natural history and about environmental concerns.

They have recommended native plants that we used for campus landscaping.

One year Acterra volunteers trained all of our students to do home energy audits.

Acterra has helped with curriculum resources and other advice. They are a wonderful asset to the community.

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Rating: 5 stars  

This extract from the ED's report tells it all:

During the past year, our Stewardship Program engaged over 6,000 volunteers, the majority young people, in habitat restoration projects up and down the Peninsula. They repaired creek banks, monitored water quality, removed invasive vegetation, installed native plants and trees, and in the process, learned about our native ecosystem and the importance of improving its health.

Our Green@Home program’s skilled volunteers helped hundreds of homeowners and renters make their homes much more energy efficient. Their collective efforts prevented nearly 3 million pounds of CO2 from entering the atmosphere while saving each resident hundreds of dollars and, even more importantly, making them more energy conscious.

In short, Acterra’s programs make a real difference, and it is critical that they do so! Climate change is already upon us, and it is crucial that all of us rapidly adopt environmentally sound behaviors. As a regional organization, we have consciously chosen to play a leadership role addressing climate change right here in Silicon Valley. Our hope is that what we do here will serve as a positive model for people in other regions to emulate.

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1 previous review
Rating: 4 stars  

Acterra came to our home and conducted a home energy audit. They gave us some great suggestions to reduce our energy usage. Inspected and adjusted our refrigerator and furnace settings. They also came armed with goodies such as low flow adapters for the faucets, CFL's and smart power strips. Not only that, they motivated us to do a better job conserving energy which were immediately reflected in lower utility bills. Thank you Acterra.

How likely are you to recommend this organization to a friend?

Definitely

How do you feel you were treated by this organization?

Very Well

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2013

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1 previous review
Rating: 5 stars  

As a recipient of the Green @Home program i found the volunteer house call service to be excellent in getting my wife and I focussed on what we needed to better Green our Home. They not only told us what to do but led the way in spending several hours getting us started. Thank you Acterra.

How would you describe the help you got from this organization?

A lot

How likely are you to recommend this organization to a friend?

Definitely

How do you feel you were treated by this organization?

Very Well

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2012

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Rating: 5 stars  

I was a part of a class that interacted with Acterra volunteers in a school field trip. it was an environmental biology class and their volunteers were obviously super motivated and really passionate about the environment. They honestly made that field trip as well as the class unforgettable.

How would you describe the help you got from this organization?

A lot

How likely are you to recommend this organization to a friend?

Likely

How do you feel you were treated by this organization?

Very Well

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2011

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Rating: 5 stars  

Acterra is simply not your typical environmental organization. For example, they are the only organization that i know of that completes environmental/ energy efficiency audits of the home. And they really get into it, in measuring shower and sink water flow to determine the shower is efficient or not, (and recommendations for a replacement), measuring electricity use (and if you have incandescents vs LED lighting) for both big stuff and small including vampire loads. Where they helped us the most was with our relatively new fridge/freezer. The setting on the freezer was 2F (an acceptable "efficient" freezer temperature) But when the Acterra volunteer energy auditor measured the freezer it was actually -14F (much colder) - with a laugh, he asked if our ice cream coming out of the freezer was like a rock - it was! Obviously we were also wasting energy keeping stuff much colder than it needed to be. And we would have never found this out without Acterra. And as part of the audit they estimate how much upgrades (incremental or whole house) and work out a payback due to the energy savings. They also hold classes in native plants/ and have youth programs.

How would you describe the help you got from this organization?

A lot

How likely are you to recommend this organization to a friend?

Definitely

How do you feel you were treated by this organization?

Very Well

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2012

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Rating: 5 stars  

Fantastic organization. Their Green@Home home energy audit was fantastic for my family- extremely professional engagement, easy and powerful opportunities for us to reduce our footprint on the earth and save money. We've also done several Acterra community service days at their open space preserves-- these were fantastic opportunities for my kids to learn about our local ecosystem and invasive species.

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

Green@Home home energy audit and stewardship programs for my kids

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

Improve their marketing for broader community awareness and participation.

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1 previous review
Rating: 5 stars  

20 people found this review helpful

Founded on the original Earth Day, Acterra has led with innovative local solutions to the toughest environmental challenges for two generations. Its first wave of successes created many of the most successful models of land restoration and sustainable business practices (recycling, EH&S, etc), which have been imported and adapted by many regions across the country. Its new wave of programs is focused on the hardest issue of our time: social engineering at the local level to accomplish rapid, meaningful carbon reductions across broad communities through natural social channels (churches, schools, neighborhoods, workplaces) and behavioral models (peer support, pressure, incremental commitment, etc). Its Green@Home, ActerraGreen, and related educational programs have proven their effectiveness and cost-effectiveness and are now being ramped up by many of the cities and organizations in the Bay Area!

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

Hundreds of homes that have undergone the free energy audit with immediate energy (and $) savings. In a dozen schools that have participated in the online community tools to reduce carbon footprints with tremendous results. In the multiple open space preserves and watersheds that have benefited from Acterra's innovative volunteer-based restoration.

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

Aggressively expand its fundraising and awareness efforts to get the word out and the funding in.

What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

The constant sense of empowerment, that each of us is part of the solution. That each of us can make a real difference. That community matters. And "if it ain't fun, it don't get done!"

The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

Professional, caring, fun. They often have real technical and/or scientific skills that they bring to the restoration, education, or carbon reduction activities.

If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

Scale its current efforts to directly enable 10,000 people to reduce their carbon footprint by 10% to 100,000 people. This, in turn, would be a dramatic, region-wide success model that could be adapted and exported to other regions quickly and cheaply.

Ways to make it better...

Acterra had more funding and volunteers to scale its carbon reduction programs more aggressively. They're proven, and they're cost-effective.

In my opinion, the biggest challenges facing this organization are...

Inadequate funding to scale the carbon reduction programs as quickly as our civilization needs them.

One thing I'd also say is that...

The leadership is outstanding and the financial management is incredibly tight (88% of all funds go to shovel-ready operating programs).

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2009-4-01

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Rating: 5 stars  

17 people found this review helpful

I participated in ACTerraGreen, Acterra's program for community efforts to fight Global Warming. The program was innovative and heard the voices of our school community. It felt fantastic to connect with others in trying to change our habits, and see the collective impact we could have on the planet. In an era of increasing "doomsday" messages where our children face the grim reality, this feeling of empowerment and action at the community level was amazing.

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

in our community's level of awareness on how each of our action contributes to fighting climate change.

What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

the connections it fostered among the participants, and the ongoing support in changing the world one action at a time.

The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

dedicated and passionate - not judgemental and recognizing that change is a process, which is key for an environmental organization wishing to support change.

If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

Launch community-based programs all over the world - it would be so powerful to see how multiple communities working on their own campaigns can aggregate their impact and move the needle on climate change.

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2007-5-01

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Rating: 5 stars  

18 people found this review helpful

Acterra organized Palo Alto's Solar Homes Tour and did an excellent job with the event. They are closely integrated with our community with many programs to improve our local environment. I appreciate their focus on education.

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

Their dedication to the details of running a special event.

Ways to make it better...

They had more staff to do even more outreach!

In my opinion, the biggest challenges facing this organization are...

One thing I'd also say is that...

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2007-9-01

Was this review helpful? 
Rating: 5 stars  

22 people found this review helpful

Great values, great people, great work, big impact on environmental issues in the community. I like their focus on engaging small groups of people to bring about community wide change

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

in action in the community

What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

the people, their values and their expertise

The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

passionate, extremely knowledgeable, community focused

If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

turn global warming on its head in Silicon Valley

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2009-1-01

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