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2016 Top-Rated Nonprofit

ACTERRA: Action for a Healthy Planet

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Environment

Mission: Acterra brings people together to create local solutions for a healthy planet.

Target demographics: Acterra is a San Francisco Bay Area 501(c)(3) nonprofit based in Palo Alto that brings people together to create local solutions for a healthy planet. We focus on what you can do locally to address current environmental problems. In the face of daunting environmental challenges, our science-based approach instills hope while building community.

Direct beneficiaries per year: 500 individuals learn about environmental issues that face our planet and our region, and solutions that they can take part in to slow climate change and reduce their carbon footprint. We honored 9 organizations throughout the Bay Area for for their unique and important sustainability practices. From their stories, we can educate hundreds of local businesses on how to improve their own sustainability efforts.

Geographic areas served: Bay Area

Programs: Acterra's staff provides environmental education in the areas of energy and climate change, corporate sustainability, and advocacy to build an informed and empowered citizenry. Our programs include Energy and Climate, Business Partnerships for Sustainability, a Public Lecture Series, and an Environmental Library and Resource Center. Our programs engage people and companies in the Bay Area, with a focus on Santa Clara and San Mateo counties. Our roots go back to 1970 with a long history of environmental education and action. Acterra and its predecessor organizations (Peninsula Conservation Center and Bay Area Action) developed innovative programs for wetlands preservation, residential and commercial recycling, green business practices, protection of old growth forests, environmentally responsible food choices, watershed management, habitat restoration, leadership development and residential energy conservation. Acterra now focuses its efforts on the most urgent issue of our time: climate change. We promote and support energy efficiency and renewable energy, transportation innovation, and sustainable business practices in our region. By popular demand, we are also expanding our public lecture series and community workshops.

Community Stories

94 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Acterra's volunteers are passionate, informed, and fun! I admire the organization's breadth of work, high impact outreach, and ability to talk about environmental issues in a way that is appealing to diverse audiences.

Comments ( 1 )

Acterra_membership Thank you very much! We are glad Acterra is able to provide a breadth of environmental work that has considerable reach and impact for a wide variety of audience across SIlicon Valley!

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Acterra is an exceptional organization, comprised of dedicated and passionate staff, board members and volunteers who are truly committed to affecting positive change in the world through local action. They are leaders in their community and, in working with them on the planning of their annual Party for the Planet gala and attending their Business Environmental Awards, I was continually impressed by their ability to inspire and influence individuals, companies and other organizations to follow their lead and take positive, tangible action to affect powerful change.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I like to volunteer my time with Acterra as I highly value the work they do. They truly embody the spirit of local action that address global issues. Whether through education with their speaker series, or "hands on" activities such as their electric vehicle events, or acknowledging governmental agencies and businesses from small to large for their innovative and outstanding environmental programs, Acterra is focused in doing what they can to improve our world and I am glad to help them do it.

Donor

Rating: 5

I have been a member for many years, don't recall how many now. When I joined it was still called the Peninsula Conservation Foundation. I love Acterra because it keeps me informed on both local and national issue around the environment. I have attended many of their community events over the year and learned a great deal. I look forward to their lecture series which features excellent scientists, environmental entrepreneurs, thinkers, and community members. The most recent event I attended was in July to a group showing of "An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power" with a discussion group afterwards. The discussion group really added to my experience of the movie and I got to meet likeminded people who are inspired and help inspire me to take care of our planet!

Donor

Rating: 4

As a long-time donor to Acterra, I know that my contributions are put to work to create local solutions for a healthy planet. While thinking globally and acting locally, Acterra's science-based approach gives us hope while reinforcing community.

Acterra is now focused on the most urgent issue of our time: climate change. They do so by promoting and supporting energy efficiency and renewable energy, transportation innovation, and sustainable business practices in the San Francisco Bay Area.

I highly recommend Acterra!

Donor

Rating: 5

This is a great community based environmental non-profit that is spreading the word locally about climate change and assisting people to reduce their carbon footprint. I participated in their Grren@Home which is part of their Energy & Climate program. This got my wife and I galvanized to successfully improve our carbon footprint of our home and cars. Also, their Business Environmental Awards are truly inspirational. https://www.acterra.org/bea

Client Served

Rating: 5

Acterra recently organized a viewing and discussion of a new film about Climate Change called "An Inconvenient Sequel." Their program both informed me and gave me a chance to interact with other interested people. Other programs they've done in the past have been excellent, too.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Acterra arranged for a very well attended preview showing of Al Gore's new movie in a local theater. Afterwards, close to 50 of the audience went to a local hotel bar where Acterra volunteers facilitated small group discussions related to the movie. For those of us in the climate movement, this was a great public educational experience and some networking at the after-show event has already resulted in some new connections for me. Thank you, Acterra.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I volunteered with Acterra for their first Ride and Drive event as part of National Drive Electric Week 2016. I've shown and offered test rides with my car at multiple NDEW events each year for 3 years now and was very impressed with Acterra's organization and how smooth and well run the event was, especially for a first time event! Their team did a great job.

Volunteer

Rating: 4

I've learned some really useful and practical things at two Acterra events this summer: a workshop about energy efficiency and a test drive event for EVs. The staff are very knowledgeable, and their commitment to environmental issues is contagious.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

In one of the most innovative regions in the world, Acterra is helping to drive the most significant innovations for our shared future. Their Business Environmental Awards shine a light on breakthroughs in sustainability projects and practices in organizations of all sizes. As someone who works in technology, I find the stories and case studies of Acterra award winners as inspiring as any advance in technology. For individuals, Acterra's workshops and education programs provide a clear path for action. Acterra succeeds in creating a community of shared passion and purpose that leads to real change.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I volunteered with Acterra throughout high school and found the staff to be enthusiastic and knowledgable. Our workdays were productive and fun!

Donor

Rating: 5

Really did a great job on educating high schoolers and making a permanent difference in Arasterdero Regional Park.

Board Member

Rating: 5

Acterra is a truly outstanding organization that models the philosophy of "think globally and act locally." The staff and many volunteers are passionate, engaged and very effective and making things happen. Acterra's agenda encompasses some of the most important issues of the day, including climate change, water conservation and natural resources and habitat. I highly recommend getting involved with Acterra or supporting their work with a donation.

Board Member

Rating: 5

Acterra has been a tremendous asset to the peninsula area. The amount of work that a very small team does with its large set of volunteers for the environment is exceptional.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Acterra is a group that truly cares about making a difference in the environment and promoting better community engagement in awareness and protection. From honoring admirable companies' initiatives to group stewardship programs, Acterra is truly working hard to fulfill its mission. Plus its a team of wonderful and dynamic people!

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Very helpful and have a lot of great information! I spoke to them about energy efficiency and the provided a lot of great resources.

Comments ( 1 )

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Acterra_membership 03/29/2016

Thank you! We appreciate your comment and happy to provide our community with resources on energy efficiency!

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Helped me to learn a lot about California native plants and their impact on the ecosystem! Everyone is very knowledgeable, friendly, and incredibly helpful! Great community service opportunities.

Beth83

Client Served

Rating: 5

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.

Previous Stories

Client Served

Rating: 5

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!!

Board Member

Rating: 5

I joined Acterra relatively recently but have been very impressed with the dedication of the staff, volunteers, members and supporters of the organization.