Acterra (Palo Alto, CA)


  • Name:Debbie Mytels
  • Title:Energy Upgrade Program Manager

Organization Address

  • Organization Name:Acterra
  • Address:3921 East Bayshore Road
    Palo Alto, CA 94303
    United States

Organization Phone

  • Main phone:650-962-9876 x302
  • Main fax:650-962-8234

Organization Web

User Email


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  • Mission:
  • Bringing people to create local solutions for a healthy planet.

  • Overview:
  • With a history of environmental leadership since 1970, Acterra’s innovative programs inspire and empower Silicon Valley citizens to take action and address the most urgent environmental issues in our region. We offer adults and teens several thousand volunteer opportunities each year, across a broad range of programs and interests. Our geographic focus is on people and issues in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties and the greater Silicon Valley area.
    Our programs focus on energy efficiency and climate protection, land stewardship and habitat restoration and recognizing environmental innovation in the business sector.
    Climate change is widely recognized now as the greatest global threat to Earth’s environment, and indeed, to the survival of human civilization. There’s a strong scientific consensus that significant changes need to be made in the consumption of fossil fuels, requiring a massive shift to renewable energy sources – and more efficient use of the energy that is available. Related to climate change, especially in California, there is the increased likelihood of on-going water shortages, which also require greater efficiency in the use of water. Overall, it’s clear that every segment of society will need to become involved to create changes in legal, economic, social and technical structures.
    Small business is an underserved market for energy efficiency. While most small businesses may want to reduce their environmental impact, both for moral reasons as well as economic ones, they are typically tightly focused on their economic goals. With a limited number of employees, they generally do not have the time or expertise to research cost-effective energy-and water-saving solutions. In many cases there is general interest in conservation but not the “bandwidth” to create a plan of action and stick with it. On the other hand, local governments see the need to address the collective energy and water resources wasted by this business sector, yet they too are under-staffed and unable to provide much assistance.
    Silicon Valley is home to a highly educated population that has created the world’s most dynamic industry. There is also a growing cohort of “baby boomer” retirees who want to use their lives to make a difference. Because this community is so well educated in scientific understanding, many see the importance of addressing the threat of climate change as an arena for community service in which they can apply their professional expertise. What is needed is a systematic approach to recruiting and training these retired engineers and business leaders and engaging them in a program to support the conversion of small business operations to energy efficiency and water conservation. Acterra’s Energy Corps program is designed to address this opportunity.

  • History:
  • Acterra is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that was formed in 2000 by the merger of two established organizations: the Peninsula Conservation Center Foundation (founded in 1970) and Bay Area Action (created in 1990).

    Over the years, our work has focused on the issues that have been most significant in their time, ranging from hillside and wetlands protection in the 1970's to pollution prevention and recycling in the 1980's to engaging the business community in the 1990's. For example, in 1990, we worked with commercial property owners to established the first business district recycling program in our region, long before it was mandated by state law. At that time we also started the Acterra Business Environmental Awards (BEA), which has just issued its 25th call for applications from Bay Area businesses with exemplary and innovative sustainability practices.

    Since 2000, we have been engaged in several programs focused on habitat restoration and land stewardship, engaging thousands of youth and adult volunteers every year in removing non-native plants and helping plant and nature locally native species. Our Native Plant Nursery now propagates and provides native plants for Acterra's own restoration projects as well as for other local land management agencies.

    In 2005 Acterra initiated "Be the Change," a regional environmental leadership training program. During the next six years we trained over 150 emerging leaders as innovative social entrepreneurs, creating projects in recycling, pollution prevention, energy conservation, transportation, environmental education and other areas.

    In 2008, we began the Green@Home program which trained volunteers to visit people in their homes to install basic energy saving devices and, using an 80-point checklist, help the residents to create a home energy reduction plan. Over time, we also incorporated a cost-effective, online energy audit that reduced residential energy usage an average of 5.5% among 1,576 participating households. Overall, to date we have trained more than 550 volunteers in residential energy saving techniques and served over 4,000 households.

    Throughout all these programs, Acterra aims to engage individuals in hands-on, effective activities that provide a direct improvement to local environmental conditions. As part of a new strategic plan, completed in Spring 2015, Acterra is developing a new Energy Corps program that will continue to train community members as effective volunteer change makers focused on energy efficiency and climate protection, including a new program to support these goals among local small businesses.

  • Year established:1970
  • Endowment:Unknown


  • Executive / Trustee board size:16
  • Advisory board size:15
  • Staff size:23


  • Organization type:Grantseeker
  • Country of registration:United States
  • Tax Determination Letter:Received Determination Letter
  • IRS Section:501(c)(3)
  • IRS Subsection:509(a)(2)
  • Tax ID: