Green Tour looks to inspire change | June 25, 2010 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - June 25, 2010

Green Tour looks to inspire change

Twelve eco-friendly houses in Barron Park will be showcased to get neighbors thinking green

by Ryan Deto

After a year absence, the Barron Park Green Home Tour is back and greener than ever. On Sunday, 12 energy-saving homes and the Bol Park community garden will be on tour showcasing energy-saving techniques from solar panels to organic and drought-tolerant gardens.

Members of the Barron Park Green Team, a branch of the city's Community Environmental Action Partnership (CEAP), hope the tour will inspire residents of Palo Alto to implement green practices in their homes and lower the city's carbon footprint, said Lisa Altieri, Barron Park Green Team coordinator.

Altieri said city government is only responsible for 8 percent of Palo Alto's carbon footprint; the remaining 92 percent is generated by citizens.

Implementing energy-saving methods may be daunting to many homeowners, but Altieri said it becomes easier for people when their neighbors demonstrate the habits.

"People think the changes are too much," Altieri said. "But if they have neighbors doing it, they might think they can do it."

One of those neighbors is Tom McCalmont. His home, which will be on the tour, embodies the idea that a home can be green without compromising style.

"You wouldn't believe it is just as modern as any other house," McCalmont said.

To keep that modern look, McCalmont used a strategy known as "deconstruction" when remodeling his home from 2007 to 2009. Instead of ripping apart the house and disposing of the materials, he reused or sold most of the wood and fixtures. The framing was reused. The old hardwood floors were sold to The ReUse People, an Alameda-based nonprofit organization. The house was taken apart piece by piece, which is more expensive but has less impact on the environment.

The relationship is similar to clear-cutting logging versus selective logging. Clear-cutting is cheaper but can ruin forests, while selective logging is pricier but preserves the ecology.

McCalmont also installed foam insulation that doesn't collect moisture and insulates the home better than fiberglass. McCalmont, who designs and engineers equipment for solar power plants, covered 850 square feet of his roof with solar panels, which allowed him to disconnect his gas line and run the house off only electric power. His fireplace uses a special type of alcohol instead of natural gas, releasing only clean oxygen and carbon dioxide. He even painted the house sage green using recycled paint.

McCalmont estimated that using all these techniques cost him 20 to 30 percent more than non-green alternatives. But he said that he was "committed to doing it."

"In my world it's worth it," he said.

Lynnie Melena, president of the neighborhood's Barron Park Association, said events such as the tour can not only educate but also can bring neighbors together.

"It builds community," Melena said. "People can come to events, meet and identify with more people in their neighborhood."

The Barron Park Green Team is composed of about a dozen core members, and another 20 people are on the group's e-mail list, according to Altieri. The team plans to host talks on composting, native gardening and chickens. There is another green team in College Terrace. The two teams together have events and projects planned throughout the year.

Barron Park is also planning a neighborhood tree-planting project and a "road safe" biking tour though the city. College Terrace is creating a community garden.

Altieri said she hopes that Sunday's tour will get other neighborhoods to form their own Green Teams.

Vendors, such as the City of Palo Alto and Acterra, a Palo Alto based nonprofit environmental group, will be present at the tour with information about living green. Maps will be handed out at the starting point, Bol Park on Laguna Avenue. The Green Team will also hold a raffle with prizes such as stainless-steel water bottles, reusable grocery bags, energy-saving weather stripping and organic plants.

Barron Park Green Home Tour

Where: Bol Park (on the corner of Laguna and Matadero avenues)

When: Sunday, June 27, from 1 to 5 p.m.

Cost: Free

Editorial Intern Ryan Deto can be e-mailed at


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