yolo shines

City of Davis Environmental Recognition Award: Business

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Tuesday night we were honored to receive the 2017 Environmental Recognition Award from the City of Davis. Candidly, it was humbling and nerve-wracking. Here's a link to a video of the ceremony, and below are my rambling, bambling thoughts:

This is like the Academy Awards for us climate geeks, the anti-Scott Pruit. Thank you very much.

I am a solar simpleton. Credit for this award goes to the several hundred property owners we have helped go solar, and the little organization that is the sustainability heartbeat of our community, Cool Davis.

Ours is a community that greatly values sustainability. We value walking and riding our bikes. Driving cars that get good gas mileage, that perhaps are electric. We value making our own energy and growing our own food. We value recycling. We value conserving. And, with all those values, any time any of us do these things, it puts more money back in to our community, because we’re not paying more for gas or electricity or food.

Hence, sustainability to me is not just simply about reducing our GHGs and carbon footprint, but it’s about building a sustainable economy. But, our values have no value if we fail to make an investment in our community. We’re simply winking in the dark, kinda kidding ourselves. Because without an investment, our values are just that: They have no value.

I would like to thank the Council, the Natural Resources Commission, blah blah, mumble mumble.

Past recipients include several of our friends, colleagues, and partners in the climate change fight ... here's a list of businesses that have been honored:

1995 – Ridge Builders Group, Inc.
1996 – Davis Energy Group
1997 – Davis Food Co–op
1998 – Tandem Properties, Inc.
1999 – Calgene LLC
2000 – (none)
2001 – Davis Food Co–Op
2002 – (none)
2003 – Screaming Squeegee Screen Printing & Embroidery
2004 – Sunmart, Inc.
2005 – Harrington Place
2006 – Island Ink Jet
2007 – (none)
2008 – MAK Design+Build, Inc.
2009 – Kiwi Tree
2010 – Hallmark Inn
2011 – Waste Busters
2012 – Café Italia
2013 – Da Vinci High Charter Academy
2014 – (none)
2015 – Neighborhood Partners, LLC
2016 – Sierra Energy
2017 – Indigo Hammond + Playle Architects;  Whole System Designs

Muchas gracias to all for providing us the opportunity to serve our community and planet. Again, we are honored.

YoloShines: Yolo Crisis Nursery

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As we’ve shared, every time a homeowner goes solar we donate $500 to the local nonprofit of their choice. We call this program “YoloShines,” in great part because we believe nonprofit organizations are the underlying fabric of our community — they make it shine! — and, thereby, we have a responsibility to support such groups.

Over the past year, seven Repower homeowners have selected Yolo Crisis Nursery (YCN) for their YoloShines gift; hence, we had the fortune of donating $3,500 to YCN in 2017. In an effort to shine a light on YCN and engage the community to join us in our support, here’s a quick profile of the organization.

First, a story that amplifies the impact of YCN:

About one year ago, a distraught young mom named Jess first came the Yolo Crisis Nursery.  After the birth of Jess’s second child she was home alone with her newborn and her toddler, and realized she was having trouble caring for them both by herself.  Jess’s decision to call the Nursery probably saved her baby’s life.

Over the phone, YCN staff invited Jess to bring both children to the Nursery, where we could care for them at no cost and give her a much-needed break.  Once the family arrived, the situation took a dramatic turn.  Executive Director Heather Sleuter looked at the baby and saw that he was far too listless.  She asked when he had last been fed.  Jess said she could not remember.

Heather directed one of our caregivers to comfort and care for the toddler and then drove both the baby and Jess to the hospital. 

The emergency room staff attended to the child, successfully treating him for severe dehydration.  The doctor told us the baby had come within hours of death.  Meanwhile, Jess received the medical attention she needed.  County authorities made arrangements for both children to move into temporary foster care.

While county officials and Jess worked toward family reunification, her health stabilized and the children eventually returned home.  The family was then enrolled in YCN’s Family Life Skills Program.  A Nursery staff member visited the family’s home for two hours a week for 12 weeks for hands-on parenting education.  Families who complete our program significantly increase the likelihood that they will remain together,’

Today, a year later, this family is doing well.  Jess is working and the children are happily enrolled in day care and preschool.

Wow. Thanks to Cam Stoufer with YCN for sharing the story of lives saved and changed.

All organizations have a purpose … Why does Yolo Crisis Nursery exist? The mission of the Yolo Crisis Nursery is to provide early intervention services to nurture healthy and resilient children, strengthen parents and preserve families. Our vision is that every child in Yolo County grows up in a safe, loving and stable home. The Nursery’s overarching goal is to prevent child abuse and neglect among young vulnerable children by partnering emergency childcare with wrap-around services for families in trauma or crisis. In doing so we keep children safe and families whole in our community.

In 2017, Yolo Crisis Nursery’s accomplishments included:

  • Families receiving childcare services who did not become clients of CPS: 99%
  • Families linked to case management counseling and community resources: 267
  • Families completing referral to wrap-around services: 98%
  • Children served and childcare slots provided: 178 (individual count - up 45% over previous year) and 2,342

Very significantly, 98% of the families the Nursery serves do not become clients of Child Protective Services.

Now, our punchline ... here’s how you can help (monetarily, personally, professionally): Yolo Crisis Nursery is a 501c3 nonprofit organization (Tax ID #47-1006055) which welcomes support from individuals, businesses, foundations, service and faith-based organizations in our community.  The Nursery provides care packages to our families and in-kind support is always welcome in the form of diapers, formula, clothes toys and other items for children.  Volunteer service projects occur throughout the year to maintain and enhance the Nursery facility for our children and families.  Volunteer positions are available annually on the Board of Directors and ongoing as members of the Friends of the Yolo Crisis Nursery, the fundraising and advocacy auxiliary of the Nursery.  Lastly, the community is invited to participate in the annual Krustaceans for Kids Crab Feed to support the Nursery’s programs.  This year the Crab Feed will be held on Saturday, March 24 at the Woodland Community and Senior Center from 6:00 to 9:00 pm.  Tickets and sponsorships are on sale now.  More information is available at: www.yolocrisisnursery.org.

Please join us in supporting Yolo Crisis Nursery, a shining light in our community.

108 degrees. In San Luis Obispo. In late October.

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San Luis Obispo is known for its beauty, SLO pace and mild climate. To me, admittedly biased because I attended Cal Poly three decades ago, it's Utopia.

Two weeks ago -- October 24, 2017 -- San Luis sizzled, blistering to a record high of 108 degrees. Coincidentally, my oldest son, Scott, a freshman at Cal Poly, gave a speech that afternoon. The topic: Climate change. Irony of ironies.

The day and my son's speech, which was inspired in part by TED Talks delivered by Bill McKibben and Amory Lovins, reminded me of the wealth of climate change comrades in arms in our community. I engaged three colleagues to share three simple, every day tips to combat our changing climate.

First, my tireless and delightful friend, Lynne Nittler, who has and continues to do more to make our community and planet a better place than anyone I know:

  1. Eat less meat!  Try just one day a week.  If we all replaced beef with beans, the U.S. would meet 75% of its Paris Accord commitment!  The fall season veggies are delicious!
  2. Leave the car at home and ride a bike these beautiful fall days!  It's a pleasure, it spares the air, and it's good for your health.
  3. Check your doors and windows for leaks now and replace insulation/weather stripping as needed.  Winter is coming...we think.  (I happen to have a door that shifted with the heat this summer and the weather stripping needs to be changed now, so I'm noticing this.)

Next, a new acquaintance and long-time Davis resident, Bernadette Balics, proprietor of the awesome, impactful Ecological Landscape Design:

  1. Idle off: Turn off your car engine when you are parked and using your cell phone.
  2. Ride your bike or walk to the grocery store once.  Just try it out, on a beautiful day, when you don't have to buy a huge carload of groceries.
  3. Pay your gardener more to rake and sweep instead of using a leaf blower.  Or gift him/her with a high quality electric blower.

And, no what-to-do-about-our-changing-climate conversation would be complete without input from THE GREAT John Mott-Smith:

  1. "Just do one thing." Many people are numbed by the number and variety of actions they can take and don’t know how to choose. Michael Pollan opined that doing just one thing, no matter what it is, gets people off the dime and moving towards doing more.
  2. Reduce heating and AC. Assuming this is for folks in Davis, this is the biggest thing that is easy to do and can involve several actions, one of which should apply to anybody, old young, renter, owner; set the thermostat, check/replace your filter, open windows at night etc, for the really ambitious look into a whole house fan.
  3. When the Valley Clean Energy Alliance (VCEA) is activated in fall of 18, don’t opt out. Find out more now. Every household and business customer will be be at least 50% renewables by doing nothing other than staying in VCEA rather than opting out for PG&E.
  4. You only asked for three, but here is one more: Seriously consider solar. It is the best thing you can do. (Note: I swear we did not tickle this out of John!)

Your thoughts? Pragmatic and simple climate curing measures abound. Please share. Thanks.

Yolo Shines Today

Today was a great day. We had the pleasure of donating several thousand dollars to local nonprofit organizations, in the name of RepowerYolo homeowners. (When homeowners go solar, we donate $500 to the local charity of their choice; we call this YoloShines.) 

Today our community shined:

Sounds trite, but it's more fun giving away money than making (or spending) money. The essential fabric of our community is strengthened. Please join us in supporting these -- and dozens of other -- worthy organizations in our community.

YoloShines: Yolo Farm to Fork

As we've shared, Yolo Farm to Fork is one of our favorite (most appetizing?) nonprofits. Like many small, scrappy organizations, F2F does a lot with a little, and their impact spans generations.

With our YoloShines program, Repower homeowners select a local nonprofit organization to which we donate $500. When the selected organization is one of our faves, our donation has even more meaning.

To wit, we would like to thank Davis resident Kirk Mills and his family for choosing Yolo Farm to Fork, and we are proud to donate $500. Here's an encapsulation of why the Mills family selected F2F:

The video on Yolo Farm to Fork's website really spoke to our family. We value buying local produce because it's delicious (mostly), but also because we know it has only traveled a short distance to our local store thereby creating less pollution in the traveling process. The idea of schools using local produce is so exciting. Even more exciting is the concept of school gardens. We know first hand how excited our son gets about our garden at home and how it makes him want to eat what he grows. It is truly a gift to see our son so excited about something so beneficial and positive that he will carry through his whole life.

Thank you, Kirk, for making a difference in our community. Please join the Mills family and Repower in supporting Yolo Farm to Fork.

YoloShines: Make It Happen for Yolo County

One of the most rewarding virtues of our YoloShines campaign is learning about fly-under-the-radar, little-engine-that-could nonprofit organizations that are making a difference in our community. In this case, they're making it happen!

On behalf of RepowerYolo homeowners Mike and Dawn Hughes, we are pleased to donate $500 to Make It Happen for Yolo County (MIH). According to Mike and Dawn, here's what makes MIH special:

Make it Happen for Yolo is a small non-profit that provides assistance for foster children who have "aged-out" of the system and are trying to get a college degree. They do wonderful work for a very needy group of young folks. Thank you for making this generous gesture. 

UC Davis, alone, is poised to have 35,000 students in 2016-17. Add tens of thousands of community members who attend community colleges, CSU Sacramento and vocational schools ... there's a growing population of at-risk late teens who can use a hand.

From MIH's website:

The purpose of MIH is to provide support, resources, referrals and community outreach to under served and at-risk youth of Yolo County.

MIH provides household supplies and furniture for under served youth in Yolo County. An additional purpose is to provide resources and support, as well as advocacy for this population.

MIH receives referrals from Social Workers in the Yolo County Department of Employment and Social Services as well as other individuals and agencies involved with these youth . A MIH "wish-list" is sent to the referring person, completed by the youth requesting assistance and returned to us. A pick- up/delivery time is then arranged for the youth to receive your donations.  Confidentiality is maintained throughout the process.

Please join Mike, Dawn and RepowerYolo in supporting MIH ... it's the Little Engine that CAN! Your gift of furniture, household supplies, gift cards or money will fuel lives.

YoloShines: Progress Ranch

Want to learn more about your community? Look beyond the obvious and tangible roadside attractions; look inside. Sharpen your lens on the myriad behind-the-scenes, little-engines-that-could nonprofit organizations that weave the fabric of our community. We are who we are because of these groups.

And, we all have favorites: Some care about the environment or economic justice; others lean toward education and athletics; the arts and combatting hunger strike emotive strings; healthcare, childcare and animal welfare do it for others. Regardless of our individual ability to give — personally and financially — we all care.

Since 1976, Progress Ranch has provided an East Davis home to a half-dozen six-to-15-year old boys. Beyond sharing a roof, Progress Ranch helps kids build a life. Here’s their mission:

We strive for the following outcomes for our boys:

- Health and well-being

- Confidence and social skills

- An optimistic and hopeful outlook

- A capacity for meaningful relationships

We work to achieve these outcomes by:

- Providing a nurturing home environment

- Being involved in a supportive community

- Emphasizing education

- Offering individual and family therapy

We visited Progress Ranch’s home last week. Amazing. On behalf of Repower homeowners Jonathan and Jeanette Lewis, we are pleased to donate $500 to Progress Ranch. Thank you to Jonathan and Jeanette for the suggestion and introduction.

Please join us in supporting Progress Ranch. If you can’t donate money, they can always use household staples and volunteer services. Or, if golf’s your fancy, join us July 23 for the 18th Annual Villanueva Memorial Golf Tournament benefiting Progress Ranch. Your contribution will make a difference in the lives of young boys.

Mi casa es su casa

Last October we relocated our practice to 909 Fifth Street, contiguous to Indigo Architects’ office (aka, the old Dairy Queen; click here for a few pics). It’s a terrific place to hang our hats: 20-foot ceilings, abundant natural light, radiant heating and cooling, and an occasional symphonic greeting from a passing train. We love it.

In addition to be enamored with the workspace, there’s an unforeseen virtue: After-hours, our office hosts numerous nonprofits and their events. To date, we’ve had the pleasure of hosting meetings, educational sessions and social events for Toastmasters, Cool Davis (and its myriad tentacles), Valley Climate Action Center and the Sacramento Entrepreneurship Academy, among others.

John and I serve and have served on the boards of numerous nonprofit organizations. All share two characteristics: they have a great purpose, and they scrap to stay afloat. Nonprofits need help, be it contributions of money, time, or space. Through YoloShines, we help local nonprofits raise money; as volunteers, we contribute our time; and, with our office, nonprofits have a place to host membership events, retreats, board meetings and fundraisers.

Importantly, there’s no cost for nonprofits to utilize our space -- we can host up to 40 seated folks and 80 or so standing people, or employ our conference room for a small gathering. If you’d like to learn more, please contact us today.

YoloShines: Yolo Food Bank

The next time you have some spare change, consider this: A $1 donation to the Yolo Food Bank will fund three meals for a hungry Yolo County neighbor. Or, the $1 will magnify to $5.50 in wholesale food purchases. Like fresh produce? Your $1 will buy seven pounds of fruits and veggies.

Not to lay on the guilt, but here are two sobering facts to ponder:

- More than 20% (44,000) of Yolo County residents do not have enough to eat.

- One in four children do not know where their next meal will come from.

Enter Yolo Food Bank, one of our favorite community organizations. We have had the fortune of working with the Food Bank over the past year. On behalf of RepowerYolo homeowners, we have donated more than $5,000 to the Food Bank.

The latest: In the name of Repower homeowners Matt and Holly Bishop, Ron and Andrea Forrest, Elaine Lau and Carlton Larson, and Kathleen and Michael Rockwell, we donated $2,000 last week to the Food Bank. That’s 6,000 meals for hungry neighbors thanks to the YoloShines program.

Every dollar makes a difference, and we’re endeavoring to elevate our support for the Food Bank in 2016. Please join us in working to reduce hunger in Yolo County: Click here to donate, or you can learn more about volunteering here.

YoloShines: River City Rowing Club

Yesterday we gave thanks to the Oshima family for their suggestion to donate $500 to the Davis Schools Foundation. It hit home, which made the gift even more special. Today’s recipient of $500 through our YoloShines program strikes a similar family chord.

On behalf of Repower homeowners Don Mooney and Samantha McCarthy, we are pleased to gift $500 to the River City Rowing Club. Here’s the (my) family connection: RCRC’s boat house in West Sac is named after my wife’s late grandfather, Curt Rocca. Grandpa Curt was big into crew in his days at UC Berkeley, and his affinity rippled (perhaps through his myriad business interests in Japan, and hence the Port of Sacramento) to our local crew organization. Very cool.

I have known Don and Samantha’s daughter, Morgan, since she was shorter than a small oar; she and my oldest son, Scott, went through Spanish Immersion together at Montgomery and Chavez. Here’s Don and Samantha’s rationale for supporting RCRC:

We support River City Rowing Club because the coaches work with the teen rowers to inspire them to try their individual best and then beyond while building  a true sense of dedication to the team and sportsmanship. The rowers also learn to set goals and priorities so that they can continue to do well do well in school, crew and life.

Very cool, take two, and it mirrors my family’s support of Davis Water Polo Club (for our oldest son) and Davis Little League (for our youngest).

With the Big Day of Giving nearing, we encourage you to support RCRC. The sun always rises, and so too do committed and aspiring crew athletes.

YoloShines: Davis Schools Foundation

When homeowners in Yolo County go solar, we ask them to identify their favorite local nonprofit organization (aka, YoloShines). On behalf of El Macero residents Alan and Yuki Oshima, we are pleased to donate $500 to the Davis Schools Foundation. Here’s what the Oshimas had to say about DSF:

We realize the local schools can use all the help that they get for enriching the school experience. We were fortunate to have our four daughters attend local Davis schools. Three attended UC Davis, one Sacramento State University. All graduated with degrees. All are married have children and are working. We're very proud of them all.

This donation hits home with me, as the product of DJUSD schools (Birch Lane, Holmes, DHS) and the parent of an Emerson 8th grader and DHS junior. When you're the product of something great, oftentimes you take it for granted; when you're the parent of kids (involved in something great), too often you do not appreciate how good your children have it. I fall in to both camps!

Davis schools are great -- in my opinion -- because our community cares. We prioritize education, we celebrate accomplishment, and we support our schools.

Please join us in supporting Davis Schools Foundation, whether you're a product, parent or beneficiary of Davis schools. Click here to learn how you can support DSF, or contact DSF President Lori Duisenberg: 530-219-9033 info@davisschoolsfoundation.org.

And, thanks again to the Oshimas for making Yolo shine!

A great day, leading up to the Big Day of Giving

We have the fortune of helping homeowners go solar. In so doing, there are three particularly gratifying outcomes: Saving homeowners money, improving the environment (through clean energy), and giving back to our community.

Last Wednesday was a great day: We mailed ten $500 checks — $5,000 in total — to local causes, including Yolo Food Bank, Davis Schools Foundation, River City Rowing Club, Yolo Crisis Nursery, Progress Ranch, Davis High Girls Water Polo, and Make it Happen Yolo County.

The donations were made on behalf of RepowerYolo homeowners through our YoloShines program, aka our 2016 Big Year of Giving. Homeowners are not just repowering their homes and benefiting our planet, they’re also repowering our community. For this we are extremely grateful.

Leading up to the May 3 Big Day of Giving, we will share a bit about these tremendous Yolo nonprofits. In so doing, we invite you to join us in supporting the organizations and strengthening the fabric of our community. When you do so, a great day will be yours too!

YoloShines: Repowering community organizations

When we conceived RepowerYolo, we made two conscious commitments:

1. We will not solicit homeowners. No advertising, cold calls, direct mail or commission sales people.

2. We will reinvest in and support local nonprofit organizations; in other words (excuse the trite phase), repower our community.

The obvious residue of not knocking on doors, cold-calling homeowners, or peppering mail boxes with sales collateral is that we will sell less solar. We can live with that, because we strongly believe markets are conversations and nobody likes to be solicited (sans their permission). And, by eliminating sales/marketing/advertising costs, we significantly reduce the cost of going solar for friends and neighbors.

Furthermore, many an eye has been rolled at our community fundraising efforts: Why are you donating large amounts of money to nonprofits (when you could/should be pocketing the money to send your kids to college)? In simple terms, we believe RepowerYolo is a community program and our commitment to — and support of — local nonprofit organizations is a community dividend.

This community dividend is growing. To date, we have donated upwards of $23,000 to more than 25 local causes on behalf of RepowerYolo homeowners. And, in 2016, we created YoloShines: Every time a homeowner goes solar, we donate $500 in their name to their favorite Yolo County nonprofit.

The first four recipients of YoloShines donations in 2016 are Progress RanchYolo Crisis NurseryDavis Schools Foundation, and River City Rowing Club. 2016 is off to a great start … the future is bright for both homeowners who go solar and nonprofit organizations that stitch the fabric of our community.

The Extraordinary Ordinary: Estela Gatto

[Originally published July 1, 2015]

We use the Davis' downtown United States Post Office a lot.  And Estela Gatto, the woman behind the front desk...the woman who keeps everything moving along harmoniously... the woman who gives each person her full attention and care...always makes our day.

It doesn't matter who needs what, Estela is unwaveringly patient and kind. Students come in with flumpily wrapped packages to mail overseas (with all the labels in the wrong places) and Estela helps them sort it all out.

Today, an "experienced person," who has probably circled the Sun at the astounding speed of 67,000 miles per hour eighty-plus times now, didn't understand how to swipe her credit card and Estela very quietly and patiently explained. One of the people in line stepped to the front to help the woman, too. The potentially drab post office was shining with positive vibes.

Estela sets the tone of kindness. Sometimes the line gets long, but she never acts pressured or irritated. She jokes with everyone and makes sure that the people waiting all are reaping the benefits of the air conditioning. 

"Don't stand out there to wait. It's too hot," Estela says, "Come in here and just remember your place in line." 

I went to the Post Office today for the express purpose of seeing Estela about this blog post. I waited in line and looked around me. There were four or five in line behind me, but no one looked grumpy. When it was my turn, I told Estela why I had come.

"Estela, Repower decided to highlight people who are making a difference in our community, and you're our very first person to be featured in our Extraordinary Ordinary Wednesday post! You always make our day and I know that you brighten many others' days, too."

"It comes naturally to me because I just treat others the way that I would like to be treated," she said. 

Then something else extraordinary happened. Everyone in the line chimed in and shared their appreciation of Estela. They were excited about the idea of our Extraordinary Ordinary Wednesday post and asked where they could read about their beloved Estela. Yes, we had a bit of a celebration in the middle of the tiny Downtown Davis Post Office!

When I shot Estela's photo, she joked, "I hope I didn't break your camera." Not a chance. Estela Gatto, you are beautiful...a ray of sunshine who brightens all our lives. Thank you for being so extraordinary. 

When you go solar with Repower, we donate $500.00 to the charity of your choice.