Armed with electric leaf blowers, Atherton council members, Police Chief Steve McCulley and staff propelled inflatable balls with the goal of knocking over giant, blow-up bowling pins in a standout activity during the town's first Earth Day Festival on Saturday, April 23.
Aside from some laughs, the game's intent was to demonstrate how quiet, powerful and odor-free electric blowers can be (their sound is akin to a hair dryer), according to event organizers.
"(Some) 3.8% of the town's greenhouse gas emissions come from gas-powered garden equipment, which is more than the town's combined emissions from wastewater and garbage processing for Atherton, so eliminating gas-powered blowers would have a surprisingly significant impact," said Stacy Miles, a member of the environmental programs committee, which hosted the festival, in an email. Last month, members of her committee shared their frustration that the council isn't doing more to limit use of gas-powered leaf blowers given their "health effects and climate risks."
The festival "exceeded even my most optimistic expectations, so I'm riding high," Miles said. "I've received a number of kind emails over the last few days encouraging us to do it again, which is the best compliment."
"As we're coming out of the pandemic, I think everyone is craving a greater sense of community," she said in a Tuesday, April 26, email. "And, Atherton showed up! The peddling car, the art show, so many of the green vendor tables, e-bikes and EVs (electric vehicles) — all were brought by Atherton residents. ... There are any number of ways to make a difference, and our event tried to highlight a variety."
Miles met a few people who came for the art exhibit but walked away more interested in buying an EV. Or, some came for the e-bikes then tried vegan food for the first time.
During the event, which took place in Holbrook-Palmer Park, people rode around in a Volkswagen Beetle that had been converted into a bike.
Attendees peeked into electric cars — Ford, Rivian, Tesla and more — that lined the park's lawn, a combination of dealer and owner vehicles. Americans' interest in electric cars has increased in recent months as gas prices have skyrocketed, according to The New York Times.
There were plenty of activities for kids. Children dropped in on a pop-up bug museum from The Beetlelady. She brought a real tarantula, along with models of other insects. Outside Jennings Pavilion, kids gathered for storytimes. They also hopped onto a Menlo Park Fire Protection District fire truck and ambulance.
Kids visited with chickens, including some very soft silkie chickens.
High-efficiency sprinklers were on display on the lawn.
There were also food trucks and samples of a plant-based ice cream from Oakland-based Eclipse Foods, along with Impossible Burgers from Curve Ball.
A vendor fair featured the San Mateo County Bee Guild, UC Master Gardeners, Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District and more.
An Earth Day art exhibit featured work from climate artist Sukey Bryan, local artists and students from Sacred Heart Schools, Atherton.
The day ended with speakers. U.S. Senator Alex Padilla spoke over video on the key climate provisions of the state's infrastructure bill. SFO Director of Sustainability Erin Cooke, Stanford Woods Institute's Rob Jackson and food scientist Eric Schulze also spoke.