In 2006, Ms. Gardner attended the first-ever “GREEN” conference held at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. There she went around collecting up ideas that were shared by exhibitors about how to reduce impacts on the planet. It was less than satisfying but Ms. Gardner ran into Charles Marsala, then the mayor of Atherton. She recognized him and asked what Atherton was doing about the environment. He expressed a strong interest in doing something and asked her if she would help him figure out what to do. She agreed and this began a period of collaboration between Ms. Gardner and Mayor Marsala.
In order to make their collaboration official, the mayor sought to re-constitute one of the town’s existing committees, the Waste Reduction Committee, which had been focused exclusively on instituting recycling in the town and diverting waste from garbage dumps to recyclers. By 2006, this committee had successfully implemented recycling activity in the town and had little work to do. In late 2006, the major put this change on the council agenda and, with little trouble, managed to have it renamed the Environmental Programs Committee and given a whole new mandate, which included the development of environmental programs for the town.
Ms. Gardner had already been hosting and managing a YahooGroup called AthertonGreen. This group had grown and had been organized as a chat group to discuss environmental issues. Ms. Gardner understood the benefit of having the AthertonGreen Yahoogroup provide some of the outreach that might be necessary to the community, so as to reach those interested in. the topic of taking action on behalf of the environment. Additionally, Ms. Gardner recognized the importance of having a website and taught herself to use Dreamweaver, a website creation software package, with which she built the EPC’s first website at athertongreen.net. Even as the EPC began to take shape and formulate plans for its first Earth Day event in April of 2007, Ms. Gardner created the social media support and framework for the town’s ability to connect with the broader Atherton community via the Internet, as the town did not have a website or email list of its own at that time.