Sustainable Tompkins is a citizen-based organization working towards the long-term well-being of our communities by integrating social equity, economic vitality, ecological stewardship, and shared responsibility.

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Citizen Power through Communergy Circles


People who care about democracy, local rights, and healthy communities have reason to be concerned about the recent election results. The rapid expansion of shale gas and oil infrastructure across the country will face even fewer obstacles.  Utilities are making a grab for retaining control of the energy system, even as it becomes more distributed. The bill for climate damage is locked in now, and growing. It’s daunting, for sure.

But people are fighting back. They are organizing, learning the ropes, and getting involved. Some are getting arrested, and some are still trying to figure out the playing field. The point is that they are present and accounted for at this moment in history. And they are not alone. They are doing this with others. And that makes all the difference.

Sustainable Tompkins has been helping to organize “communergy circles” by supporting residents willing to act as host and facilitator for a series of conversations about local and state energy and climate issues. Several are underway now, and we are looking for more folks ready to step up and get involved. The process is very open-ended and each group will be different as its members decide for themselves what part of the climate/energy system to work on.

One circle has decided to focus on getting NY to pass the community-owned renewables bill, and for Tompkins County to play a lead role in developing microgrids of locally-owned and controlled renewable energy systems.  Another is exploring how to get their neighborhood enrolled in home energy efficiency and solar energy programs.  ST provides support with briefings on what is going on locally in the energy and climate arena, and resource materials to share with circle members.

Are you ready to step up and get engaged? Is there something you want to work on, or just to think about and explore with others? If so, please get in touch with Gay Nicholson ( to explore your interest and meet with other circle leaders. This is no time to be on the sidelines.


Dryden Gas Pipeline Based on False Assumptions?

ST submitted these remarks to the Tompkins County Legislature on November 6, 2014:

It seems that our County has reached an important juncture in balancing our goals for the future. The issue of the Dryden gas pipeline is perhaps a surprising focal point for the conversation we need to have about how to guide ourselves. But its impact is larger than what we may think.

Those of us working on climate and clean energy want to affirm that we share these values regarding development in Tompkins County. We want to see:

  • Access to housing that is affordable over the long haul;
  • Opportunities for meaningful work;
  • Thriving and connected communities;
  • Resilience and self reliance; and
  • Responsible and coordinated development that examines how costs and benefits are distributed over time and in our community.

We understand that advocates for the pipeline are hoping to see a large addition of residential housing and business development in northeast Lansing because they want to expand the tax base in Lansing and satisfy the energy needs of residents and businesses.

But we believe that there are problems with the assumptions they are making about using natural gas to meet those energy needs. Read more…

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Signs of Sustainability
Hydrilla Management Requires Flexible Solutions

Tompkins Weekly 11-10-14

By James Balyszak

Similar to previous years, the 2014 hydrilla treatment season was an active and eventful one. Overall, 2014 herbicide treatments to thwart the growth of the invasive hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata) plant were highly successful. Hydrilla tubers, the seeds that allow this invasive water weed to overwinter, are nearly gone from Cayuga Inlet. Hydrilla has been knocked back in Fall Creek, particularly in the Stewart Park Pond and golf course lagoon areas. Alternative management approaches were used in an area of Fall Creek where the herbicide was less effective and in some small, newly found patches in the southeast corner of the lake. Herbicides are only one tool in the arsenal to stop this aggressive pest from spreading into neighboring Finger Lakes, the Erie Canal, and beyond. Read more…

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Ways to Use Fall Leaves

Tompkins Weekly 11-3-14

By Liz Coakley

The days are growing shorter. Our winter hats are close at hand, we can see our breath when we leave the house every morning, and the beautiful autumn leaves are beginning to pile up on our lawns. While the City of Ithaca offers bagged leaf pick-up for a fee, Cornell Cooperative Extension has other ideas. Why not use those fallen leaves as mulch and compost for gardens in the Ithaca area? Read more…

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Ithaca CRT: A Community Affair

Tompkins Weekly 10-27-14

By Kat McCarthy

At one weekend-long event on the Ithaca Commons, Ithaca CRT (Compost, Recycling, & Trash) helped divert more than two-thirds of waste from the landfill, resulting in over 4 tons, or 8,000 pounds of materials being composted and recycled. Where they were once trashed, items are now made into new products and a valuable soil amendment. Ithaca CRT started over seven years ago as a volunteer organization dedicated to offering special event organizers assistance in achieving a goal of zero waste generated at their event. It’s been a great success over the years as events reduce waste and attendees learn how to recycle – all while supporting a local composting business. Read more…

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Older Posts

Don’t Thank an Antifracktivist
Sweltering Heat and Drought
Mindfulness Practice and Sustainability

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How to Get Active on Climate? Even More Locally

By Miranda Phillips

With artic ice melting at great speed, and climate disruption happening a hundred years sooner than expected, climate change is promising to be the biggest challenge of the 21st century.  Not often talked about, at least in mainstream media, are the psychological and spiritual aspects of this challenge – among them, fear, guilt, and grief that make it difficult for us to act and act fast. Read more…

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Fracking: What Are We FOR?

 Fracking: We Know What We’re Against. What Are We FOR?
by Maura Stephens

As antifracktivists, we are often accused of being against fracking but not offering any alternatives to “natural” gas. That’s completely wrong. Our NO message is adamant and comprehensive, to be sure: Read more…

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Sustainability is a Society of Systems Thinkers

by Derek Cabrera

What is the Crisis?

My colleagues and I surveyed the faculty of Cornell University to identify how scientists from different disciplines thought about the most pressing crises facing humanity[1]. Respondents brainstormed 116 diverse crises, sorted, and ranked them in terms of importance and solvability. We applied multidimensional scaling and cluster analysis to their answers to the simple question, “What is the crisis?” Read more…

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