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.

More About Sustainable Tompkins

News & Events

Can Art Shake Us Out of Our Climate Denial?

In the Finger Lakes, it’s been a summer of extreme drought and repeated heat waves. Elsewhere, fires and floods have displaced tens of thousands. No wonder people feel nervous about what will happen next. But it’s also pretty easy to feel overwhelmed by the complex global nature of climate change, and end up in a kind of daily amnesia in terms of doing anything to address the problem.

James settting up tentWorried scientists and activists have been working for years to break through this very human response – trying to find entry into our inner workings to shift the pattern. At the same time there is a growing conversation among artists, sensitive to the many interlocking problems that confront humanity, that this is not a time for object making for galleries and museums. Instead this is a time for being socially engaged, to use art as a means for culture shifting and problem solving – taking advantage of the way art creates shortcuts into our inner consciousness and rearranges the furniture in there.

Sustainable Tompkins recently hosted Brooklyn-based artist James Leonard on the Ithaca Commons with his Tent of Casually Observed Phenologies. James has created a performance installation that is not complete until someone from the community joins him inside the tent to talk about their own climate future. The circular tent is a neutral muslin on the outside, but a rainbow of colors inside where bits of recycled clothing have been sewn together to create a ritualistic space for contemplating one’s own relationship with the planet’s warming. On the outside of the tent, small paintings of familiar plant and animal species affected by climate change are pinned.

Perhaps the most interesting part of his art is the way he has adapted Tarot cards to offer a “divination” or reading in response to the climate-related question of the person joining him in the tent. Read more…

Bookmark and Share
Natural Investments Joins as Sponsor for Neighborhood Mini-Grants Program



Good news for all the citizen activists in Tompkins County! Natural Investments has joined our team as a sponsor for the Neighborhood Mini-Grants program. Natural Investments has been a leader in socially and environmentally responsible investing for over two decades, actively seeking to balance the need for financial return with the desire to improve life for others and the Earth.

They donate ≥1% to nonprofits of their choice and Greg Pitts of the New York branch picked Sustainable Tompkins mini-grants program to sponsor. Natural Investments is a B Corporation “Best for the World” winner in 2015 and a Green America Certified Green Business.  The latest book by their principals, The Resilient Investor, looks at more than how we use and invest or money – it also focuses on how we direct our time and attention.

The next deadline for applications to our Mini-Grant program is September 1. Thanks to the sponsorship of Natural Investments and Finger Lakes Wealth Management, we will be able to support the good ideas our local residents have for making this community more resilient, just, and sustainable.

Climate Fund Grant Helps Schuyler County Farmer

Mary Wessel sitting


Peace is kept in the barnyard at Wildwood Farms by 5 white nanny goats supervising the dozens of ducks, chickens, guinea hens, and cats rescued by farmer Mary Wessel. After living in Norway for most of her adult life, Mary returned to the States to rejoin her family in upstate NY. She purchased a 6-acre homestead on the ridge above Queen Catherine marsh in Schuyler County and began the hard work of creating a sustainable refuge for humans and animals alike.   Watch Mary Wessel talk about her farm.

Like many rural dwellings, the farmhouse consisted of a series of additions tacked onto the original cabin with its massive stone hearth – none of them insulated or tightly constructed. When Mary’s elderly mother needed to move in with her, the utility bills skyrocketed as Mary tried to keep her mother warm with electric space heaters and DIY attempts to reduce the drafts. Finally she turned to Snug Planet for help. Read more…

Bookmark and Share
Signs of Sustainability
Making Ithaca’s Streets Come Alive — An Interview with Streets Alive! Director Vikki Armstrong

Tompkins Weekly      9-19-16

By Tom Knipe

Streets Alive! is coming up on Sunday, September 25, on Plain Street in Ithaca’s Southside neighborhood. Streets Alive! is this: A stretch of streets is closed to cars for a few hours on a Sunday afternoon where the entire community is invited to walk, bicycle, dance, play and socialize in the street. It’s a simple concept, but one with a powerful mission. It aspires to promote active living, re-envision possibilities for urban space and encourage more walking, cycling and rolling for daily transportation. I caught up with Vikki Armstrong, the director of Streets Alive! and Bike Walk Tompkins Director, for a behind the scenes look.

Read more…

Bookmark and Share
Fall Preparation

Tompkins Weekly      9-12-16

By Serena Lindahl

As the mist rises over the pond on our first slightly chilly morning of the impending change of seasons, we prepare for colder days at White Hawk Ecovillage. What does that mean for us? It means tromping through the forest in search of fall nuts, insulating the latest house to make its appearance around our circle, and hosting our third annual Equinox Celebration!

While a gaggle of child superheroes in capes and masks races their bikes up and down our road in search of villainous offenses, or more likely a frog crossing in untimely fashion, several of White Hawk’s older residents prepare to harvest and put up the food from our gardens. It was a rough summer filled with plenty of watering, weeding and pest control, but our gardens are now bursting with tomatoes, corn, squash and more tomatoes! As we harvest from our own backyards and the gardens we so diligently nurtured, we also look to the wider world. Read more…

Bookmark and Share
Local Support for Improved Home Composting

Tompkins Weekly      9-5-16

By Adam Michaelides

The first signs of fall are here. Early apples, nights under 50 degrees, more crickets – yet, the sun is still strong, and we have plenty of 80 degree days. Before we know it, we will be bringing in the fall harvest, and tasting cider and concord grapes at the Apple Harvest Festival. In this end of summer time, there are several opportunities to become a home composter, or a better one.

Sometimes with composting, seeing is believing. At the public classes, Master Composters demonstrate the use of home compost bins. We bring food scraps, and the requisite “browns” (straw, leaves, etc.) to use to Lasagna Layer in the bin. The demo takes 5 minutes and is intended to show just how quick and easy home composting can be. Read more…

Bookmark and Share

ST Blog

Older Posts

Fracking: What Are We FOR?
Sustainability is a Society of Systems Thinkers
Don’t Thank an Antifracktivist

Follow our RSS feed

Energy and Equity Go Hand in Hand


Extreme income inequality, persistent racism, and increasing climate disruption are undeniable plagues of our time. We are fortunate that many people in Tompkins County are working on these issues. Some are advocates for racial and economic justice, such as creating living-wage jobs, removing barriers to reentry from the prison system, and ensuring affordable housing for all. Many others are involved in initiatives to reduce carbon emissions, such as, stopping gas infrastructure development, switching from fossil fuels to renewable sources, and conserving energy in housing, transportation, food, water, and waste. Read more…

Bookmark and Share
Home Rule and the Greater Good

After hours of discussion at the June 16th county legislative meeting, the vote on the fate of the Old Library ended in a stalemate of 6 in favor of a large apartment complex for seniors (TravisHyde), and 6 in favor of a smaller adaptive reuse condo project (Franklin Properties) which had hundreds of petition supporters and inspired dozens of citizens to show up and speak in favor of the Franklin proposal. Read more…

Bookmark and Share
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…

Bookmark and Share