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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December Mini-Grants Focus on Civic Engagement

Neighborhood_mini-grant_logoSustainable Tompkins completed its 26th granting cycle for the popular Neighborhood Mini-grants Program in early December.  Our Mini-grant Council (Jamila Simon, Joel Gagnon, Larissa Comacho-Lillie, and Gay Nicholson) reviewed proposals submitted for the December deadline and allocated the $1,500 available in grant funds.  Cornell graduate student, Mike Catsos, our Sustainability Intern last Spring, is an interim member filling in for Miranda Phillips who is away on sabbatical for the year.

The Council was delighted to see so many proposals with a big focus on civic engagement and citizen journalism in the December round:

  • Eco-Defense Radio, a locally-based program airing on WRFI Community Radio, will purchase equipment for producing field documentaries on environmental protection and sustainability.
  • Hot Potato Press will train three citizen journalists to write for a new website on food news and networking, to be launched in 2015.
  • West Village Gone Green will purchase new fencing for the West Village Apartments community garden.
  • The fourth mini-grant in the December round will fund supplies for the Black Locust Initiative to launch their new gardening program serving pre-Kindergarten students in Trumansburg.

Sasha Paris will be our new MiniGrants Program Coordinator.  If you are interested in applying for our next round of grants in March, please get in touch with her at

Bidding a Fond Farewell to Karen Jewett-Bennett

Former Director of OperationsOur Director of Operations, Karen Jewett-Bennett, has decided to move on to her next chapter here in Ithaca.

Karen’s last day with Sustainable Tompkins was Saturday, December 6, when she supervised our booth at the Ithaca Alternative Gift Fair.  Karen joined ST in mid-summer of 2011, replacing Nicole Pion when she married and moved to Boston.  Karen is an Ithaca native who spent most of her adult life working elsewhere, including many years in northern California.  After reconnecting with her boyfriend from middle school, she returned to Ithaca to marry and settle back into her hometown.

During her tenure, Karen oversaw the bulk of ST’s administrative functions, supervised volunteers, and coordinated the membership program and Neighborhood MiniGrants Program.  Always pleasant and a natural at networking across the community, Karen will be missed by the Sustainable Tompkins Board, staff, and volunteers.  We wish her good fortune as she explores her interests and develops her next Ithaca chapter.


Signs of Sustainability
Transforming the Future, One Jar At A Time

Tompkins Weekly 12-15-2014

By Kat McCarthy

What if we lived in a world where single use products didn’t exist? What if the norm was to eat from real dishes that we washed when we were done eating? Eateries would once again be stocked with a plethora of plates, forks, knives, and spoons – and of course, dish washers. To-go mugs would be a staple, and for those rare occasions where dishes weren’t provided, you would have your trusty mess kit to use. Read more…

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Environmental Racism and Sustainability

Tompkins Weekly 12-8-14

By Richard Franke

In his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963 Martin Luther King did not mention the environment. This is hardly surprising. King and the civil rights movement were struggling against southern violence and northern ambivalence.

Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” had been published just one year earlier. Her now famous book had resulted in part from a court case Carson learned about from white Long Island residents concerned about the effects of DDT spraying in their communities. After King’s speech and Carson’s book, the civil rights and environmental movements continued on their separate but parallel ways. King’s speech and the mass movement it reinvigorated led to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Carson’s book generated a President’s Science Advisory Committee Report, and played a role in the 1967 creation of the Environmental Defense Fund and the 1972 banning of DDT in the U.S. Read more…

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Shopping for Meaning at the Gift Fair

Tompkins Weekly 12-1-14

By Kathleen Yen

Ithaca College graduate Meaghan Sheehan Rosen launched the first Ithaca Alternative Gift Fair (IAGF) 11 years ago in order to give people the opportunity to shop for gifts of ideas and meaning instead of material goods.

The inspiration to bring this concept to Ithaca began with a gift from Meaghan’s brother Seán. “I was a sophomore in college home for Christmas,” Meaghan recalls. “Seán gave me the gift of having the locks changed for a victim of domestic violence. I remember how touched I was to receive that gift which had a more meaningful, far-reaching impact than any wrapped box I might have opened that day.”

If you would also like to minimize the accumulation of “stuff” and the annual stress of holiday shopping, then mark on your calendar Saturday, Dec. 6, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Head downtown to the IAGF on the 300 block of North Cayuga St. on Dewitt Park at the First Presbyterian and First Baptist churches. If you can’t go to the fair, charitable gift donations can also be purchased online from Dec. 7 to 31 at


Read more…

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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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