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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Housing is Key to Sustainability

Can we grow our population and economy while maintaining a sense of place and a sense of fairness?

Convene.  Connect.  Catalyze.  That’s been the formula for Sustainable Tompkins since we started 12 years ago.  As we seek greater justice, resiliency, and well being in our community, we have found that the first step is bringing people together to get a full picture of our current challenges so we can design solutions with everyone in mind.  Today we are asking for your support so we can once again help our community address a critical and complex issue.

2016 Earth Day teach-in on housingLately, we’ve been receiving thanks and acknowledgment from many of the folks who followed our op-ed series or attended our Earth Day teach-in on housing.  It was great to see so many elected officials from the city, town, county, and state join us for a conversation on this complex topic – along with developers, planners, and both urban and rural residents.

Solving our housing shortage in ways that prevent dislocation of modest-income residents, protect the rights of existing neighborhoods, and reduce our fossil-fuel dependency is going to require a great deal of collaboration, analysis, cooperation, and experimentation.

On April 23, we helped our community convene on this issue and begin to connect to each other while also “connecting the dots” to see more of the entirety of the housing problem with its many elements and variables.  After the county’s Housing Needs Assessment comes out in late May, perhaps we can host another stage in this conversation aided by better data.

We’d love to take our work on housing a step further toward catalyzing action, and we are asking for your support to make that happen.  Many of the sustainability shifts in our community of the past decade got their start in conversations hosted by Sustainable Tompkins, and we feel that this housing conversation needs to deepen before it will ripen into appropriate action.  Read more…

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Earth Day Community Teach-in on Housing

Earth in water drop reflection on green leaf, Save the earth concept, Elements of this image furnished by NASA


Please join us this Saturday from 12:00-3:00 pm at  The Space @GreenStar for Earth Day Ithaca.

We will be hosting a community conversation on how we might address the housing shortage in the Ithaca area in ways that reduce displacement of lower-income residents while honoring neighborhood quality of life.

It is clear that Ithaca’s popularity is causing a housing affordability crisis for those already here. And the Ithaca area is slated for continued growth with additional infill projects, significant waterfront development, and housing complexes in several municipalities.

Most of the people being added to our population are students, retirees, and entrepreneurs attracted to Ithaca’s culture and knowledge economy. But what does this mean for working class residents? What will happen to Baby Boomer city residents as they retire and transition to smaller fixed incomes? Read more…

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Op-Ed Series on Housing Focuses on Affordability, Neighborhood Quality

Sustainable Tompkins organized a series of “thought pieces” for the Ithaca Times this spring exploring some of the issues associated with Ithaca’s housing imbalances.  Data and statistics are scarce, but we’ve been hearing for a while about the extremely high cost of housing in the Ithaca area, along with many anecdotes about lower-income people, even long-term residents, being forced out of the city because they can’t afford the property taxes or the ever-increasing rents. Others who are anxious to buy a home and start a family can’t find anything on the market.   Read more…

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Signs of Sustainability
Studies Put Climate Change Issues in Context

Tompkins Weekly           5-1-16

By Richard W. Franke

Sustainability means more than global warming and climate change. The Sept. 24, 2009, issue of Nature summarized a study drafted by Johan Rockström of the Stockholm Resilience Centre and co-authored by 28 internationally known scientists.

The article is entitled: “A safe operating space for humanity.” (It also appeared in a longer and more detailed form in the journal Ecology and Society Vol. 14, No. 2,) The big idea in that article is that humans as a species, and then human civilization, developed within a narrow range of variation in the values of nine critical components of the earth’s life support system:

The phosphorous and nitrogen cycles
Ocean acidification
Stratospheric ozone
Land use
Aerosol (not enough data to set limits)
Chemical pollution (not enough data to set limits)

Based on available data at the time, the authors estimated that we have already crossed the boundaries—gone out of range—for three of the nine components: climate, biodiversity loss and the nitrogen cycle. They urged additional monitoring of all nine components, interactions among them and the exploration of mitigating actions.

Read more…

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Celebrate Bike Month with Two-Wheel Travel

Tompkins Weekly      4-25-16

By Jonathan Maddison

May is National Bike Month, and residents of Tompkins County are invited to celebrate biking as an economical, healthy, convenient, and environmentally sound way to get around and an excellent tool for recreation and enjoyment of our region’s scenic beauty. People of all ages can get involved in Tompkins County’s growing bike movement.

Streets Alive!, on Sunday, May 1, in downtown Ithaca, will open 1.5 miles of streets for people walking, biking and rolling. The street is closed to cars and open to people. Streets Alive! sets the foundation for building a movement for better biking and walking every day.

The event route runs along Cayuga Street from Boynton Middle School all the way to Court Street and down to GIAC.

At GIAC you’ll have a chance to see programs like the GIAC Navigators, GIAC Jumpers and Beats Alive. CULTURA will be hosting Cinco de Mayo performances and food from diverse Latin American cultures. Other highlights that you can find along the route are Dancing in the Streets, Ryan Zawel & Haiti Horns (a brass marching band), and a youth Bike Rodeo and Helmet Giveaway hosted by Ithaca Youth Bureau. Margot Brinn, who’s come out to almost every Streets Alive! since the first one in 2012, says, “It is such a relief to have my grandchildren on the street and not feel afraid for them.”

Read more…

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Compost Fair is Educational, Entertaining

Tompkins Weekly          4-18-16

By George Cook

As the world is waking up to the benefits of sustainable living, people are redefining abundance. Instead of basing happiness on consumption, this new perspective embraces contribution. Much of this new awareness comes from understanding the impact of consumption on a healthy environment. For example, it can take 500 years for soil to build up an inch of topsoil, rich with microorganisms and nutrients. Our consumer lifestyles are causing the earth to lose five times more soil than is being made. In contrast, composting contributes to soils, reduces garbage in landfills and returns organic carbon and nutrients to the environment.

There are many ways that we can all participate in sustainable living. One of the easiest and most beneficial is composting. It’s a simple practice that requires minimal investment. Instead of wasting the biological nutrients by putting them in a landfill, composting turns them into valuable soil that benefits your garden and the planet. The practice can remove atmospheric carbon through soil carbon sequestration, directly through carbon in compost and indirectly through enhanced plant growth. The benefits are two-fold: rebuilding soil at the same time as helping to mitigate climate change. Composting is a great way to make a personal, local contribution to sustainable living.

Read more…

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Energy and Equity Go Hand in Hand


Urgent challenges being addressed in Tompkins County

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…

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Home Rule and the Greater Good

Screen shot 2015-06-17 at 6.56.25 PMAfter 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.

The vote was pretty much split along geographic lines with those representing the urban/suburban core of the county (Chock, Shinagawa, McBean-Clairborne, Burbank, Kiefer) backing the project that had widespread neighborhood support (along with Klein from Caroline/Danby). Those supporting the large 63-unit apartment complex came from the more rural parts of the county (Dryden, Groton, Lansing, Ulysses, Enfield/Newfield). These rural reps stressed the need for adding housing to try and relieve the incessant demand that has driven up the price of shelter. Residents of the historic DeWitt neighborhood around the old library spoke strongly about the importance of adding density appropriate to the scale and character of the location, and pointed to other Read more…

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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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