ST in the News

Sustainable Tompkins is making waves. Check out our coverage in the local news.

May 6, 2014

Video and Podcast of People’s Salon on Climate Denial Available

April 17 Final SetupThanks to Cris McConkey and his Crew, we now have the video and a podcast of our first salon in our series on ‘The Climate, the Market, and the Commons’ available.  They’ve done an excellent job of putting our conversation on “Why Are We Stuck in Climate Denial?”  together thanks to Cris’s hard work at editing and filtering the audio.  We hope you will watch it if you had to miss the salon, and share it with others who might be interested.

Thanks to a sponsorship by Home Green Home, we will be able to hire Cris and Company to film our second climate salon this Thursday, May 8, at 7 pm when the topic will be “Can Business and Technology ‘Save’ Us?”.  We’ll follow the same format of hearing from guest speakers (Karl North, Stu Staniford, and Marty Hiller) to help us frame up the discussion on the role of the Market in solving the climate problem.

Then we want to hear from YOU as we explore the topic and our options together.  Join us at the Sustainability Center, 111 N. Albany St., Ithaca from 7-9 pm this Thursday.


April 21, 2014

Climate Denial Salon Attracts Large Crowd

Screen shot 2014-04-21 at 11.48.37 PM


We were delighted to see over 80 people join us for the first conversation salon in our series on The Climate, the Market, and the Commons.  A team of local videographers led by Cris McConkey volunteered to film the event, and we’ll post the link to it once it is edited and uploaded.  Thanks to the Ithaca Journal for covering the event for us!

March 21, 2014

Purity Ice Cream and IC’s Net Impact Club Donate $4000 to Finger Lakes Climate Fund

Purity Ice Cream Donation at IC


Thanks to the generosity of Purity Ice Cream owners Bruce and Heather Lane, and the activism of the students in Ithaca College’s Net Impact Club, we have received a generous donation of $4000 to our Finger Lakes Climate Fund.  The Lanes joined Gay Nicholson of Sustainable Tompkins in the Park Center for Sustainable Enterprise on March 21 to meet with Net Impact students Rebecca Blondin and Lauren Goldberg, President Tom Rochon, Dean Mary Ellen Zuckerman, and Prof Hormoz Movassaghi of the IC Business school.  The story behind the “carrot mob” that resulted in the donation can be learned here.

The donation will be redistributed to the community in the form of Climate Fund grants to lower-income households needing help in making energy efficiency improvements to their homes.  Local energy contractors with clients in the Home Performance or Assisted Home Performance program can apply on behalf of their customers for the grants.  The Climate Fund has awarded 8 grants to a wide variety of households, a nonprofit, and a local business.  Awards are based on the tons of carbon emissions that are reduced through energy efficiency improvements, with a maximum grant of $2500.  Interested applicants are urged to get energy audits from local firms such as Snug Planet, Tompkins Community Action, Halco, and Fair Hands, and find out if they qualify for applying. Find certified contractors here.

The Lanes have been donors to the Climate Fund before – believing it is critical that we take responsibility for our impact on the climate, and that we help others achieve greater energy security in the process.  Thanks again to the Lanes and the IC Net Impact students for their leadership!


March 4, 2014

‘Talk of the Town’ Radio with Sustainable Tompkins

Local radio host Juliana Garcia invited ST’s President Gay Nicholson and Board Chair Tom Shelley to join her on February 15 for her weekly ‘Talk of the Town’ show on WVBR.  Listen here to check out our wide-ranging conversation about living more sustainably.

February 7, 2014

Carbon Offsets Help Rebuild Cayuga Pure Organics

Erick Smith, founder of Cayuga Pure Organics, is looking forward to seeing their team back to work cleaning the 2013 bean harvest in their new super-insulated beanery.

Erick Smith, founder of Cayuga Pure Organics, is looking forward to seeing their team back to work cleaning the 2013 bean harvest in their new super-insulated beanery.

The Finger Lakes Climate Fund has awarded its eighth carbon offset grant to a local business.  Late last spring, a dreadful fire destroyed the barn at Cayuga Pure Organics (CPO) in Brooktondale along with all the equipment they used for cleaning and packaging organic dry beans and grains grown at their farm and by other local farmers.

As the only major supplier of organic beans in the region, CPO had become a key player in efforts to rebuild a secure local food system.  Facing bankruptcy, the company launched a fundraising campaign and its customers, fans, and dozens of local food advocates responded with more than $87,000 in donations to help them rebuild.

Sustainable Tompkins, got involved when Snug Planet, the energy contractor for the building, realized they might be able to eliminate the need for a fossil fuel heating system if they could qualify for a grant from the Finger Lakes Climate Fund to help pay for the insulation upgrades.  By creating a passive, super-insulated processing facility, the beanery will be able to stay within its required temperature range without supplemental heating or cooling.

The additional insulation will prevent 158 tons of carbon dioxide emissions over the next 30 years, which qualified CPO for the maximum Climate Fund grant of $2,500.  This funding was made possible by a generous gift from an anonymous donor whose concern about climate change inspired him to offset several years of carbon emissions through the Finger Lakes Climate Fund.

It’s been a challenging year for the CPO team, but thanks to generous support from the community, the jobs of the young farmers have been saved along with this important component of a healthy local food supply.  All this – plus a lighter carbon footprint in the years ahead.

October 22, 2013

Neighborhood Mini-grants Awarded in September–Next Deadline is December 1


This September 2013 we awarded the following five grants:

In Ithaca, two Coddington Road residents will use their Mini-grant to start a Neighborhood Battery and Plastic Bag Recycling collection spot. In addition to keeping these hard to recycle items out of the landfill, it is their hope that the collection spot will give neighbors an opportunity to get to know one another—building community through sustainability. We’re hoping that this effort will catch on across the county!

A Lansing resident will use his Mini-grant to complete the installation of a home built/economical solar system. When its up and running he’ll hold DIY (Do It Yourself) Solar Power workshops to teach community members how to build and install a system in their own homes. We can’t wait for this one.

In addition, we  are honored to offer Mini-grants in support of three local treasures:

The Cancer Resource Center was awarded a Mini-grant to help complete their Healing Garden. This new garden will be built and maintained by CRC community members and their families and will capitalize on the healing power of gardening and plants. Plan a visit to the Healing Garden next summer.

A Mini-grant went to the Sciencenter for their latest, the Renewable Wind Energy Exhibit. The exhibit promises real time monitoring of a local residential wind farm, demonstrate the feasibility of small-scale wind in our area  and will appeal to both children and adults. We’re betting it will blow you away.

The Mini-grant awarded to the Ithaca Alternative Gift Fair will be used to boost attendance at the Fair through radio, social networking and printed materials. This annual event offers area residents access to 60 plus local non-profit organizations and a chance to make gifts in support of participating groups.  We’ve been fortunate to participate in the Fair for many years and donations to the Neighborhood Mini-grant program have always been a favorite of Fair attendees!

Thanks to the Park Foundation and Suzanne Aigen/Aigen Financial Group for their continued generosity toward Neighborhood Mini-grants. Their support provides us with the ability to make grants quarterly—YOUR support means that we can make grants at a meaningful level. The next deadline is December 1– make your gift to the Neighborhood Mini-grant program today.

For more information see:

For an application contact Karen Jewett-Bennett and Coordinator Chris Donaldson at our new Mini-grant email:



September 26, 2013

New Grant Fund for Newfield Residents Announced

FLCF-LogoResidents of the Town of Newfield have a new source of support for making energy improvements to their homes. Thanks to the impressive generosity of a local donor, Sustainable Tompkins has a pool of funding reserved just for the people of Newfield to help them reduce their fossil fuel consumption.The funding is available as two new grant awards from our Finger Lakes Climate Fund. These grants of up to $2,500 help modest-income households commit to a work scope of energy improvements to their home. Newfield households with less than the county’s median income will qualify for the grant awards, but application must be done through certified contractors for the Home Performance Program of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. Participating local firms include Energy Tec, Snug Planet, and Tompkins Community Action.

Sustainable Tompkins created the Finger Lakes Climate Fund in 2010 to give residents a way to offset their carbon emissions locally. The Climate Fund works to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy projects while strengthening our regional economy and assisting local families in need. Individuals and organizations support the Fund by taking responsibility for their unavoidable carbon emissions and offsetting them locally. Donors calculate the carbon dioxide emissions from their travel or building use, and make a donation equivalent to those emissions at the rate of $20/ton CO2.

Sustainable Tompkins uses those funds to award grants to offset an equivalent amount of CO2 by paying for energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements that would not otherwise be possible in low to moderate-income households in our community. These grants help pay for insulation, air sealing, energy efficient heating equipment, and other upgrades to reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. They have awarded five grants to a variety of household types in Dryden, Lansing, Enfield, and the City and Town of Ithaca.

Interested Newfield residents can contact local energy businesses or email to learn more.

June 25, 2013

Fall Creek Resident Wins Grant from Finger Lakes Climate Fund

Deb Thompson insulated basement

Deb Thompson shows off her fully insulated basement and on-demand water heater.

It was a sunny fresh June day in the Fall Creek neighborhood of Ithaca – the kind of day when memories of winter storms or summer heat waves fade away – but the crew from local energy contractor, Snug Planet, were utterly focused on preparing Deborah Thompson’s historic home on Marshall Street for exactly that kind of weather.

Thompson is the latest recipient of a grant from our Finger Lakes Climate Fund.  The program offers travelers and building owners a way to take responsibility for their fossil carbon emissions by making donations to the Fund.  They can use the Fund’s carbon calculator to determine the amount of greenhouse gases emitted from their air and car travel or building electricity and heating, and then make a donation that will pay to offset an equal amount of carbon by improving energy efficiency in the homes of modest-income residents.

In the case of the Thompson home, Snug Planet estimated that the improvements they made would eliminate about 54 tons of carbon dioxide emissions, and resulted in a grant from the Finger Lakes Climate Fund for $1,076 towards the cost.  Over the course of several days, their team did extensive work in insulating and sealing leaks in the attic, and addressed moisture problems, air leaks, and lack of insulation in the basement.

Sustainable Tompkins has announced the availability of a fifth round of grant awards due at the end of June.  So far the program has helped a very diverse mix of household types in Dryden, Enfield, Lansing, and the City of Ithaca.  Details of the projects can be found at

April 3, 2013

The Park Foundation Renews Support to Sustainable Tompkins

parkfdnlogoA heartfelt thank you to the Trustees and staff of the Park Foundation.

On March 26, 2013 we heard from the Park Foundation that they will renew their support to Sustainable Tompkins with a gift of $85,000. We are extremely grateful for their continuing support for our organization. Since our inception the Park Foundation has been our largest benefactor and their gifts to Sustainable Tompkins have made it possible for us to continue our work to convene, connect and catalyze both individuals and policymakers so that our community can successfully cope with global influences such as climate change and energy descent. The 2013 grant, through our fiscal sponsor, Social Ventures, will be used to continue our work to expand our base of support, to recognize achievements in sustainability through our Signs of Sustainability program, to provide Neighborhood Mini-grants, to build the Finger Lakes Climate Fund and to partner with grassroots organizations to promote the Finger Lakes Energy Challenge in Tompkins County.


August 17, 2012

Finger Lakes Climate Fund Awards Grant to Local Family

(Published in Tompkins Weekly, September 3-9, 2012, p. 4)
Beth Mazur cast an appreciative eye on the purposeful jumble of insulation equipment surrounding her country home in Enfield.  On a sunny and beautiful summer’s day, Beth was already contemplating winter’s cold winds – this time without concern for her family’s health and well being.  Thanks to a $2000 grant from the Finger Lakes Climate Fund and the dedicated efforts of Phil Allmendinger and James Dulle of Snug Planet, the Mazurs can relax and enjoy their home in all four seasons.

Beth and her two daughters loved the green vistas and rural charm of their new place, but like so many of us they discovered that the house itself was poorly designed in terms of energy and moisture management.  Then, to make matters worse, the old furnace ended its life with a sooty fire in its basement chamber.  Beth knew it was time to get some expert help with managing their energy needs.

The folks at Snug Planet did a thorough energy analysis of the house, and proposed a work scope involving major insulation and air sealing, a high efficiency boiler and water heater, and ventilating fans to address mildew and rot problems.  The good news was that the Mazurs qualified for a $5,000 grant from NYSERDA for the work; but it was still going to be a big investment for a single mom to handle.  Beth wasn’t sure what to do, but Snug Planet had an idea.  

“We were so excited when we got Sustainable Tompkins’ email announcing the opportunity to apply for a grant from the Finger Lakes Climate Fund,” said Elizabeth Harrod, general manager for Snug Planet.  “We knew that the Mazur house would be perfect for their program.”

The Finger Lakes Climate Fund is a local carbon offset program run by Sustainable Tompkins.  Donors to the program are concerned about climate change and want to take responsibility for their unavoidable fossil carbon emissions.  They use the Fund’s carbon calculator to determine the amount of greenhouse gases emitted from their air and car travel or building electricity and heating, and then make a donation that will pay to offset an equal amount of carbon by improving energy efficiency in the homes of lower-income residents.  In the case of the Mazur home, Snug Planet estimated that the improvements they made would eliminate 100 tons of carbon dioxide emissions.  This qualified the Mazurs for the maximum grant from the Finger Lakes Climate Fund which prices carbon reduction at $20 per ton.

“There’s quite a bit of corruption and misuse of funds in the global carbon credit markets, but we do need a way to put a price on carbon that reflects its true costs to our society and our planet,” noted Gay Nicholson, President of Sustainable Tompkins.  “That’s why we created the Finger Lakes Climate Fund – we wanted our community to be able to take responsibility for their carbon footprint through an honest broker that would make sure the funds went to those who need it and that the carbon emissions really would be eliminated.”  The Fund also benefits the community by helping support green jobs in locally-owned energy firms like Snug Planet and by making recipients of grant awards more financially secure because of lower energy bills.

The crickets are still in full chorus outside, but as the days begin to shorten, one more local family joins the ranks of those secure in their homes as they anticipate winter’s chill.  Thanks to the generous and responsible donors to the Finger Lakes Climate Fund, Tompkins County has moved just a bit closer to true energy security.

(Pictured: Above – Beth Mazur and her dog take a break during the work process. Right – Phil Allmendinger of Snug Planet fills the insulation chute in the Snug Planet truck while James Dulle sprays it into the Mazur attic.)