ST in the News

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

December 21, 2014

Climate Fund Grant Comes Just in Time for Christmas

Dan and Kolleen Fenner

Santa came a little early in 2014 for young Kolleen Fenner and her family, thanks to donors to our Finger Lakes Climate Fund.

The Fenners’ 1920 bungalow home in Newfield suffered from lots of air leaks coming in from the crawlspace and garage door, making their 45-year old furnace labor to keep them warm.  Tompkins Community Action let Daniel Fenner know about the financial assistance they could get through NYSERDA’s programs, but the critical difference came with the Climate Fund grant of $2,247 from Sustainable Tompkins.

Their new high-efficiency propane furnace combined with steps to tighten up the house by sealing rim joists, insulating walls, wrapping pipes, and replacing the garage door will keep 112 tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere.  Donations from the Sustainable Newfield Fund and other community members provided funds for the Fenner award.

This is the eleventh grant from the Climate Fund bringing our total assistance to local households to $20,974.  Thanks to the savings from these energy improvements, the Fenner household budget will have a lot more room for holiday cheer!

November 10, 2014

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…

October 24, 2014

Children of a Lesser God?

Protest at Crestwood site 10/24/14

Protest at Crestwood site 10/24/14

Sustainable Tompkins stands with the residents of the Finger Lakes Region opposing construction of Crestwood’s methane gas storage in the abandoned salt caverns under Seneca Lake –the heart of a regional economy based on tourism, wine, and farming.  But it seems the citizens of our region are “children of a lesser god.”  At least, employees at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) seem to think so, as they’ve granted a permit to Crestwood for this risky project despite allegations of withholding critical geologic data.

Apparently, a majority of the Schuyler County legislature and Reading town board accept that their constituents don’t have rights to clean air and clean water as they have acquiesced to the interests of out-of-state corporations.  The rail and truck traffic forecast for the depot guarantees significant air pollution in the valley, and the risk of leaks and spills into groundwater or the lake is also very high.  In contrast, four county legislatures and nine municipal boards in the surrounding area have voted against the gas depot because it threatens the quality of life, health, and economic well being of their constituents.

A thorough risk analysis led by Dr. Rob MacKenzie (retired president of Cayuga Medical Center) was done at the request of a Schuyler County legislator.  The risk of a major accident or failure during transport or storage at the facility is estimated at nearly 40% over the next 25 years.  That’s an exceptionally high risk to force upon the residents of any region.   Read more…

October 20, 2014

Speaking Up Against Fossil Fuel Dependency

The promise of wind energy.

We must transition now!

Sustainable Tompkins submitted the following statement to the Tompkins County Planning, Energy, and Environmental Quality Committee on October 15, and the Lansing Star.  The committee heard from the Chamber of Commerce president that they are in full support of the build-out of gas pipelines in our community.  Gay Nicholson joined 4 other members of the local group opposing the Dryden pipeline in speaking to the committee about our concerns:

In 2008, our Tompkins County legislature adopted a goal of reducing county greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050 as part of its Energy Element amendment to the county comprehensive plan.

For any county goal to be meaningful, we have to make sure there is alignment with our other goal-setting, policymaking, and budgeting activities. We especially need greater coordination between our energy and climate goals and our economic development strategy. Tompkins County needs to insist on full-cost accounting and risk assessment whenever proposals to expand fossil fuel-dependency are brought forth. Read more…

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. Read more…

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. Read more…