Signs of Sustainability

We have a long way to go, but we're making progress. Here are some signs that we are moving towards sustainability.

November 24, 2014

Businesses Unite for Change, Cheer

Tompkins Weekly 11-24-14

By Bob Rossi

Our work culture is shifting. The small business sector has been growing rapidly and, according to the US Small Business Administration, small businesses now provide over 50% of domestic jobs and account for over 50% of all domestic sales.  They deserve the majority voice. People often work from their homes, at coworking spaces, in coffee shops, or on the road, visiting clients. They lack the space and staff to organize and celebrate the traditional office holiday party.

Enter the SEEN. The Sustainable Enterprise & Entrepreneur Network (SEEN) is a growing community of businesses, organizations, and individuals who recognize that a strong economy depends on the health of our people and environment. Members strive to adopt what is called a “triple bottom line” approach to business — making decisions based on people, planet, and profit rather than based simply on a financial bottom line.

For 3 years now, the SEEN has been reviving the holiday office party in a way that strengthens connections across the business community. On Thursday December 11th from 5pm to 9pm, the SEEN will host its 3rd annual Holiday Banquet downtown at the Space at GreenStar. Guests will enjoy a delicious dinner catered by Dancing Turtle and GreenStar, desserts and wine pairing led by Laura Winter Falk of Experience! The Finger Lakes, juggling performance by Nate Marshall, live music, silent auction, book signing, and more festivities detailed at

This Holiday Banquet is open to everyone and is a great way to get a taste of this lively community. The event is held at a SEEN member location, emceed by a SEEN member, catered by SEEN members, and features healthy food grown locally by SEEN members. Like many office parties, it is a time to celebrate accomplishments in 2014, set intentions for 2015, build camaraderie, and have fun.

As a network, the SEEN has much to celebrate in 2014. Most recently, the SEEN launched a policy action initiative designed to give its members a stronger voice in local, state, and national policy. Essential to this policy initiative is the SEEN’s connection with the New York State Sustainable Business Council (NYSSBC), an alliance of business organizations and businesses committed to advancing a vibrant, just, and sustainable economy in New York State. At the SEEN’s October event, Take a Stand, NYSSBC coordinator Laura Ornstein shared that “designing a system that supports sustainable business is all within reach if business leaders join together to make their practices and vision more visible to policymakers and the media at the state and federal levels. A collective business voice is needed to challenge the dominant narrative that we must chose between jobs and clean water or profitability and a living wage.” Take a Stand attendees then self-selected into general policy areas and drafted stances on specific policy issues. The 5 general policy areas chosen were Climate & Energy, Food Access, Social Justice, Transportation, and Sustainable Development.

“The goal for these group conversations is to continue not only amongst the members but to connect with parallel efforts in the community — creating a policy synergy that makes all of our voices stronger,” explains Maribeth Rubenstein, board president of the Green Resource Hub, the local parent non-profit organization of the SEEN. “In addition, we can share the most pressing issues in our business community with the NYSSBC and relate relevant policy opportunities from the NYSSBC back to our community.” To learn more or to connect with a SEEN policy group, email

The SEEN is growing and each new member strengthens our voice for policies that will encourage the kinds of business practices that enliven our community and protect our natural environment. To learn more about how you can be part of this movement, visit or join us for the Holiday Banquet.

Bob Rossi is program director for the SEEN and founder of the CommonSpot a social enterprise incubator and coworking space on the Commons in Ithaca.

November 17, 2014

To Achieve Justice, We Can Agree to Disagree

Tompkins Weekly 11-17-14

By Eric Clay

I recently had the privilege of interviewing all three candidates for an Ithaca city judge position on the WRFI radio program “The Made of Clay Report.” (You can listen to the show at

The premise of the interview was that it is more important to know the personal qualities of the candidates than their stances on particular issues.

What matters most is how they engage “others” whose values, histories and needs are different from their own and how they manage conflict—both by their composure within conflict and by their flexibility to publicly change in the face of disconfirming evidence.

The central question was this: How do you know the difference between justice and self-righteousness?

Each candidate struggled with this question, which was the point, but a common thread emerged: justice is likely to be real if people of divergent perspectives see the result that way. Justice emerges as a quality of life and a condition of relationships confirmed by many different, and conflicting, views.

But we live in an age where self-righteousness trumps justice. Although our intentions may be good, we value too highly our own perspective and agenda.

Our well-considered personal experience, cultural or religious identity, political party agenda, commitment to fossil fuels or the environment, scientific orientation, organizational membership, economic status and professional code of conduct all provide ammunition for carrying on the wars of self-righteousness.

Under the guise of “shared values,” we organize to control, convert, or co-opt the opposition to become more like us. We dream of larger majorities; but larger majorities just produce more isolated minorities.

Maybe it’s time to get over ourselves and give a broader notion of justice a chance. Where there is justice, there is peace. When we discover the courage to address what really matters to us, we will need a way to live, even thrive, within the conflict.

How can we share a journey that involves people with whom we may fundamentally disagree or who may regard us, or we them, as the enemy?

First, we must honestly regard other human beings as our equals in standing. We often don’t. We can simply accept others’ differences from what we might value, even assist them with their own endeavors, without endorsing them.

Second, we need a thicker skin to not react or shut down when we may be offended, and we will need a more profound sense of kindness towards others as we acknowledge how much we may offend them.

Third, we need curiosity and openness based in trust—the confidence that whatever happens, we will be OK; that we will be up to whatever challenges face us and our relationships. Curiosity gives trust legs.

Finally, standing on these legs, we can learn from our enemies.

From a moral and spiritual perspective, we learn more from our enemies than we learn from flattering friends. From a scientific perspective, we learn more from disconfirming evidence that upends our views than from corroborating evidence.

So like those judicial candidates, to get over self-righteousness, we have to assemble the wisdom of divergent commitments.

This is the approach of my employer, Shared Journeys. We are dedicated to address stubborn, even seemingly intractable, differences. One example is how we assist with food relief as part of Ithaca MobilePack, which has packed 1,300,000 meals over five years for hungry children in Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua and Africa.

Food aid is controversial, particularly whether organizations should provide immediate relief, which may impede longer-term solutions. Both approaches are necessary. Christine Olsen, a Cornell University Professor of Nutrition, and expert on the needs of women and children, observes that: “[G]ood people of faith could come out in very different places in this discussion.”

Shared Journeys is a catalyst for learning across differences locally, regionally and internationally. Locally, 1500 packers volunteer in the most diverse event in Ithaca/Tompkins County. We bring together Muslims, Jews and Christians, as well as non-religious folks, low-income, African-American, Asian and Latino participants, straight and gay, students—elementary thru college—and rural and urban residents. We don’t endorse each other’s ways of life, but we accept the fact that we need to work together to address issues that are bigger than any of us.

We become educated advocates about food security and the operation of food markets. Through this activity, we have mitigated prejudice towards Muslims, Jews, Evangelicals, Mormons, atheists and secularists, locally and globally. We continue to challenge an international aid organization to promote sustainable local food production within and near the 70 countries receiving aid.

With an eye on justice rather than self-righteousness, we learn to live in productive conflict. Only then will we be strong enough to engage and carry out the work that needs to be done.

Eric Clay is co-founder and community coach of Shared Journeys.

November 10, 2014

Hydrilla Management Requires Flexible Solutions

Tompkins Weekly 11-10-14

By James Balyszak

Similar to previous years, the 2014 hydrilla treatment season was an active and eventful one. Overall, 2014 herbicide treatments to thwart the growth of the invasive hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata) plant were highly successful. Hydrilla tubers, the seeds that allow this invasive water weed to overwinter, are nearly gone from Cayuga Inlet. Hydrilla has been knocked back in Fall Creek, particularly in the Stewart Park Pond and golf course lagoon areas. Alternative management approaches were used in an area of Fall Creek where the herbicide was less effective and in some small, newly found patches in the southeast corner of the lake. Herbicides are only one tool in the arsenal to stop this aggressive pest from spreading into neighboring Finger Lakes, the Erie Canal, and beyond.

On September 23-24, trained members of the Hydrilla Task Force conducted a physical removal effort in the Fall Creek cove. Hydrilla patches were carefully removed by hand, and plant fragments created during the removal process were captured using nets. All removed materials were disposed of off-site. This removal effort was successful and resulted in a significant reduction of hydrilla biomass within the Fall Creek cove. Hydrilla tubers remaining in the sediment of the Fall Creek cove will give rise to hydrilla plants next season, so additional management strategies will be planned for the 2015 season.

Another development in 2014 was the discovery of additional hydrilla patches in the southeast corner of Cayuga Lake. These patches were adjacent to areas where divers successfully removed hydrilla by hand and installed benthic mats in August of 2013. The Task Force determined that benthic mat installation would again be a viable management option for these new patches. With assistance from the City of Ithaca and Town of Cazenovia (NY), benthic mats were acquired and installed over the hydrilla patches by a crew from Racine-Johnson Aquatic Ecologists. Installation was successful, and plant community monitoring will continue to track its efficacy.

It is important to note that physical removal and benthic barrier installation are not ideal management options for larger-scale hydrilla infestations. Based upon success observed in previous seasons, a combination herbicide treatment was again used to treat hydrilla in the Cayuga Inlet and Fall Creek. Initial herbicide treatment (trade name Aquathol-K) began on July 17 and July 29 in Fall Creek and the Cayuga Inlet, respectively. These treatments addressed hydrilla growing above the sediment. Follow-up herbicide treatment (trade name Sonar) was initiated on August 14 in Fall Creek and on August 26 in the Cayuga Inlet. Sonar treatments continued through October 8, when injection units in the Cayuga Inlet were turned off. These sustained Sonar treatments helped to address possible hydrilla regrowth.

The threat of hydrilla and other invasive species is a growing concern throughout New York State. Aquatic invaders threaten the freshwater resources that individuals and communities depend on for drinking water, recreation, business, and tourism. While some invasive species have yet to make their way into New York’s waters, some have already arrived. Once introduced, invasive species are capable of taking over the native ecosystem, causing untold environmental and economic damages.

The overarching goal of the Cayuga Lake Watershed Hydrilla Project is to eradicate local hydrilla infestations, and prevent their spread to Cayuga Lake and beyond. Great progress has been made using herbicide treatments since 2011. Alternative management strategies have provided additional means to address isolated hydrilla patches, without relying solely on traditional herbicide applications. Combining multiple management strategies will allow for adaptive and comprehensive management of hydrilla, leading to more effective control and eradication.

Ultimately, community awareness and support is critical to the success of preventing the spread of invasive species. To facilitate greater public awareness, the Hydrilla Task Force will be hosting a public update meeting on November 18, 2014 at 7:00 p.m. at the Tompkins County Public Library.

Hydrilla, Weeds and FishNovember 18, 2014, 7:00-8:30 p.m.

Tompkins County Public Library, Borg Warner

This FREE public program will cover 2014 hydrilla treatment efforts and progress, whether or not weed growth in the lake is changing, and other invasive species of concern. A reception to thank Hydrilla Hunter volunteers will precede the event starting at 6:30 p.m.




 James Balyszak is the Hydrilla Task Force program manager.