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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Ithaca High Duo Receives First Youth Climate Challenge Grant

The first grant award in the Youth Climate Challenge from Sustainable Tompkins has been made to two Ithaca High School students, Tilden Chao and Abigail Glickman.  The students submitted their Keep It Cool: The Future of Refrigeration proposal in April, and received a grant of $990 to pursue their innovative and unique outreach and education program on containment and reduction of hydrofluorocarbon (HFCs) refrigerants.

HFCs replaced the ozone-destroying CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) refrigerants after the 1987 Montreal Protocol was ratified. This unprecedented global accord has secured the future of our protective ozone layer, but unfortunately the replacement HFCs have a greenhouse gas effect up to 23,000 times that of carbon dioxide. The students plan to develop a website and educational materials on alternative and safe refrigerants and host a summit for local businesses that depend upon refrigeration such as grocery stores, restaurants, and food distributors to learn about the alternatives. A new global accord, the Kigali Amendment, was adopted in 2016 to mandate the phase-out of HFCs starting in 2019. The students hope to help local businesses get a jump on both preventing leakage of HFCs and the transition to less harmful coolants.

“Our grants review team was mightily impressed with the quality of their proposal,” said Gay Nicholson of Sustainable Tompkins, “and we will be working actively with the students to help our business community lead the way in phasing out HFCs.”  Read more…

People’s Choice 2018 Signs of Sustainability Awards

The winners of the 2018 poll for leadership in sustainability and social justice were celebrated at Earth Day Ithaca on April 22.

Maddi Carroll, Annabella Mead-VanCort, Prachi Ruina, Eamon Nunn-Makepeace, and Ari Cummings of Students United Ithaca.

In the Youth category, student groups from Ithaca High School and Trumansburg High School were recognized for their activism. Students United Ithaca gained national attention for their courage in challenging casting decisions for their high school musical, which led to significant and fruitful conversations to address racism in the school district. A dozen students led by Trumansburg teacher Jane George and Gertrude Nolen of Words into Deeds participated in the United Nations Youth Voices on Climate Change, joining over 300 international students in sharing perspectives and drafting a consensus action plan to address global warming.

Whitham Planning and Design took first place in the Business category for their leadership in getting developers to achieve energy efficiencies as much as 40% better than code and for their efforts to involve the public in design issues for large projects in the Ithaca area. Ithaca Times, Tompkins Weekly, Liquid State Brewing, Nikki Green, Tiny Timber, Brookton Market were also recognized for their contributions.

Shawna Black came in first in the Individual category this year for her active leadership on social and environmental issues as a freshman county legislator, especially in helping raise awareness on addiction issues and develop new harm reduction programs. Nick Goldsmith and the Green Building Policy Advisory Committee were celebrated for their many hours of work developing new guidelines for more environmentally responsible development in the City of Ithaca.

Voters were enthusiastic about nominating OAR (Opportunities, Alternatives & Resources) for first place in the Organization category for their wonderful Endeavor House project. Their purchase and volunteer-led rehabilitation of a home is now providing transitional housing for the formally incarcerated. Ithaca Families Gift Economy, Get Your GreenBack Tompkins, HeatSmart Tompkins, and the Ithaca Chapter of SURJ (Standing Up for Racial Justice) were also recognized for their outstanding work.

Earth Day Ithaca on Sunday, April 22!














Our local theme this year is Art & Sustainability, featuring local artists who help us frame, express and shape our concerns about climate change and living more sustainably. Join us from 12-3 for family-friendly hands-on activities with our exhibitors and local music. From 3-5 pm we’ll feature performances by Truth Speaker and other spoken word and musical artists followed by our annual Signs of Sustainability Awards.  April 22, 2018, The Space @ GreenStar, 700 W. Buffalo St. Read more…

Signs of Sustainability
Ithaca Green Building Policy Report Approved by Common Council and Town Board

Tompkins Weekly           5-14-18

By Nick Goldsmith

This article provides the latest news about the Ithaca Green Building Policy, a groundbreaking sustainability initiative being led by the City of Ithaca and the Town of Ithaca.

In 2016, the City of Ithaca was awarded a $100,000 grant to study green building policies with the Town of Ithaca. In 2017 the City and the Town began working on the Green Building Policy (GBP) project with a local consultant team led by Stream Collaborative and sub-consultants Taitem Engineering and Randall+West Planners.The project team conducted a comprehensive study of Ithaca’s existing and future building stock, and of green building standards for new construction and the potential economic, social and environmental impacts of policies that incentivize or mandate those standards. The main deliverable of this project is the Green Building Policy Report, which provides background and results of the studies and makes policy recommendations for energy efficiency requirements and related incentives to substantially reduce carbon emissions in all new buildings while emphasizing and supporting affordability.

Read more…

What Kind of Compost Bin Are You?

Tompkins Weekly         4-23-18

By Hannah George

As the days get longer and incrementally warmer here in Tompkins County, many people are starting to think about their gardens, and the gorgeous flowers and delicious sun-ripened tomatoes to come. More and more people are also thinking about compost – that rich, earthy, soil amendment made from decomposed organic material such as leaves and food waste. Most people with outdoor compost bins at home notice that winter slows the decomposition process, so as the compost thaws and starts to once again shrink in volume, the prospect of having nutrient-rich compost to add to gardens returns.

I decided to start composting for the many ecological and personal benefits it provides. I love knowing that my banana peels and watermelon rinds will get broken down and returned to the soil, instead of hitting a dead-end in a landfill. Saving money on trash tags feels pretty good too, and taking out the compost takes no more time than taking out the trash each week.

Read more…

Earth Day Ithaca 2018

Tompkins Weekly     4-9-18

By Joey Diana Gates

Earth Day Ithaca 2018 is happening on…Earth Day! This year we will be commemorating on Sunday, April 22 from noon to 6 p.m., again at the Space @ GreenStar, again hosted by Sustainable Tompkins. Our theme this year will be looking at how the arts frame, express and shape the environmental and now sustainability movement.

Through the distillations and recreations of our experiences, artists tell our stories and offer us a chance at new insight. We are blessed in this area to be surrounded by many artists with different perspectives on our relationship with the environment, who will be sharing their art and work with us as we celebrate our planet and home. We will be welcoming familiar faces we’ve come to know and love through the years, as well as several new ones through tabling and outreach, alongside artisans with eco-minded displays, hands-on activities and/or mini-workshops. We invite artists in the greater community to share their work at this year’s Earth Day event. This invitation is open to all ages, young and old alike. Sharing your artwork provides an opportunity to help inspire others to participate as we all take on challenges of pollution that are threatening our worlds healthy ecosystems and in turn our own well-being! Let’s change the world together.

Read more…

ST Blog

Older Posts

How to Get Active on Climate? Even More Locally
Fracking: What Are We FOR?
Sustainability is a Society of Systems Thinkers

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Help ST Finish What We Started on Dryden Pipeline

Everyday you are probably getting 2 or 3 calls to action to help stop some new outrage. It’s important to help wherever you can, but it’s also important that our movement follow through on earlier efforts to make positive change and head toward greater stewardship and justice in our communities. We’re asking our supporters to take a minute today and help us complete a critical step in our community’s shared commitment to protect the climate and stop new fossil fuel infrastructure from being built in our county.

Three years ago, in the early summer of 2014, we began to hear about a proposed new gas pipeline to run through West Dryden to provide heating fuel for new development in Lansing. The large capacity of the pipe would mean that Tompkins County would be unable to meet its goal of 80% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050.

ST helped organize local opposition to the project and teamed up to present several workshops on viable alternatives to the pipeline to meet Lansing’s energy needs. A countywide task force on energy and economic development eventually came to the same conclusions and recommended to the Public Service Commission (PSC) that NYSEG address reliability concerns for existing Lansing gas customers by adding pressure boosters to the current pipeline. In addition, NYSEG would provide incentives to developers to build new structures in Lansing using smart design and ultra-efficient heat pumps to meet commercial and residential heating loads. (Many industrial processes can be powered with electricity rather than gas as well.) Read more…

Energy and Equity Go Hand in Hand


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…

Home Rule and the Greater Good

After 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. Read more…