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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Summary: Earth Day Ithaca Teach-In on Housing

2016 Earth Day teach-in on housingSustainable Tompkins hosted a community conversation on the housing system in Tompkins County at their April 23, 2016 Earth Day event held at The Space@GreenStar. About 60 people attended including elected representatives from Ithaca City Council, Ithaca Town Board, Tompkins County Legislature, and Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton. Several people from planning departments and the building sector also participated.

We focused on this topic because of the increasing strain the housing shortage is putting on individual households and community relations. There was a lot of friction in 2015 over specific development projects, and many are uncertain that we are solving the housing shortage in a way that matches our values and goals as expressed in our local comprehensive plans. There is a lack of recent data to document the scale of the problem, but it is clear from anecdotal evidence that demand is greatly exceeding supply at all income levels, and that the downward pressure on the system invariably has had much harsher impacts on lower-income residents.

Our objective was to create a space for critical thinking about how our current housing system works and how it might be redesigned. Read more…

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Mini-Grants Help Support Civic Engagement
The crew at Eco-Defense Radio live at WRFI.

The crew at Eco-Defense Radio live at WRFI.


Thanks to Ken Zeserson for his article on our Neighborhood Mini-Grants Program in the May 15, 2016 edition of Tompkins Weekly.  For this article, we focused on three recent grants that supported local citizens in their efforts to create a stronger democracy by telling local stories:

–EcoDefense Radio covers local environmental issues.

–Hot Potato Press provides a platform for everyone to talk about local food issues.

–Tompkins County Workers Center is sponsoring creative ways to illustrate the importance of a living wage.

Our next deadline to apply for a mini-grant is June 1.  Email for an application.


June 1 Deadline for Next Round of Mini-Grants

NMG full logoApplications for our June 2016 round of Neighborhood Mini-grants are due on or before June 1.

The Neighborhood Mini-grant program began in September 2008 to aid with initiatives promoting environmental sustainability and social and economic vitality in Tompkins County. Grants range from $150-$750 and have been awarded to diverse entities for locally-based initiatives supporting sustainable food systems, alternative transportation, waste reduction, energy conservation, renewable energy production, environmental education, social justice, and community building. Individuals,neighborhood groups, and organizations are welcome to apply.

Proposals are accepted and reviewed quarterly by a team of community members.  To request an application form, or if you have questions, please contact

Signs of Sustainability
Sharing Summer’s Bounty with our Neighbors

Tompkins Weekly     6-27-16

By Meaghan Sheehan Rosen

Did you know that 40 percent of food is wasted in America? And if food waste were a country, it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world, behind the U.S. and China? Meanwhile, millions of Americans, including nearly 20 percent of children in Tompkins County, are not sure where their next meal is coming from.

Friendship Donations Network (FDN) and our community partners are working to address both of these problems by collecting excess food that would otherwise be wasted, and ensuring it gets to the people in our community who need it most. Our network of volunteers works year-round to collect donations of edible but unsaleable food from grocery stores, farms, colleges and other food outlets—more than 1,000 pounds each day.

Read more…

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Building Homes for the Post-Fossil Fuel Era

Tompkins Weekly     6-20-16

By Jon Harrod

I own a company that installs insulation and energy-efficient heating and cooling systems. While most of our projects involve existing buildings, we also work on new homes.

Building a house is an act of imagining a personal future. I’ve heard our clients talk about the living room where their yet-to-be-conceived children will play or the bedroom they’ll use when they no longer want to climb stairs. Houses are also expressions of our larger social and environmental vision. The longevity of houses requires us to think ahead and build in a way that will make sense in decades to come.

Read more…

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Ithaca Welcomes Refugees Responds to Global Crises

Tompkins Weekly       6-13-16

By David Rhodes

Imagine if you were about to be born, and you didn’t know if you were entering the world now or 100 years from now. What approaches to environmental protection would you want to see in place from this position of uncertainty?

Now imagine you were about to enter the world into either a situation of peace and stability or one of lethal risk to yourself and your loved ones. What approaches to refugee resettlement would you want to see in place?

In both of these scenarios, the goal is the same—a world in which present and future generations have access to resources and opportunities that enhance the ability to live peaceful, healthy and meaningful lives. This concept lies at the heart of sustainability and it connects directly to the work of a new community initiative called Ithaca Welcomes Refugees (IWR).

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

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…

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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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