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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Neighborhood Mini-Grant Applications Due October 1

Do you have an idea for a project to make our community more sustainable, resilient, or inclusive? Need a little help in covering the costs? Sustainable Finger Lakes is accepting applications for our fall 2023/winter 2024 round of Neighborhood Mini-Grants.

The Sustainable Finger Lakes Neighborhood Mini-Grant program supports initiatives improving environmental sustainability, equity, and environmental, economic, and social justice in Tompkins County. Since it began in 2008, it has awarded more than $85,000 in 221 grants to innovative grassroots projects throughout the county.

Grants range from $150 to $750 and support initiatives promoting sustainable food systems, alternative transportation, waste reduction/reuse, energy conservation/fossil fuel use reduction, and environmental education, and addressing social and economic inequality.

Proposals are reviewed biannually by a team of community members. The program is sponsored by NYSEG, Craig Riecke, and local donors.

Individuals, organizations, and neighborhood groups are welcome to apply, as are local microbusinesses seeking to green their operations or extend their products or services to low-income clientele. Priority is given to new and/or small entities with relatively few sources of support.

Successful initiatives supported by Neighborhood Mini-Grants in recent years include the founding of the Freeville Farmers Market, establishment of the Finger Lakes Toy Library, creation of the Project Abundance neighborhood garden in Ithaca, restoration of a disused and overgrown trail in Dryden, and bicycle maintenance education workshops in Ithaca.

Applications must be received on or before October 1, 2023. To request an application form, or if you have questions, please call (607) 272-1720 or email

Neighborhood Mini-Grants Support Rural Initiatives

From staple foods to bicycling infrastructure to botany education, small locally-based initiatives can help to meet the needs and improve the lives of people in rural areas. In April 2023, Sustainable Finger Lakes awarded a total of $2,500 in four Neighborhood Mini-Grants supporting such projects across Tompkins County.

Artist/ecologist Ash Ferlito and ecological landscape designer Brandon Hoak have created and maintained the Marshy Garden, a habitat restoration project and educational venue at The Soil Factory south of Ithaca. This year, they seek to increase the garden’s biodiversity and habitat value, along with expanding the on-site array of educational programming for college students and the public. A Neighborhood Mini-Grant will support their purchase of native plants for this purpose from Grow Wild Nursery in Brooktondale.

The organization Friends of the Lansing Center Trail will install informational plant identification signs in the native plant garden near the entrance to the popular Lansing Center Trail in the Town of Lansing, aiming to educate trail visitors and encourage gardening with native plants. A Neighborhood Mini-Grant will contribute to the purchase of these signs.

The organization Groton Community Cupboard, formerly Groton Food Providers, runs a food pantry serving a large and growing need for food assistance in an area without a full grocery store. They are moving the food pantry to a new location, which will need renovation, and striving to maintain operation during the transition. A Neighborhood Mini-Grant will help to pay the expenses of this endeavor.

Dryden resident Kate McKee will install bike racks at four small businesses throughout the Village of Dryden to facilitate local bicycle travel. A Neighborhood Mini-Grant will pay for the racks, along with chains and locks.

The Neighborhood Mini-Grant Program provides seed money to diverse initiatives to build environmental, economic, and social resilience and well-being in Tompkins County. The program is sponsored by NYSEG, Craig Riecke, and local donors. The next deadline for the Mini-Grant program will be October 1, 2023. To request an application or learn more, email

Tompkins Community Recovery Fund Grant to Support Mobile Home Pilot Project

Contact: Holly Hutchinson, Project Coordinator, 607-272-1720,

50 low-to-moderate income mobile home owners in Tompkins County will receive support to upgrade their homes with high efficiency heat pumps as part of a Sustainable Finger Lakes pilot program funded by a Tompkins Community Recovery Fund grant.

Location: Tompkins County, New York

Affordable housing and an equitable transition to clean energy just got a boost from a new program launched by Sustainable Finger Lakes (SFLX). The ‘Electrify Tompkins! Energy and Equity for Lower-Income Mobile Homes’ pilot project will provide support to 50 low-to-moderate income (LMI) mobile home owners in Tompkins County to upgrade their homes with high efficiency heat pumps and larger capacity electric panels. Qualified mobile home owners will also receive assistance in accessing incentives for completing insulation and air sealing to assure their homes meet strong efficiency standards prior to the installation of the heat pumps.

Thirty percent of the greenhouse gas emissions in New York State come from buildings. As our state and county move towards clean energy, residents who are low-to-moderate income could be left behind if additional support is not available to help them transition to high-efficiency electric heating and cooling.

Read more…

Signs of Sustainability
Sustainable Investing Via Environmental, Social and Governance Risks

Tompkins Weekly     9-13-23

By Betsy Keokosky

There is a sustainable investment development gaining momentum recently that is worth keeping an eye on.  It is the practice of analyzing a company’s environmental, social and governance (ESG) risks, and assessing opportunities for improving them.  Here, Governance means the internal governance of the company itself in areas such as diversity, transparency, accurate disclosure, and ethical decision making.  It is driven by investors and increasing recognition from the financial community that climate change, disruptive technology, supply chains, and the social and environmental health of the planet are all related economic risk factors.  Good governance is recognized as the best way to navigate these changes.

How does this new investing development affect the current business model –  the prioritization of short-term shareholder profits?  This model has been dominant since the 1970s and the late 1980s shift to the current global economy.  Under its influence, CEO pay has skyrocketed, and income and wealth disparities have deepened and contributed to the polarization of our country.  Our dependence on cheap fossil fuels has extracted a terrible toll on the health of the planet, and all its inhabitants.

Read more…

TCCPI Report Highlights County Achievements on Climate Action and Clean Energy

Tompkins Weekly        8-23-23

By Peter Bardaglio

Once again, as it has since 2009, the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative (TCCPI) issued its annual report earlier this summer on member efforts to lower greenhouse gas emissions, accelerate the transition to clean energy, and build a more resilient, sustainable community.

A coalition of activist leaders and concerned citizens, TCCPI meets monthly to discuss how we can reduce our carbon footprint and help the local community and state meet their ambitious climate goals. The new report, covering 2022 and including 39 submissions, surveys a wide range of inspiring actions that reflect the commitment and engagement of hundreds of individuals working together in Tompkins County to better our world.

Below is a summary of the report. The full, text-only version can be found at If you’d like a free PDF copy of the illustrated 42-page report, contact us at

Read more…

What Can I Do for My Only Home Planet?

Tompkins Weekly         8-9-23

By Peter McDonald

The feeling often begins as a knot of disbelief when the climate crisis comes up, as if the world we grew up in is now in the grips of some dangerous fever that is far larger than we can grasp. Often this disbelief transforms into grayer palettes of other emotions, first among them grief. For others it is anger, then quiet despair, and with still others it’s deep sadness. I’ve even had a few friends for whom it is a cloying sense of helplessness, as if the future they longed for is now suddenly slipping from their grasp. But for all of us, these are the existential questions: So how do I deal with all this? What are my options? Where do I turn?

In 1970, the year of the first Earth Day, I turned eighteen with the whole wide world and my whole life ahead of me. By the second Earth Day, now all of nineteen, my father and I attended their small celebration at our local Audubon Center in Sharon CT smack in the bucolic beauty of the Berkshire Mountains. There were the usual upbeat exhortations, folk musicians, donkey rides for the kids, and a palpable and pervading sense of hope for a sunny future for all of us. Had not President Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency in his first term? There was high expectation that an historic Clean Water Act would soon pass Congress and many of us trooped around with the Whole Earth Catalog under our arms.

Read more…

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SAVE THE DATE for our first Finger Lakes Forecast webinar: April 27 at 12pm EST
Energy and Equity Go Hand in Hand
Home Rule and the Greater Good

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“Getting Climate Action Right”
by Osamu Tsuda, member of Sustainable Tompkins Board of Directors

Climate Change – we hear about it a lot these days. Whether it is your neighbor talking about how the weather has become more extreme over the past decade or news reports about how we need to pass climate policy to avoid catastrophic disasters, the information and chatter on the topic can be overwhelming. From violent storms in the south, extensive wildfires in the west, severe flooding in the east, to melting ice caps in the north, as individuals we can feel quite helpless at times and resort to blocking it all out. Maybe if we wait long enough the problems will resolve themselves. After all, what kind of impact could we really have as individuals? 

As it turns out, there is a lot we can do! It is often easy to see all the destruction happening around us and forget or ignore the amazing resilient nature of human beings. Despite the delays and controversy, there have been many efforts to address the major threat of Climate Change, and now New York State is in the process of developing a climate action plan that will shape the fate of our state and the nation as a whole.  Read more…

Register today for “Finger Lakes Forecast: Climate Disruption & Food Security” (April 27)

Our new webinar series, Finger Lakes Forecast, focuses on how climate change will impact life in the Finger Lakes Region and what people can do for themselves and their communities to prepare. This webinar series is free and open to the public. The first of these webinars, Climate Disruption and Food Security, will take place at 12pm EST on April 27 and include a screening of Uplifted Ithaca’s short documentary, Our Farmers in Flux: Adapting to Climate Change, followed by a panel discussion with Graham Savio, Cornell Cooperative Extension Tompkins County; Katie Hallas, Tompkins Food Future; Klaas Martens, Lakeview Organic Grain; and Chaw Chang, Stick and Stone Farm. Register online.

On May 25th, we will host our second Finger Lakes Forecast webinar which will explore ways residents of the Finger Lakes can reduce flood risk for their homes. Additional topics to be covered in the webinar series include Policies to Reduce Harmful Algae Blooms in the Finger Lakes, Land Use and Renewable Energy, Public Health in a Hotter Finger Lakes, and FLX Demographic and Economic Trends.

Sustainable Tompkins is a citizen-based coalition working towards a more sustainable regional community. We advocate a systems approach to build the infrastructure and social capacity for more sustainable ways of living and working. Our projects and programs have focused on energy efficiency, climate protection, green purchasing, sustainable community development, green collar jobs, sustainable enterprise, and economic/ecological justice. Our office is open by appointment at 309 N. Aurora Street in Ithaca.

To learn more, email our Outreach Coordinator at

Sustainable Tompkins Puts Sustainability on the Map

screenshot of section of sustainability mapThe Sustainable Finger Lakes Map created by Sustainable Tompkins provides a visual interface for people interested in learning more about the regional sustainability movement. People are coming together across our region to relocalize the economy, make our systems of local governance more just and democratic, and protect our land, air, and water for future generations. The Map currently has over 800 entries and allows visitors to quickly search 8 main categories of sustainable living for local programs, businesses, and activities. Regional businesses or groups are invited to put themselves on the Map! If they are working on some aspect of a more sustainable system, they can register online and submit a short description of their sustainability efforts, and contact information. Submissions are reviewed on a weekly basis.

With a shared goal to assure a future landscape in which all of us can thrive despite the many changes underway, community members are invited to help build this map of the sustainability and democracy movement in the Finger Lakes Region. Residents can add what they are working on, plug in where they can make a difference, and spread the word to share with others. Visit the Map to discover the creative and the compassionate, the solidarity builders and the self-reliant, the pioneers and the protectors of a sustainable future.

Recent additions to the Map include Lev Kitchen, Central New York Labor Federation, Food Policy Council of Tompkins County, and Oxbow Farm. Located downtown on the Ithaca Commons, Lev Kitchen is one of Ithaca’s newest restaurants and features Yemeni flatbread called Malawach and the amalgamation of distinctive cuisines and cultures from countries such as Israel, Lebanon and Syria. Opened in March 2022, they aim to embrace business transparency, explore what it means to be a “sustainable” food service operator, and support food security by donating 1% of all revenues to the World Food Program and their relief efforts around the world. Read more…