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.

More About Sustainable Tompkins

News & Events

Neighborhood Mini-Grant Applications Due April 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 Tompkins is accepting applications for our spring/summer 2021 round of Neighborhood Mini-Grants.

The Sustainable Tompkins 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 $77,000 in 196 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 the Park Foundation, Beck Equipment, Natural Investments, Fingerlakes Wealth Management, 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 as a lending collection of environmentally-friendly toys, creation of an Ithaca Murals equipment lending library for artists and community members creating murals that reflect the demographics, values, and stories of Ithaca’s residents, and restoration of a disused and overgrown trail in Dryden.

Applications must be received on or before April 1, 2021. To request an application form, or if you have questions, please call (607) 272-1720 or email

FLECA Campaign Expands Its Ranks

The tides are rising here in the Finger Lakes (in a good way… not the climate-change-kind-of-way)!  A new cohort of members have joined our Finger Lakes Enterprises for Climate Action coalition (FLECA)! Our team is ever-growing and building so much momentum with new team members from bookstores, glamping sites, farms and more! 

We have achieved over ⅓ of our goal, a huge checkpoint! We’re getting closer to offsetting $5,000 worth of emissions, securing two Climate Fund grants for families in need.

We are so enthused to welcome new FLECA business and organization members: Firelight Camps, Dailey Electric, Food Forest Farm, Leslie Danks Burke campaign, and Odyssey Bookstore. New members are offsetting emissions from the likes of campaign travel and the energy to heat and cool their businesses. And one of them has plans to keep the fire going – stayed tuned to find out!

Does your organization want to help Finger Lakes families stay warm this winter? Email for more information, including benefits of joining

Sustainability Calendar Available

February is here! Fend off the winter blues with some movement-building activities. But not to worry; most of these activities are virtual, meaning you can stay cozy and safe while learning, growing, and helping your community. Join the White Fragility book club that meets every Sunday, or attend the Envision Climate Summit – a 3 day event comprised of talks, panels, & workshops. Maybe even learn a new skill, like Woodland Mushroom Cultivation! Visit the Sustainable Finger Lakes Calendar to browse this month’s offerings and click the link under each event for more details.

Signs of Sustainability
Acknowledge Progress, Strive for More Change

Tompkins Weekly 4-14-21

By Anna Marck

In January of 2019, when Greta Thunberg said “I want you to panic,” I decided to lace up my shoes and get to work, panicking. I panicked to everyone I talked to. I panicked to myself. Unfortunately for the fifth-graders I was working with at the time, I panicked to them. And I panicked to my parents, blaming them for everything from paper towels to capitalism.

Don’t get me wrong. I think panic can start revolutions — Greta striking fear in our hearts certainly sparked an awareness that I had never seen before — but as I went about my life panicking, I quickly learned that this emotion is as unsustainable as fossil fuels. It was exhausting.

In his book “Factfulness,” Hans Rosling describes “Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World and Why Things are Better Than You Think.” When I first saw the cover, I was offended.

Read more…
The Giving Nature of Plants

Tompkins Weekly 3-24-21

By Eric Banford

One of the issues that this pandemic has made very clear is how precarious our food system is. As soon as businesses started shutting down, there was a general panic, and people started stockpiling food and other essentials.

Shortages quickly became apparent as the sight of bare shelves appeared at every grocery store. This served to heighten people’s anxiety, causing them to hoard even more stuff. Would we run out of food?

Luckily, these shortages didn’t last long. Stores limited the number of certain items that could be purchased at one time, manufacturers kicked into overdrive, and essential workers stepped up their heroic efforts to get needed supplies to the public. Shelves slowly were restocked, and life returned to “normal,” at least as normal as life can be during a global pandemic.

But the lessons laid bare are important for us to pay attention to going forward. When one learns that there is only a three-day supply at any grocery store (the Just In Time theory of supply), how should we prepare for the potential breaking of our supply chains?

Read more…
Understanding the Impact of Relationships

Tompkins Weekly 3-10–21

By Cathleen Banford

Signs of Sustainability (SoS) is a twice-monthly column that aims to promote sustainability in our community. Mothers Out Front, self-described as being “unified by the drive to protect all children from the climate crisis that impacts their health today and a livable climate for them tomorrow,” recently asked if there was a framework or parameters for contributing to the SoS series. This feels like a good time to convey more about the purpose of these articles.

SoS is an opportunity to recognize what we are doing as a community to further the progress around ecological responsibility and respect for our natural world. It’s also a place to honor the importance of nurturing relationships in community and creating the space necessary for trust to grow and for growing the courage to face challenges, especially the ones that pull us out of our comfort zone.

The University of California, Los Angeles Sustainability Committee phrases the concept of sustainability as: “the integration of environmental health, social equity, and economic vitality in order to create thriving, healthy, diverse, and resilient communities for this generation and generations to come.”

Read more…

ST Blog

Older Posts

Fracking: What Are We FOR?
Sustainability is a Society of Systems Thinkers
Don’t Thank an Antifracktivist

Follow our RSS feed

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…

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…