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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Mini-Grant Brings Bike Racks to Book Sale

Thousands of people attend the book sales hosted by the Friends of the Tompkins County Public Library every May and October, and its facility in Ithaca’s West End is within bicycling distance of many residents. But visitors have long had to insecurely chain their bikes to nearby fences, signposts, or trees. In March 2016, Sustainable Tompkins awarded the organization a Neighborhood Mini-Grant for buying bike racks.

Six racks were installed over the summer, largely by volunteers. They were constantly full during the October sale, and used in all seasons by the volunteers planning the sales and donors dropping off items to sell. Facilitating fossil-fuel-free transportation and exercise, making bicyclists feel welcome at the sales — which support literacy programs along with the local and regional libraries —  and protecting the trees whose bark had been regularly damaged by bike chains, they will continue to bring benefits near and far.

The Neighborhood Mini-Grant Program provides seed money to diverse initiatives to build environmental, economic, and social resilience and well-being in Tompkins County. In turn, we need your support! Please donate today and help us support more wonderful citizen-driven projects to improve life in our community.


Help Us Understand How Utility Bills Affect Your Household

Home Energy Survey Research assistants at Cornell University, collaborating with Sustainable Tompkins on an Engaged Cornell project, are assessing the impact of home energy costs on the daily lives of people in Tompkins County, especially those who rent their homes.

Have you ever had trouble paying your utility bills?  Do you know anyone who has to choose between paying their electric bill and meeting other critical needs?

Take a three-minute survey (online and anonymous) for a 1/20 chance to win a $50 Wegmans gift card!

Mini-Grant Applications due March 1

Do you have an idea for a project to make our community more resilient or more inclusive? Need a little help in covering the costs?  Sustainable Tompkins is accepting applications for our spring round of Neighborhood Mini-Grants. Applications are due March 1.

The Sustainable Tompkins Neighborhood Mini-Grant program provides support for initiatives promoting environmental sustainability and social and economic vitality in Tompkins County.  Read more…

Signs of Sustainability
New Roots Education Grounded in Sustainable Thought

Tompkins Weekly     2-13-17

By Tina Nilsen-Hodges

A horticulture major and women’s rugby team player on the Dean’s List at Cornell. A female diesel mechanic. An Evergreen College student and future teacher studying child labor laws in Nepal. A photographer who shoots equestrian sports. An inspired local cook with a passion for farm-to-table food. A computer scientist who chose a small college with an innovative, project-based curriculum. An award-winning barista who aspires to run her own shop. A student at the nation’s top entrepreneurial college invited to direct a play by the college’s theater department. A doctoral student in Earth Systems Science studying mathematical modeling and climate change. A horse trainer with a BA in Animal Science. A slam poet on scholarship studying sociology.

Read more…

Signs of Sustainability: Systems Thinking – The Historical Background

Tompkins Weekly 1-30-17

By Richard W. Franke

A previous Steps to Sustainability piece (which appeared in the the November 21-27, 2016, issue of Tompkins Weekly) focused on “tipping points.”

A tipping point can be thought of as something that happens within or to a system. Among sustainability advocates and activists, “systems thinking” has become the norm. In her widely used introductory book, “Thinking in Systems: A Primer,” Donella H. Meadows defines a system as “an interconnected set of elements that is coherently organized in a way that achieves something.”

Beyond this basic definition, systems have numerous properties that merit the attention of all who are interested in sustainability. Meadows was one of the primary authors of the famous 1972 MIT study on Limits to Growth. Read more…

Master Composters Work for Sustainability, Have Fun

Tompkins Weekly       1-16-17

By Ron Cunningham

My partner Kerra emailed me in January 2015, forwarding notice of Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Master Composter training. We talked about it. I liked the idea. Learning something new is good. Sharing it with Kerra is better. The possibility of getting free training by earning back the deposit was appealing. Now looking back at 150-plus pertinent emails in my CCE folder makes me realize the extent of our involvement. And the involvement continues.

We composted prior to Master Composter training, yet the fine-tuning we received has enriched our practice. The volunteer hours have expanded our hearts and horizons. The subject is diverse and complex, with an underlying simplicity and wisdom: Convert waste into resources. We were expertly piloted through 10 weeks of 2-hour, weekday evening classes by the Program Manager Adam Michaelides. Guest speakers were featured. Field trips were taken. Friendships were struck.

Read more…

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Older Posts

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Sustainability is a Society of Systems Thinkers
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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…

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