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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Earth Day Community Teach-in on Housing

Earth in water drop reflection on green leaf, Save the earth concept, Elements of this image furnished by NASA


Please join us this Saturday from 12:00-3:00 pm at  The Space @GreenStar for Earth Day Ithaca.

We will be hosting a community conversation on how we might address the housing shortage in the Ithaca area in ways that reduce displacement of lower-income residents while honoring neighborhood quality of life.

It is clear that Ithaca’s popularity is causing a housing affordability crisis for those already here. And the Ithaca area is slated for continued growth with additional infill projects, significant waterfront development, and housing complexes in several municipalities.

Most of the people being added to our population are students, retirees, and entrepreneurs attracted to Ithaca’s culture and knowledge economy. But what does this mean for working class residents? What will happen to Baby Boomer city residents as they retire and transition to smaller fixed incomes? Read more…

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Op-Ed Series on Housing Focuses on Affordability, Neighborhood Quality

Sustainable Tompkins has organized a series of “thought pieces” for the Ithaca Times this spring exploring some of the issues associated with Ithaca’s housing imbalances.

Krys Cail


Latest Op-Ed:

Krys Cail, rural business consultant with DE Squared and Cooperative Development Institute: Rural Land for Housing?

Krys takes a look at housing pressures in the rural parts of the county and the already established trend of how “increasing student populations are acting like a centrifuge, flinging further from the center people who have the most need of a walkable urban environment.”

Read more…

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It’s Time to Vote! Polls are open for the annual ‘Signs of Sustainability’ Awards!



Who inspired you over the past year with their efforts to create a more sustainable Tompkins County?  Do you know a young person bucking the trend of consumerism? A business looking out for the broader interests of the community? Perhaps a senior citizen speaking up against pollution? Or an organization making progress on the interlinked goals of community well being, ecological stewardship, and a resilient local economy?

You can honor their work by nominating them for recognition in our annual community sustainability awards.   The People’s Choice Signs of Sustainability will be selected through an online poll of community members who nominate those they believe made a contribution in the past year toward making ours a more sustainable and just community. Nominees and the top vote getters will be announced at the annual Earth Day Ithaca celebration on Sunday, April 23, 12-3 pm, at The Space.

Voting is simple. Categories will be for sustainability-enhancing activities by a 1) Organization, 2) Business, 3) Individual or 4) Youth (<21).  We will be looking for nominees in a wide range of sectors: Transportation, Food Systems, Energy & Climate, Buildings & Infrastructure, Democracy & Social Justice, Arts & Culture, Health & Well Being, Waste Reduction, Resilient Economy, Community Development, and Natural Resource Conservation.  You can vote up to 5 times.  Polls will be open March 20 through April 15.  Learn more about the history of the Signs of Sustainability at

Special thanks to Renovus Solar, Beck Equipment, and GreenStar for their sponsorship support for this event!

Signs of Sustainability
Celebrate Bike Month with Two-Wheel Travel

Tompkins Weekly      4-25-16

By Jonathan Maddison

May is National Bike Month, and residents of Tompkins County are invited to celebrate biking as an economical, healthy, convenient, and environmentally sound way to get around and an excellent tool for recreation and enjoyment of our region’s scenic beauty. People of all ages can get involved in Tompkins County’s growing bike movement.

Streets Alive!, on Sunday, May 1, in downtown Ithaca, will open 1.5 miles of streets for people walking, biking and rolling. The street is closed to cars and open to people. Streets Alive! sets the foundation for building a movement for better biking and walking every day.

The event route runs along Cayuga Street from Boynton Middle School all the way to Court Street and down to GIAC.

At GIAC you’ll have a chance to see programs like the GIAC Navigators, GIAC Jumpers and Beats Alive. CULTURA will be hosting Cinco de Mayo performances and food from diverse Latin American cultures. Other highlights that you can find along the route are Dancing in the Streets, Ryan Zawel & Haiti Horns (a brass marching band), and a youth Bike Rodeo and Helmet Giveaway hosted by Ithaca Youth Bureau. Margot Brinn, who’s come out to almost every Streets Alive! since the first one in 2012, says, “It is such a relief to have my grandchildren on the street and not feel afraid for them.”

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Compost Fair is Educational, Entertaining

Tompkins Weekly          4-18-16

By George Cook

As the world is waking up to the benefits of sustainable living, people are redefining abundance. Instead of basing happiness on consumption, this new perspective embraces contribution. Much of this new awareness comes from understanding the impact of consumption on a healthy environment. For example, it can take 500 years for soil to build up an inch of topsoil, rich with microorganisms and nutrients. Our consumer lifestyles are causing the earth to lose five times more soil than is being made. In contrast, composting contributes to soils, reduces garbage in landfills and returns organic carbon and nutrients to the environment.

There are many ways that we can all participate in sustainable living. One of the easiest and most beneficial is composting. It’s a simple practice that requires minimal investment. Instead of wasting the biological nutrients by putting them in a landfill, composting turns them into valuable soil that benefits your garden and the planet. The practice can remove atmospheric carbon through soil carbon sequestration, directly through carbon in compost and indirectly through enhanced plant growth. The benefits are two-fold: rebuilding soil at the same time as helping to mitigate climate change. Composting is a great way to make a personal, local contribution to sustainable living.

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Dish Truck Meets GreenStar

Tompkins Weekly      4-11-16

By Joey Diana Gates

Cayuga Compost, a local commercial composting facility, and Tompkins County Solid Waste both recently announced that, as of April 1, they would no longer accept plates, dishes, cups or utensils, no matter what material they are made from: paper, corn-based plastics, or other so-called “compostable” materials.

It’s no Aprils Fools joke; what many thought were compostable products are actually made of biodegradable materials, which is a different process, and do not break down into garden-quality compost, even under optimal composting conditions such as Cayuga Compost provides.

After reading the Signs of Sustainability article on Dish Truck, two GreenStar Natural Foods Market employees, Joy Mathews and Amanda Hersey, saw the natural pairing of the Dish Truck team’s efforts to create a durable dish service with their work to keep GreenStar’s waste stream and compost stream separate.

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

Screen shot 2015-06-17 at 6.56.25 PMAfter 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.

The vote was pretty much split along geographic lines with those representing the urban/suburban core of the county (Chock, Shinagawa, McBean-Clairborne, Burbank, Kiefer) backing the project that had widespread neighborhood support (along with Klein from Caroline/Danby). Those supporting the large 63-unit apartment complex came from the more rural parts of the county (Dryden, Groton, Lansing, Ulysses, Enfield/Newfield). These rural reps stressed the need for adding housing to try and relieve the incessant demand that has driven up the price of shelter. Residents of the historic DeWitt neighborhood around the old library spoke strongly about the importance of adding density appropriate to the scale and character of the location, and pointed to other 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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