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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Local Teen Cooks for the Climate

Shea Nolan probably had one of the more sustainability focused childhoods in Ithaca. The father of this LACS graduating senior is the owner of Home Green Home on the Ithaca Commons, so Shea’s family was always checking out products for their performance and their ecological footprint. He now has the chance to share some of his homegrown expertise after winning the second grant award from Sustainable Tompkins’ Youth Climate Challenge program.

Shea’s project is to develop a curriculum packet to teach 4th and 5th graders how to use a solar oven to cook delicious meals while imparting the basic science behind their use. The $637 grant from Sustainable Tompkins will be used to purchase three solar cookers and print and laminate lesson plans. Local schools and nonprofit partners like Cayuga Nature Center will be able to sign up to use the ovens and curriculum materials.

Shea will get some help with the curriculum design from his mother Michele, the Principal of Alternative Education at TST BOCES and retired LACS biology teacher Dan Flerlage (a member of the Sustainable Tompkins grant team).  Shea will be testing out the new curriculum on Belle Sherman summer school students this year.  He’s not sure yet which of his favorite solar oven recipes they’ll make together, but roast chicken or cookies reportedly turn out great.

Earlier this year, Sustainable Tompkins announced a Youth Climate Challenge open to middle and high school students in Tompkins County who can apply for small grants up to $1,000 to support projects that reduce CO2 emissions or spread awareness of how climate change will affect the Finger Lakes Region. Read more…

Neighborhood Mini-Grant Helps Dish Truck Reduce Local Dishware Waste

Dish Truck place settings. Photo provided.

The use and disposal of paper and plastic dishware, which is mostly unrecyclable and not accepted by composting facilities in Tompkins County, is a large and persistent cause of resource consumption and garbage production. Dish Truck, a local organization founded in 2014 to address this problem with an alternative, provides and washes durable dishes, cups, and utensils at events throughout the area. In September 2016, Dish Truck received a Neighborhood Mini-Grant to purchase more dishware and thus serve larger events.

In 2017, Dish Truck served 15 events, from small private parties to the Greater Ithaca Activity Center’s Harvest Dinner and the GrassRoots Festival of Music and Dance. This prevented thousands of disposable dishes and utensils from being used and discarded instead. Greenhouse gas emissions from its operations will be offset with donations to the Finger Lakes Climate Fund, a program of Sustainable Tompkins, to support building renovations and construction that will help local households and businesses use less fossil fuel.

Read more…

Ithaca High Duo Receives First Youth Climate Challenge Grant

The first grant award in the Youth Climate Challenge from Sustainable Tompkins has been made to two Ithaca High School students, Tilden Chao and Abigail Glickman.  The students submitted their Keep It Cool: The Future of Refrigeration proposal in April, and received a grant of $990 to pursue their innovative and unique outreach and education program on containment and reduction of hydrofluorocarbon (HFCs) refrigerants.

HFCs replaced the ozone-destroying CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) refrigerants after the 1987 Montreal Protocol was ratified. This unprecedented global accord has secured the future of our protective ozone layer, but unfortunately the replacement HFCs have a greenhouse gas effect up to 23,000 times that of carbon dioxide. The students plan to develop a website and educational materials on alternative and safe refrigerants and host a summit for local businesses that depend upon refrigeration such as grocery stores, restaurants, and food distributors to learn about the alternatives. A new global accord, the Kigali Amendment, was adopted in 2016 to mandate the phase-out of HFCs starting in 2019. The students hope to help local businesses get a jump on both preventing leakage of HFCs and the transition to less harmful coolants.

“Our grants review team was mightily impressed with the quality of their proposal,” said Gay Nicholson of Sustainable Tompkins, “and we will be working actively with the students to help our business community lead the way in phasing out HFCs.”  Read more…

Signs of Sustainability
Going Electric

Tompkins Weekly   8-13-18

By Bryan Roy

Do you drive a plug-in electric vehicle? Are you planning to in the next year? If not, what’s stopping you?

There are over 360 plug-in vehicles in Tompkins County and that number is growing every month.

Several factors influence the adoption of electric vehicles (EV), and EVTompkins is working to address these factors to aid and prepare the county for more plug-in vehicles.

Tompkins County was selected through a New York State Energy Research and Development Authority supported project to be a model EV Accelerator Community. The county is becoming a welcoming community for EVs by providing charging, service, and support to local and visiting drivers. EVTompkins, a community led initiative, is working with local stakeholders, community members, dealerships, municipalities, and others to bring together all of the necessary elements of an electrified transportation system. Creating an EV-friendly environment boosts EV sales to higher than the baseline and national averages, a critical first step in moving electrification beyond a niche product.

Read more…

Dish Truck in Ithaca is Serving up a Sustainable Future

Tompkins Weekly            7-22-18

By Aaron Fernando

In the well-known Pogo comic strip by Walt Kelly, two characters look out somberly at a forest floor lined with discarded bottles, household goods, car parts, and garbage, and one of them says, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” This line and comic was used in a poster on the first Earth Day back in 1970, but almost a half-century later we are still grappling with how to deal with the environmental problems created by our own disposable waste. The world is waking up to the reality of dealing with 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic and other waste. This is most apparent on the local level. In Ithaca, New York, the Dish Truck is one of these efforts. Since 2015, the Dish Truck has operated as a service that allows people to reduce their reliance on disposable, single-use items by substituting reusable dishes and silverware. It does this by providing and cleaning these items before and after events.

Read more…

Immigrant Justice is Central to a Sustainable Food System

Tompkins Weekly     7-9-18

By Kate Cardona

Since its inception, Groundswell Center for Local Food & Farming has been focused on supporting immigrant and refugee communities in the Finger Lakes region. Our Incubator Farm was founded with the intention to be a space where people who had farmed in their home countries but faced barriers to land access and farming resources in the U.S. could obtain growing space, farm mentorship, farm equipment, business development support and a welcoming community. The farmers we have worked with at the Incubator have taught us so much about agricultural techniques and the power of growing healthy food with and for the community.

As an organization whose work centers around recognizing the incredible contributions that immigrants and refugees make to the U.S. and to our own local community, we have been devastated and outraged during the past weeks of the Trump Administration’s attack on immigrant families. The food system, in particular, is held up by the work of foreign-born workers; 70 percent of farmworkers are immigrants, and half of those are undocumented. Here in New York State, where wage theft, substandard housing, and workplace injuries are not uncommon experiences for farm workers, workers are still denied collective bargaining rights.

Read more…

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How to Get Active on Climate? Even More Locally
Fracking: What Are We FOR?
Sustainability is a Society of Systems Thinkers

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Help ST Finish What We Started on Dryden Pipeline

Everyday you are probably getting 2 or 3 calls to action to help stop some new outrage. It’s important to help wherever you can, but it’s also important that our movement follow through on earlier efforts to make positive change and head toward greater stewardship and justice in our communities. We’re asking our supporters to take a minute today and help us complete a critical step in our community’s shared commitment to protect the climate and stop new fossil fuel infrastructure from being built in our county.

Three years ago, in the early summer of 2014, we began to hear about a proposed new gas pipeline to run through West Dryden to provide heating fuel for new development in Lansing. The large capacity of the pipe would mean that Tompkins County would be unable to meet its goal of 80% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050.

ST helped organize local opposition to the project and teamed up to present several workshops on viable alternatives to the pipeline to meet Lansing’s energy needs. A countywide task force on energy and economic development eventually came to the same conclusions and recommended to the Public Service Commission (PSC) that NYSEG address reliability concerns for existing Lansing gas customers by adding pressure boosters to the current pipeline. In addition, NYSEG would provide incentives to developers to build new structures in Lansing using smart design and ultra-efficient heat pumps to meet commercial and residential heating loads. (Many industrial processes can be powered with electricity rather than gas as well.) Read more…

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…