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

Mini-Grant Supports Creation of Finger Lakes Toy Library

Toys are an often-overlooked source of resource waste and resource inequality – bought and discarded in large quantities by some families, prohibitively expensive for others. Toy libraries, found across the nation and world, use lending collections and community play spaces to address these issues while fostering a culture of sharing and social connections. Finger Lakes Toy Library (FLTL) was founded in 2016 to bring this system to Ithaca and the surrounding communities. In March 2017, FLTL received a Neighborhood Mini-Grant from Sustainable Tompkins to purchase essential equipment along with several toys themed on environmental stewardship.

Since then, FLTL has become a flourishing local presence, with dozens of member families and hundreds of new and donated toys that members can borrow and play with at its headquarters in Ithaca’s Clinton West Plaza. Its collection prioritizes environmentally-friendly, gender-neutral, and educational toys that encourage open-ended creativity. With a mobile set of toys, tent, and table, it has brought “Playtimes” — open to all, some with themes such as Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) or Puzzles and Games — to events such as the Apple Harvest Festival, and hosted them at venues throughout Tompkins County and beyond.

Read more…

Carbon Offsets for a Solidarity Economy on #Giving Tuesday
Soledad Exantus and her daughter Sydney were all smiles at the recent open house held for the two new homes being built in Ithaca’s Northside neighborhood by Habitat for Humanity. The Exantus family has longed for more room for their teenage daughters, and they are so excited by the prospect of owning their own affordable, efficient, and solar-powered dwelling. Mohammed Maataoui and his daughter Esrah were also there that night to celebrate their upcoming ownership of the other half of this new duplex.

Our Finger Lakes Climate Fund helped pay for the 4.68 Kw solar arrays that will be on each of their roofs to power their all electric homes. Thanks to our donors we were able to do these first solar PV grants from our Climate Fund!

In this era of growing inequality and fraying democracy, it can seem pretty daunting to figure out how to join in and make a positive difference. Our local carbon offsets are an excellent way for you to participate in both protecting our climate and building an economy based on mutual support and solidarity. Both of these impacts are essential to our future well being.  Read more…

What is Sustainability?

Recently, I was asked why sustainability wasn’t about sustaining the jobs at the coal plant.  It’s common for people to think sustainability is about sustaining a particular thing.  But sustainability is not about business as usual and maintaining the status quo. It is characterized by having sufficient foresight and flexible agility to remain balanced and resilient within a dynamic, ever shifting system of life on Earth. Sustainability is also about community because it recognizes the vast interconnectedness of this life support system. That’s why the prime values of stewardship and justice are necessary to guide our choices. If we value anything beyond our own narrow lives, we have to consider the harms we do to others, now and in the future.

For decades, politicians and corporate interests have claimed that actions that make profit now are justified even if they do harm to others because we’re making such a better world for future generations. But of course that is less and less likely as those negative harvests pile up upon each other, smothering the hopes of billions of humans and extinguishing massive numbers of other species.

Earth has an ancient slogan: Adapt or Die. Sustainability is about adapting in a way that allows everyone in our human community the same opportunity to thrive within the guidelines of stewardship and justice. That means keeping all the parts of Earth’s system in healthy balance. It’s not about clinging to the past and ways of living that harm our collective chances for the future. It’s about finding new, less harmful ways to meet our needs and taking responsibility for our choices.  — Gay Nicholson, President

Signs of Sustainability
Climate Despair, Climate Hope, Climate Courage

Tompkins Weekly      12-11-17

By Wendy Skinner

At the behest of a friend, I recently hosted a group at my home to talk about “climate change despair.” Many of those present expressed feelings of depression and defeatism. One person broke down and cried as she talked about her deep love for the earth and her sense of loss.

A debilitating kind of despair is reported by those who work in fields that research and see first-hand the devastation caused by climate change, and if I list even some of that here, I will probably start to cry as well. Humankind is facing the biggest, most complex problem of our lives and the lives of generations to come. Even the most well-off and sheltered individuals have one foot in the climate change apocalypse, whether they acknowledge it or not. Others around the world are fully engulfed in apocalyptic ruin.

Read more…

Steps to Sustainability – Feedback

Tompkins Weekly 11-27-17

By Richard W. Franke

Remember the last time an inexperienced public speaker pointed the microphone inadvertently towards one of the speaker boxes? The screeching howl led to audience shivers until someone told the person holding the mic to point it away and keep it away from the output speakers. What happened? The person speaking had his/her voice come out through the boxed speakers where it got fed back into the mic and went through the sound system then again. It’s called “feedback.”

Feedback is an important feature of all systems. Feedback occurs whenever an output from a part of a system circles back through that part of the system again.

We can most easily grasp feedback and its significance for systems thinking by dividing it into two main types: Negative feedback and positive feedback.

Read more…

Greensprings – Renew, Sustain, Endure

Tompkins Weekly     11-13-17

By Lynn Leopold

In the global scheme of things, the Greensprings Natural Cemetery in Newfield may seem a very small effort at sustainability, but the land management activities on the 130-acre preserve are fine local examples of planning for the present and the future through green burial and land management for wildlife values.

Since the first priority of the cemetery is to provide natural burials, both today and in future years, maintaining the large burial meadows goes way beyond simply keeping the space mowed for ease of access. In past years, Greensprings has been working with the Natural Resource Conservation Service of the USDA to manipulate parts of the open fields to make them more inviting to grassland birds, particularly those species that are declining in New York state and elsewhere in the northeast.

Read more…

ST Blog

Older Posts

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

Follow our RSS feed

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…

Secured By miniOrange