“Sustainable Tompkins” is now “Sustainable Finger Lakes.” As our programs evolve and expand beyond Tompkins County we have rebranded. The content on this site is currently being migrated to our Sustainable Finger Lakes website and we will soon retire this site. Go to our Sustainable Finger Lakes website to get all of our latest updates!

News & Events

Neighborhood Mini-Grant Program Featured in Ithaca Week

Photo by Caroline Grass

Ithaca College publication Ithaca Week showcased the Sustainable Finger Lakes Neighborhood Mini-Grant Program in an article by Caroline Grass, featuring interviews with Neighborhood Mini-Grant Coordinator Sasha Paris and the recipients of two April 2023 grants supporting native botany education at the Marshy Garden Project and the Lansing Center Trail. This program has benefited people throughout Tompkins County to an incalculable degree since it began in 2008, and is in dire need of new supporters.

For the full article, visit https://www.ithacaweek-ic.com/mini-grant-program-helps-grassro

Neighborhood Mini-Grant Applications Due October 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 Finger Lakes is accepting applications for our fall 2023/winter 2024 round of Neighborhood Mini-Grants.

The Sustainable Finger Lakes 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 $85,000 in 221 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 NYSEG, 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, creation of the Project Abundance neighborhood garden in Ithaca, restoration of a disused and overgrown trail in Dryden, and bicycle maintenance education workshops in Ithaca.

Applications must be received on or before October 1, 2023. To request an application form, or if you have questions, please call (607) 272-1720 or email sasha@sustainablefingerlakes.org.

Neighborhood Mini-Grants Support Rural Initiatives

From staple foods to bicycling infrastructure to botany education, small locally-based initiatives can help to meet the needs and improve the lives of people in rural areas. In April 2023, Sustainable Finger Lakes awarded a total of $2,500 in four Neighborhood Mini-Grants supporting such projects across Tompkins County.

Artist/ecologist Ash Ferlito and ecological landscape designer Brandon Hoak have created and maintained the Marshy Garden, a habitat restoration project and educational venue at The Soil Factory south of Ithaca. This year, they seek to increase the garden’s biodiversity and habitat value, along with expanding the on-site array of educational programming for college students and the public. A Neighborhood Mini-Grant will support their purchase of native plants for this purpose from Grow Wild Nursery in Brooktondale.

The organization Friends of the Lansing Center Trail will install informational plant identification signs in the native plant garden near the entrance to the popular Lansing Center Trail in the Town of Lansing, aiming to educate trail visitors and encourage gardening with native plants. A Neighborhood Mini-Grant will contribute to the purchase of these signs.

The organization Groton Community Cupboard, formerly Groton Food Providers, runs a food pantry serving a large and growing need for food assistance in an area without a full grocery store. They are moving the food pantry to a new location, which will need renovation, and striving to maintain operation during the transition. A Neighborhood Mini-Grant will help to pay the expenses of this endeavor.

Dryden resident Kate McKee will install bike racks at four small businesses throughout the Village of Dryden to facilitate local bicycle travel. A Neighborhood Mini-Grant will pay for the racks, along with chains and locks.

The Neighborhood Mini-Grant Program provides seed money to diverse initiatives to build environmental, economic, and social resilience and well-being in Tompkins County. The program is sponsored by NYSEG, Craig Riecke, and local donors. The next deadline for the Mini-Grant program will be October 1, 2023. To request an application or learn more, email sasha@sustainablefingerlakes.org.

Signs of Sustainability
A Love Story for My Country

Tompkins Weekly      11-8-23

By Sargent Joey Diana Gates

Patriotism is defined as love, pride and devotion one feels towards one’s land and country. Environmentalism is to be concerned about and to work for the protection of the environment, i.e. the land, air and water, and hence the health of all beings, to include humans. There are strong historic links between these two concepts, notably in the birth of the conservation movement. I will discuss these below in tracing my own trajectory and looking at the origins of the conservation movement.  My journey as an environmentalist began as an exchange student in Sweden but was cemented in my experiences in the US Army in the late 80’s to mid-90’s and has led me on a life journey of love, care and protection of the environment, and by extension, my country.

In the spring of 1986, while living in Sweden, I witnessed the horror of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident unfolding. It was April 26, the world was waking up from winter and farmers were preparing for spring plantings and allowing their cows to pasture. This spring however, they were advised not to let the animals graze as radioactive fallout had gone up into the atmosphere in Ukraine, traversed manmade boundaries, and fallen on the land across Scandinavia. In Lapland, the Sami people were advised to butcher huge swaths of their reindeer population, and not consume the meat due to the bioaccumulation of radiation in their bodies for the same reason. On a recent, 2018 visit to Sweden, friends told of giving up a recently hunted elk as it had too many becquerels in its body. Environmental damage to the land severely impacted the livelihood of the farmers and nations’ abilities to feed themselves.

Read more…

‘Common Ground’ For Us All

Tompkins Weekly       10-11-23

By Cathleen and Eric Banford

A new documentary called “Common Ground” is coming to Cinemapolis Oct. 13 to 19, and based on its Oct. 1 screening, it is a must see film. It’s the sequel to “Kiss the Ground,” which has been seen by over 1 billion people globally and inspired the United States Department of Agriculture to put $20 billion toward soil health. The hope is that this new film will have an even greater impact.

The film starts as a letter to the next generation, narrated by Laura Dern, Jason Momoa, Rosario Dawson, Ian Somerhalder, and Woody Harrelson. As any film with an environmental message must do, it outlines the many overwhelming problems caused by our current food system. Where this film differs is where it goes from there: solutions. Inspiring, achievable, common-sense solutions.

This is a really well researched, well thought out film. The problems are made clear. The history of corruption and mismanagement involving “Big AG” laid bare. And then we get interviews with experts in regenerative farming, with people doing the work of transforming their own farms and seeing amazing results. And by results we don’t just mean ecological improvements; we mean savings and profits! It means transforming farms from struggling enterprises with poor, exhausted soil into profitable ventures that also transform the landscape into a thriving ecosystem. The proof is in the doing.

Read more…

Electric Vehicle Meet and Greet

Tompkins Weekly   9-27-23

By Cathleen Banford, Eric Banford, and Holly Payne

On Saturday, October 14, 2023, from 10AM to 1PM, come to Stewart Park to check out a variety of the most affordable electric vehicles (EVs) on display and chat with EV drivers. Try Ithaca Bikeshare’s electric bikes, climb aboard electric buses (from our local public schools and from TCAT), or ride your electric wheelchair up the TCAT bus ramp to strap in. Join America’s transformative way of getting… everywhere!

Cornell Cooperative Extension is the event organizer, and EV show participants include TCAT Bus, ICSD School Bus Garage, Ithaca BikeShare, and participating Electric Vehicle owners.

New York State has set ambitious targets to reduce harmful CO2 emissions. Transportation is high on the list and responsible for spewing nearly half (47%) of the state’s CO2 into the atmosphere. What can we do at the local level? The most powerful individual contribution is to avoid driving alone! Can you get to your daily destinations on foot, by bicycle, by e-bike, by public bus (some of which are electric), or by combining those options?  If you live far away, can you creatively organize a carpool? (For more, see Way2Go.org.) And last but not least, could your next vehicle be an EV?

Read more…

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SAVE THE DATE for our first Finger Lakes Forecast webinar: April 27 at 12pm EST
Energy and Equity Go Hand in Hand
Home Rule and the Greater Good

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“Getting Climate Action Right”
by Osamu Tsuda, member of Sustainable Tompkins Board of Directors

Climate Change – we hear about it a lot these days. Whether it is your neighbor talking about how the weather has become more extreme over the past decade or news reports about how we need to pass climate policy to avoid catastrophic disasters, the information and chatter on the topic can be overwhelming. From violent storms in the south, extensive wildfires in the west, severe flooding in the east, to melting ice caps in the north, as individuals we can feel quite helpless at times and resort to blocking it all out. Maybe if we wait long enough the problems will resolve themselves. After all, what kind of impact could we really have as individuals? 

As it turns out, there is a lot we can do! It is often easy to see all the destruction happening around us and forget or ignore the amazing resilient nature of human beings. Despite the delays and controversy, there have been many efforts to address the major threat of Climate Change, and now New York State is in the process of developing a climate action plan that will shape the fate of our state and the nation as a whole.  Read more…

Register today for “Finger Lakes Forecast: Climate Disruption & Food Security” (April 27)

Our new webinar series, Finger Lakes Forecast, focuses on how climate change will impact life in the Finger Lakes Region and what people can do for themselves and their communities to prepare. This webinar series is free and open to the public. The first of these webinars, Climate Disruption and Food Security, will take place at 12pm EST on April 27 and include a screening of Uplifted Ithaca’s short documentary, Our Farmers in Flux: Adapting to Climate Change, followed by a panel discussion with Graham Savio, Cornell Cooperative Extension Tompkins County; Katie Hallas, Tompkins Food Future; Klaas Martens, Lakeview Organic Grain; and Chaw Chang, Stick and Stone Farm. Register online. https://bit.ly/Apr27forecast

On May 25th, we will host our second Finger Lakes Forecast webinar which will explore ways residents of the Finger Lakes can reduce flood risk for their homes. Additional topics to be covered in the webinar series include Policies to Reduce Harmful Algae Blooms in the Finger Lakes, Land Use and Renewable Energy, Public Health in a Hotter Finger Lakes, and FLX Demographic and Economic Trends.

Sustainable Tompkins is a citizen-based coalition working towards a more sustainable regional community. We advocate a systems approach to build the infrastructure and social capacity for more sustainable ways of living and working. Our projects and programs have focused on energy efficiency, climate protection, green purchasing, sustainable community development, green collar jobs, sustainable enterprise, and economic/ecological justice. Our office is open by appointment at 309 N. Aurora Street in Ithaca.

To learn more, email our Outreach Coordinator at sarah@sustainabletompkins.org.

Sustainable Tompkins Puts Sustainability on the Map

screenshot of section of sustainability mapThe Sustainable Finger Lakes Map created by Sustainable Tompkins provides a visual interface for people interested in learning more about the regional sustainability movement. People are coming together across our region to relocalize the economy, make our systems of local governance more just and democratic, and protect our land, air, and water for future generations. The Map currently has over 800 entries and allows visitors to quickly search 8 main categories of sustainable living for local programs, businesses, and activities. Regional businesses or groups are invited to put themselves on the Map! If they are working on some aspect of a more sustainable system, they can register online and submit a short description of their sustainability efforts, and contact information. Submissions are reviewed on a weekly basis.

With a shared goal to assure a future landscape in which all of us can thrive despite the many changes underway, community members are invited to help build this map of the sustainability and democracy movement in the Finger Lakes Region. Residents can add what they are working on, plug in where they can make a difference, and spread the word to share with others. Visit the Map to discover the creative and the compassionate, the solidarity builders and the self-reliant, the pioneers and the protectors of a sustainable future.

Recent additions to the Map include Lev Kitchen, Central New York Labor Federation, Food Policy Council of Tompkins County, and Oxbow Farm. Located downtown on the Ithaca Commons, Lev Kitchen is one of Ithaca’s newest restaurants and features Yemeni flatbread called Malawach and the amalgamation of distinctive cuisines and cultures from countries such as Israel, Lebanon and Syria. Opened in March 2022, they aim to embrace business transparency, explore what it means to be a “sustainable” food service operator, and support food security by donating 1% of all revenues to the World Food Program and their relief efforts around the world. Read more…