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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Neighborhood Mini-Grant Deadline September 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 Tompkins is accepting applications for our fall round of Neighborhood Mini-Grants. Applications are due September 1.

The Sustainable Tompkins Neighborhood Mini-Grant program provides support for initiatives promoting environmental sustainability, equity, and environmental, economic, and social justice in Tompkins County.

Grants range from $150-$750 and have been awarded to diverse entities for locally-based initiatives 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 quarterly by a team of community members. The program is sponsored by the Park Foundation, Beck Equipment, Natural Investments, Finger Lakes Wealth Management, 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.

Successful initiatives supported by Neighborhood Mini-Grants in 2016 and 2017 include textile-making courses and workshops at Luna Fiber Studio, creation of a pop-up farmers’ market in Freeville, establishment of the Finger Lakes Toy Library as a lending collection of environmentally-friendly toys, and the 2017 Farm to Plate Conference run by the Groundswell Center for Local Food and Farming.

Applications are due on or before September 1, 2018. To request an application form, or if you have questions, please contact

Neighborhood Mini-Grants Support Bicycle Access and Garden Creation

As initiatives arise and expand to address overlooked issues for underserved populations, Sustainable Tompkins helps them to best meet the needs of all they serve. In June 2018, two Neighborhood Mini-Grants totaling $600 were awarded to Recycle Ithaca’s Bicycles (RIBs) and REACH Medical.

Recycle Ithaca’s Bicycles, a program of the Southside Community Center, offers bicycle-repair training to people who may take home the donated bicycles they repair. A Mini-Grant will pay for locks and lights to be provided free of charge along with the bicycles, making this mode of transportation safer and more secure for all participants, regardless of income.

REACH Medical, which opened in 2018, is Ithaca’s first medical practice to specialize in providing stigma-free treatment of addiction to opioids and other drugs. An onsite fruit and vegetable garden, tended by staff and patients, was created to provide community-building and food as well. A Mini-Grant will fund the purchase of materials to expand this garden.

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.

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…

Signs of Sustainability
Electronic Waste — A Growing Challenge

Tompkins Weekly     9-17-18

By Michael Troutman and Robin Elliott

The US produces more electronic waste, or “e-waste,” than any other country: 9.4 million tons annually and only 12.5 percent is recycled. E-waste makes up two percent of the waste stream, but 70 percent of the hazardous waste in landfills. Increased access to affordable electronics has changed our way of life, some may say for the better. The question remains: how do we safely and responsibly handle these items once we’re done with them?

While many electronic products are affordable to the average consumer, they are costly to extract from mines and produce. If not reused or recycled, these limited resources can be lost for good. Toxic substances such as lead, mercury, cadmium, and chromium are common in modern electronics, making them dangerous to put in landfills. Finally, electronics are a growing sector of consumer products with an ever-shrinking product lifecycle. This has created a surge in production of potentially hazardous waste that is challenging to manage.

Read more…

Heat Smart, Cool Smart, and Reap the Benefits!

Tompkins Weekly   8-27-18

By Jonathan Comstock

Beneficial electrification needs to become a familiar household concept just like the value of renewable energy. Renewable energy comes from sources that are self-renewing, like solar, wind and hydropower. But merely converting our current electric use to renewably sourced electricity is not enough. We also need to eliminate the current reliance on fossil fuels in our transportation and home heating systems because they account for the vast majority of our energy use.

The point is that we have excellent opportunities to adopt superior electric technologies for transportation and to heat and cool our homes. When we do this, our total electric use will go up. But our total energy use will drop substantially because of the elimination of fossil fuel use and the tremendous increases in energy efficiency as we shift to these modern electric technologies.

Read more…

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…

ST Blog

Older Posts

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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…