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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Land Use and Renewables Webinar Video and Slides Available

Our September 28 Finger Lakes Forecast webinar on Land Use and Renewables attracted a large audience of 116 registrants from across upstate NY to learn about the process in NYS for siting various sizes of solar arrays, using transportation rights-of-way, brownfields, and marginal lands to host solar, and agrivoltaics – the potential to combine crop and livestock production with wind or solar farms.

The video of the webinar is available on the Sustainable Finger Lakes YouTube channel.  You can also check out the slide presentations by panelists David Kay, Kaitlin Stack Whitney, and Graham Savio, and see a list of topic resources and answers to some of the questions we did not have time for during the webinar.

Finger Lakes Forecast webinars resume September 28

Every day around the world escalating climate disruption is taking lives, property and economic stability from communities. It will get much worse if we don’t reduce emissions by transitioning to cleaner sources of power. But where should we put the solar and wind farms we are going to need?

NYS has set a goal of providing 100% of our electrical demand from carbon-free sources by 2040. How much land will be needed to site that much solar and wind energy? Who should decide where it goes? What are our options?

Join us for our Fall Finger Lakes Forecast webinar “Land Use and Renewables” on September 28 at noon. Our panelists will explore those topics and more to help you understand how this may impact our food and energy security, and what public investments we should plan for as we face the challenges of climate change. David Kay of Cornell’s Dept. of Global Development will provide a look at the numbers involved and what NYS is crafting around policy and programs. Kaitlin Stack Whitney of RIT’s Science and Technology Studies will share insights into where we might place solar arrays other than farmland, while Graham Savio, Agriculture Leader at CCE Tompkins will explore the potential of agrivoltaics – the production of crops and livestock within solar or wind arrays.

Our Finger Lakes Forecast webinar series 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. You can check out our Spring Finger Lakes Forecast webinar series on food security, flood risks, and toxic algae blooms at our YouTube channel.

Please join us at Noon on Wednesday, September 28 to learn what citizens of the Finger Lakes can do to support policies for the responsible siting and management of the renewable energy sources of the future. Register for this event at

For more information, email

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 2022/winter 2023 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 215 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 Craig Riecke, Beck Equipment, and the Park Foundation.

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 as a lending collection of environmentally-friendly toys, 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, 2022. To request an application form, or if you have questions, please call (607) 272-1720 or email

Signs of Sustainability
Words Into Deeds Empowers Youth, Helps Communities

Tompkins Weekly    11-23-22

By Cathleen Banford

Where do young people learn about social systems and how they interconnect and how to empower themselves to influence positive changes in their lives? While the political arena is often dripping with divisiveness and too many politicians out of touch and beholden to dark money, there are people living with agency and accountability in their lives, addressing these issues directly.

One such individual is Gertrude Noden, founder of Ithaca-based Words Into Deeds. In a recent conversation, she shared how she’s finding ways to both empower and engage groups of young people within their communities. Through this work, they learn to navigate and improve systems directly impacting their lives.

Words Into Deeds, Inc. provides opportunities for youth to develop their full potential as informed, engaged citizens in their schools, communities and globally. Working with teachers and community leaders, using resources such as the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as frameworks, they present workshops and offer sustained support for outreach projects tailored for the needs and age range of each participating group.

Read more…

Climate Leadership, Protection Act to Have Far-Reaching Effects

Tompkins Weekly         11-9-22

By Peter Bardaglio

Luis Aguirre-Torres’s recent decision to step down as the Ithaca city sustainability director came as a deep disappointment to many in Tompkins County. His plan to make the city carbon neutral by 2030 while making sure climate justice was central to this endeavor was ambitious and inspiring and embodied the spirit and vision of the Ithaca Green New Deal (IGND).

Fortunately, Rebecca Evans remains in place as the city sustainability planner. Her expertise, experience and talent, as well as a longstanding commitment to a just and equitable society, will help ensure that the IGND maintains its momentum. But the community also needs to stay engaged and support her work if the IGND is to meet its goals and continue serving as a national model.

Besides joining in local activism to promote the IGND, it is important that Tompkins County residents advocate at the state level for effective climate and clean energy policies. The passage in 2019 of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), the nation’s most progressive climate law, carved out the path for moving forward.

Read more…

How Do Festivals Go Zero Waste?

Tompkins Weekly         10-26-22n

By Joey Diana Gates

We are blessed to live in a land of great beauty, cultural offerings, and celebrations. It feels like, at any given moment, there is an opportunity to go outside and revel in art, music and amazing food from around the world. The downside to this is the mountains of trash and waste created in our wake.

Festival organizers often must calculate their waste-hauling capacity in the tons! But we can fix this — the party does not have to mean pollution! If there is any place that has the will, the talent and the desire to fix this, it is here.

In event and festival planning, we make a myriad of decisions necessary to meet the needs of sometimes thousands of people. In essence, we must build small, temporary cities providing inputs such as electricity and potable water, as well as hauling capacity for outputs like restroom facility byproducts and gray water disposal.

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.

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

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…