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-Grants Build Local Resilience
Indigo workshop 2020. Photo provided.

As restrictions on activities ease in Tompkins County, many groups and individuals are starting new initiatives to build the area’s long-term resilience and equity. In April 2021, Sustainable Tompkins awarded $3,850 to nine Neighborhood Mini-Grants supporting new shared gardens, bicycling infrastructure and education, mutual aid food sharing, community-building, and other projects.  

Catholic Charities of Tompkins/Tioga will start a permanent program of instruction in machine sewing at A Place to Stay, their transitional supportive residence for homeless and recovering women in Ithaca, with machines and lessons provided by SewGreen. A Neighborhood Mini-Grant will pay for tools and materials.  

Local resident Claire Dehm will offer three free Women at the Wheel bicycle repair workshops at the Ithaca Farmers Market pavilion in summer 2021. These workshops will be open to women and non-binary residents of Tompkins County, and give extensive instruction on fixing flat tires, helping to make bicycling a more viable form of transportation for more local people.  A Neighborhood Mini-Grant will cover all costs of the workshops. 

Read more…
Neighborhood Mini-Grant Applications Due April 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 spring/summer 2021 round of Neighborhood Mini-Grants.

The Sustainable Tompkins 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 $77,000 in 196 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 the Park Foundation, Beck Equipment, Natural Investments, Fingerlakes 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. 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, creation of an Ithaca Murals equipment lending library for artists and community members creating murals that reflect the demographics, values, and stories of Ithaca’s residents, and restoration of a disused and overgrown trail in Dryden.

Applications must be received on or before April 1, 2021. To request an application form, or if you have questions, please call (607) 272-1720 or email

FLECA Campaign Expands Its Ranks

The tides are rising here in the Finger Lakes (in a good way… not the climate-change-kind-of-way)!  A new cohort of members have joined our Finger Lakes Enterprises for Climate Action coalition (FLECA)! Our team is ever-growing and building so much momentum with new team members from bookstores, glamping sites, farms and more! 

We have achieved over ⅓ of our goal, a huge checkpoint! We’re getting closer to offsetting $5,000 worth of emissions, securing two Climate Fund grants for families in need.

We are so enthused to welcome new FLECA business and organization members: Firelight Camps, Dailey Electric, Food Forest Farm, Leslie Danks Burke campaign, and Odyssey Bookstore. New members are offsetting emissions from the likes of campaign travel and the energy to heat and cool their businesses. And one of them has plans to keep the fire going – stayed tuned to find out!

Does your organization want to help Finger Lakes families stay warm this winter? Email for more information, including benefits of joining

Signs of Sustainability
A More Precise Definition of Climate Justice

Tompkins Weekly 6-9-21

By Luis Aguirre Torres

It was the night before what was meant to be one of the most important dates of my professional life. I was expected at the White House at 9 a.m., where I was going to be recognized as Champion of Change for my work on climate justice in Latin America. We were about to shed an important light on a matter that had remained hidden in plain sight for many years.

I was standing outside the hotel when I was suddenly arrested for suspicious behavior. Somebody complained about “someone fitting my description” lingering outside the hotel. I was cuffed, arrested and interviewed for several hours.

I was standing at the intersection of climate and social justice, a 12-hour lesson on race relations in America. I had been working for many years on climate justice, which was the only reason I was standing there. But I had been a minority for much longer, and that was the reason I was no longer standing.

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Farming for Our Community, Climate Change

Tompkins Weekly 5-26-21

By Mothers Out Front Tompkins

Regenerative farming’s distinct approach centers on soil quality and paralleling natural systems.  Local small-scale farmers use minimal or no tilling as well as cover crops to keep carbon in the ground, rather than releasing it to the air as CO2, a greenhouse gas.

Their plant diversity and crop rotation promote microbial health in the soil. A variety of crops also makes them more resilient to the extreme rain and droughts that occur unpredictably as our climate changes.

And these practices affect climate change as well. In his book, “Drawdown,” Paul Hawken ranks regenerative farming at #11 of the best 100 methods to counteract climate change.

Here we feature three more local small-scale farms using regenerative practices.

Read more…
Facing Challenges Effectively in Danby

Tompkins Weekly 5-12-21

By Cathleen and Eric Banford

It’s hard to remember the feeling of meeting in person. It can be a sure sign of sustainability to find ourselves venturing into new experiences, with others or alone, and ways of thinking as our community takes on so many challenges that it can also feel overwhelming.

One way to counter the immenseness of all that we are facing is to begin with where we are, with the people that are around us.

The town of Danby is currently beginning a new chapter, taking a deeper look at our community with the hope of designing a more sustainable way forward. Zoning has not kept pace with the changes happening around us, and realizing this has brought the community together to envision what they want their town to look like, both now and into the future.

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ST Blog

Older Posts

Fracking: What Are We FOR?
Sustainability is a Society of Systems Thinkers
Don’t Thank an Antifracktivist

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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…

How to Get Active on Climate? Even More Locally

By Miranda Phillips

With artic ice melting at great speed, and climate disruption happening a hundred years sooner than expected, climate change is promising to be the biggest challenge of the 21st century.  Not often talked about, at least in mainstream media, are the psychological and spiritual aspects of this challenge – among them, fear, guilt, and grief that make it difficult for us to act and act fast. Read more…