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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Our 25th Climate Fund grant helps Caroline family

Our 25th Climate Fund grant award went to Brandon and Lyla White and their charming daughter Rosemary. The White Family lives in a 70’s era home in the Town of Caroline. Like so many houses of that time, it was poorly insulated and still had the same really expensive electric baseboard heat of those ‘cheap energy’ times. After they moved in a couple years ago, they got their first shockingly high electric bill and knew they had to make some changes.

Snug Planet helped them come up with a plan to address their biggest energy problems and had them apply to the Finger Lakes Climate Fund for assistance. They put their $1291 grant toward the removal of 52 tons of CO2 by sealing and insulating their attic and the cantilever over the basement floor and toward a new Air Source Heat Pump that is heating AND cooling their home for pennies compared to the high price of the baseboard heating system and an old style window air conditioner. (Listen to them tell their story here.)

Thanks to all of our carbon offsetters for helping the Whites improve their home’s carbon footprint!  We are in our usual ‘Seal the Cracks’ fall campaign where we ask you to think back over the past summer and remember all the travels you took.  Then go to our and take responsibility for the emissions associated with that travel by making an offset.  It’s quick, easy, and affordable – plus you will get to be part of the community that is helping families like the Whites shrink their carbon footprint while making their household economy so much more resilient.

Neighborhood Mini-Grant Supports Recycling by the Family Reading Parnership

Photo provided by the Family Reading Partnership

Sometimes a small investment can have a large impact on an organization or business’s operations, raising efficiency while reducing environmental impacts. The Family Reading Partnership, a Danby-based organization devoted to distributing children’s books throughout Tompkins County, has long taken its recyclables to the Tompkins County Recycling and Solid Waste Center, a 14-mile round trip made by the volunteers who also provide vital program assistance and administrative support. In September 2017, the Family Reading Partnership received a Neighborhood Mini-Grant from Sustainable Tompkins to purchase two heavy-duty lidded recycling bins in which large volumes of material — primarily cardboard from shipments of books – could be securely left outdoors for curbside pickup.

This has reduced the organization’s carbon footprint and freed its volunteers to focus their time on its programs, facilitating more book distribution. A strengthened commitment to recycling has inspired successful efforts to reduce the amount of recyclable waste produced.

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 the Park Foundation, Beck Equipment, Craig Riecke, Natural Investments, Fingerlakes Wealth Management, and local donors. We need your support so we can help more citizen leaders act on their values. Please donate today and help us support more wonderful citizen-driven projects to improve life in our community.

Neighborhood Mini-Grants Support Storytelling and Gardening Gatherings

From addressing large-scale social justice issues to helping individuals grow their own food, organizations can bring people together to build more connected, resilient communities in many ways. In September 2018, two Neighborhood Mini-Grants totaling $600 were awarded to Civic Ensemble and the Floral Avenue Community Garden.

Civic Ensemble, an Ithaca-based theatre company devoted to exploring and addressing social, cultural, and political issues, has long used public story circles to develop its plays and programs while strengthening local communities. But its new story circle series Community Soup: Storytelling Toward the Beloved Community focuses on connecting people of all demographics, giving space for all voices and empowering the public to collaborate on working against discrimination and economic inequality. A Neighborhood Mini-Grant will support the first two of these monthly gatherings.

The Floral Avenue Community Garden on Ithaca’s West Hill will host a Community Perennial Planting Workshop in October 2018, where participants will receive education in cultivation and use of food-producing perennial plants, assist in planting the garden with them, and take home seeds and plantings, using a wide variety of herbs, bushes, and trees. A Neighborhood Mini-Grant will pay for the plants, fencing, and event promotion.

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 the Park Foundation, Beck Equipment, Craig Riecke, Natural Investments, Fingerlakes Wealth Management, and local donors. We need your support so we can help more citizen leaders act on their values. Please donate today and help us support more wonderful citizen-driven projects to improve life in our community.

Signs of Sustainability
Home Composting

Tompkins Weekly   10-8-18

By Adam Michaelides

Fall is an excellent time of year to compost. Dead leaves are becoming abundant once again. These “brown” materials are just what the outdoor compost needs throughout the year to feed microorganisms, and provide adequate airflow. If you compost outdoors, take the time to squirrel away bags of dry leaves to use in the compost until next fall. You’ll be happy you did!

Composting at home in the backyard, or indoors using a worm or bokashi bin, is a super sustainable practice. Your food, yard, and garden discards are kept on your property instead of transported somewhere else and then mechanically processed. This saves on fossil fuel use, and wear and tear on roads and vehicles. Landfilling food scraps and other organic discards can cause all sorts of problems – from added carbon emissions through fossil fuel use, to methane generation for decades to come. Composting these materials on a large scale is a lot better; however, environmentally-speaking the most sustainable way is to compost right at home.

Read more…

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…

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Older Posts

How to Get Active on Climate? Even More Locally
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…