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 Applications Due September 1

Do you have an idea for a project to make our community more resilient or more 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 Neighborhood Mini-Grant program provides support for initiatives promoting environmental sustainability and social and economic vitality in Tompkins County. Individuals, neighborhood groups, and organizations are welcome to apply, as are modest-income owners of micro-enterprises seeking to green their operations or extend their 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, bike rack installation at the Friends of the Tompkins County Public Library book sale headquarters, and the 2017 Farm to Plate Conference run by the Groundswell Center for Local Food and Farming. Mini-Grants were most recently awarded to the Varna Community Association for water-saving toilets and signage at the Varna Community Center and to OAR of Tompkins County for creating a vegetable garden and fruit tree grove at its new Endeavor house for men transitioning out of prison.

Grants range from $150-$750 and have been awarded to diverse entities for locally-based initiatives supporting sustainable food systems, alternative transportation, waste reduction, energy conservation, renewable energy production, environmental education, social justice, and community building. 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.

Applications are due on or before September 1, 2017. To request an application form, or if you have questions, please contact

Neighborhood Mini-Grants Support Water Conservation and Garden Creation

As new challenges and opportunities arise for Tompkins County organizations, Sustainable Tompkins helps to smooth their way toward serving our communities better than ever. In June 2017, two Neighborhood Mini-Grants totaling $813 were awarded to the Varna Community Association and Opportunities, Alternatives, and Resources (OAR) of Tompkins County.

The Varna Community Association hosts an array of programs and events at the Varna Community Center, including an after-school program which began in 2016 and greatly increased the building’s water usage.  A Mini-Grant will pay for low-flush toilets and accompanying educational signs, saving money while reducing the center’s impact on the area’s vulnerable water supplies and sewer systems.

OAR of Tompkins County recently purchased a house in Ithaca’s West End to serve as transitional housing for men returning from incarceration. A Mini-Grant will fund the creation of a raised-bed vegetable, herb, and flower garden and fruit tree grove in the house’s gravel yard, providing residents with food, community activities, and facilitated opportunities for skill-building in gardening and food preparation.

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.

Neighborhood Mini-Grant Supports Citizen Science at Roy H. Park Preserve

As the Earth’s climate changes, the seasonal behaviors of plants and animals (leafing, blooming, nesting, migration, etc.) are shifting in complex, interconnected ways. Phenology, the study of these seasonal changes, has a key role in our understanding and adapting to the present and future impacts of climate change. To help the public contribute information to this field – while enjoying and learning about the natural world — the Finger Lakes Land Trust has created a Phenology Trail at its Roy H. Park Preserve in Dryden, with funding provided by a Neighborhood Mini-Grant from Sustainable Tompkins.

Trailhead kiosks provide datasheets for recording the condition of the leaves, flowers, and fruit of six trailside trees labeled with interpretive signs. Visitors may report their findings to the Nature’s Notebook website run by the National Phenology Network, or leave datasheets at a kiosk for submission by Land Trust staff. Submissions have arrived regularly ever since the trail opened in June 2016. Data gathered on the website is used in scientific research, education, resource management, and policy making; yielding widespread benefits from local observations.

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.

Signs of Sustainability
Sustainable Finger Lakes Map Created

Tompkins Weekly                   8-15-17

By Gay Nicholson

The morning after November’s election I woke with an urgent awareness that we must find ways to be more effective in protecting our democracy and common future. I knew we’d be facing an era of even more denial of environmental, economic, and social realities. And I knew that organizing at the regional level might be the missing piece for us.

My friend Susan Christopherson taught me about the importance of working on economic development at the regional scale for the necessary balance in supply chains, workforce, and markets. The same holds true for political change at the level of state and federal districts. And a regional culture can be an expression of norms, values, and habits of mind as much as music, cuisine, or dialect. We can’t be content with trying to build tiny islands of sustainability practices in places like Ithaca. The necessary changes have to go across municipal boundaries and work at scale.

Read more…

Sustainability For All

Tompkins Weekly           7-24-17

By Joanne Cipolla-Dennis and Deborah Cipolla-Dennis

A sustainable community is in the eye of the beholder. An environment may be sustainable for many organisms, but not sustainable at all for others.

For example, apple trees find our upstate New York winters sustainable. However, mango trees do not. How does a community become sustainable not only for the majority of people, but also for marginalized populations? How do we ensure that all voices are heard in the planning, developing, and governing of our community?

Read more…

Habitat for Humanity Breaking Ground

Tompkins Weekly              7-10-17

By Staci Rogers

Habitat for Humanity of Tompkins & Cortland Counties will be breaking ground on its first builds in the City of Ithaca with two owner-occupied units within a single duplex.

The two-story homes will each be approximately 1,400 square feet, with three bedrooms and two bathrooms each. We are excited to be building in Ithaca City for the first time in our 30 years as an affiliate. We’ve had significant county level support from a Community Development Fund grant (a joint effort of Tompkins County and the City of Ithaca), and a Housing and Urban Development Entitlement Grant administered through Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency.

Read more…

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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…

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