Sustainable Tompkins is governed by a Board of Directors and supported by staff and volunteers.

Board of Directors

Jessica Swindon, Chair
Neil Schill, Secretary
Osamu Tsuda, Treasurer
Cathleen Banford
Roger Beck
Mara Braddy
Erica Herman

Gay Nicholson, President (ex officio)

Staff Support

Gay Nicholson, President & CEO
Marisa Lansing, Climate Fund Coordinator
Sasha Paris, Mini-Grant Coordinator & Office Assistant
Alexis Fallon, Sustainable Finger Lakes Program Assistant
Maggie Mowrer, Marketing Specialist
Nancy Robbins, Bookkeeper

Board and Staff Bios

 

Gay Nicholson, President

Since 2004, Gay Nicholson has led Sustainable Tompkins in designing and implementing an integrated program to advance the creation of a more sustainable regional community. Gay emphasizes a systems approach to working with partners to build the infrastructure and social capacity for more sustainable ways of living and working. Gay participates in a number of local partnerships related to energy and climate, equity as an economic driver, and sustainable agriculture.

Gay left a career in sustainable agriculture to work in environmental advocacy and education with Cornell’s Program on Ethics and Public Life, and as executive director of the Finger Lakes Land Trust before leading the creation of Sustainable Tompkins. She has been an active volunteer in numerous community and environmental organizations, providing leadership from the local to the national level.

Gay’s undergraduate degree (with High Distinction) is in Environmental Sciences from the University of Virginia (1979), and her Master’s (1982) and Doctorate (1991) are in Crop Physiology and Integrated Pest Management from Cornell University.  She currently serves on the boards of HeatSmart Tompkins and the Tompkins County Planning Advisory Board.

 

Jessica Swindon, Chair

Jessica Swindon grew up in Syracuse, NY next to Onondaga Lake (the most polluted lake in America) which evoked her deep appreciation of the Finger Lakes region. She holds a B.Sc from SUNY Cortland and an M.Sc from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies where her work focused on carbon and nitrogen cycling in rangelands. She currently manages a soil and plant ecology lab that focuses on sustainable agriculture in the School of Integrative Plant Sciences at Cornell University.

Jessica’s work with Sustainable Tompkins focuses on land and resource management including harmful algal bloom education and prevention and carbon offset projects with a focus in agriculture. Jessica is often at the Ithaca Farmer’s Market selling locally made CBD and spends the rest of her time with her dog Ruby.

 

Neil Schill, Secretary

 

 

Osamu Tsuda, Treasurer

Originally from Cooperstown NY, Osamu does work around climate resiliency and adaptation planning in the Southern Tier region spanning from Steuben to Delaware County. As a graduate from Cornell’s city planning program, Osamu is very interested in the topics of watershed management and land use planning, which is how he got acquainted with Sustainable Tompkins in 2018. 

As part of the ST board of directors, Osamu looks forward to working with communities to prepare for the effects of climate change and help create a more sustainable future.

 

 

Cathleen Banford

 

 

Roger Beck

Roger Beck grew up on a dairy farm in the Town of Dryden and graduated from Cornell University with a degree in Agricultural Engineering. After serving two years in the Navy Seabees, he started Beck Construction, a company doing excavation and grading work.

During the following decades, this company changed its operations and it is now Beck Equipment, located in Preble, NY. Beck Equipment rents, sells and services construction machinery and employs twenty-five people.

Over the years, Roger has worked to get information to the public about a wide variety of issues. To continue these efforts, he is starting a not-for-profit called 21st Century Facts. Roger serves on the board of Sustainable Tompkins and is a member of the Ithaca Sunrise Rotary.

 

Mara Braddy

Mara moved to Ithaca, NY in the summer of 2019 with her partner and puppy, Archie. She grew up in northern Utah where water is scarce, and urban sprawl is the cultural norm. While pursuing her Biology degree at Utah State University, Mara spent her mornings teaching nature preschool and helping out the local environmental stewardship nonprofit. Seeing the love and appreciation for nature grow in the preschoolers inspired her to become more educated about climate change, and the challenges of systematically changing the way we approach and think about environmental protection for future generations. The events of 2020 dramatically shifted her perspective and gave her new insight into her role as a land-based knowledge educator and climate activist. After several months of engaging in local climate activism with the Sunrise Movement and NY Renews, she reached out to Gay to see how she could be more engaged in the issues facing the Ithaca community.
 
Since joining the Board of Directors, Mara helped to curate content for the new Sustainable Finger Lakes website, helped lay the groundwork for upcoming fundraising campaigns, and stepped into a policy advocacy role with the goal of generating civic engagement around local environmental threats, and supporting statewide legislation that addresses environmental justice. Mara’s current day job is in research administration at Cornell University. She’s thrilled to start her master’s program in Environmental Policy at CU starting Fall 2021.

 

Erica Herman

Erica Herman, is the Campaign Director of HeatSmart FLX South under Cornell Cooperative Extension of Schuyler County, and has been working with residents on energy efficiency since 2018. Earlier, she monitored invasive plants in Cayuga Lake, and provided outdoor/environmental education for middle-schoolers with the non-profit, Nature’s Classroom, in Connecticut.

Not only is she excited to engage various age groups, but she enjoys supporting Sustainable Finger Lake’s goals.  She joined the ST Board in late 2020 and chairs the Fundraising Committee.

 

 

Marisa Lansing, Climate Fund Program Coordinator

Marisa Lansing is a mover and a shaker through her climate and social justice work in Tompkins County. She is a dedicated community worker and founder of the local, youth-led climate activism group, Sunrise Ithaca! Through the Sunrise Movement, she helped organize young people to advocate for the passing of a Green New Deal in the City of Ithaca — collaborating with the city to explicitly commit to building resilience within vulnerable communities as we rapidly decarbonize. She graduated from Ithaca College in May of 2019, with a degree and wild passion for Environmental Studies. 

Marisa acknowledges the deep systemic changes required to tackle the global issue of climate disruption, but also sees that big change starts at the local and regional levels. She puts her activism into practice as Program Coordinator of the Finger Lakes Climate Fund (first getting involved with Sustainable Tompkins through her NYSERDA Clean Energy internship in summer of 2019). Marisa values the climate justice and Green New Deal solutions deeply embedded in this program — empowering local frontline communities with economic resources, boosted health impacts, and accessible, clean energy in the face of climate emergency, supported by this local, clear, wealth distribution project.

Sasha Paris

 

Sasha Paris, Mini-Grant Program Coordinator and Office Assistant

Sasha Paris grew up in Ithaca and graduated from College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine, with an interdisciplinary blend of studies in human-environmental interactions. Her career has focused on nature education – former workplaces include Acadia National Park, the New England Aquarium, and the Finger Lakes National Forest – and supporting others’ endeavors to strengthen communities and protect the living world.

She has volunteered with Sustainable Tompkins since 2012, assisting with public outreach and administration of the Neighborhood Mini-grant program, and joined the staff in 2014 as the program’s coordinator. 

She currently volunteers with numerous local organizations, including Loaves and Fishes, the Ithaca Children’s Garden, and the Paleontological Research Institution’s Museum of the Earth.

 

Alexis Fallon, Sustainable Finger Lakes Program Assistant

Alexis graduated from Ithaca College in May of 2019 with a B.S. in Environmental Science and Legal Studies. Her professional experience is mainly in nonprofit, research, and educational positions focusing in the areas of food sovereignty, renewable energy, and sustainability. 
 
Inspired by ST’s comprehensive attitude towards sustainability and justice work, Alexis became a volunteer in March of 2019. She then went on to become a NYSERDA Clean Energy Intern in the summer of 2019. Now, in her role as a Program Assistant, she runs Sustainable Finger Lakes (our shared platform for the regional sustainability movement), helping to uplift and connect our allies! 
 
Aside from this work, she is currently an Energy Navigator Volunteer for Get Your GreenBack Tompkins and grows organic veggies at Nook & Cranny Farm. 

 

50 years

 

Nancy Robbins, Bookkeeper

Nancy graduated from the U. of Michigan with a Bachelor of Music degree with high distinction. She plays violin, viola and soprano, tenor and bass viol. When the Cayuga Chamber Orchestra, which she played in, needed a treasurer she began taking accounting classes at TC3. She took all the accounting they offered and some math too, for fun.  She was financial manager at Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services for fourteen years, and since has worked for various other non-profits, and has been treasurer for many others including the Finger Lakes Land Trust.  She became the bookkeeper for Sustainable Tompkins in 2009.

Nancy is the mother of two daughters, and grandmother of two boys. The boys grew up in Indonesia and Brunei, and the oldest is now an undergraduate at Northwestern University studying economics. The youngest is a budding cellist and  they both love to play tennis and soccer. We are very proud of them!

 

Maggie Mowrer, Marketing Specialist

With a passion for environmental justice and effective communications programs, Maggie recently joined the Sustainable Tompkins community after graduating in May 2020 from Ithaca College. Throughout her time in college, her studies were concentrated primarily on marketing, but her free time was committed to volunteering with EcoReps, Tompkins CRT, the ReUse centers, and various other organizations that focused on social justice.

At Sustainable Tompkins, she endeavors to bring a keen eye for design and compelling copy to a slew of campaigns centered around one of the most important issues we all face – the climate crisis. She can also be found helping Marisa with whatever Sunrise Ithaca needs in terms of graphic design.