The winners of the 2018 poll for leadership in sustainability and social justice were celebrated at Earth Day Ithaca on April 22.

Maddi Carroll, Annabella Mead-VanCort, Prachi Ruina, Eamon Nunn-Makepeace, and Ari Cummings of Students United Ithaca.

In the Youth category, student groups from Ithaca High School and Trumansburg High School were recognized for their activism. Students United Ithaca gained national attention for their courage in challenging casting decisions for their high school musical, which led to significant and fruitful conversations to address racism in the school district. A dozen students led by Trumansburg teacher Jane George and Gertrude Nolen of Words into Deeds participated in the United Nations Youth Voices on Climate Change, joining over 300 international students in sharing perspectives and drafting a consensus action plan to address global warming.

Whitham Planning and Design took first place in the Business category for their leadership in getting developers to achieve energy efficiencies as much as 40% better than code and for their efforts to involve the public in design issues for large projects in the Ithaca area. Ithaca Times, Tompkins Weekly, Liquid State Brewing, Nikki Green, Tiny Timber, Brookton Market were also recognized for their contributions.

Shawna Black came in first in the Individual category this year for her active leadership on social and environmental issues as a freshman county legislator, especially in helping raise awareness on addiction issues and develop new harm reduction programs. Nick Goldsmith and the Green Building Policy Advisory Committee were celebrated for their many hours of work developing new guidelines for more environmentally responsible development in the City of Ithaca.

Voters were enthusiastic about nominating OAR (Opportunities, Alternatives & Resources) for first place in the Organization category for their wonderful Endeavor House project. Their purchase and volunteer-led rehabilitation of a home is now providing transitional housing for the formally incarcerated. Ithaca Families Gift Economy, Get Your GreenBack Tompkins, HeatSmart Tompkins, and the Ithaca Chapter of SURJ (Standing Up for Racial Justice) were also recognized for their outstanding work.

Find out who won the 2017 People’s Choice Signs of Sustainability Awards!

SoS Award logo, 2018


History of the Signs of Sustainability

The Ithaca area is often recognized for its progressive flavor and “green living” residents. We are used to being noted on Top 10 lists or ranked #1 for activities such as Green Commuters. But how did it get that way? What – or who – made the difference that pushed Ithaca into the forefront as a place for sustainability change makers?

Sustainable Tompkins believes there is no one entity or event that set Ithaca on its course, but that it is the collective result of hundreds of initiatives by thousands of residents being woven together into a community fabric – a fabric that is constantly challenged to be more inclusive, more just, and more ecologically responsible.

Kitty Gifford of Sustainable Tompkins shares the details of awards presented to Melissa Kemp, Brice Smith, Phoebe Brown, and Irene Weiser for sustainability leadership by individuals. (Photo credit: Craig Tucker)

Kitty Gifford of Sustainable Tompkins shares the details of awards presented to Melissa Kemp, Brice Smith, Phoebe Brown, and Irene Weiser for sustainability leadership by individuals. (Photo credit: Craig Tucker.)

Each year since 2006, Sustainable Tompkins has kept watch for “signs” of sustainable decision-making, practice and action emerging throughout our community. It started by chance at our annual holiday potluck dinner for people in the local social justice and sustainability movement. Board member Marian Brown put together a slideshow of some of the past year’s accomplishments as part of the evening’s entertainment and handed out certificates noting the contributions of 30 different organizations, businesses, and individuals. People loved it, and immediately started pointing out other contributions that weren’t in the slideshow.

Over the next 7 years, the annual Signs of Sustainability awards grew rapidly as Tompkins County ramped up hundreds of sustainability-minded projects and enterprises. In 2013, Sustainable Tompkins recognized 420 awardees at their exhibit and reception. All told, 1,617 awards were given out between 2006 and 2013. With Marian Brown’s departure from the Ithaca area, Sustainable Tompkins started a new chapter for our community sustainability awards.

We launched the new People’s Choice Awards in 2015 and were excited to log over 200 nominations of local sustainability initiatives in our first year.  We had the top vote getters (1st through 4th place) in each category of Individual, Business, Organization, and Youth Leader join us at Earth Day Ithaca to get their award certificates and receive the public recognition they so deserve.  (Read more about the 2015 Awards.)

In 2016, the awards were once again presented at Earth Day on April 23 with first place winners Joe Wilson in the Individual category for his work on stopping the West Dryden Pipeline, Finger Lakes School of Massage in the Organization category for lowering their carbon footprint by moving downtown and offering free massages to low-income residents, Renovus Solar in the Business category for their leadership on community solar farms, and Deahannah White, Sam Greenhouse, and Janaishia Frost in a 3-way tie in the Youth category for their work protecting Cayuga Lake and founding a racial justice organization at a local school. This year we collected 208 nominations for 8 Individuals, 6 Organizations, 3 Businesses, and 9 Youth.

Top winners in the 2015 People’s Choice ‘Signs of Sustainability’ awards in the business category. (Photo credit: Kitty Gifford)

Top winners in the 2015 People’s Choice ‘Signs of Sustainability’ awards in the business category. (Photo credit: Kitty Gifford)

Sustainable Tompkins’ purpose in annually showcasing these community “signs of sustainability” is multifaceted: to demonstrate what is possible, to encourage the adoption of more sustainable practices, to make the public aware of sustainable enterprises to patronize, and to make you aware of sustainability-related programs and activities in which you can get involved.

What contributes to community sustainability? That’s up to the public to decide. But the term implies the long view, and a healthy balance among the many elements that make up our community. The Signs of Sustainability awards have always recognized that positive change will need to evolve in nearly all aspects our cultural and economic systems.





Award Archives

Signs of Sustainability 2013

Signs of Sustainability 2012

Signs of Sustainability 2011

Signs of Sustainability 2010

Signs of Sustainability 2009

Signs of Sustainability 2008

Signs of Sustainability 2007

Signs of Sustainability 2006