Community Resilience is on Display

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Tompkins Weekly 07/08/2013

By Marian Brown

While many of us observe holidays such as July 4th by taking the day off, Sustainable Tompkins wants to acknowledge the growing number of activists in our community who don’t take time off from working to make ours a more resilient, just and sustainable community.

Last winter, Sustainable Tompkins again invited the public to join us in acknowledging the “Signs of Sustainability” in our community spotted last year. 2012 was our biggest year to date—we picked up on 347 “signs” of sustainable decision making and activism in our community. We struggle each year to keep up with all these new signs; we keep thinking that surely this trend must be peaking by now.

As we moved into 2013, we continued to keep our eyes actively peeled for additional signs: new sustainable enterprises, new sustainability-related organizations and new sustainability activities by existing organizations or businesses. At the midpoint of this year, we have already spotted dozens of great activities under way to further sustainable development in our region, with no sign that this growth has peaked

While space in this column does not permit us to list all the latest-and-greatest signs, we thought we’d at least give you a taste of some of the great things we’ve spotted so far this year. We will have a party in December to celebrate all of this year’s “signs,” but hopefully these interim teasers can spur even more thinking about and implementation of equally noteworthy sustainable actions.

As a hopeful sign of the continued economic recovery, a number of new sustainable enterprises have joined the local business sector. Three new food enterprises all use locally sourced foodstuffs: 3 Herons Brewing Co. in Trumansburg; La Crepe De Luc, a participant in the food-truck roundup; and Dennis’ Homemade Ice Cream stand south of Ithaca.

FarmHouse Malt is believed to be the first commercial malthouse in the Southern Tier to produce malted grain for the fast-growing craft brewing industry in the region, which now includes Hopshire Farm in Dryden. Cellar d’Or offers a number of organic and biodynamic wines from the Finger Lakes, Sundrees in Trumansburg offers handmade, upcycled materials by local artists and Jenn & Andy’s on the Ithaca Commons showcases locally made products along with fair trade–certified items. Born to Grow is an organic gardening service offering seasonal cleanups and sustainable- design service.

The Sustainability Center opened in May to showcase thebroad array of sustainability activities happening in Ithaca and Tompkins County. Tompkins Time Traders formed to facilitate local time banking. The Ithaca Generator, Solarize Tompkins SE and Students for Local Foods in Cortland all formed, joining the growing number of organizations and citizen groups contributing in their own special ways to greater resilience within their respective communities. Hacker Scouts is a new STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) education program for youth, offering skill building through hands-on projects.

Several existing businesses and organizations undertook new initiatives, including Finger Lakes Culinary Bounty’s new website resource connecting regional chefs, vintners and farmers with residents and visitors, and Cornell’s new web-based tool, Adapt-N, which draws on local soil, crop and weather data to help corn growers refine their actual nitrogen fertilizer needs. The Friendship Donations Network launched its Neighborhood Food Hubs program to facilitate the transfer of excess garden produce to food pantries and local meal programs.

The Ithaca Children’s Garden added a new weekly “Make Stuff ” play day, during which kids are guided to create, tinker, cook and build things. Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) added a canning jar swap to its annual pot swap to further promote reuse. CCE introduced a series on seed saving and also integrated Food Stamp/SNAP payments for purchase of seeds and food-producing plants at the annual Spring Garden Fair & Plant Sale.

Local First Ithaca and Get Your GreenBack Tompkins teamed to create the Secondhand Shopping Treasure Hunt, promoting the significant number of reuse stores in our community. SewGreen now sells its own line of reusable cloth tote bags, and Taitem Engineering now offers an electric car–charging station.

In terms of wider recognition, the City of Ithaca was named Best Small City for Carsharing by the International CarSharing Association, and Gimme! Coffee organic beans were included in the Eat Clean 2013 list of the 100 cleanest packaged foods by Prevention magazine. Ithaca received national recognition for becoming the first city on the east coast to divest from fossil fuels.

This is just a quick snapshot of the diverse sustainability activity happening in our community. Did we see your “Sign of Sustainability” during this second quarter? Make sure we know about your efforts throughout the year by emailing us at

Marian Brown is a member of the board of directors for Sustainable Tompkins.

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