Ithaca Earth Day: Living Green for More than a Day

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Tompkins Weekly 4-28-14
by Susan Anne Weiner and Joey Diana Gates

Earth Day’s message of protecting our environment is particularly timely this year, as scientists report increased climate change and predictions of worldwide food shortages, and communities engage in emotional debates over the safety and sanity of hydrofracking. Though reports contain their moments of doom and gloom, Earth Day Ithaca 2014, an event that kicks off a day dedicated to reminding us to tread gently on this planet we all share, is connecting the dots between healthy living and environmental sustainability.

Healthful foods, top-shelf music, a practiced Zumba instructor, and an energizing drum circle could be a part of any given weekend throughout Ithaca, but this year these activities, alongside myriad green living exhibitors, can be found collectively in the Boynton Middle School parking lot on Sunday, May 4 from 1 pm to 5 pm. For the first time, Sustainable Tompkins presents the Earth Day festivities in conjunction with Streets Alive! Ithaca, taking place a leisurely walk down North Cayuga Street.

Earth Day opens with a short ceremony at 1 pm with local gardener and musician Wylatt Burkatt, followed at 1:15 with a lively talk by veteran journalist Michael J. Fitzgerald, author of the novel The Fracking War, a chilling fictional  account of the war over the hydrofracking gas boom sweeping North America, a topic close to home. At 1:30, a Zumbathon with Cynthia Henderson will engage Earth Day participants in a Zumba session. The lesson celebrates Get Your GreenBack Tompkins, a community-based campaign to inspire all 42,000 households and every business in Tompkins County to take at least one step to save energy and money in the areas of Food, Waste, Transportation, and Heating and Lighting.

Following the Zumbathon, Dan Hill will take the stage at 2:00. Dan, a Heron Clan member, is the Region 2 Tribal Operations Representative for the Cayuga Nation.  He will present Sounds and Stories of the Natural World through flute and spoken word.  At 2:30, we have eCoArise with Eric Banford followed by Angie Beeler with Miss Turn-up and the Sprouts fun for the kids.  At 4:00, The Crow Weaver Band brings its danceable, all-original compositions to center stage, and at 4:45, Earth Day will close with the One Heart Community Drum Circle.

Taking steps to reduce your carbon footprint isn’t as daunting as it seems. Some are simple: walk or take the bus, carry a reusable grocery bag, swap conventional light bulbs for CFLs, adjust your thermostat, recycle, and buy second-hand. Others steps require some planning; build or buy a compost bin, create all-natural cleaning products, insulate your home, and opt-out of junk mail.

Food choices can benefit both environmental sustainability and health, since local, fresh produce provides significantly more nutrients and isn’t trucked cross-country. Grow your own, shop farm stands and The Farmer’s Market, join a CSA, dine at restaurants that serve local cuisine, purchase in bulk and preserve, buy local meat, and eat less meat. Eating just one less burger a week is equivalent to taking your car off the road for 320 miles or line-drying your clothes half the time, reports the Environmental Working Group.

Sustainable Tompkins has been working to create deeper, more meaningful dialogue on our collective consciousness around the climate issue, and Streets Alive! advocates developing a widespread active transportation infrastructure. Bring all together with the steps promoted by Get Your GreenBacks Tompkins and the path to a cleaner, healthier paradigm is clear.  Communities with alternative, eco-friendly modes of transport boast healthier residents and cleaner air, since the average resident of a walkable neighborhood weighs 6 to 10 pounds less than their neighbors in sprawling neighborhoods. Moreover, inhabitants of walkable cities are more socially engaged and trusting, and report increased levels of happiness. So happily walk on over to the Boynton Middle School on May 4 and join us. What better way to recommit to the meaning of Earth Day?

Earth Day is free and open to the public. Registrations are still being accepted. For more information or to participate, please contact Joey at 387-7799 or

Joey Gates serves as Coordinator for Ithaca Earth Day and Susan Weiner is an Earth Day volunteer and freelance writer (

List of Exhibitors to date:

Cayuga Lake Watershed Network
Community Science Institute
Edible Acres
Friendship Donations Network
Get Your GreenBack Tompkins
Greensprings Natural Cemetery
Groundswell Center for Local Food & Farming
Indian Creek Neighborhood Association
Level Green Institute & Unity House WeCAN
Miss Turn-up and The Sprouts
New Roots Charter School
TC Solid Wast Management Division
Tetra Tech Architects & Engineers
Home Green Home – Earth Ball Volleyball game



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