Signs of Sustainability

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Tompkins Weekly 10/29/2012

By Jessica Santos

Last summer may have been the hottest on record, but it was also the hottest quarter of the year for the Sustainable Tompkins “Signs of Sustainability” program. We seek to award new sustainable enterprises, sustainability-related organizations, and new sustainability activities in our region. We’re proud to say that we break the record for the number of “Signs of Sustainability” every year, and so far, in the third quarter of 2012, we’re on track to do it again!

On the academic front, Cornell University has become the first Ivy League University to be certified by the Marine Stewardship Council. This allows them to serve certified sustainable seafood in its on-campus dining facilities. Cornell University students have also started the sure-to-be-popular certified organic vineyard. This is possibly the only student-run organic vineyard at a university in the country. Speaking of higher education, let’s not forget about Ithaca College: they’ve been working on developing a new permaculture garden over the summer.

Our students aren’t the only ones gardening, though. Meanwhile, the Tompkins County Jail has also started a new gardening project. As a reward for good behavior, inmates are given the opportunity to tend the garden and grow produce for their meals. Speaking of food, thanks to the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program, our children in Cayuga Heights Elementary School can now enjoy local carrot sticks, apples, and other fresh produce this year. This nonprofit organization’s products are vegan, gluten-free, and raw – and also delicious, from what we’ve heard.

This quarter also featured the birth of the Finger Lakes Social Entrepreneurship Institute. Hosted by the Center for Transformative Action, it featured three days of panels, workshops, and discussions on Cornell’s campus that focused on the theme “creating local, sustainable and just economies, with equity as the driver for growth.”

And, of course, when we think about the Finger Lakes in the summer, our region’s fun festivals and events always come to mind. This year, the Solar Stage Benefit Extravaganza was added to the mix. The Extravaganza was organized to support PAUSE – People Advocating the Use of Sustainable Energy. The day featured a silent auction, local art, great food from Sol Kitchen, and an all-day musical line-up.

There was also the unique opportunity to attend a two-hour eco-cruise in August. Hosted by the Cayuga Lake Floating Classroom, the cruise focused on the historical impact of human activities on our lake and landscape.

Lastly, our local governments have made some great strides this quarter. The Town of Ithaca has completed a draft of the new comprehensive plan that focuses on sustainability. The plan, which has grown with public has contributed to, will be used when guiding the Town’s development and policy decisions for the next two decades. That’s not all, though: a group of eight counties in the Southern Tier was awarded $1 million in phase 1 funding from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority to create a regional smart growth plan.

Have we missed a “Sign of Sustainability”? Let us know! Be sure to keep us in the loop of all the sustainable work that you, your organization, or your institution is doing by emailing us at We can’t wait to see what new sustainable work the next quarter brings. Keep up the great job!

Jessica Santos is an intern at Sustainable Tompkins, and a writing major at Ithaca College.

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