Springing Into Sustainability…

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Tompkins Weekly– April 2, 2012

by Marian Brown

It’s mid-March and while many of us have seized this unseasonably early opportunity to get a jump on the spring planting, others may be immersed in the basketball championship season characterized as “March Madness”.

Last December, Sustainable Tompkins again invited the public to join us in acknowledging the “Signs of Sustainability” in our community that we spotted last year in a reception event at the Womens Community Building. 2011 was our biggest year to date – we picked up on more than 350 “Signs” of sustainable decision-making and activism in our community.  While we have been impressed and delighted at the rapid-fire embrace of sustainability in our community, we keep thinking each year that surely this trend must be peaking by now.

As we moved into 2012, 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 business.  And we are pleased to report that by all accounts, we have our own March Madness underway.  In the first quarter of this year (December 1 – roughly the end of February), we have already spotted more than 100 new signs, putting us on pace to eclipse last year’s count. To paraphrase Emily Dickinson, “A little madness in the Spring is wholesome even for the [community].”

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 seen so far this year.  In the coming weeks, we’ll start posting the full citations of the 2012 “signs” we have spotted on our Sustainable Tompkins website and keep uploading on a rolling basis throughout the year, instead of saving everything up until December. We’ll still plan to have a party to celebrate, but hopefully these more timely acknowledgment can have the benefit of spurring even more thinking about and implementation of sustainable actions.

As a hopeful sign of the economic recovery, a number of new sustainable enterprises have joined the local business sector. Bacchus Brewing joined the growing ranks of microbreweries in the region and Deep Root Vineyard produced its first wines. Turbine Blading and Parts LLC is now producing wind turbine components locally. Standard Art Supply and Souvenir, Ithaca’s only local art and souvenir store, also serves as a gallery featuring local artists. Funky Junk offers used furniture and DIY advice. Studio West opened its “co-working” space for entrepreneurs looking for a place to meet with clients or who want a less-isolated work atmosphere. Business is Blooming opened a retail storefront for its local, sustainable flowers.  The Groton Resource Awareness Coalition, Hector Clean Water Initiative, and Vestal Residents for Safe Energy formed, joining the growing number of organizations standing up in their respective communities for responsible protection of shared resources in the race for energy development.

A number of existing businesses and organizations undertook new initiatives, including the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) at Cornell that hosted a contest within their six buildings to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, saving a total of 2 million pounds of CO2 and $230,000. Cornell Cooperative Extension is expanding their sustainable community development activities, starting the new volunteer leadership development program, Community Chef, teaching participants to how to become agents of change for healthier food in their communities. The Southern Cayuga High School’s Green Initiative introduced a recycling center in their cafeteria enabling diners to separate trash, recyclables and compost. Local First Ithaca published its 2012 “Guide to Being Local,” a beautiful compendium featuring stories about local businesses and organizations and offering coupons. Cornell University Office of Alumni Affairs donated books left over from last fall’s New Student Reading Project to schools, reading groups, and organizations. Project LookSharp at Ithaca College issued its “Media Constructions of Sustainability: Food Water and Agriculture Curriculum Kit” which is free to middle school to college educators. The Black Oak Wind Farm project began selling shares in its community wind project.  e2e Materials received a major grant to scale up its production of sustainable bio-composite products used in cabinetry, furniture, and automotive components.

This is just a snapshot of all that is happening in our community. Did we see your “Sign of Sustainability” during this first quarter? Make sure we know about your efforts throughout the year by emailing us at sos@sustainabletompkins.org. May the “madness” not end in March – keep up the great, sustainable work all year long! We’re all the better for it.

Marian Brown is a member of the Board of Directors of Sustainable Tompkins and leads the way on the Signs of Sustainability program.

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