Sustainable Community Still Growing

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Tompkins Weekly 01/14/2013

By Jessica Santos

The beginning of winter brings festive holidays, time with our families, and warm sweaters – and, of course, the conclusion of another Signs of Sustainability season.  Since 2006, Sustainable Tompkins has coordinated this program to recognize and publicly thank local individuals, organizations, businesses and governments for undertaking sustainable actions and decisions.

Throughout its time, the number of citees has continuously risen per year. This year was no different: with nearly 350 new Signs of Sustainability awardees, our six year organizing this program has proven to be the most successful yet.

Signs of Sustainability recognition this year ran the gamut from large to smaller-scale efforts. For example, in the Food System sector, GleanNY is a new statewide program that encourages farmers to donate their surplus or unmarketable food to organizations in need. In contrast, the Newfield Farmers Market, which opened this year, provided farm fresh local food to area residents on a weekly basis during the summer months.

Of the 345 Signs of Sustainability we recognized this year, 21 were new sustainable enterprises that opened for business and another 11 citations acknowledged new organizations that formed to support sustainability-related efforts in the Finger Lakes region. Sustainable Tompkins noted more than 260 new sustainability activities undertaken or decisions made by ongoing businesses and organizations throughout the community.

Every year, we celebrate those awarded during our annual Signs of Sustainability celebration. This year, our event was held at the Finger Lakes Wine Center on December 1st.  Over local wine and delicious food, our nearly 200 attendees were free to walk around the Center and read our banners which listed each of the incredible efforts accomplished this year.

The Signs of Sustainability program tracks progress in five key areas: new programs or significant expansions by existing organizations or businesses; new sustainability-related organizations; new sustainable enterprises; milestones; and national-level recognition of local sustainability efforts. Within these key areas, we further organize our “signs” by a number of different sectors ranging from Sustainable Community Development efforts to businesses adopting more Sustainable Operations, from governmental Policy & Planning work to entities supporting those wishing to adopt a more Sustainable Lifestyle.

With this program, Sustainable Tompkins showcases that sustainable actions are possible and encouraged in the Finger Lakes.  Signs of Sustainability desires to foster and escalate the pace of sustainable community development in our region by highlighting the actions that have already been taken by other residents.

To see a complete list of this year’s Signs, please visit the Sustainable Tompkins website. It is truly inspiring to see what our fellow community members have accomplished in this year and in the past.  Maybe after reading you will be motivated to join their ranks in 2013!

We are always looking for future Signs of Sustainability.  If you have seen a “sign” you think merits recognition or have other suggestions, please contact Marian Brown, the coordinator of the program, at

Jessica Santos is an intern with Sustainable Tompkins.

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