Cayuga Sustainability Council Provides Outreach

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sustainability-councilTompkins Weekly – July 12, 2010
By Tom Shelley

The Cayuga Sustainability Council is an informal gathering of representatives of the various sustainability-related organizations in the area. Most of the member organizations are located in Tompkins County with a few from the greater Cayuga Basin—Southern Tier area. The original purpose of the Cayuga Sustainability Council was to give sustainability related groups an opportunity to share their programs, visions and upcoming events with similar organizations.

The Cayuga Sustainability Council was organized nearly two years ago by Sustainable Tompkins as a way to help various local sustainability organizations reach their collective goals. There are approximately 70 member organizations. Varying numbers of groups send a representative to a Cayuga Sustainability Council meeting once each quarter. Meetings are held in or near Ithaca with various member organizations frequently offering their meeting rooms for use.

Each meeting has been different. The original meetings were mostly a “once around” to share information. Over time various thematic discussions of interest to all have developed with each meeting having some topic for group discussion or a presentation by a member followed by discussion. The meeting topics have followed the interests of member organizations and have included discussions on inclusion and diversity, fund raising in a tight economy and sustainability indicators. Some of the most interesting discussions have been “meta topics” on the development and functions of the organization itself.

Many useful functions, in addition to information sharing, have evolved over time for Cayuga Sustainability Council members. Those organizations that work on common topics are able to work together to develop complementary programing. Some organizations have developed shared office space. There are opportunities to develop and share volunteer services. As an example of the latter function, when Sustainable Tompkins was approached by the Cornell Alumni Affairs to help with “greening” the Reunion Weekend, one important step developed was to undertake source separation of compostable organic materials from other items at the big alumni lunches held in Barton Hall.

Sustainable Tompkins contacted the Compost Education program of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County, another Cayuga Sustainability Council member organization. Several Master Composter volunteers were enlisted to facilitate the source separation process. Volunteers from both organizations contributed to a very successful event.

All non-profit sustainability related organizations are invited to participate as members of the Cayuga Sustainability Council. (The Green Resource Hub—Sustainable Enterprise Network serves for-profit, sustainability related business and organizations.) There are no dues or fees and the only commitment is to attend meetings and share the meeting topics with your organization. The meeting is chaired on a rotating basis which brings new perspectives to each meeting. A mailing list and member-only Wiki are available for member use and a web site is under development. Our next meeting is on July 29th. For additional information please contact Tom Shelley at 342-0864 or

Tom Shelley is active in the local sustainability movement.

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