More “Signs of Sustainability” in our community than ever before!

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November 30, 2009 Tompkins Weekly

Sustainable Tompkins continually seeks to identify the newest “Signs of Sustainability” in our community. For the past four years, we have tried to spotlight individuals and organizations all doing their part to help advance community sustainability. We highlight these efforts in order to help these new activists “plug in” and connect with others involved in similar endeavors. With all of us working together in different ways to resolve our shared sustainability challenges, we spur faster and deeper forward movement of this social movement.

In 2006, we thought it would be entertaining to – in a slideshow format – note a few “Signs of Sustainability” at our Holiday Party. Our aim was simply to raise awareness by offering a representative sampling of the great efforts by players in different sectors of our community. We were taken aback by the overwhelmingly positive reaction people had to learning just how many others were working in our community to co-create a better future. But we also received some gentle criticism for not mentioning some really great efforts.

So in 2007, we created a more formal program to recognize examples of individuals and entities whose work during the prior year has been supportive of our organizational mission to promote the long-term well-being of our communities and region by integrating social equity, economic vitality, ecological stewardship, and personal and civic responsibility. Each year, we acknowledge three categories of new “Signs of Sustainability”:

  • New sustainable enterprises
  • New programs or non-profit organizations supporting some aspect of sustainable development
  • New sustainable program elements rolled out by existing businesses or non-profit organizations

In 2007, we announced all those new “Signs of Sustainability” and issued award certificates to each honoree. That recognition was even more well-received. We have noted with delight that a number of those “Signs of Sustainability” award certificates proudly grace the walls of some of the businesses and organizations we have honored in past years. In 2007, we acknowledged 43 “signs” but once again, we heard about numerous others we inadvertently overlooked. We always knew the risk with our ad hoc approach was that a number of worthy efforts might go unrecognized.

So in 2008, we enlisted the help of our community to make sure we were made aware of all the new “Signs of Sustainability” that joined the local movement – and BOY, did you deliver! We acknowledged more than 80 “Signs of Sustainability” last year, and still didn’t see or hear about all of the activists hard at work to create a more sustainable community. It’s a great problem to have – to have so many great things going on in our community that we cannot keep track of them all!

So this year, we implored you to be our “eyes and ears” throughout the year and – using a special email address on our website to submit your entries – help us identify “signs” of sustainable actions and efforts. At press time, we are feverishly compiling all of those great efforts brought to our attention this year. We can tell you that is truly astonishing how far this community has come in a relatively short period of time. “Signs of Sustainability” have emerged all around this region and in some very interesting sectors. In coming weeks, we will be using this column to tell you about this year’s crop of honorees. We like to think that this annual showcase of our sustainable community’s success stories – showing what is possible because others are DOING it! – has helped to inspire other efforts and escalate this important and necessary social movement.

Back in the day, former president George H. W. Bush spoke of the emergence of a “thousand points of light” in our nation, all doing good work and taking positive action steps. Here within our Tompkins County community, it feels like there at LEAST that many illuminating bright spots, all steadily coalescing into a focused beam to light our shared path toward a more sustainable future.

– by Marian Brown, Sustainable Tompkins Treasurer

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