Sustainability Efforts Earn Recognition

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December 28, 2009 Tompkins Weekly
By Christina Orlandini and Marian Brown

This is the third of our series in which Sustainable Tompkins introduces readers to the large number of “Signs of Sustainability” in the category of new sustainability programs or activities by existing businesses or organizations.

Land Use

The Finger Lakes Land Trust un-veiled its conservation plan for the Emerald Necklace Greenbelt and Finger Lakes Trail Corridor.  Herb Engman of the Town of Ithaca donated 100 acres of land to Greensprings Natural Cemetery.  The Ithaca College Natural Lands committee began a Land Steward program; volunteers accept responsibility for a parcel of campus land. Landscape architect Rick Manning and Dan Segal from the Plantsmen Nursery organized the Designing with Native Plants conference which raised more than $5,000 for the Cayuga Waterfront Trail.


Cornell University and Ithaca College, both early signatories of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, announced their Climate Action Plans. Both campuses plan to become 100 percent carbon neutral by 2050. Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport is creating a Sustainable Master Plan, making it the first U.S. airport to undertake such an effort. Kendal at Ithaca completed its Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability Project, identifying ways to reduce carbon emissions by more than 2 million pounds per year. The changes will substantially reduce natural gas and electricity use; estimated annual savings approach $225,000. The Tompkins County Legislature approved the Planning Department’s Energy and Greenhouse Gas Emissions Element. This County Comprehensive Plan amendment describes ways to achieve an 80 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Recycling and Composting

Cargill Deicing Technology collected used winter coats in the Coats for Totes program. Anyone donating a coat was given a reusable, recyclable grocery tote.  The GrassRoots Festival required food vendors to offer compostable tableware. GrassRoots is notable among music festivals for its recycling and composting support. Finger Lakes Reuse began offering deconstruction service. The deconstruction crew  completed seven building take-downs, salvaging building materials for reuse.  Friedman Electric announced its new residential free recycling program for compact  fluorescent lamps. The Leadership Tompkins “Compost Now” team developed an apartment tenant composting program. The team worked withIthaca Rentals & Renovations as the first landlord to offer composting support to its North Campus property tenants. IRR is covering the costs to purchase collection buckets and biodegradable liners.  The “Compost Now” team offered compost education events for IRRs residents.

New Roots Charter School “repurposed” the historic Clinton House as its new home. Students use the Womens Community Building for their cafeteria. Parkitects Inc. installed a public demonstration of Big Belly solarpowered trash compactors. The Shortstop Deli integrated composting and recycling in its operations and offers compostable fountain beverage containers.

The TCDOG group provides biodegradable plastic bags for pet owners at the Ithaca Dog Park to collect their animal’s waste for compost processing. It is believed they are the first U.S. dog park to do so. Wegmans Food Court offers compostable plates, utensils and napkins and collects the compostables in special receptacles. Renewable Energy Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Renewable Energy program offered the Home Wood Heat Expo to provide information about home heating with wood. Cornell University opened the Biofuels Research Laboratory to house scientists and engineers researching a sustainable and economic solution to biofuel production from crops like switchgrass, energy sorghum and willow. The GreenStar Cooperative Market installed a 4-kilowatt grid-tied solar system on the receiving area roof.

Social Activism
Students from area colleges and high schools attended the 2009 Power Shift conference in Washington D.C. to encourage the Obama administration to support clean energy. The International Environmental Policy course at Ithaca College organized a “ghost walk” with more than 200 participants highlighting the perils of global warming. The local group organized a rally on the Commons, gathering participants into formation to create giant 350 numbers for a rooftop photograph. “Frac Attack: Dawn of the Watershed,” a short zombie movie made to inspire action to address the process of gas driling hydrofracturing, was created by Shirari Industries, the Dacha Project and Shaleshock Citizens Action Alliance.

These entries are excerpted from the longer Signs of Sustainability 2009 citations. The complete list can be viewed at

Christina Orlandini is an Ithaca College writing intern. Marian Brown is a member of the Sustainable Tompkins Board of Directors.

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