When it comes to living in more sustainable communities, do small changes really add up?  According to recent Neighborhood Mini-Grant recipients, the answer is yes!  For only $4 per person, the Youth Farm Project was able to provide healthy ingredients for lunches, helping participants learn about nutrition from field to fork. Students at Trumansburg Middle School had the space, vegetables, and technical know-how to build a root cellar; a Mini-Grant allowed them to purchase the materials to do so.  Through another Neighborhood Mini-Grant, the Green Resource Hub helps local businesses and homeowners pinpoint areas of energy usage that can easily be reduced.

Do you have an idea for a small change that could add up to big ideas in sustainability? If so, apply for a Neighborhood Mini-Grant from Sustainable Tompkins.  Sustainable Tompkins is eager to support more projects like these and is calling on local citizens and grassroots groups to submit applications by December 1, 2010. Since 2008, Sustainable Tompkins has awarded over $17,000 in Neighborhood Mini-Grants that are shaping Tompkins County communities, encouraging local self-reliance, strengthening neighborhood connections, and promoting long-term community wellbeing.

Neighborhood Mini-Grants awarded in the latest round included:

  • $400 to support the Watt Meter Lending Program organized through the Green Resource Hub.  Finger Lakes home and business owners borrow Watt Meters, which measure the amount of electricity appliances and equipment use. Program participants can then conduct an electricity use inventory, and apply the results to achieve maximum savings.
  • $600 to the Newfield Central School District to provide seeds, soil and materials for a new Food Development Lab and Composting Project.  Students engage in growing food through indoor hydroponic garden grow carts with a complementary composting system.
  • $600 to Ithaca Biodiesel Cooperative to support their campaign to increase public awareness of biodiesel and straight vegetable oil as fuel alternatives.  Mini-Grant Funds will allow Ithaca Biodiesel to reach more potential customers and volunteers through traditional advertising venues.
  • $600 to DIY Movie Making, The Eco-Musical, for the creation of a locally-produced film that will raise awareness about global and local issues of sustainability.
  • $500 to Shared Grassroots Outreach Center to engage in a resource-sharing project with local non-profits and organizations, such as the Ithaca Freeskool.
  • $400 to Dryden Elementary School Composting Project to reduce school and household waste and to create compost for family gardens.

Sustainable Tompkins wishes to thank Danielle Klock and Wishing Well Magazine for their generous support, which has helped the Neighborhood Mini-Grants program continue to increase in scope and impact.  Awards range from $150 to $750, and are made on a quarterly basis.  Applications for the next round of grants are due on December 1, 2010 and all residents, citizen groups and non-profit organizations of Tompkins County are eligible to apply.  To obtain an application form, make a donation in support of the program, or get more information, contact Nicole Pion: or call (607) 216-1552.

See the Neighborhood Mini-Grants in Action:

Pictures from the Black Locust Initiative at Trumansburg Middle School, where students built a root cellar:

Left: Students and teachers drew up a design for the project.
Right: The empty stairwell where the root cellar would be installed.

Black Locust root cellar line drawing Black Locust root cellar pit photo