Events

Heat Pumps for All!

New Incentives Bring Clean Energy to Local Families

For a long time, there’s been a presumption that getting off fossil fuels was something only the wealthy could accomplish. But that is changing and there are growing opportunities for lower-income residents to lead the way by making their homes zero carbon via air-source heat pump heating systems and signing up for solar electricity.

The mission of the Finger Lakes Climate Fund (FLCF) run by Sustainable Tompkins is to make sure that nobody is left behind in the transition to a clean energy economy. And one of the best ways to do that is to lower the cost barriers for access to high efficiency equipment that can be run on renewable energy. The Climate Fund has been doing that since 2010 by giving grants to those who need help making energy improvements.

Wailin Phyo of Snug Planet installs a heat pump

Together, donors to the Climate Fund have funded 32 awards worth more than $53,000 that will prevent almost 2500 tons of CO2 from entering our atmosphere. Of course, the benefits to the grant recipients are multiple – safer, healthier, more comfortable homes with lower energy bills.  Not to mention the green jobs that are supported locally by making the projects possible.

During 2019-2021, Sustainable Tompkins will be partnering with HeatSmart Tompkins and NYSERDA to bring the positive benefits of heat pump technology to low-to-moderate income (LMI) families throughout our community. Over the past 3 years, the ultra-high efficiency of heat pump technology has been funded in over 70% of the Climate Fund grants awarded. But the upfront price of this technology still remains out of reach for many. A two-year grant from NYSERDA will provide funds to combine additional incentives for heat pumps with carbon offset grants to bring down the price and help dozens more families make their home energy clean, green, and affordable.

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Help us Seal the Cracks this Winter!

(This article appeared in the 11/27/19 issue of Tompkins Weekly.)

Inequality and the climate crisis are our community’s biggest long-term threats. It may seem utterly overwhelming to try to address them at the same time, but together we can take action and make a powerful difference.

Sustainable Tompkins is running a Seal the Cracks winter campaign that provides everyone the opportunity to tackle both problems at the same time.  They run a local carbon offset program (Finger Lakes Climate Fund) that is aimed at making sure everyone is included in a clean energy, equitable future by using offset donations to help lower-income neighbors make energy improvements.  Now, more than ever, we need to come together as a community to build resilience in the face of the climate crisis and make sure no one is left behind. By offsetting your own carbon emissions, you can help others in our community.

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New Videos Promote Local Carbon Offsetting

Shira Evergreen, local videographer

Over the summer and fall, we worked with videographer Shira Evergreen to craft a series of ten videos that describe how carbon offsetting works in our Finger Lakes Climate Fund along with all the details for our new program to provide extra incentives for heat pumps to lower-income families along with our carbon offset grants.

Check them out on our ST YouTube channel! Thanks to Shira for her excellent work on site and in the editing booth.

We’re partnering with HeatSmart Tompkins and HeatSmart CNY to bring a fantastic package of incentives to lower-income folks to get their homes tightened up and running on uber efficient heat pumps — and hopefully also signed up for solar and wind electricity to make their homes Zero Carbon.

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Welcome Marisa Lansing!

Sustainable Tompkins is delighted to introduce Marisa Lansing, our new part-time program assistant for our Finger Lakes Climate Fund. Marisa worked for ST over the summer as one of our Clean Energy interns partially supported by NYSERDA, and devoted her time to promoting the Climate Fund and assisting videographers documenting our carbon offset program. 

In her new role as Climate Fund Coordinator, Marisa will be encouraging everyone to offset their carbon emissions, conducting outreach to inform LMI (lower to moderate-income) residents about the benefits of switching to heat pumps, and maintaining our social media accounts. She will be working with Gay in our partnership with HeatSmart Tompkins using funding from a 2-year NYSERDA grant to combine our carbon offset grants with new additional incentives for lower-income families to switch to heat pumps for heating, cooling, and hot water. These incentives will be offered in Tompkins and Chemung counties, as well as the adjacent towns of the surrounding counties. We’re also partnering with CNY HeatSmart on a similar program in Cayuga, Cortland, Onondaga and Madison Counties.

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The Future of Refrigeration is Green

Congratulations to Tilden Chao and Abigail Glickman of Keep it Cool Tompkins! for their well attended summit on green refrigeration on May 23. Our Youth Climate Challenge awardees surpassed all expectations with their educational campaign. We are all in their debt for bringing greater awareness to this key part of the climate puzzle.

Their panel of speakers did a great job covering from the basics to the alarming predictions if we don’t get it together to cool our food and our buildings and our cars without exacerbating climate change and ozone depletion. A video of the presentations will be available shortly.

Ted Gartland [E. Gartland & Associates, LLC, HillPhoenix, GreenChill], Professor Jeff Tester [Cornell University Engineering], and Terry Carroll [Cornell Cooperative Extension] presented to an audience of about 40 climate activists, municipal reps, and businesses.

Neighborhood Mini-Grants Support Bicycle Access and Garden Creation

As initiatives arise and expand to address overlooked issues for underserved populations, Sustainable Tompkins helps them meet the needs of all they serve. In June 2018, two Neighborhood Mini-Grants totaling $600 were awarded to Recycle Ithaca’s Bicycles (RIBs) and REACH Medical.

Recycle Ithaca’s Bicycles, a program of the Southside Community Center, offers bicycle-repair training to people who may take home the donated bicycles they repair. A Mini-Grant will pay for locks and lights to be provided free of charge along with the bicycles, making this mode of transportation safer and more secure for all participants, regardless of income.

REACH Medical, which opened in 2018, is Ithaca’s first medical practice to specialize in providing stigma-free treatment of addiction to opioids and other drugs. An onsite fruit and vegetable garden, tended by staff and patients, was created to provide community-building and food as well. A Mini-Grant will fund the purchase of materials to expand this garden.

The Neighborhood Mini-Grant Program provides seed money to diverse initiatives to build environmental, economic, and social resilience and well-being in Tompkins County. The program is sponsored by the Park Foundation, Beck Equipment, Craig Riecke, Natural Investments, Fingerlakes Wealth Management, and local donors. We need your support so we can help more citizen leaders act on their values. Please donate today and help us support more wonderful citizen-driven projects to improve life in our community.

Call for Earth Day Artists and Exhibitors 

 
Sustainable Tompkins will be celebrating Earth Day this year on Sunday, April 22nd from Noon-6pm at the Space @ Greenstar, 700 W Buffalo St. in Ithaca.  The theme this year will be how the arts help us frame, express, and shape our concerns about climate change and the transition to more sustainable ways of human social and economic activity. Registration for exhibitors and performers at the 2018 Earth Day Ithaca event is now open.

Cathleen Banford writes “Artists are among the disciplined observers of our world. Artists see stories, perspectives, context, emotion, reaction, impacts, and subtle truths all around us. The art we create has the power to bring deeper understanding, hope, and direction to the lives of countless others.”

Do you have a song to share? A poem, a dance, a skit, a painting? Do you want to share what your organization is doing on behalf of a healthy planet? Exhibitors are welcome to table indoors from 12-3 while hands-on activities for families will be offered. The exhibitor fee to offset insurance and other costs is $25 for nonprofit groups. Registration fees for businesses and government entities are $45. (Reduced fees are available for those in need.) From 3-5, we’ll pause for performances by local artists and the annual Signs of Sustainability Awards (be sure to nominate your favorites at https://sustainabletompkins.org/vote/).  

For more information or a registration form, please contact Joey by April 10 at solkitchen1@gmail.com or call (607) 644-5525. All are welcome.  Thanks to Beck Equipment for sponsoring our event!

Neighborhood Mini-Grant Supports New Freeville Farmers’ Market

As Tompkins County’s local food scene continues to grow, an expanding variety of venues are making it more accessible to buyers and sellers alike.

After encountering a “pop-up” farmers’ market in Hawaii, Lea Elleseff grew interested in starting one in the parking lot of the Freeville Firehouse where she lives. Unlike other farmers’ markets, pop-ups allow vendors to choose when to attend and how large or small a quantity of products to sell, barter, or give away. This opens them up to gardeners and other very small-scale producers.

But creating the market would require a certified produce scale, along with a few pop-up tents, tables, and chairs for vendors unable to provide their own. In March 2015, Sustainable Tompkins awarded Lea a Neighborhood Mini-Grant for buying this equipment.

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Housing is Key to Sustainability

Can we grow our population and economy while maintaining a sense of place and a sense of fairness?

Convene.  Connect.  Catalyze.  That’s been the formula for Sustainable Tompkins since we started 12 years ago.  As we seek greater justice, resiliency, and well being in our community, we have found that the first step is bringing people together to get a full picture of our current challenges so we can design solutions with everyone in mind.  Today we are asking for your support so we can once again help our community address a critical and complex issue.

2016 Earth Day teach-in on housingLately, we’ve been receiving thanks and acknowledgment from many of the folks who followed our op-ed series or attended our Earth Day teach-in on housing.  It was great to see so many elected officials from the city, town, county, and state join us for a conversation on this complex topic – along with developers, planners, and both urban and rural residents.

Solving our housing shortage in ways that prevent dislocation of modest-income residents, protect the rights of existing neighborhoods, and reduce our fossil-fuel dependency is going to require a great deal of collaboration, analysis, cooperation, and experimentation.

On April 23, we helped our community convene on this issue and begin to connect to each other while also “connecting the dots” to see more of the entirety of the housing problem with its many elements and variables.  Read the rest of this entry »

Tompkins County Legislature Hears Comments on Local Climate Action

TC Legislature 12-15-15

(Fossil Free Tompkins organized a rally and speak-out to the Tompkins County Legislature on December 15 to encourage them to act boldly and quickly to eliminate fossil fuel consumption in our county.  More than 60 attended and 30+ provided comments.  Below are remarks by Sustainable Tompkins President Gay Nicholson.)

The Paris climate talks have concluded, and although we can celebrate this initial acknowledgment to stay below 2 C of warming and to at least measure and report emissions, we all know that much more needed to be accomplished at this point in the climate transition.

The next five years will be critical for global climate systems. The next two years of this legislative term must be used to start really digging into the detailed work of emission reductions. Read the rest of this entry »