ST Events

Neighborhood Mini-Grant Applications Due April 1

Do you have an idea for a project to make our community more sustainable, resilient, or inclusive? Need a little help in covering the costs? Sustainable Tompkins is accepting applications for our spring/summer 2021 round of Neighborhood Mini-Grants.

The Sustainable Tompkins Neighborhood Mini-Grant program supports initiatives improving environmental sustainability, equity, and environmental, economic, and social justice in Tompkins County. Since it began in 2008, it has awarded more than $77,000 in 196 grants to innovative grassroots projects throughout the county.

Grants range from $150 to $750 and support initiatives promoting sustainable food systems, alternative transportation, waste reduction/reuse, energy conservation/fossil fuel use reduction, and environmental education, and addressing social and economic inequality.

Proposals are reviewed biannually by a team of community members. The program is sponsored by the Park Foundation, Beck Equipment, Natural Investments, Fingerlakes Wealth Management, Craig Riecke, and local donors.

Individuals, organizations, and neighborhood groups are welcome to apply, as are local microbusinesses seeking to green their operations or extend their products or services to low-income clientele. Priority is given to new and/or small entities with relatively few sources of support.

 Successful initiatives supported by Neighborhood Mini-Grants in recent years include the founding of the Freeville Farmers Market, establishment of the Finger Lakes Toy Library as a lending collection of environmentally-friendly toys, creation of an Ithaca Murals equipment lending library for artists and community members creating murals that reflect the demographics, values, and stories of Ithaca’s residents, and restoration of a disused and overgrown trail in Dryden.

Applications must be received on or before April 1, 2021. To request an application form, or if you have questions, please call (607) 272-1720 or email

FLECA Campaign Expands Its Ranks

The tides are rising here in the Finger Lakes (in a good way… not the climate-change-kind-of-way)!  A new cohort of members have joined our Finger Lakes Enterprises for Climate Action coalition (FLECA)! Our team is ever-growing and building so much momentum with new team members from bookstores, glamping sites, farms and more! 

We have achieved over ⅓ of our goal, a huge checkpoint! We’re getting closer to offsetting $5,000 worth of emissions, securing two Climate Fund grants for families in need.

We are so enthused to welcome new FLECA business and organization members: Firelight Camps, Dailey Electric, Food Forest Farm, Leslie Danks Burke campaign, and Odyssey Bookstore. New members are offsetting emissions from the likes of campaign travel and the energy to heat and cool their businesses. And one of them has plans to keep the fire going – stayed tuned to find out!

Does your organization want to help Finger Lakes families stay warm this winter? Email for more information, including benefits of joining

Sustainability Calendar Available

February is here! Fend off the winter blues with some movement-building activities. But not to worry; most of these activities are virtual, meaning you can stay cozy and safe while learning, growing, and helping your community. Join the White Fragility book club that meets every Sunday, or attend the Envision Climate Summit – a 3 day event comprised of talks, panels, & workshops. Maybe even learn a new skill, like Woodland Mushroom Cultivation! Visit the Sustainable Finger Lakes Calendar to browse this month’s offerings and click the link under each event for more details.

Green Tips Resource on Sustainable Finger Lakes

Despite the challenges we currently face in shifting our industries away from pollutive, extractive, and destructive practices, living more sustainably is much easier than you think. Be sure to check out the new Green Tips page on our Sustainable Finger Lakes website for tips on how to practice sustainability as an individual, and as a community. Categories include Energy, Waste, Transportation, Food, Household Products, Water Protection, and Yard & Garden.

We all have a role to play in the green movement. Share some of your own Green Tips and ways you practice sustainability on our Facebook and Instagram pages. And if you have some regional connections that will make any of these Green Tips easier to do, please let us know and we’ll help folks connect the dots in our regional movement. We want to build this resource out together! Send your ideas to or find us on social media.

Neighborhood Mini-Grant Funds Trail Renovation in Dryden

Tompkins County contains a wealth of trails, but some have fallen into disrepair and disuse without the care they need. A wooded trail in the Town of Dryden, between the Varna Community Center and the adjacent Hillside Acres Mobile Home Park, went many years without maintenance and became overgrown to the point of near-impassability. In 2019, Jonathyn Thornton took on renovation of the trail as an Eagle Scout project, leading a team of volunteers who cleared it, covered it with wood chips, and added benches, kiosks, erosion control bars in areas impacted by runoff, a bridge over a washed-out culvert, and a “Nature Nook” with benches and a table. Sustainable Tompkins awarded Jonathyn a Neighborhood Mini-Grant in October 2019 to pay for the bridge and the table. 

Now the trail is four feet wide and frequently used, offering pedestrians a scenic alternative to walking along a busy roadway between the community center and the mobile home park. The Varna After School Program at the community center uses the Nature Nook as an outdoor enrichment space. Future plans include supplying the kiosks with pamphlets on the surrounding flora and fauna.

Varna residents attest to the trail’s value:

“Having that trail open connects the Center much better to Hillside Acres.  We’ve seen people using it for walking and jogging. Especially in a time when outdoor activities are much safer, it’s wonderful to have it. Working on the trail was a great way to get closer to Varna’s natural beauty, and find out just how much is back there!”

“The outdoor Nature Nook has been a wonderful place for learning and exploring. We utilize this space for our students in the after school program to get them outdoors. The kids really enjoy being in the space and have stated it is cool to listen to the birds and seeing the deer walk across the trail when they are quiet enough. We have incorporated many new nature programs into our afterschool program now that we have this new space and the wonderful trail to walk.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Green Your Holidays with Alternative Gifts

Season’s “Greenings” from Sustainable Tompkins! 

One lesson that we can take from 2020 is that a culture of resiliency and strong community is vital to overcoming the major issues we are facing: the pandemic, systemic racism, climate change, and a divided nation. Now, it’s time to use this lesson to help shape 2021 and the years to come.  

That’s why Sustainable Tompkins is happy to participate in the annual Ithaca Alternative Gift Fair! This virtual event is a fun way to bypass the annual stress of holiday shopping and accumulation of “stuff” while honoring friends and relatives with donations to causes that fit their values. Since it began in 2004, more than $300,000 has been donated to local non-profit organizations, and tons of waste has been prevented from forgoing material gifts; and Sustainable Tompkins has been there from the start! 

When you make a donation in a loved one’s name, you will receive a holiday card that you can give to them, letting them know that you made a donation in their honor.

We are offering a range of small gift options to make it easy for everyone to show their love by supporting others in our community.

$5 to provide seeds and tools for a community garden
$10 to help a local family make their home climate-smart
$15 to promote sustainable enterprises across the region
$20 to support grassroots sustainability projects
$25 to offset ONE TON of carbon emissions from holiday travel
$Any amount:  to train the next generation of sustainability stewards

When you make donations in any of these amounts during December, we will send you the appropriate gift cards to bestow upon the recipients. If you prefer to make one donation for several gifts, just email with a list of the gifts you are buying and she will email you the gift cards to print or send digitally.

Just visit to make your gift, and visit our instagram and facebook pages to have fun with us!

Giving Tuesday is December 1!

Join us on December 1 for the annual Giving Tuesday celebration of your favorite local nonprofits that protect our quality of life, our democracy, and our environment. We’ll be hosting a live Q&A session on our Instagram page at 1:00 pm EST (sustainable_tc) if you are curious about our programs and all the things our team is working on this fall. 

You can also join us for Sustainability Bingo on our facebook and Instagram pages!  Choose which actions and offsets you want to support and make your donation either to our website donations page or via Facebook to Sustainable Tompkins Inc.

You can help us keep our Neighborhood MiniGrants funded with donations at the $5, $10, $25 or $40 level. Since 2008, we’ve supported 196 citizen-driven initiatives with $77,478 in small grants. Dozens of these projects were just dreams when we provided seed money to get started, and now they are some of our leading sustainability initiatives such as Dish Truck, Finger Lakes Toy Library, Ithaca Murals and the local Sunrise chapter. Our movement is growing thanks to your support for these minigrants!

Or help us keep the Climate Fund solvent by offsetting all kinds of your own carbon emissions – from charging your smartphone to all those home deliveries during the shutdown to your home energy emissions for a year.  We certainly need your offset dollars right now – we’ve been incredibly busy giving away grants to help lower-income families get off fossil fuels and we’re running on empty now!

We’ve worked hard over the past 16 years to provide both leadership and support to our local movement. Often on the pioneering edge of sustainability thought, we are now working to help our Finger Lakes Region weave more resilience, stewardship, and equity into the fabric of our communities. We can’t do this alone – can’t even attempt it without your support! 

Dozens Helped via Climate Fund and HeatSmart Partnership

Last fall, Sustainable Tompkins launched its partnership with HeatSmart Tompkins to combine grants from our Finger Lakes Climate Fund with new incentives for heat pumps to help lower-income families make the transition to high efficiency clean energy for heating and cooling their homes. Despite the pandemic and shutdown of many months, we’ve been steadily at work with our local contractors to process dozens of new awards to families throughout our region.

Since November 2019, we’ve given out 31 Climate Fund grants totaling $51,003 that prevented 3,272 tons of CO2 from entering our atmosphere.  Our Climate Fund awards were matched with 42 additional grants distributed from our NYSERDA/HeatSmart award totaling $78,500 to help pay for the installation of heat pumps and heat pump water heaters in six counties of the Finger Lakes Region. You can tell we’ve been busy!! That’s $129,503 that these modest-income families didn’t have to come up with in order to keep their homes warm.

During this difficult period of dealing with the covid outbreak, our team has kept busy working online to promote our program and connect with our awardees – capturing some of their stories by making outdoor videos this summer to share on our website. It is so very motivating to hear from our grantees how their heat pumps have rescued them from high energy bills, moisture problems, uneven heating, polluted indoor air, and, in several cases, the labor burden of stacking as much as six cords of firewood every year.  For those who had their systems installed last winter or spring, you should have heard them talk about the cheap air conditioning they enjoyed this past summer from their heat pumps!  

Read the rest of this entry »

Local Business Leaders Step Up for Climate Action

The Heat! Is! On!  Now, typically in our climate-change-fueled work, this would not be a great phrase to hear. However, for our 2020 Finger Lakes Enterprises for Climate Action campaign (FLECA), it’s music to our ears. This fall, we launched our very first local business-focused offsetting campaign for our Finger Lakes Climate Fund. Equipped with our nifty carbon calculator, local enterprises are invited to identify their biggest source of carbon emissions and pollution in their operations. As close to net zero as they try, there’s always some to be offset!

We are delighted to already celebrate donations from our partner contractor, Halco, and Beck Equipment, Paddle-N-More, the new Odyssey Bookstore in town, and Rogues’ Harbor Inn as our earliest members of FLECA!! We thank these businesses for their generosity and commitment to a sustainable and equitable future. With their $3,050 offset to get us started, we are already more than 20% of the way to our goal of 100 tons CO2 offset. The funds raised through our local carbon offsets are distributed in grants to regional low-income families to help them install high efficiency heat pumps and insulate and air seal their homes.

Businesses have a unique role to play in these changing times: showing leadership and investing in the progressive, essential changes that will keep our communities alive and thriving are more important than ever. They are also enjoying the opportunity to align even more closely with the values of their clientele, as customers are increasingly demanding that their favorite businesses walk their talk in the sustainability realms. In this campaign, we are offering Tiers of Giving to provide opportunities for various avenues of promotion. We are also happy to consult with business leaders on expanding our partnership through website landing pages and assisting their clients in offsetting emissions from their purchases.

Does your organization want to help Finger Lakes families stay warm this winter? Email for more information, including benefits of joining.

Neighborhood Mini-Grants Support Outdoor Initiatives

Through the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, people continue to grow food, explore the outdoors, bring aid to their neighbors, and vote in elections. In October 2020, five Neighborhood Mini-Grants were awarded to Parents2Polls Tompkins, Ellis Hollow Nursery School, the Groundswell Center for Local Food and Farming, The Village at Ithaca, and Khuba International.

Yael Saar, co-founder of Parents2Polls Tompkins, offered childcare while parents voted on Election Day.

Parents2Polls Tompkins is a nonpartisan volunteer-run initiative launched in fall 2020 to make in-person voting more accessible for all in Tompkins County. During the early voting period for the 2020 general election, volunteers at the two poll sites offered child and pet supervision, chairs, information, parking guidance, and other assistance to voters waiting in line. On Election Day, they provided voters with free drop-in childcare at the Southside Community Center. A Neighborhood Mini-Grant funded publicity for the project.

Groundswell Center for Local Food and Farming is creating a pond on their Incubator Farm at EcoVillage Ithaca, with a solar-powered pump transferring water to an irrigation system and ending the farm’s costly dependence on municipal water. Created to provide short-term access to land and support for growers who face systemic barriers to starting businesses, the farm is currently used by 11 businesses — mostly ethnic Karen refugees from Burma — to grow vegetables, by Challenge Industries for the flower CSA run by the Ability in Bloom workforce development program, by the Groundswell Center to grow a “solidarity garden” of produce distributed to residents of West Village Apartments, and more. A Neighborhood Mini-Grant will support the purchase of the solar pump.

Read the rest of this entry »