ST Events

Neighborhood Mini-Grants Support Innovative New Initiatives

Individuals and small groups can start projects that make a big difference in their community, but some ideas need to be tested before gaining widespread support. In April 2022, Sustainable Finger Lakes (formerly Sustainable Tompkins) awarded $2,475 in seven Neighborhood Mini-Grants to individuals and small organizations in Tompkins County, for new initiatives with the potential to last.

The Black Diamond Trail Enthusiasts Network, a group devoted to the multi-use Black Diamond Trail from Cass Park to Taughannock Falls State Park, will install and maintain a porta-potty at one of the road intersections along the trail, making it more hospitable to users who would otherwise avoid the trail or relieve themselves in the surrounding area. A Neighborhood Mini-Grant will contribute to the one-year rental and maintenance costs for the porta-potty, with the aim of persuading the New York State Park system to take on the long-term cost of sustaining a demonstrably essential amenity.

Communitas, a recently-formed organization devoted to self-directed education and intergenerational community building, will offer youth nature education programs in the summer and the school year, the latter programs for homeschoolers. A Neighborhood Mini-Grant will fund the purchase of tools for long-term use in these programs, including monoculars, bug boxes, magnifiers, a spotting scope, and wood-carving tools, all of which will help program participants engage more deeply with the natural world they explore.

Lansing residents Elisabeth and Ethan Bodnaruk seek to start a curbside food scrap collection in downtown Ithaca, addressing an unmet need in an area currently lacking any of the food scrap drop spots operated by the county. A Neighborhood Mini-Grant Council will contribute to the costs of buckets, bucket liners, and website hosting for a small-scale pilot of the initiative.

Ithaca resident Liliana Coelho seeks to host community dye baths where people bring garments to be re-dyed for prolonged desirability. A Neighborhood Mini-Grant will pay for the dyes and laundry fees of a small-scale dye bath to test the project’s local viability.

Ithaca residents Ben Komor and Evan Breese will host a series of game nights for mentally ill locals at the Ithaca Community Recovery building, featuring partly-local snacks. This will give an underserved population more access to social connections and community-building. A Neighborhood Mini-Grant will cover food, room rental, and cleaning supplies for two months of these game nights.

Ithaca resident Jack Wright will create and utilize two garden beds at Fort Baptist Farm, growing herbs, flowers, and vegetables for donation to local food access groups such as No Mas Lagrimas and Loaves & Fishes, without tilling, pesticides, or synthetic fertilizer. A Neighborhood Mini-Grant will contribute to the costs of the garden.

Landscape designer Matt Dallos will create a naturalistic planting in a median on N. Meadow Street in Ithaca, a low-maintenance garden of “native and near-native” plants to serve as insect habitat, urban beautification, and a test site for future naturalistic plantings in Ithaca. A Neighborhood Mini-Grant will help cover to pay for sand, plants, and signage used in the project.

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 Craig Riecke, Beck Equipment, and the Park Foundation. The next deadline for the Mini-Grant program will be October 1, 2022. To request an application or learn more, email

Neighborhood Mini-Grant Supports Neighborhood Garden in Northside

Photo provided.

Neighborhood gardens bring people of different backgrounds and values together to share in the production and harvest of food close to home, and a network of them is growing in Ithaca. In 2021, the Ithaca Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) created a neighborhood garden of raised beds bordering the sidewalks along the Friends Meeting House in Ithaca’s Northside neighborhood, partly funded by an April 2021 Neighborhood Mini-Grant from Sustainable Finger Lakes (formerly Sustainable Tompkins).

Photo by Sasha Paris.

Members of the Quaker community and a nearby couple tended the garden through 2021, growing an array of greens, herbs, tomatoes, beans, and other vegetables and flowers. The produce was explicitly available for any passerby to pick, and an estimated 5-10 members of the Northside community harvested it with a regularity that proved vital for making timely use of the perishable products. The gardeners found successes and challenges in crop choice, planting methods, coordinating garden maintenance, and engaging the neighborhood and harvesting. With this improved knowledge, they will continue the project into the future.

Photo by Sasha Paris.

Project organizer Elizabeth Keokosky wrote “The underlying goal, motivated by the increasingly stressful situation of the Fall 2020, Trump-disputed, Biden presidential election and of the escalation of Covid deaths and sense of isolation, was to try to create a feeling of optimism and hope in both Quakers within Meeting, and in our neighbors. […]  It was hoped that planning a garden using the idea of the abundance that always underlies nature and our gardens at home would be an antidote to a year which tested us all, even Quakers looking for the spirit in all things.”

The Neighborhood Mini-Grant Program provides seed money to diverse initiatives building environmental stewardship, economic equity, and social justice in Tompkins County. The program is sponsored by Craig Riecke, Beck Equipment, and the Park Foundation. Please donate today and help us support more citizen-driven projects increasing the resilience and well-being of our communities.

The next Neighborhood Mini-Grant application deadline is October 1, 2022. Email to request an application.

“Getting Climate Action Right”

by Osamu Tsuda, member of Sustainable Tompkins Board of Directors

Climate Change – we hear about it a lot these days. Whether it is your neighbor talking about how the weather has become more extreme over the past decade or news reports about how we need to pass climate policy to avoid catastrophic disasters, the information and chatter on the topic can be overwhelming. From violent storms in the south, extensive wildfires in the west, severe flooding in the east, to melting ice caps in the north, as individuals we can feel quite helpless at times and resort to blocking it all out. Maybe if we wait long enough the problems will resolve themselves. After all, what kind of impact could we really have as individuals? 

As it turns out, there is a lot we can do! It is often easy to see all the destruction happening around us and forget or ignore the amazing resilient nature of human beings. Despite the delays and controversy, there have been many efforts to address the major threat of Climate Change, and now New York State is in the process of developing a climate action plan that will shape the fate of our state and the nation as a whole.  Read the rest of this entry »

May 25 at Noon! “Finger Lakes Forecast: Reducing Flood Risks for Your Home”

Join us on May 25th at Noon for “Finger Lakes Forecast: Reducing Flood Risks for Your Home” to learn how the recent changes to FEMA’s flood maps will affect you and your home. Hear Scott Doyle, formerly of Tompkins County Planning & Sustainability, Sally Hoyt of Tompkins Insurance Agencies, and Alan Springett, hydrologist and flood mitigation specialist, discuss FEMA’s new flood maps and findings, flood insurance options, and tips for how you can reduce flood damage to your home. The webinar will end with a Q&A session during which attendees can address our panelists. Register here for this event: This is the second webinar in our Spring Finger Lakes Forecast Webinar Series which focuses on how climate change will impact life in the Finger Lakes region and what people can do for themselves and their communities to prepare. The first webinar in the series was held on April 27th and focused on climate disruption and food security. It included a screening of Our Farmers in Flux, Adapting to Climate Change, a short documentary by Shira Evergreen and Uplifted Ithaca, and a panel discussion with local organic farmers. View the recording of the Finger Lakes Forecast: Climate Disruption & Food Security webinar on the Sustainable Tompkins YouTube channel here:

Register today for “Finger Lakes Forecast: Climate Disruption & Food Security” (April 27)

Our new webinar series, Finger Lakes Forecast, focuses on how climate change will impact life in the Finger Lakes Region and what people can do for themselves and their communities to prepare. This webinar series is free and open to the public. The first of these webinars, Climate Disruption and Food Security, will take place at 12pm EST on April 27 and include a screening of Uplifted Ithaca’s short documentary, Our Farmers in Flux: Adapting to Climate Change, followed by a panel discussion with Graham Savio, Cornell Cooperative Extension Tompkins County; Katie Hallas, Tompkins Food Future; Klaas Martens, Lakeview Organic Grain; and Chaw Chang, Stick and Stone Farm. Register online.

On May 25th, we will host our second Finger Lakes Forecast webinar which will explore ways residents of the Finger Lakes can reduce flood risk for their homes. Additional topics to be covered in the webinar series include Policies to Reduce Harmful Algae Blooms in the Finger Lakes, Land Use and Renewable Energy, Public Health in a Hotter Finger Lakes, and FLX Demographic and Economic Trends.

Sustainable Tompkins is a citizen-based coalition working towards a more sustainable regional community. We advocate a systems approach to build the infrastructure and social capacity for more sustainable ways of living and working. Our projects and programs have focused on energy efficiency, climate protection, green purchasing, sustainable community development, green collar jobs, sustainable enterprise, and economic/ecological justice. Our office is open by appointment at 309 N. Aurora Street in Ithaca.

To learn more, email our Outreach Coordinator at

Sustainable Tompkins Puts Sustainability on the Map

screenshot of section of sustainability mapThe Sustainable Finger Lakes Map created by Sustainable Tompkins provides a visual interface for people interested in learning more about the regional sustainability movement. People are coming together across our region to relocalize the economy, make our systems of local governance more just and democratic, and protect our land, air, and water for future generations. The Map currently has over 800 entries and allows visitors to quickly search 8 main categories of sustainable living for local programs, businesses, and activities. Regional businesses or groups are invited to put themselves on the Map! If they are working on some aspect of a more sustainable system, they can register online and submit a short description of their sustainability efforts, and contact information. Submissions are reviewed on a weekly basis.

With a shared goal to assure a future landscape in which all of us can thrive despite the many changes underway, community members are invited to help build this map of the sustainability and democracy movement in the Finger Lakes Region. Residents can add what they are working on, plug in where they can make a difference, and spread the word to share with others. Visit the Map to discover the creative and the compassionate, the solidarity builders and the self-reliant, the pioneers and the protectors of a sustainable future.

Recent additions to the Map include Lev Kitchen, Central New York Labor Federation, Food Policy Council of Tompkins County, and Oxbow Farm. Located downtown on the Ithaca Commons, Lev Kitchen is one of Ithaca’s newest restaurants and features Yemeni flatbread called Malawach and the amalgamation of distinctive cuisines and cultures from countries such as Israel, Lebanon and Syria. Opened in March 2022, they aim to embrace business transparency, explore what it means to be a “sustainable” food service operator, and support food security by donating 1% of all revenues to the World Food Program and their relief efforts around the world. Read the rest of this entry »

SAVE THE DATE for our first Finger Lakes Forecast webinar: April 27 at 12pm EST

April 27, 2022 at 12pm EST via Zoom

Finger Lakes Forecast Webinar Series: Climate Disruption & Food Security

Sustainable Tompkins will be hosting a new webinar series this spring and fall. Finger Lakes Forecast will focus on how climate change will impact life in the Finger Lakes Region and what people can do for themselves and their communities to prepare. The first Finger Lakes Forecast webinar, Climate Disruption and Food Security, will take place online at 12pm EST on April 27 and include a screening of Uplifted Ithaca’s short documentary, Our Farmers in Flux: Adapting to Climate Change, followed by a panel discussion with Graham Savio, CCE-TC; Katie Hallas, Tompkins Food Future; Klaas Martens, Lakeview Organic Grain; and Chaw Chang, Stick and Stone Farm.

Five additional Finger Lakes Forecast webinars are planned in May, June, September, October, and November of this year, on the last Wednesday of each month. Planned topics include Reducing Flood Risk for Your Home, Policies to Reduce Harmful Algae Blooms in the Finger Lakes, Land Use and Renewable Energy, Public Health in a Hotter Finger Lakes, and FLX Demographic and Economic Trends. More details will be shared soon!

If you have questions about the Finger Lakes Forecast Webinar Series, email Sarah at . Follow us on Facebook and Instagram or visit our website to learn more about Sustainable Tompkins’ programs and our Sustainable Finger Lakes Calendar to learn about upcoming events in our region focused on sustainability and climate change.

Applications for Sustainable Tompkins 2022 Spring Neighborhood Mini-Grants Due April 01

Do you have an idea for a project to make our community more sustainable, resilient, or inclusive? Need a little help covering the costs? Apply for a Neighborhood Mini-Grant!

We are accepting applications for our Spring round of Neighborhood Mini-Grants through April 01, 2022. Our Neighborhood Mini-Grant program supports initiatives improving ecological stewardship, community well-being, and economic justice in Tompkins County. Since 2008, we have awarded more than $82,000 in 208 small grants to innovative grassroots projects throughout the county.

Ranging from $150 to $750, awards support initiatives promoting sustainable food systems, alternative transportation, waste reduction or reuse, energy conservation, fossil fuel use reduction, environmental education, and addressing social and economic inequality. Individuals, organizations, and neighborhood groups in Tompkins County 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 small and/or new entities with relatively few sources of support.  Read the rest of this entry »

Welcome Ryan Kincaid, Our New Sustainable Finger Lakes Program Coordinator!

Ryan grew up in the Finger Lakes region, spending much of her childhood at her grandparents’ home on the edge of Seneca Lake. Ryan notes that from a young age, she developed a deep appreciation for the forests and waters of this area.She has been involved with a number of initiatives to promote sustainability, help youths and adults develop a sense of place, and incorporate eco-consciousness into individual’s and organization’s decision-making. Some of the skills and characteristics she brings to this role include event coordination, teaching, program development, organization, creativity, and enthusiasm.

Ryan obtained a BA in Environmental Studies and Master of Arts in Teaching at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and spent five years teaching middle school science, leading environmentally-themed after-school programs, and coaching cross country. Over the past few years, She spent time in Vermont and Oregon, where she served as an AmeriCorps member with various environmental organizations, and recently became the Director of Education and Outreach for the environmental nonprofit Umpqua Watersheds.

When Ryan is not working or volunteering with environmental organizations, she can be found caring for pets, walking/hiking, singing, or painting. She is also working on her first novel!

We are thrilled to have Ryan as part of out team! To contact Ryan, email

Introducing Sarah Nickerson, Our New Outreach Coordinator!

We are excited to announce that we have a new Outreach Coordinator, Sarah Nickerson! Sarah brings over 6 years of experience supporting administrative needs, events, outreach efforts, and communications for local nonprofits in Tompkins County. Sarah will be supporting all of our programs, producing much of our communications and social media content. 

She spends much of her free time exploring the outdoor spaces of the Finger Lakes with her young son, Leo, and is also a skilled photographer! She is excited to support and learn more about sustainability efforts of both individuals and communities across the Finger Lakes and says “I love this region and am thrilled to have a role that allows me to connect more deeply with the people that call these lakes, lands, and forests home.” 

We are so grateful to have Sarah as part of the Sustainable Tompkins team! Please join us in welcoming Sarah: her email is