ST in the News

SewGreen Founder Wendy Skinner Wins Community Service Award

Wendy Skinner is the recipient of this year’s Debra S. Newman ’02 Community Recognition Award, presented by The Cornell Tradition. The award honors individuals in the local community who have demonstrated a strong commitment to public service and leadership. Skinner is one of the early co-founders of Sustainable Tompkins and served as our first chair of the ST coordinating committee.

Skinner was recognized for her work as the founder and coordinator of SewGreen, a not-for-profit organization located in downtown Ithaca. SewGreen operates a reuse shop for sewing materials and provides sewing education to the community. Programs include a free teen apprenticeship program, jobs for lower-income youth and older workers, college internships, and sewing classes for all ages.

Among others, previous recipients of the award include Gay Nicholson, president of Sustainable Tompkins (2008); Mary Grainger, an active volunteer with a number of local human services organizations (2009); and Noel Desch, for his volunteer work with the Rotary Club of Ithaca, the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce, and other charitable groups (2004). Read the rest of this entry »

Shared Vision of Sustainable Future Emerges from Building Bridges Workshop

New Vision Statement for a Socially Just and Ecologically Sound Local Economy in the Tompkins County Region

This vision was first created in images by over 100 local residents at the Building Bridges workshop on November 15-16, 2011.  The pictures showed people of all ages, in the city and in rural areas, celebrating life, experiencing an abundance of local food, engaged in a thriving local marketplace rich in culture and diversity, using renewable energy, and connecting across former divides.

In words, we envision a community that is earth-centered, people-centered, fair, and equitable. We envision a Tompkins County that identifies itself by its human rights and ecojustice values, and exemplifies for other regions and communities throughout the nation how to live by these values. In this vision, all citizens can be heard, recognize their interdependence and are active in shaping the priorities of this community. Our commitment to Tompkins County is not isolationist; rather, it is made with a view toward maximizing the benefits of our actions with respect to other communities, ecosystems, and people across the world. Read the rest of this entry »

Building Bridges Initiative Aims for Just and Sustainable Economy

A major new collaborative initiative on a sustainable economy was launched last month by Sustainable Tompkins, Dorothy Cotton Institute, Ithaca College’s Committed-to-Change Program, Groundswell Center, Alternatives Federal Credit Union, Multicultural Resource Center, Center for Transformative Action, Dryden Solutions, and CCE-Tompkins’ Environment Program, Natural Leaders Initiative, Whole Community Project, and Green Jobs Program.

On Nov. 15-16, over 100 community members — representing government, business, community programs, individual entrepreneurs, foundations and investors – came together to strengthen relationships, develop a shared vision, and identify ways to build bridges between local sustainability and social justice efforts that will result in a socially just, resilient regional economy that preserves and maintains our natural environment.

The initiative identifies equity as the preferred driver of both economic development and ecological sustainability, and prioritizes jobs for low-income people both in the city and in rural towns. The ultimate goals are eliminating structural poverty and racism, creating a local economy that works for everyone, and protecting the ecosystems that sustain the region. Read the rest of this entry »

Guest Viewpoint: Tompkins Co. working to cut carbon footprint

Ithaca Journal 11/14/11

A recent Guest Viewpoint in the Ithaca Journal accused anti-fracking activists of moral hypocrisy. The writer assumed that those wanting to ban shale gas drilling in New York were not doing anything to reduce their own fossil-fuel consumption and were therefore willing to push the negative effects of producing coal, oil and gas onto communities in other parts of the world.

It’s true that if we did nothing about our dependence on fossil fuels, it would be hypocritical to not want its infrastructure in our own backyards. But many concerned citizens are reducing their reliance on fossil energy by taking the time and making the necessary investments in energy efficiency and renewables.

People face significant barriers to changing their energy consumption patterns, and Sustainable Tompkins and other groups are helping to lower those barriers so our entire community can make the transition to a clean energy system. Read the rest of this entry »

Center for a New American Dream interviews Gay Nicholson

The Center for a New American Dream recently interviewed Sustainable Tompkins President Gay Nicholson to share some of the history of our local sustainability movement with their national audience.  The Center for a New American Dream helps Americans to reduce and shift their consumption to improve quality of life, protect the environment, and promote social justice.  Their goal is to cultivate a new American dream—one that emphasizes community, ecological sustainability, and a celebration of non-material values, while upholding the spirit of the traditional American dream of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  Gay joined their Board of Directors in 2008 after having served as an outside consultant to the organization.

Check out the interview and get some of the background on ST’s history and aspirations for the future.

Cortland Native Brings New Film on Biofuel Alternatives to Region this Weekend

The Finger Lakes Bioneers, in association with Sustainable Cortland and SUNY Cortland, present the Cortland premiere of FREEDOM, a 90-minute documentary film by Josh and Rebecca Tickell this coming Monday, October 10 at 7:30 pm. The film explores an array of greener fuel solutions and technological alternatives to address the dilemmas of our fossil fuel-dependent society. The national tour of the “Freedom” eco-bus, visiting around 50 cities, is stewarded by Boise Thomas, a young Cortland native who went west and has developed and hosted programming for Discovery Communications’ channel Planet Green and for the G Living lifestyle network. He will participate in the audience Q&A after the film along with representatives from Sustainable Tompkins and Sustainable Cortland. Other local groups advancing the community conversation about our ecological ‘footprint’ will be tabling.

The 90-minute film will screen at 7:30 PM Monday, October 10th. Public is invited and admission and parking is free. Location for both events is the Corey Union on the campus of SUNY Cortland. From 6-7:30 the traveling bus, which doubles as a clean-energy laboratory and a “green” mobile entertainment system, will be open for tours in front of Corey Union.

The “FREEDOM TOUR” ( is a nearly four-month excursion across the US that focuses on displacing gasoline with renewable alternatives. The “FREEDOM BUS” is traveling to movie theaters and colleges across the US and into Canada supporting the release of the “FREEDOM” film. The bus has been retrofitted to carry 18 solar panels, an E85 bio-fuel engine and power generator, energy efficiency, wind, solar and water displays, eco-building materials and a projection system for outdoor viewing and presentations.  The film is produced by the filmmakers of the 2008 Sundance Audience Award winning film “Fuel.” Read the rest of this entry »

Sustainable Tompkins Welcomes Our New Director of Operations

Karen Jewett is excited to join Sustainable Tompkins as the new Director of Operations. In May she relocated to the Ithaca area (Dryden) after 20 plus years in San Francisco where she happily lived in the Haight Ashbury district. She has a broad and deep experience in community building, non-profit management and fundraising including running a touring circus in California; coordinating neighborhood performing arts events and community celebrations in Pittsburgh, PA; organizing citizens in New York City in support of their neighborhood parks; and training and supporting peace activists to help soldiers during the first war with Iraq. From 1999 to 2007 Karen worked for Cornell’s Western Regional Office: connecting Cornell alumni in the seven western states to each other and to the University. The position made it possible for her to renew friendships, travel, and visit Ithaca to see the four seasons. For the last few years she has been honing her horticultural skills at the San Francisco Botanical Garden, and as a residential gardener in 25 San Francisco gardens. Karen grew up in Ithaca in the Northeast neighborhood and left after graduating from Cornell’s College of Human Ecology in 1979. She is delighted to return to the area to pursue a blossoming relationship with her old flame from Jr. high, Hal Bennett. Karen and Hal live in Dryden. On most weekends they can be found on Cayuga Lake’s West Shore practicing catch and release.

Cooperative Movement featured in Ithaca Times

Locally-owned cooperatives are an important tool for strengthening our local economy and building in self-reliance and resiliency.  Thanks to Dana Khromov for her excellent research into this topic for the August 3 Ithaca Times feature article “Cooperative Progress.” Her article does a great job of reviewing the many kinds of cooperatives we have in the Ithaca area, and the role they are playing in building a more just and democratic local economy.

We talked with her at length about the many benefits of worker-owned cooperatives and Sustainable Tompkins’s new study group on worker coops.  If you are interested in joining the Worker-Owned Cooperatives group or our Local Green Investing group, email

The photo features Demarquis Graves of the Youth Farm Project, a collaboration between students from Lehman Alternative Community School, Southside Community Center, and the Full Plate Collective. The Youth Farm Project received a $750 Sustainable Tompkins Neighborhood Mini-Grant in June, 2010. (Photo by Rachel Phillipson)

Finger Lakes Climate Fund supported by Cornell conference

LeChase Construction
Our Finger Lakes Climate Fund got a big boost this month when LeChase Construction of Rochester volunteered to offset all of the travel-related emissions from a Cornell conference on energy and university facility management.  This contribution will go a long way toward helping a local family become more energy secure.  Grants from the Finger Lakes Climate Fund are awarded to families below the median income to help them go forward with energy improvements that will save them money and reduce their emissions.  As the summer travel season approaches, we urge everyone to take responsibility for their carbon emissions — and help others in our community while you are at it! Read the rest of this entry »

Neighborhood Mini-Grants: Applications Requested for June 2011

As Spring in Tompkins County coaxes us back to our favorite gardens, farmers markets, and parks, Sustainable Tompkins is waiting to fertilize new growth and new ideas with our 12th round of the Neighborhood Mini-Grants Program! Applications are due June 1, 2011.

As we look around our community, recent projects supported by Neighborhood Mini-Grants are blossoming into opportunities for independent, healthy living. At West Village Gone Green, a multitude of seeds and transplants are making their way into a new community garden. At Beverly J. Martin Elementary School, first graders are sowing the seeds that will lead to a harvest for BJM’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program as well as the Nutritious Cooking Club. The Danby Land Bank is building a portable chicken house to raise broilers. And, at Ithaca Biodiesel, new volunteers, strong partnerships, and increased outreach initiatives have even the youngest volunteers smiling (Photo, left, courtesy of Ithaca Biodiesel).

Sustainable Tompkins is honored to play a role in nurturing the creativity and innovation of community members seeking to build a more just and sustainable society. If your organization has an idea to increase community sustainability, improve quality of life, or long-term health and well-being for residents of Tompkins County, please apply! Neighborhood Mini-Grants are awards of $150-$750, provided to Tompkins County community groups, non-profit organizations, civic groups and schools. Read the rest of this entry »