Climate Fund featured nationally on radio!

Last summer, Gay Nicholson was interviewed by Yale Climate Connections about our regional carbon offset fund – the Finger Lakes Climate Fund. The radio spot started playing on October 10 on 500 stations across the country. Give it a listen!

Here’s a link to an interactive map at their website showing many of the locations. The radio program is also available through iTunes, Stitcher, and iHeartRadio … and all stories are accessible via their website beyond air dates.

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.

Earth Day Ithaca on Sunday, April 22!














Our local theme this year is Art & Sustainability, featuring local artists who help us frame, express and shape our concerns about climate change and living more sustainably. Join us from 12-3 for family-friendly hands-on activities with our exhibitors and local music. From 3-5 pm we’ll feature performances by Truth Speaker and other spoken word and musical artists followed by our annual Signs of Sustainability Awards.  April 22, 2018, The Space @ GreenStar, 700 W. Buffalo St. Read the rest of this entry »

ST Website To Be Part of National Sustainability Archive

Ivy Plus Libraries has selected our Sustainable Tompkins website for inclusion in CAUSEWAY: the Collaborative Architecture, Urbanism, and Sustainability Web Archive. The Archive is a newly launched initiative developed by art and architecture librarians at Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Johns Hopkins, Harvard, Princeton, and Yale Universities, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the Universities of Chicago and Pennsylvania. The project aims to preserve websites devoted to the related topics of architecture, urban fabric, community development activism, public space, and sustainability in order to assure the continuing availability of these important, and potentially ephemeral, documents for use by researchers and scholars.

Let the PSC hear from You on the Dryden Pipeline!

You can use this text provided by Fossil Free Tompkins to send an email to the NYS Public Service Commission to reject further investments in fossil fuel infrastructure in Tompkins County.  Just copy and paste:

To:  secretary@dps.ny.gov

Subject:  Case 17-G-0432, NYSEG Compressor Pilot Project

Dear Commissioner Rhodes,

I am a NYSEG customer in Tompkins County. I support NYSEG’s proposal to install 4 pressure boosters to ensure adequate gas pressure in Lansing rather than building a new pipeline. Further, I strongly support our County Legislature’s pledge to reduce GHG emissions and fossil fuel use – goals that cannot be reached if we continue to expand natural gas use. We need to curtail our reliance on fossil fuels, not invest in new infrastructure that will become stranded assets. Instead we should meet our heating needs by investing in energy efficiency and heat pumps for space and water heating. NYSEG’s solution is cheaper for ratepayers, better for the environment, and supports the State’s Energy Plan for GHG reduction.

Name: _________________________

Address: ________________________

Can Art Shake Us Out of Our Climate Denial?

Tompkins Weekly        8-29-16

By Gay Nicholson

In the Finger Lakes, it’s been a summer of extreme drought and repeated heat waves. Elsewhere, fires and floods have displaced tens of thousands. No wonder people feel nervous about what will happen next. But it’s also pretty easy to feel overwhelmed by the complex global nature of climate change, and end up in a kind of daily amnesia in terms of doing anything to address the problem.

Sustainable Tompkins recently hosted Brooklyn-based artist James Leonard on the Ithaca Commons with his Tent of Casually Observed Phenologies. James has created a performance installation that is not complete until someone from the community joins him inside the tent to talk about their own climate future. The circular tent is a neutral muslin on the outside, but a rainbow of colors inside where bits of recycled clothing have been sewn together to create a ritualistic space for contemplating one’s own relationship with the planet’s warming. On the outside of the tent, small paintings of familiar plant and animal species affected by climate change are pinned.Worried scientists and activists have been working for years to break through this very human response – trying to find entry into our inner workings to shift the pattern. At the same time there is a growing conversation among artists, sensitive to the many interlocking problems that confront humanity, that this is not a time for object making for galleries and museums. Instead this is a time for being socially engaged, to use art as a means for culture shifting and problem solving – taking advantage of the way art creates shortcuts into our inner consciousness and rearranges the furniture in there.

Perhaps the most interesting part of his art is the way he has adapted Tarot cards to offer a “divination” or reading in response to the climate-related question of the person joining him in the tent. The experience is designed to help people process what he calls “overwhelming climate anxiety.” James was busy all day when we hosted him on August 18, giving his divinatory readings on a first-come, first-served basis.

Martha Walker found the experience both enlightening and informative.

“It was far deeper and more meaningful than I had imagined. The fact that the artist could listen and interpret in real time, while providing useful guidance gave a much-needed boost to my sense of empowerment in regards to the environment,” she said. “Basically, I went into the artist’s tent with a very grim view of the climate’s future. By the time I left the tent, I had a more directed sense of purpose and well being.”

Divination has been used by cultures throughout the world to help people navigate difficult futures. And in a time of trauma and crisis, we have often turned to art that heals. James has tried to combine these ancient tools to create a new kind of art that mobilizes us from our own inner core.

Carol Spence is the chairperson of the arts department at Ithaca High School. She asked about how her own art-making and that of her students could become more meaningful and impactful. In her reading, the discussion recognized the constraints of limited class time and beginner’s skills to fully express complex concepts – yet affirmed that the foundation of planting the seeds of awareness that can evolve over time was a worthy and key role in our climate story. Carol came away with the reminder that “art is a way of knowing and a language essential in our understanding of the human condition.”

I joined James in the tent briefly toward the end of the day, taking in the ancient feel of its circle contrasted with the young energy of its brightly colored and diverse interior. Just like a talking stick, prayer beads, or a meditation chant seem to focus the mind while opening the heart, the act of posing a question and turning over cards seems to clear away the background noise of the mind. It’s not about being given an answer to your question. Rather it provides a moment for sitting with the question inside a bit of structure, making it pause in the dance so the querent can get a better grasp of their own agency in answering the question.

Sustainable Tompkins encourages everyone to be an agent of climate protection. One very simple, quick, and affordable step is to take responsibility for your carbon emissions by offsetting them through the Finger Lakes Climate Fund. Carbon-offset donations help lower-income residents make energy efficiency improvements in their homes. So far we have helped 18 households with over $33,000 in grants to eliminate about 1700 tons of carbon dioxide. Visit fingerlakesclimatefund.org to find out who is making carbon offsets in our community and how you can join them.

James Leonard at Tent of Casually Observed PhenologyThe “Signs of Sustainability” series in Tompkins Weekly started in 2007, and features a weekly essay by a local sustainability leader about upcoming events or emerging issues. Those interested in submitting an essay, should contact tom@sustainabletompkins.org.

Gay Nicholson is President of Sustainable Tompkins




Photo provided by Sustainable Tompkins
Artist James Leonard setting up his Tent of Casually Observed Phenologies on Ithaca’s Commons on August 18.

Why Local Matters

Tompkins Weekly     10-17-16

By Jan Rhodes Norman

I love where I live! Here in Ithaca, in the heart of the Finger Lakes, we are blessed with great natural beauty and a vibrant local living economy made up of local, independently owned businesses, family farms, educational institutions and active community organizations. It’s a rich, diverse culture with a strong local identity and one that Local First Ithaca is dedicated to protecting and strengthening.

Local First Ithaca is part of a nationwide movement. We advocate a new approach to sustainable, community economic development based on local ownership of community assets such as sustainable agriculture, independent media, renewable energy, green building, zero waste manufacturing, community capital and independent retail- building what is called a “Living Economy.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Sustainable Tompkins Hosts The Tent of Casually Observed Phenologies

Yeah, it’s been hot. Really hot. And before that it was dry. Really dry. It’s enough to make a person nervous about what will happen next. What’s the climate going to be like in the future? How will we cope?

James Leonard tent

Perhaps you would like to talk about it. Sustainable Tompkins is hosting Brooklyn-based artist James Leonard on the Ithaca Commons this Thursday, August 18, from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm. James will be in The Tent of Casually Observed Phenologies offering free, private “readings” on climate change. Everyone is invited. Readings last approximately 15 minutes each and are given on a first-come, first-served basis.

Divination has been used by cultures throughout the world to help people navigate difficult futures. James has adapted Tarot cards to help others process what he calls “overwhelming climate anxiety.” This summer he’s traveling the country, making one-day stops to give climate change divinatory readings inside a special, hand-sewn tent. (Read more here or watch the video.)

From the outside, the tent looks like a cross between a post-apocalyptic wigwam and a children’s blanket fort. The rainbow interior is made out of brightly colored recycled clothing. It required over 500 hours of hand sewing to complete. Detailed tea-colored ink paintings of different plant and animal species—each reportedly affected by climate change are pinned to the outside. Read the rest of this entry »

Natural Investments Joins as Sponsor for Neighborhood Mini-Grants Program



Good news for all the citizen activists in Tompkins County! Natural Investments has joined our team as a sponsor for the Neighborhood Mini-Grants program. Natural Investments has been a leader in socially and environmentally responsible investing for over two decades, actively seeking to balance the need for financial return with the desire to improve life for others and the Earth.

They donate ≥1% to nonprofits of their choice and Greg Pitts of the New York branch picked Sustainable Tompkins mini-grants program to sponsor. Natural Investments is a B Corporation “Best for the World” winner in 2015 and a Green America Certified Green Business.  The latest book by their principals, The Resilient Investor, looks at more than how we use and invest or money – it also focuses on how we direct our time and attention.

The next deadline for applications to our Mini-Grant program is September 1. Thanks to the sponsorship of Natural Investments and Finger Lakes Wealth Management, we will be able to support the good ideas our local residents have for making this community more resilient, just, and sustainable.

Climate Fund Grant Helps Schuyler County Farmer

Mary Wessel sitting


Peace is kept in the barnyard at Wildwood Farms by 5 white nanny goats supervising the dozens of ducks, chickens, guinea hens, and cats rescued by farmer Mary Wessel. After living in Norway for most of her adult life, Mary returned to the States to rejoin her family in upstate NY. She purchased a 6-acre homestead on the ridge above Queen Catherine marsh in Schuyler County and began the hard work of creating a sustainable refuge for humans and animals alike.   Watch Mary Wessel talk about her farm.

Like many rural dwellings, the farmhouse consisted of a series of additions tacked onto the original cabin with its massive stone hearth – none of them insulated or tightly constructed. When Mary’s elderly mother needed to move in with her, the utility bills skyrocketed as Mary tried to keep her mother warm with electric space heaters and DIY attempts to reduce the drafts. Finally she turned to Snug Planet for help. Read the rest of this entry »