My Sustainability Calendar

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Tompkins Weekly- January 3, 2011  By Tom Shelley

This month marks the second year I have managed the Signs of Sustainability column for Sustainable Tompkins.  We are blessed with a wide variety of active organizations and it is a privilege to be able to showcase the activities and the thinking of some of these groups, through this column.

I have volunteered for several of the organizations that have appeared in this series.  I thought it might be interesting for our readers to see what the life of a sustainability “geek” is like, so I will describe here the highlights of some of my planned activities for the coming year with some descriptive material as well.

January 4 – This is “Cooperative Extension” day.  The Facilities Committee of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County meets on a semi-regular basis to discuss the developing expansion of CCETC to their new site in the former P&C and the potential renovations for the current location on Willow Ave.  Our morning meeting should be busy and informative.  In the early evening Sharon Anderson’s Environmental Program Advisory Committee meets to discuss issues related to the development of the environmental groups’ programming.  This is a diverse set of programming dealing with energy, composting, transportation, SewGreen and related programs.

I have been very active in the Compost Education program at CCETC.  Educating the public on such a basic resource management strategy has been really rewarding.  The compost piles are mostly frozen now, but the education of the public goes on all year long in the schools, in small group presentations, through the various summer festivals and through the Master Composter training program, all so ably managed by Adam Michaelides  and Liz Falk.  Last year I volunteered 50 hours for this program, most of it outside at the summer festivals where there is never a dull moment.

SewGreen is now partnering with CCETC as well and I have volunteered in the Sew Green store and the sewing machine repair program, as well as participating on Wendy Skinner’s advisory board.

Another CCETC program in which I am involved is the food preservation group.  I am working towards my Master Home Food Preserver certification.  I have 15 or so hours of volunteer time to go before I can apply for this certification.  Food preservation is a really rewarding and useful activity and the programs run by Carole Fisher and her colleagues and volunteers are in great demand.

January 8 – I chair the monthly meeting of TCLocal.   TCLocal is a citizens’ group committed to researching various aspects of energy descent in Tompkins County and writing position papers to address energy descent  (a.k.a. “peak oil”) in relationship to local challenges and resources.  My next paper, to be published in March, is going to be on raising small flocks of poultry.

Monday-Friday I go to the farm mid-day and take care of our 90 laying hens.  The goal of the Sustainable Chicken Project, managed by Christianne White and myself, is to demonstrate sustainable approaches to raising chickens to reduce our energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

January 10 – The monthly meeting of the Conservation Advisory Council at City Hall is always interesting.  We review the environmental impact statements and site plans of new developments in the City of Ithaca.  There is much development in Ithaca and we give guidance to the Planning Department on the environmental aspects of this ongoing development.

January 15 – IthaCan meets to discuss and plan for long term emergency food storage.  This should be a really interesting class.

January 19 – The Sustainable Tompkins Board of Directors meets.  I am chairing the ST board now as well.  We develop programming to promote many different aspects of sustainability in Ithaca, Tompkins County and the Cayuga Basin region.

I am out of column space and I didn’t even make it out of January!  Time keeps rolling forward.   Have a wonderful year and come back to this column frequently.

Tom Shelley may be reached at

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