Vote today and make your voice heard! Who inspired you over the past year with their efforts to create a more sustainable Tompkins County? Do you know a young person bucking the trend of consumerism? A business looking out for the broader interests of the community? Perhaps a senior citizen speaking up against pollution? Or an organization making progress on the interlinked goals of community well being, ecological stewardship, and a resilient local economy?
You can honor their work by nominating them for recognition in our annual community sustainability awards. The People’s Choice Signs of Sustainability will be selected through an online poll of community members who nominate those they believe made a contribution in the past year toward making ours a more sustainable and just community. Nominees and the top vote getters will be announced at the annual Earth Day Ithaca celebration on Saturday, April 29, 3:30 pm, at The Space.
Voting is simple. Categories will be for sustainability-enhancing activities by a 1) Organization, 2) Business, 3) Individual or 4) Youth (<21). We will be looking for nominees in a wide range of sectors: Transportation, Food Systems, Energy & Climate, Buildings & Infrastructure, Democracy & Social Justice, Arts & Culture, Health & Well Being, Waste Reduction, Resilient Economy, Community Development, and Natural Resource Conservation. You can vote up to 5 times. Polls will be open March 15 through April 21.
History of the Signs of Sustainability
The Ithaca area is often recognized for its progressive flavor and “green living” residents. We are used to being noted on Top 10 lists or ranked #1 for activities such as Green Commuters. But how did it get that way? What – or who – made the difference that pushed Ithaca into the forefront as a place for sustainability change makers?
Sustainable Tompkins believes there is no one entity or event that set Ithaca on its course, but that it is the collective result of hundreds of initiatives by thousands of residents being woven together into a
community fabric – a fabric that is constantly challenged to be more inclusive, more just, and more ecologically responsible.
Each year since 2006, Sustainable Tompkins has kept watch for “signs” of sustainable decision-making, practice and action emerging throughout our community. It started by chance at our annual holiday potluck dinner for people in the local social justice and sustainability movement. Board member Marian Brown put together a slideshow of some of the past year’s accomplishments as part of the evening’s entertainment and handed out certificates noting the contributions of 30 different organizations, businesses, and individuals. People loved it, and immediately started pointing out other contributions that weren’t in the slideshow.
Over the next 7 years, the annual Signs of Sustainability awards grew rapidly as Tompkins County ramped up hundreds of sustainability-minded projects and enterprises. In 2013, Sustainable Tompkins recognized 420 awardees at their exhibit and reception. All told, 1,617 awards were given out between 2006 and 2013. With Marian Brown’s departure from the Ithaca area, Sustainable Tompkins started a new chapter for our community sustainability awards.
We launched the new People’s Choice Awards in 2015 and were excited to log over 200 nominations of local sustainability initiatives in our first year. We had the top vote getters (1st through 4th place) in each category of Individual, Business, Organization, and Youth Leader join us at Earth Day Ithaca to get their award certificates and receive the public recognition they so deserve.
In 2016, the awards were once again presented at Earth Day with first place winners Joe Wilson in the Individual category for his work on stopping the West Dryden Pipeline, Finger Lakes School of Massage in the Organization category for lowering their carbon footprint by moving downtown and offering free massages to low-income residents, Renovus Solar in the Business category for their leadership on community solar farms, and Deahannah White, Sam Greenhouse, and Janaishia Frost in a 3-way tie in the Youth category for their work protecting Cayuga Lake and founding a racial justice organization at a local school.
Sustainable Tompkins’ purpose in annually showcasing these community “signs of sustainability” is multifaceted: to demonstrate what is possible, to encourage the adoption of more sustainable practices, to make the public aware of sustainable enterprises to patronize, and to make you aware of sustainability-related programs and activities in which you can get involved.
What contributes to community sustainability? That’s up to the public to decide. But the term implies the long view, and a healthy balance among the many elements that make up our community. The Signs of Sustainability awards have always recognized that positive change will need to evolve in nearly all aspects our cultural and economic systems.