Tompkins Weekly 7-28-21
By Peter Bardaglio
Raging wildfires in the U.S. West. A megadrought in the Southwest, where reservoirs that supply drinking water to Las Vegas and Phoenix are at historic lows. Soaring temperatures in Siberia, Canada and the Pacific Northwest that smash previous records. Disastrous flash floods in Europe, China and Japan. These extreme weather events are all part of the same story: Climate change is accelerating at a pace far faster than any of the computer models projected, and many scientists are worried that runaway climate destabilization is underway.
The current climate news could hardly be more frightening and depressing, all the more reason not to lose sight of the fact that we can still do much to mitigate the worst consequences of climate change. After all, if we can’t stop global warming from hitting 2 degrees C, keeping it under 2.3 or 2.5 is a lot better than 2.7 or 3.
Since the summer of 2008, the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative (TCCPI) — a coalition of community activists, leaders and concerned citizens — has been meeting monthly to discuss and share information about what we can do locally to reduce our carbon footprint and help the county meet its ambitious climate goals.
Peter Bardaglio. Photo provided.
After recognizing the importance of gathering in one place the ongoing efforts of the organizations, institutions and businesses that constitute the coalition, TCCPI began to issue annual reports in 2010 about the accomplishments of members in the previous year.
Earlier this month, we released our report for 2020. We had a total of 37 submissions (two higher than last year and nearing our record of 40 in 2018), and the level of detail is impressive. Despite the challenges faced during the COVID-19 crisis in 2020, coalition members made sure we were able to share with the community what is being done to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, accelerate our transition to a clean energy economy and bolster our climate resiliency.
Seeing all our work in one place like this is truly inspiring and comes as a welcome relief from the deluge of increasingly bad news about the climate crisis. We are fortunate to live in such a dedicated, action-oriented community, and the 2020 work captured in the report is even more remarkable given the pandemic.
Below are some highlights from the first half of the report. The full, text-only version can be found at www.tccpi.org/tccpi-2020.html. If you’d like a free, pdf copy of the illustrated version, contact us at in**@tc***.org.
Center for Community Transportation
- Due to shifted driving habits of members and higher than average fuel economy of its fleet, Ithaca Carshare helped avoid an estimated 11,272 gallons of gasoline and 103 metric tons of carbon dioxide.
- Bike Walk Tompkins offered the first-ever complete schedule of learn-to-ride classes, which enabled many adults, particularly women, to ride bicycles for the first time since childhood.
City of Ithaca
- Performed outreach to build support for Green New Deal and crafted initial communications, including webpage, summary document and equity definitions. Also resumed search for city sustainability director after suspension due to COVID-19 crisis.
- Worked with city attorney, town of Ithaca and Green Building Policy Working Group to codify Ithaca Energy Code Supplement aimed at reducing GHG emissions in new construction.
Climate Reality Project, Finger Lakes Greater Region NY (FLGR-NY) Chapter
- Established chapter in August with five charter members. By the end of the year, membership grew to 36, 19 of whom were trained climate reality leaders.
- Regular monthly chapter meetings have been occurring since September 2020.
Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County
- Continued to manage the Southern Tier Clean Energy Communities program, working with municipal officials to save energy in their facilities and communities.
- Helped the city of Ithaca, Tompkins County, and towns of Caroline, Dryden, Ithaca and Ulysses become Climate Smart Communities certified.
- Energy Warriors began a collaborative project with Finger Lakes ReUse Center and other community organizations to pilot a green workforce development program to train unemployed, under-employed and hard-to-employ individuals.
- The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education awarded Cornell its Platinum sustainability rating. Cornell is one of only six institutions (and sole Ivy League university) to earn this top rating.
- The Board of Trustees voted to impose a moratorium on fossil fuel investments.
- Registered fourth-largest carbon reduction for U.S. campuses over 16,000 square feet.
- U.S. DOE awarded a $7.2 million grant for the Earth Source Heat project.
Downtown Ithaca Alliance
- Operated GO ITHACA, transportation management demand program to help downtown employees and residents forgo single-occupancy vehicles and use alternative modes of transportation.
- Harold’s Square, mixed-use project involving retail, offices and apartments located on Commons, completed. Designed to NYSERDA and EnergyStar standards, it uses at least 35% less energy than similar conventionally built building.
- EMPEQ expanded its Visibility software platform to include a smartphone app with proprietary AI algorithms that give HVAC contractors and energy engineers capability to identify pieces of equipment to be retrofitted simply by snapping pictures of units on smartphones.
Finger Lakes Land Trust
- Completed six land protection projects conserving more than 600 acres within Tompkins County, including 143-acre nature preserve and adjacent parcels added to Danby State Forest and Connecticut Hill.
- Site improvements also carried out at Lick Brook Gorge and Lindsay Parsons Biodiversity Preserve.
Finger Lakes ReUse
- Expanded Triphammer ReUse Center location, rebranded as ReUse MegaCenter with over half acre of used materials for sale.
- Leased new space at 700 W. Buffalo St. combining pilot ReUse Training Center, ReUse Caboose retail and ReUse Warehouse to help manage overflow materials.
- Diverted an estimated 488 tons of materials (440,000 items) through three locations, including furniture, building materials, housewares, electronics, books, textiles, appliances and more, as well as created 20 full-time equivalent jobs.
Fossil Free Tompkins
- Engaged in confidential negotiations between September 2019 and May 2020 as formal party to NYSEG/RGE rate case and instrumental in several victories on behalf of ratepayers and environment.
- Helped spearhead effort by Renewable Heat Now coalition to influence NYSDPS recommendations in its Gas Planning Proceeding.
- Continued as a formal party in Lansing Non-Pipe Alternatives Proceeding following NYSEG’s moratorium on new gas hookups.
- Worked to raise awareness about Greenridge bitcoin mining operation and its contributions to GHG emissions.
Get Your GreenBack Tompkins
- Continued energy advising work in Tompkins County and Southern Tier.
- Completed tiny home PowerHouse, a mobile energy education tool, and began to schedule outreach events.
- Secured NYSERDA funding to support expansion of the Energy Navigator program throughout the state, including curriculum development and staff training.
- Organized online Earth Day program, working with Building Bridges, Southside Community Center and Sunrise Ithaca.
- Among new NYSERDA-funded residential campaigns, HeatSmart launched a pilot study that provided funding for heat pump installations in 500 low-to-moderate income households statewide.
- The outreach team designed and launched innovative postcard mailings and ads on radio and social media emulated by other HeatSmart programs across the state.
- Conducted workforce trainings involving air-source heat pump installation and with Renewable Heat Now initiated a new level of collaboration among 23 HeatSmart programs in New York state.
- Committed to incorporating Well Building Challenge into its practice knowledge and expertise and pursued Well Building certification of its offices.
- With Cayuga Medical Center, sought LEED v4.1 and WELL v2 certification for proposed downtown Medical Office Building. Project will also meet New York Stretch Energy Code as well as Ithaca’s Energy Code Supplement and NYSERDA’s New Construction Program.
Peter Bardaglio is the coordinator of the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative (TCCPI) and the executive director of the Ithaca 2030 District.