Achieving carbon neutrality in the building sector will require converting 100% of the fuels used for heating and cooling to zero carbon sources. Most technology applications to date have been implemented on a building-by-building basis, an approach that tends to limit the speed of transition, reduce efficiency gains, and depress the participation of low-income residents. A possible alternative is for an energy utility to transition an entire street to networked geothermal, which has potential for lower costs, greater efficiency, and improved air quality.
The New York Public Service Commission (PSC) today approved a precedent-setting agreement hammered out between grassroots environmental groups, the NYSEG and RG&E utilities, and energy regulators to stop growing gas sales and turn toward renewable heating alternatives, while keeping gas rate increases low. The PSC additionally agreed with grassroots environmentalists and consumer advocates that the utilities’ proposed electric rate increases were too high and ruled to reduce them to 2% per year or less.
Groundswell, Center for Local Food & Farming in Ithaca, has announced a Farmer Training Program for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color that will launch this coming Spring. Visit their website to learn more about this program and how to apply. Deadline is December 15th! In addition, they are looking to hire a Bookkeeper (Deadline: November 29th) and Communications Intern (Deadline: January 18th). They are also looking to fill some Leadership Committee seats. Don’t want to be behind a desk? Check out their on-farm volunteer opportunities. You can find all of these listings on their Employment page.
New York State’s 22-member Climate Action Council, established under the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, will hold a meeting to continue its work on a statewide scoping plan to guide New York State toward its nation-leading climate goals. Members of the public are welcome to listen to the meeting via webcast on Tuesday, November 24, 2020, 2:00 p.m.– 5:00 p.m.
Through the end of the year, NYSERDA is offering increased incentives for income-eligible households to insulate homes, seal air leaks, and replace inefficient equipment. There are also generous rebates and grants for installing high-efficiency heat pumps that provide heating and cooling, and which can replace furnaces and boilers that burn fossil fuels, as well as affordable options for going solar.
Filmmaker, Sanjay Rawal, tells the stories of Native Americans and their food systems. Given all the problems of our current American food system, Rawal explains how we can use Indigenous knowledge and values to grow an abundance of healthy food that helps meet our needs in a way that is respecting of the Earth, and…
Cornell Professor, Max Zhang, recieved a $200,000 grant, “aimed at determining efficient solar farm array configurations to avoid land-use conflicts or spoiling precious agricultural space”. More specifically, he plans to focus on 10 different land sites in New York State, to measure the viability of agrovoltaics – using land for both agriculture and solar arrays. Zhang’s research will provide scientific insight to policymakers as they make blueprints for the energy transition of the century. Read more about this story in the Cornell Chronicle.
The expanded Budget, Capital, and Personnel Committee of the Tompkins County Legislature voted on Tuesday, October 27 to create a Chief Sustainability Officer position. The Legislators unanimously approved an amendment to the 2021 budget adding the position.
Auburn City Council and Owasco Town Board both approved new rules and regulations to protect the Owasco Lake Watershed at a special joint meeting this past Thursday. The meeting was to continue the work started in 2017 to update enforceable regulations – the first time since 1984. Public opinion seems to be split between environmentalists, and farmers wary of profit loss due to accommodations that are now required. Read the full article to learn more.
The Martins and Oechsners have led the way on organic grain growing in the Northeast – and are proving what systems thinking can do to survive climate disruption. Our Farmers in Flux: Adapting to Climate Change is a new documentary on how local farmers like them are adapting to climate change, made by a dear friend of Sustainable Tompkins, Shira Evergreen, and produced by the Tracy Mitrano campaign. The 23-minute documentary gives a behind the scenes look at the priceless work they do, and features tons of stunning birds-eye view drone footage of the Finger Lakes. Bravo, Shira!
DEC Seeks to Modify Cargill’s Cayuga Salt Mine Permit While Its Subject to Pending Legal Appeal; Will Court Take Notice?
“For years, independent geologists have warned that bedrock separating the mine from the lake runs dangerously thin in northern sections of the mine. They say that as miners continue to push north, a catastrophic breach grows increasingly likely.” Read more at Water Front.
The New York State League has successfully settled a lawsuit to allow voters to address and correct issues with their absentee ballots. New York voters will also now be protected from having their ballots thrown out for small technical issues. For the upcoming election, voters will be given five to seven days (depending on the date of receipt of the ballot) to verify their identity and fix any problems with their ballot after being notified by the Board of Elections. Visit the League of Women’s Voters of New York State’s website to read more about the details of this great news! Please consider making a donation to the League so that they can educate voters on these new changes.
A group of Yates County residents has asked state environmental regulators to modify, suspend or revoke Greenidge Generation’s operating permits to reflect the power plant’s rapidly developing role as an off-the-grid data center that “mines” Bitcoin, the leading cryptocurrency”. Bitcoin mining is an energy-intensive activity, and one with major environmental impacts involved.
To learn more, read this article by Peter Mantius.
“The New York State Department of Health has taken the final step to establish drinking water standards for three toxic chemicals that have polluted water in communities across the state. In doing so, New York leads the nation with some of the most stringent drinking water protections for PFOA and PFOS (part of a broader class of PFAS chemicals), and the only drinking water standard for 1,4-dioxane”…
While most booths are now full with vendors and some other COVID-19 related restrictions have been loosened, Ithaca Farmers Market is still enforcing their own rules to minimize risk and help visitors to feel more safe. The market is following a slow-reopen plan, so you can check in on this page of their website (which is updated regularly) if you are planning a visit to see how restrictions have changed. is Read the Ithaca Voice article here.
After a six month hiatus, the pantry, located at 113 Geneva Street is now open to the public every Tuesday from 1 to 2 p.m. Fresh produce from Stick & Stone Farm is available every week in addition to other pantry items. New COVID-19 precautions have been put in place to protect both recipients and their older volunteers. Read the Ithaca Voice article here to learn more about their reopening, and visit their website to learn more about the pantry itself.
Join Vermont Law School’s the Environmental Law Center for the Hot Topics Lecture Series. Thursday, July 30th at 12pm ET is a talk by Maya van Rossum about Green Amendments and their legal implications in defending our environment. This event is free and open to the public. Livestream here! To learn more about Green Amendments, visit For the Generations’ website.
The Public Service Center has proudly supported the local community through tutoring and other academic programs for almost 30 years. In our best effort to continue supporting the needs of our community, we have established a new virtual tutoring program as a response to the cancellation of in-person tutoring opportunities. The Supportive Tutoring for Area Youth (STAY) program is offering free, remote tutoring by Cornell students for grades K through 12 in a variety of subjects based on students’ needs.
On May 27th, Future Earth Knowledge-Action Network on Systems of Sustainable Consumption and Production will host a mini zoom conference on COVID-19 and Sustainability Transitions. RSVP here to register and to receive the required Zoom link. As a part of this Mini-Conference, participants are invited to share a visual representation accompanied with a text description of their hopes and inspirations, lives, or experiences of sustainability transitions in the era of COVID-19. Click the link to submit an image or video (up to 5). Once you upload your images feel free to leave a comment about where the picture/video was taken or anything else you would like to share! Please also include your name and current location.
Healthy Food for All, a project of Cornell Cooperative Extension is boxing up packages of fresh food for over 600 families in need to help those suffering with economic effects of the COVID crisis. Grant money is being used to pay local farmers for packages and are being distributed to food-insecure community members in Tompkins County. To request a box of produce and pantry items, sign-up here. To support the project and help provide fresh produce and pantry boxes for neighbors in need, make a donation directly on Healthy Food For All’s website. 100% of donations will go towards compensating local farmers for the food. Gifts to both the United Way and Community Foundations COVID-19 funds are also still being accepted. Donors can give through the United Way of Tompkins County online by selecting “COVID-19 relief,” or by calling (607)500-GIVE, and through the Community Foundation by writing in “COVID-19 Response Fund” under “Fund Name” or by calling (607) 272-9333. To find out more about this great program, read the Ithaca Voice’s article.
Greenstar has recently sold The Space, to be eventually be used as some food/beverage/entertainment space, part of a larger project called “Agora”. However, because of the COVID crisis, that development will be put on hold for the time being. But for now, it’s being put to good use. According to the Ithaca Voice, “Thanks to some coordination between the new buyers and Tompkins County Legislator Anna Kelles, it’s being used in the short-term as a “Food Hub” by the Food Bank, meal and CSA delivery services, and other organizations working to prevent a hunger crisis in a time where thousands of households have lost their jobs in the wake of the COVID pandemic.” Read more about this transition here.
Friendship Donations Network has compiled a truly impressive and comprehensive list of all the programs, food pantries, etc that they donate fresh food to in Tompkins and neighboring counties, divided by day of the week! 😱🍓🥪🥗 On their website, they also have a list of other food-related resources in the region. Want to contribute? They are also accepting donations and looking for volunteers to help distribute. To learn more, visit their website.
Empower Equity – EMPEQ, a NYSERDA-portfolio company focused on delivering equipment and project financing for commercial and industrial buildings, has broadened its portfolio with over $2 billion in available funding 💸💸💸. With this funding, EMPEQ can provide immediate financing, ranging from $10,000 to $10 million, for small- to mid-sized organizations to upgrade their essential building equipment—such as HVAC systems, chillers, and boilers—with new systems. They’re sealing the cracks! 👏👏👏 Bravo! Visit their website to learn more and click “APPLY” in the top toolbar to apply.
Alternatives Federal Credit Union announces… the Community Assistance Loan Fund! They’re offering a 0% interest loan to offset the expenses that have accompanied COVID-19 💸💰🤩🥳 They’re offering Personal Loans up to $3,000 and Business, Non-profit, and Organizations Loans up to $8,000. Both members and non-members are encouraged to apply. Visit their website to learn more about your options or apply for a loan.
Raise some chickens! 🐓🐣✨Experienced Ithaca flock owner, Amanda Zerilli will teach you The City of Ithaca and the Villages of Dryden and Trumansburg allow residents to keep a small number of chickens in the back yard (check the specific municipal ordinances for any restrictions) with a permit and evidence of attending a class on raising chickens. This class meets that requirement and attendees will receive a letter from Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County to give to their municipality. Cost is sliding scale, $0-$25/household, so pay if/what you can afford.
Our current circumstances have many using a critical lens to look at our healthcare system and its fundamental shortcomings. Potential alternatives, such as the NY Health Act and Medicare for All, spark curiosity amongst many, including Tony Del Plato, a trustee for the Village of Interlaken and a business owner in Interlaken. Del Plato wrote an Op-Ed for the Finger Lakes Times on how New York State is handling (or neglecting to handle) healthcare around the pandemic and how they should be instead, arguing for a more affordable, functional, and better equipped healthcare system. Read the full Op-Ed here.
Free and safe rides in a sanitized vehicle now are available for individuals scheduled for COVID-19 testing at the Cayuga Health Sampling Site located at The Shops at Ithaca Mall thanks to a group of transportation service providers and partner agencies including United Way of Tompkins County, Food Bank of the Southern Tier, Human Services Coalition, Tompkins County Health Department, TCAT, Center for Community Transportation and Way2Go. You must register for testing online or by calling 607-319-5708, then call 2-1-1 between 8:30 am and 5:00 pm to schedule a ride with ASAP cab company. This service is free of charge. For emergency or regular food delivery, individuals should call 2-1-1 between 8:30 am and 5:00 pm for assistance. Emergency food requests will be directed to the United Way of Tompkins County which is organizing deliveries from the food hub via Gadabout. Want to help? Volunteer to deliver goods by bicycle! You can be equipped with a bike delivery rig if needed. More info is available on the Bike Walk Tompkins website. For more info, contact Norma Gutierrez at by email or by phone at (607) 272-2292 ext 162 (Voicemail #248).
Did you know that you can now buy trash disposal punch cards and coupons, solid waste permits, and more without leaving your home? RecycleTompkins.org has a Shop Online feature!
The City of Ithaca enacted a hiring freeze this week, putting the newly created Director of Sustainability position, which would have started in early May, on pause for the foreseeable future. The new director was supposed to create an action plan for implementing an Ithaca Green New Deal, which would aim to create a carbon-neutral city by 2030, amongst other ambitious goals. A global conversation has ensued surrounding the necessary transition to more sustainable and just practices and infrastructure in the realms of energy & climate, economy, healthcare, etc, in response to COVID-19. It seems that the time is now to reimagine the structure of society on all levels, so this news is rather disappointing. What steps do you think the city should take moving forward? Read the Ithaca Voice article for more details about this news.
Despite the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, Ithaca Farmer’s Market opened this weekend to the public, with some added precautions to keep vendors and customers more safe. According to the Ithaca Voice, “The market is scheduled to return for its spring market on Saturdays in April at the Steamboat Landing pavilion, with shortened hours of 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The pavilion has 88 booths, but this month the vendor capacity will be capped at 40 –– with vendors spaced out in every other booth. The shorter hours and the empty booths will allow more room for customers to navigate the shopping area with the suggested 6 feet distance between patrons.” In addition, the market has been equipped with hand sanitizer stations and has outlined some guidelines for customers to follow, to make for the safest experience for all parties involved. To learn more about what this means for you, read this article by the Ithaca Voice and see guidelines on the Ithaca Farmer’s Market website.
A “net zero energy residential housing development” may be coming to the Village of Lansing in the near future if approved by the Planning Board. The housing complex would consist of 43 homes powered by solar energy and heat pumps, a project of The Solar Home Factory, a company based in Geneva. The houses would be clustered to preserve green space and minimize encroachment onto wetlands, and would be compliant with CLCPA [New York State Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act]. Read more about this exciting plan here!
Protesters took the streets in Ithaca to oppose the Coastal GasLink pipeline construction through Indigenous unceded land in “British Columbia”. Police blockades on both Green Street and Cayuga Street last Wednesday morning caused major delays for travelers, some of which were exiting their vehicles to confront the protestors. To read more about the protest, see Anna Lamb’s Ithaca Voice report. Want to get in on the action? Visit the Wet’suwet’en solidarity coordinating facebook page. For updates from the frontline, see the Unist’ot’en Camp Facebook page and the Wet’suwet’en Access Point on Gidimt’en Territory Facebook page. To donate, and for all the info you could ever need, visit their websites.
30 U.S. senators, including local NY Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer, have signed a letter to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler asking them to implement the 2019 PFAS mitigation plan, made over a year ago. High PFAS are thought to be, at least in part, attributed to firefighting foam used by the town of Romulus for nearly 60 years, which ran off into the water. PFAS have been linked to birth defects, cancer, and other health risks, which raises concern for communities around Seneca Lake. Read more in the Finger Lake Times. Photo credits: Finger Lake Times.
A new round of training will be starting up in the Spring of 2020–the fifth year! Energy Navigators help Tompkins County residents learn about ways to reduce (and eliminate) their fossil fuel use, and transition to renewable forms of heating and powering their homes and transportation. Navigators go through a ten-session training, and volunteer through public outreach and by sharing information with friends, family, neighbors and others in their networks.
The City of Ithaca is seeking a Director of Sustainability to launch the City in an organizational transformation initiative to meet the goals of the City’s Green New Deal. The successful individual will have experience with issues surrounding climate change, be a strong visionary with deep commitment to environmental justice and advancing social equity through environmental stewardship, public health, and sustainable urban development.
Applications are due February 10.
With so many proposed plans, it is hard to differentiate the pros and cons. Dr. Brian Coyne, a federal health care lobbyist, will compare the various national health care proposals (ACA, Medicare for All, Medicare by Choice, Public Option, etc). A representative from New York Health Care Plan will present that version of a State based health care system.
Gerri Wiley of Owego, NY has done everyone in the NYSEG service territory the wonderful service of investigating and evaluating the companies who are offering solar, wind, hydro, or biogas generated electricity for sale. You can sign up every year with a supplier, and Gerri updates her database every month to let you know what is on offer through the ESCOs (electricity suppliers) or which regional community solar farm you can sign up with for your electricity account. Check it out here!
The Seneca Park Zoo’s Environmental Innovation Awards celebrate leadership in environmental stewardship, raising the profile of innovative companies and people working to solve complex environmental problems in the Rochester and Finger Lakes Region. Awards were given in five categories: Youth, Individual, Civic & Nonprofit, Small Business, and Large Business. Check out these local innovators here! 🤩🌍✨ Congrats winners!
Two new low-carbon transport investments in Penn Yan this week: a horse shelter and a car charging station at the public library! Mennonite community members are frequent library users, and the new horse shelter will afford them additional convenience while accessing library resources. The new additions will join the existing bike rack and bike repair station, providing a diverse array of transportation assistance options for community members. Read more here.
Perdita Flats, a multifamily project in Ithaca, NY, has won $70,560 in NYSERDA’s Building’s of Excellence competition! A project of Taitem Engineering and STREAM Collaborative architecture + landscape architecture, the building design will demonstrate the viability of a ZERO ENERGY building for a multi-family development, AND will provide data on the building’s construction and operation to NYSERDA for sharing as part of its efforts to promote high-performing buildings in NYS. Congrats to them! Read more here.
A proposed galvanizing mill at the Seneca Lake Depot property (abandoned US military depot) presents another threat to Seneca Lake because of both potential leakage of zinc from the facility, and concerns with future Phase 2 and 3 of the project, a milling and welding facility. Seneca County IDA and the town of Romulus are being urged to address the areas of concern prior to making any approvals of the proposed plant. To learn more, read the Finger Lakes Times article.
Summary Job Description: This position will work closely with Groundswell’s Executive Director and staff, and a Project Advisory Team to develop, coordinate and teach many of Groundswell Center’s farmer training programs including a 6-month Farmer Training Practicum, technical workshops and an annual farm business course. Integrating input from multiracial stakeholders in program development and designing these programs with and for marginalized and aspiring growers who often experience barriers to these opportunities is an essential component to this position.
Federal, State, and utility incentives have never been as good as they are right now to make heat pumps affordable. There are additional incentives to help low and moderate income families. Please come for a presentation and discussion on home insulation and heat pump options for heating and cooling.
The Next Storm is a dark and humorous look at the impact that the climate crisis has had on our community. Set in the not-so-distant-future, the story follows an ensemble of characters as they face the struggle between apathy, anger, and action. Who gets to decide the course forward and what are we willing to sacrifice? What happens when students and bureaucrats, parents and developers, idealists and realist come head to head over the best course toward climate resiliency?
Tim and Katherine Clymer, owners of Threefold Farm in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, will lead this workshop. Threefold Farm is a transitional organic orchard specializing in unusual fruits. The concept behind a climate battery greenhouse is to use the earth beneath as a sort of “thermal battery” for storing excess heat generated by the structure.
Thursday, Oct 3rd 5:30pm-7:30pm
Groundswell Center Incubator Farm
101 Rachel Carson Way
Join Groundswell for their last farm tour and volunteer night of the season at the Incubator Farm. After a 30 min tour of the farm, they will lend a hand at Surik’s orchard, preparing it for the winter season!
On Thursday, October 17, Wells College’s Wells Center for Sustainability and the Environment will be hosting a free, public talk by Dr. Katharine Wilkinson, Project Drawdown’s VP for Communications and Engagement, who was one of the principal authors of the book of the same name.
Schuyler County officials assure that test results received for Seneca Lake water are not necessarily reliable, and that the county will conduct their own tests in the near future. Mary Anne Kowalski, SLG’s research director, likened the tests to do-it-yourself home radon kits, and she acknowledged that the results are neither state-certified nor legally binding.
Public drinking water in Watkins Glen, Montour Falls and Seneca County contains elevated levels of the cancer-linked PFAS class of chemicals found in dozens of stain-repellent household products like Teflon and Scotchguard, recent tests show.
Victory for Finger Lakes protection activists! A coal plant, owned by Heorot Power, on the shores of Cayuga Lake in North Lansing has ceased power generation this past week after 64 years of coal-burning. Plans for the existing building are still being deliberated, as ideas to convert the facility to burn natural gas or a data center were shot down. Heorot’s VP, Jerry Goodenough, said the company will monitor the leftover coal ash landfill for 30 years and has set aside a $7-million bond for remediation. To learn more, click here.
This October 28th, a professional business event will be held to provide engineers, contractors, developers, architects, energy consultants, bankers and others involved in the building trade an opportunity to learn about the latest advances in non-fossil fuel energy solutions and how they can be integrated into new and existing building projects. The show will also feature a full day of seminars with nationally-recognized expert speakers who will present on various types of non-fossil fuel sustainable energy systems, advanced construction techniques and financing options. Breakfast and lunch are included with your registration and a MacBook Air will be given to a lucky attendee! For more info, go here.
Clean, renewable heating and cooling systems are smart, healthy alternatives that will:
*Keep your space comfortable year round
*Lower your energy usage
*Reduce your carbon footprint
Get PUMPED, y’all! In just a week (September 7th, from 10am – 12pm) Solar Tompkins and HeatSmart Tompkins is holding another home tour, where you can learn about how switching to an energy efficient and cost effective heat pump has been a total game-changer for a family in Groton, NY. Can’t make it? There will be a presentation the next day (Sept. 8th from 2-4pm) at the Ithaca Waldorf School! Swing through! For more info on the home tour, click here and here for more info on the presentation!
Congratulations to Tilden Chao and Abigail Glickman of Keep it Cool Tompkins! for their well attended summit on green refrigeration May 23 in Ithaca. Their panel of speakers did a great job covering from the basics of refrigerants in heat pumps and other compressors to the alarming predictions if we don’t get it together to cool our food and our buildings and our cars without further exacerbating climate change and ozone depletion. Tilden and Abigail won the first Youth Climate Challenge grant from Sustainable Tompkins for their project.
US Green Building Council Upstate NY Chapter and Corning Inc. to host ‘Save the Rain’ on June 3 in Ithaca. Syracuse NY implemented this successful comprehensive stormwater management plan that reduced pollution in Onondaga Lake over the past decade. With harmful algae blooms (HABs) threatening all of our Finger Lakes, every municipality needs to consider green infrastructure for slowing and cleaning stormwater runoff into our streams and lakes. Register here. US Green Building Council Upstate NY Chapter and Corning Inc. to host ‘Save the Rain’ on June 3 in Ithaca. Syracuse NY implemented this successful comprehensive stormwater management plan that reduced pollution in Onondaga Lake over the past decade. With harmful algae blooms (HABs) threatening all of our Finger Lakes, every municipality needs to consider green infrastructure for slowing and cleaning stormwater runoff into our streams and lakes.