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By Peter Bardaglio, Senior Fellow, Second Nature

Welcome to the February – March 2012 issue of the TCCPI Newsletter, an electronic update from the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative (TCCPI).

Community Coalition Launches Energy Savings Campaign

A coalition of over 70 local organizations officially kicked off the “Get Your GreenBack Tompkins” campaign at a public launch party on February 29 at the Kitchen Theatre in Ithaca, NY. The campaign aims to inspire all 42,000 households and every business in Tompkins County to take at least one new energy and money-saving step in their transportation, energy, waste, and food choices in the next year, saving money, creating jobs, and bringing the county closer to its goal of reducing carbon emissions 80% by 2050.

Get Your GreenBack Launch Party- Photo Credit: Vanessa Dunn

Since late October, with the help of 600 Cornell students and other community volunteers, the campaign has distributed 12,000 compact florescent light bulbs and information packets that outline ways to save money on energy across four sectors: energy efficiency, transportation, food, and waste. Also included was an application for a home energy assessment worth over $400.

According to Mike Koplinka-Loehr, co-coordinator of the “Get Your GreenBack Tompkins” campaign, the replacement of incandescent bulbs with the 12,000 CFLs would represent a savings of about $589,000 and a reduction in carbon emissions equal to taking 553 cars off the road.

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By Peter Bardaglio, Senior Fellow, Second Nature
(This article appears in the October, 2011 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer)
TCCPI, a project of Second Nature, is generously supported by the Park Foundation

The ACUPCCEmbedded in the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) is the notion of leadership by example. By committing their institutions to the goal of carbon neutrality, the presidents who are signatories to the ACUPCC underscore the critical role of higher education in meeting the challenge of climate change and building a more sustainable future.

Universities and colleges in the United States have historically been crucibles of social change and laboratories for new ideas and creative solutions to some of society’s toughest problems. In this sense, the ACUPCC is part of a long tradition in our country. What is new, however, is the scale of the problem and the threat it poses to human civilization. Simply providing a model of sustainability will not suffice this time around. Campuses can only truly become sustainable if the communities around them are sustainable. In this sense, implicit in the ACUPCC is the commitment to not only dramatically reduce the carbon footprint of the university or college, but also collaborate with the larger community in doing so.

Tompkins County Climate Protection InitiativeThe Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative (TCCPI) seeks to demonstrate what this kind of collaboration looks like and the impact it can have on a region’s economic and environmental health. With a population of about 100,000, Tompkins County includes three ACUPCC signatories: Cornell University, Ithaca College, and Tompkins Cortland Community College. These three institutions also happen to be among the top employers in the county. At the same time, the city of Ithaca, the town of Ithaca, and the county government have made formal commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, with the latter calling for a decrease in emissions of 80 percent by 2050 and establishing an interim goal of 20 percent by 2020.

TCCPI seeks to leverage these climate action commitments to mobilize a countywide energy efficiency effort and accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy. The coalition, launched in June 2008, currently consists of local leaders from more than forty organizations, institutions, and businesses in the county organized into five sectors: business/financial, education, local government, nonprofit, and youth. Each of these sectors has selected a representative to the steering committee, which tracks the progress of the coalition’s projects and sets the agenda for the monthly meetings of the whole group.

Among the projects currently underway is an effort to explore the feasibility of a combined heating and power plant shared by Cayuga Medical Center and its next door neighbor, the Museum of the Earth. Working with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County, TCCPI has also helped to support the establishment of the Tompkins County Energy Corps, which is made up of students from Cornell and Ithaca College who carry out informational energy audits for homeowners, share information with them about state and federal incentives, and encourage concrete steps to improve the energy performance of their residences. Other projects involve the implementation of a $375,000 EPA Climate Showcase Community grant secured by the Tompkins County Planning Office and EcoVillage at Ithaca, both TCCPI members, and the rollout this fall of a countywide campaign to raise awareness about the importance of energy savings.

Perhaps the most ambitious effort undertaken by TCCPI is its current attempt to shape the economic development agenda not just of Tompkins County but the seven other counties in the region that make up what is known as “the Southern Tier.” In particular, TCCPI has called for the implementation throughout the region of large-scale commercial energy efficiency and renewable energy projects totaling $100 million.

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By Peter Bardaglio, Senior Fellow, Second Nature

Welcome to the August 2011 issue of the TCCPI Newsletter, a monthly update from the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative (TCCPI).

Climate Showcase Community Projects Move Forward

EcoVillage at Ithaca celebrates its 20th anniversary next month.

As we all know, Tompkins County has taken a bold stance on climate change by committing itself to an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, with an interim goal of 20% reduction by 2020. But how does a community get from a vision to the reality of a sustainable future?

One strategy the county is using to reach these goals is teaming up with the internationally acclaimed, local EcoVillage at Ithaca (EVI) to establish the county as a national exemplar of smart growth and sustainable development.

Tompkins County is one of 49 communities from across the United States to be chosen by the EPA as a recipient of a Climate Showcase Communities grant. The aim of the EPA program is to “create replicable models of cost-effective and persistent greenhouse gas reductions that will catalyze broader local and tribal government actions to stabilize the climate and improve environmental, economic, health, and social conditions.”

The county hopes to build on and expand the successes of EVI’s approach to sustainable community design by updating and establishing a set of EVI’s best practices, which can then be disseminated to other communities. The County Planning Department will also be developing new building codes and zoning policies to encourage the sort of efficient and environmentally-conscious design exemplified by EVI.

Perhaps the most exciting, cutting-edge, and visionary part of the County and EVI’s plan is the construction of three pilot sustainable communities based on EVI’s smart growth principles. The first pilot is known as TREE, and its housing units will not only be more than 80% more energy efficient than the average American household, but there will also be greater availability of affordable units. The County and EVI are hoping that the TREE residences will be Passive House, LEED, and Energy Star Certified.

The second community is the Aurora Dwelling Circle (ADC), which will have 5-8 households on just one urban lot. Housing units at the ADC will emit 80% less greenhouse gases than the average American household and the development will also be within walking distance of downtown Ithaca. A third sustainable development pilot village will be established on county-owned land. The County will incentivize the development of one or two dense neighborhoods, each containing between 37 and 45 household units, and with easy access to community amenities and public transportation.

The energy efficiency, emissions, and building performance of the three pilot communities will be monitored by the County and EVI. They will also reach out to planners, local governments, architects, educators, developers, and community members through educational workshops, professional conferences, and webinars so that other communities can replicate, adapt or build on the County’s example.

So where does the progress of these ambitious and exciting projects stand in the first six months of the Climate Showcase Communities grant?

The biggest challenge so far has been getting enough people to sign on to live in the two communities getting off the ground this summer, TREE and the Aurora Dwelling Circle. Although there are many attractive aspects to living in a sustainable community development and many Ithacans are enthusiastic about smart growth, the state of the economy is making it difficult to secure a critical mass of potential residents.

Considerable progress has been made in other areas, however, in just six short months. Grant contracts, timeline, goals, tasks and milestones were established for the first year. The Planning Department’s Ed Marx and EVI’s Liz Walker attended an EPA conference for Climate Showcase Community grantees in Colorado in May.

The grant and planned projects have received considerable media coverage throughout the county. Extensive data on both current and past energy and resource usage in EVI has been gathered and organized, and a report containing EVI’s guiding principles and best practices has been completed. Also, zoning ordinances are being drafted by the County for urban infill and village nodal development projects.

County and EVI staff have already presented on the Climate Showcase Communities project at twelve different events or conferences, reaching over six hundred people, not only in Ithaca, but also in New England, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. Keep your eyes open for further events, as well as the soon-to-be launched project website!

Hannah Foster
TCCPI Summer Intern

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