Posts Tagged ‘Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative’

By Peter Bardaglio, Senior Fellow, Second Nature

Welcome to the June-July 2012 issue of the TCCPI Newsletter, an electronic update from the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative (TCCPI).

Photo credit: MJM Creative Commons.

Get Your GreenBack Tompkins Heats Up

Karim Beers took over direction of Get Your GreenBack Tompkins (GYGBT) last month and hit the ground running, making sure that the county’s energy saving campaign did not miss a beat. Karim just received his masters degree in regional planning at Cornell University and brings with him a wealth of experience in education, community development, and planning. He has coordinated community education programs in Columbia and Spain, and taught social studies in the Philadelphia public school system.

Karim Beers

Karim Beers

As the campaign coordinator for GYGBT, Beers has laid out ambitious plans to inspire community members to take steps to save energy and money in the areas of food, building heat and lighting, transportation, and waster. Having started out with transportation as the focus in May, GYGBT declared June as “Waste Reduction Month” and the “Step of the Month” is to Buy Used.

Over a dozen stores around the county have joined the “Second Hand Saves” campaign by offering special discounts and raffle prizes to customers who shop second hand in the month of June. “Second hand shopping makes sense for your pocketbook and the planet,” Karim points out. “Used goods can be purchased at a fraction of the price of new items because the cost no longer includes production and long-distance shipping.”

Buying used goods reduces the need to use natural resources and keeps items out of the landfills. According to the Finger Lakes ReUse Center in the Triphammer Mall, 90 percent of what we throw away can be reused.

The Finger Lakes ReUse Center opened in 1995. Photo Credit: Finger Lakes Reuse Center.

Another advantage of second hand shopping, Beers notes, is that it keeps money in the local economy. Almost all reuse and resale shops are locally owned and provide jobs in their communities. Mama Goose, a second hand children’s clothing store located in Ithaca’s West End, reports that $84 out of every $100 spent at their store stays local.

Reuse also helps to support a number of not-for-profit service organizations. SewGreen, which runs a reuse sewing store in downtown Ithaca, is a perfect example. The store’s proceeds help support a free teen apprenticeship program and job training for lower income and at-risk youth.

For more information on Second Hand Saves and other energy and money saving ideas, go to getyourgreenback.org.

Student Energy Corps Hits the Streets for 4th Summer

Tompkins County Energy Conservation Corps (TECC) has just entered its fourth summer of promoting home energy efficiency upgrades across the county. Led by recent Cornell graduates and community energy educators Shawn Lindabury and Dana Hills, the Energy Corps program has demonstrated the enormous potential of energy efficiency to create lasting jobs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and provide savings to homeowners.

According to “Upgrade Upstate,” New Yorkers spend on average $2,600 per year for home heating, electricity, and hot water. By upgrading their homes, households can save between 20 and 60% – up to $1,500 a year.

TCCPI worked closely with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County to launch the Energy Corps, which consists primarily of students from Cornell, Ithaca College and Tompkins Cortland Community College. Energy Corps offers outreach programs to help residents take advantage of incentive programs and provides personalized support to help people make upgrades.

The Tompkins Energy Corps has raised the awareness of county residents about the importance of home energy efficiency. Photo credit: Cornell Cooperative Extension Tompkins County

Initially, Energy Corps focused on creating a network of 125 community leaders who understood the benefits of energy efficiency, starting with their own homes. In 2010, the Energy Corps shifted its focus to on door-to-door CFL distribution programs, including “Lighten Up Tompkins” (fall 2010) and “Lighten Up Ithaca” (fall 2011). Together 900 volunteers from Cornell University distributed 17,000 energy saving bags to residents throughout Tompkins County, the largest CFL distributions in New York State history.

Most recently, the Energy Corps has developed innovative community education programs, including social marketing initiatives with the Get Your GreenBack Tompkins campaigns, giving community presentations, collecting video testimonials, organizing Energy Teams, and hosting “Tighten Up” events, in which neighbors share information about energy upgrades over potluck dinners.

Rather than focusing on negative messaging about the threat of climate change, the Energy Corps has tapped into the positive aspects of energy efficiency such as strengthening community, saving money, making homes more comfortable, and supporting a local green economy, in order to inspire community-wide action. Energy Corps also guides community members through the energy upgrade process and acts as neutral third party between customers and energy contractors.

Over the past few years, the Energy Corps has trained more than 60 student interns, providing them with valuable leadership skills and practical experience in home energy efficiency that lead to good jobs after graduation. As Energy Corps coordinator, Dana Hills explains, “Not only have we impacted Tompkins County residents, but students from nearby schools have become an integral part of the county’s energy and economic future.”

For more information about getting a low-cost energy assessment, please visit: http://www.upgradeupstate.org/home

To learn more about the Tompkins Energy Corps, please visit: http://ccetompkins.org/energy/programs-workshops/energycorps.

K.C. Alvey, Assistant Coordinator, TCCPI

One Last Thing

This month’s reports on Get Your GreenBack Tompkins and the Tompkins County Energy Corps underscore the strength of the collaboration between our campuses and the larger community in building a more resilient infrastructure for all county residents. Given the degree of adaptation likely to be required in the years ahead as global warming accelerates and our energy system shifts, this ongoing work is critical.

A recent article in a United Nations University publication, “Universities Co-Creating Urban Sustainability,” examines how higher education institutions are collaborating “with diverse social actors to trigger and then drive the sustainable transformation of a specific region, city or community.” It highlights 13 different initiatives along these lines from around the world, including TCCPI, that are “driving the transition to more resilient and environmentally sustainable towns and cities.”

TCCPI received additional recognition at this year’s American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C. Ithaca’s Mayor Svante Myrick and I had the opportunity to participate in a luncheon panel discussion on “Uniting Higher Education and Communities for a Sustainable Future.” It was a lively discussion and, based on the number of questions from the audience of presidents and other senior higher education leaders as well as interested individuals who approached us afterwards, there is increasing recognition of how working together can help us move beyond the constraints of the traditional town-gown paradigm.

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By Georges Dyer, Vice President, Second Nature
(This article appears in the June, 2012 issue of The ACUPCC Implementer and originally appeared in The New England Journal of Higher Education on May 21, 2012 )


Preparedness. Opportunity. Innovation. These words capture the essence of higher education’s critical role in creating a healthy, just and sustainable society. Leaders in higher education are standing up to the greatest challenge of our time by providing education for sustainability and preparing graduates to create a sustainable economy. They are providing the opportunity for more students to access higher education by reigning in costs through energy efficiency and smart building. And by demonstrating sustainability solutions on campus, through research, and in partnership with local communities, they are driving the innovation needed for a true and lasting economic recovery.

Five years ago, a small group of visionary college and university presidents gathered to initiate the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC). They were motivated by their conviction that higher education had the capacity and responsibility to make a significant commitment to climate and sustainability action for the sake of their students and society.

As the ACUPCC celebrates its fifth anniversary, 677 colleges and universities are currently active members of this dynamic network, representing more than one-third of U.S. college and university students. These institutions across the country have completed hundreds of projects to reduce energy use, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and save money in the process—demonstrating powerful and necessary leadership-by-example for the rest of society.

At the same time, higher education is in crisis. Challenges of accountability, affordability, workforce preparation and relevance are sweeping the sector. The volatile global economy remains unpredictable, with ramifications for every campus. And despite our best efforts, the climate issue becomes more daunting daily.

This month, presidents, provosts and business officers will gather at American University in Washington D.C. for the 5th Anniversary ACUPCC Climate Leadership Summit. The summit will directly respond to these challenges with a theme of Economic Renewal: Jump-Starting a Sustainable Economy Through the ACUPCC.


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By Peter Bardaglio, Senior Fellow, Second Nature

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

Welcoming the Winds of Change: Enfield Energy

In the works for several years, the Enfield Energy Black Oak Wind Farm project has gained new momentum in recent weeks. The company held a meeting at the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce earlier this month with potential board members. At the meeting, Enfield Energy’s co-owner and project manager, Marguerite Wells, reported that construction on the 35-50 MW Black Oak Wind Farm site is slated to begin in late 2012 or early 2013.

Adopting a financing model developed by the South Dakota Wind Partners (SDWP) project, Enfield Energy plans on making an in-state public offering of the company as a way to raise the necessary capital. Consultants from the South Dakota firm Val-Add Service, which served as the project coordinators for SDWP, explained how this approach works and why they thought it would be a good fit for Enfield Energy, given its commitment to community ownership.

Maple Ridge Wind Farm in Lewis County, NY.

Next steps for the Black Oak Wind Farm include securing financing for the $105-120 million project, developing siting details for up to twenty turbines, and choosing proper turbine designs. Power purchase agreements are currently being discussed with several potential parties. To date, Hess Corporation, AES, Shell, and Ithaca College have expressed verbal interest in purchasing power.

Enfield Energy expects to complete its environmental impact statement next month, and is working on its second of three interconnection studies with the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO).Two crane-ready access roads have been constructed, with a total of approximately 1.5 miles in length, which allow entry to the two main wooded areas for turbines.


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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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By Peter Bardaglio, Senior Fellow, Second Nature

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

TCCPI Backs Plan for Sustainability Center on the Commons

Ithaca Commons

Ithaca Commons on a sunny spring day!

Members of the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative at a recent meeting strongly endorsed the concept of a sustainability center located on The Commons in downtown Ithaca and identified the establishment of such a center as one of its top priorities for 2011.

The proposed sustainability center will foster broader community awareness and involvement in sustainability efforts in Tompkins County. Local residents, visitors, and students from nearby educational institutions can learn and interact with a wide range of sustainability projects and programs underway in Tompkins County and the Finger Lakes region.

Displays, videos and interactive exhibits will allow visitors to the center to become informed about, and engaged in, those efforts. The facility will be staffed by a program coordinator, work-study students, and volunteers, and could provide office and meeting space for sustainability projects and internships.

The Sustainability Center Steering Committee is made up of the following individuals, all of whom are TCCPI members:

  • Ed Marx, Commissioner of Planning, Tompkins County
  • Gay Nicholson, President, Sustainable Tompkins
  • Marian Brown, Special Assistant to the Provost, Ithaca College
  • Gary Stewart, Director of Community Relations, Cornell University
  • Gary Ferguson, Executive Director, Downtown Ithaca Alliance

According to the proposal, there are three major target audiences for the center: students wishing to become engaged in sustainability projects, internships, and work-study jobs; residents who want to learn more about sustainability efforts in the community and find out how they can become involved; and visitors who want to learn about sustainability in Tompkins County and the Finger Lakes region and opportunities to witness first hand some of these activities.

TCCPI’s endorsement comes ahead of a June 1 meeting of the County Legislatures’s Planning, Development, and Environmental Quality Committee.


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By Peter Bardaglio, Senior Fellow, Second Nature

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

TCCPI is a multisector collaboration seeking to leverage the climate action commitments made by Cornell University, Ithaca College, Tompkins Cortland Community College, Tompkins County, and the City of Ithaca to mobilize a countywide energy efficiency effort and accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy. Launched in June 2008 and generously supported by the Park Foundation, TCCPI is a project of Second Nature, the lead supporting organization of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment (ACUPCC).

We are committed to helping Tompkins County achieve a dynamic economy, healthy environment, and resilient community through a focus on energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Tompkins County and EVI Awarded Major EPA Climate Grant

EcoVillage at Ithaca on a sunny day!

Tompkins County, in a unique partnership with EcoVillage at Ithaca’s Center for Sustainability Education, has been awarded a $375,450 Climate Showcase Communities grantfrom the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to fund innovative approaches to creating dense neighborhoods that enhance residents quality of life while using fewer resources.

The project will focus on three different experiments in sustainable development, including construction of a third neighborhood at EcoVillage at Ithaca (EVI), an internationally recognized cohousing community in Ithaca, and study of 26 acres of county-owned land as a potential location for a village-scale residential community that draws on the lessons of EVI.

The third project involves the Aurora Dwelling Circle, an urban infill development at the corner of North Aurora and Marshall streets in Ithaca. Builder Susan Cosentini and architect/planner Rob Morache run New Earth Living, the organization that will oversee the construction of the Aurora Dwelling Circle.

“I’m thrilled,” said EVI-CSE Executive Director Liz Walker. “This will give us the ability to translate proven concepts of sustainable community development to a mainstream audience. We hope to reach developers, architects, planners and builders.”


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The Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative (TCCPI) continues to accelerate progress towards climate neutrality and sustainability on a regional basis in and around Ithaca, NY. With three ACUPCC signatory institutions – Cornell University, Ithaca College, and Tompkins Cortland Community College – and a concentration of leading businesses, NGO’s, and government agencies, the coalition is developing and implementing innovative solutions.

Recent activities include:

  • Co-sponsored with the Ithaca Downtown Alliance and the Park Foundation a public lecture in early May by David Orr on the Oberlin project – standing room only crowd at the county library!
  • Co-Sponsored with the Cayuga Medical Center a luncheon the following day with about 3 dozen community leaders with David Orr to discuss how the lessons of Oberlin might apply to downtown redevelopment in Ithaca
  • Collaborated with the Tompkins County Landlords Association to carry out a survey of landlords in the county about energy efficiency and barriers to more widespread investment in this area of property management. Results were presented at the July meeting.
  • Co-sponsored the summer rollout of the Cornell Cooperative Extension, Tompkins County Energy Corps, which includes 15 students from Cornell and Ithaca College conducting energy audits and sharing information about energy efficiency as well as state and federal incentives.
  • County planning officials presented a draft of the County’s 2020 Energy Action Plan at the May meeting and received feedback from the group. A very substantive discussion that helped refine the county’s thinking.
  • Gary Stewart, assistant director of community relations for Cornell University, has taken leadership of newly formed TCCPI outreach working group which will seek to raise the profile of TCCPI in the community as well as outside it.
  • Kicked off what will be an ongoing discussion of the impact of Marcellus Shale drilling on greenhouse gas emissions with outstanding presentations by Cornell professors Tony Ingraffea and Bob Howarth.
  • New members of the coalition since February include HOLT Architects, Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services, and Tompkins County Solid Waste.
  • The Park Foundation renewed TCCPI’s funding for another two years with a 20 percent increase beginning July 1

TCCPI is a program of Second Nature, coordinated by senior fellow Peter Bardaglio, former Provost of Ithaca College and co-author of Boldly Sustainable. For more information on the program, its history, and its goals, please visit: www.tccpi.org.

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