Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative
The TCCPI Newsletter

March-April 2017

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Welcome to the March-April 2017 issue of the TCCPI Newsletter, an electronic update from the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative (TCCPI).

Photo by Katie Wheeler licensed under  CC by-NC 2.0.

TCCPI is a multisector collaboration seeking to leverage the climate action commitments made by Cornell University, Ithaca College, Tompkins Cortland Community College, Tompkins County, the City of Ithaca, and the Town 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 the Sustainable Markets Foundation.
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. 
Sustainable Tompkins Hosts Climate March in Ithaca

Sustainable Tompkins and other local green groups are organizing a March for Climate, Jobs and Justice to coincide with a national march in Washington, DC on Saturday, April 29. Organizers are anticipating at least 1,000 people from the Finger Lakes region to participate in a visible show of concern for the rapid deterioration of the planet.

Hundreds of similar marches are planned in cities across the country to protest the reversal of climate protections by the Trump administration. According to Sustainable Tompkins president Gay Nicholson, also at issue is the need for more responsive local and state leadership in energy policy, creation of green jobs as a way to build the economy, and environmental justice.
The Ithaca climate march will be kicked off with a rally at  11:30 AM at the Bernie Milton Pavilion  on the Ithaca Commons, with live music by Burns & Kristy and speakers on state and local energy policy. The March starts at  noon. Led by the Fall Creek Brass Band, marchers will follow a route from the Ithaca Commons to the Sp ace @ GreenStar on West Buffalo Street, where an Earth Day celebration is being held.

The Sustainability Center, Solar Tompkins, Mothers Out Front NY, Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative, Friendship Donations Network, and Tompkins County Progressive Committee are among the organizations working with Sustainable Tompkins to mount the climate march.

The Earth Day event features a community conversation in the morning at the public library and in the afternoon at the Space there will be more music, food vendors, speakers, and exhibitors framed around the themes of Keep It in the Ground, Clean Energy, and Low Carbon Living. Beck Equipment is the primary sponsor for Earth Da y, along with support from SewGreen, GreenStar, Bici-Cocina, and the Pi Truck.
Regional clean energy firms will be present to help show people how to shrink their home's carbon footprint. Environmental justice advocate and law professor Gerald Torres will speak on democracy, law, and social movements. Local youth will share their perspective on our climate's future. The 2017 People's Choice Signs of Sustainability Awards, sponsored by The Sustainability Center, will be presented to the top individuals, organizations, business, and youth leaders of the past year.
To sign up for the local March for Climate, Jobs and Justice, and find ways to get involved, follow the Facebook event: Earth Day Ithaca & People's Climate March 2017. Or visit for details.
Next TCCPI Meeting:
Friday, April 28, 2017
9 to 11 am
Cornell Cooperative Extension - Tompkins County
615 Willow Ave.
Ithaca, NY 14850
Go Solar Tompkins County Launches Springtime Push
by Guillermo Metz, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County

Go Solar Tompkins County, launched in March, is making a big push for new enrollments through May 2017. Following up on the hugely successful Solar Tompkins program, Go Solar is bringing a similar concept of a group-purchase program, partnering with trusted installers, and holding community events where residents 
can learn all about solar.

The landscape is very different today, but the program structure is still very effective in helping local residents Go Solar! By hosting community meetings, we're able to bring county residents together to answer all your questions and give you a chance to meet our partner installers-whose companies and equipment have been selected through a competitive process and who are able to reduce their prices by 10-15% for this program.

It's a win-win-win and there's no better time than now to Go Solar! Through the program, we're able to offer something for everyone: rooftop purchased and leased systems, ground-mount systems, and community shared solar for those whose sites are less than ideal or who don't own their homes. That's right, even if you live in an apartment or rent your home, you can now Go Solar!

So join us for one of our community events, where you'll learn all about putting the power of the sun to work for you, meet our partner installers, and be able to sign up for a free, no obligation site assessment. All events are free and everyone is welcome.

Visit for more information and to enroll on-line.

Upcoming events:

Saturday, May 6th - 10am-noon - Brooktondale Community Center (524 Valley Rd). Another great meeting space that's convenient for residents of Brooktondale, Caroline, Danby and neighboring towns! Always free and of course everyone is welcome.

Sunday, May 21st - 10am-2pm - Cass Park, Ithaca (701 Taughannock Blvd). Come out and celebrate all we've accomplished over the past decade as Tompkins County has continued to be a leader in installed solar! And if you're not already getting your power from the sun, now's the time to join the movement! We'll have food trucks, music, and, of course, our partner installers will be there to answer all your questions. Stay tuned for more details!
Grow a Green Thumb? 'Seed to Supper' Offers Free Trainings for Beginning Gardeners
by Dave Janeczek, Get Your GreenBack Tompkins

Ever wanted a free introduction to growing your own fruits and vegetables? This summer, join community members around Tompkins County for Seed to Supper, a series of classes on the basics of gardening that can help you on the road to becoming a master gardener and having more fresh produce to eat.

The class series is based off a curriculum started in Oregon and adapted for New York State that covers topics like garden planning, soil preparation, compost, seed starting, transplanting, planting in the garden, maintenance, dealing with weeds and pests, and harvesting.

Photo credit: Chrys Gardener
Chrys Gardener, a Community Horticultural Educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) of Tompkins County, is helping to coordinate the over 35 volunteers who will actually teach the classes.

"As much as possible, we really encourage the volunteers to do some hands-on work. So they'll watch the presentation on how to prepare the soil and then go out to garden and actually show people," Chrys said.

Chrys says that growing some of your own fresh produce has many benefits.

"[Benefits include] eating more fruits and vegetables, exercise, and I think psychologically there's a feeling of empowerment and self-sufficiency," Chrys said. "A lot of times when people do grow vegetables if they have children, they find kids are more willing to eat vegetables if they help grow them. I think they don't seem so mysterious that way."

The community-based aspect of the program is one of the strengths of the Seed to Supper model, according to Chrys.

"The beauty of the program is that the people who are teaching the classes are from the community they are teaching," Chrys said. "Rather than me running around the county trying to teach these classes, I think it's much more powerful when you have people who live right in the community teaching them. They know people, they are their friends and neighbors."

Classes will be taught in Brooktondale, Caroline, Danby, Dryden, Freeville, Newfield, Ithaca, Lansing, and Trumansburg. Specific location and time information is available on the CCE Tompkins Seed to Supper webpage.

"We did this on a small scale last year as a pilot program in a few communities and it was received really well," Chrys said.

Attendees receive all materials for free, including plants, buckets, soil, and a comprehensive 100-page gardening manual for any questions they may have outside of class.




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Reflections on the Spring TCCPI/ECO Talking Circle
By Jane Whiting, TCCPI Youth Sector Representative

TCCPI has been collaborating with the Cornell student group ECO (Environmental Collaborative) to foster a stronger connection between the Cornell campus and the greater Ithaca community. One of the projects we worked on together was the TCCPI/ECO Talking Circle that took place on April 14th and 15th. This Talking Circle was designed for climate activists looking to push their conversations to include racial justice.
A beautiful dynamic emerged during these two days among the group of young people, who were all under the age of 23. The relationships forged in this Talking Circle will be lasting, and we are excited to begin planning for another Talking Circle in the fall.
Photo courtesy of Cornell University.
During the Talking Circle we mapped out how racism shows up in climate work on the interpersonal/ individual, internalized, organizational/ institutional, and systemic structural levels. Thinking about racism on all these levels at  once is difficult because race is so interwoven in our lives. We discussed these one at a time and the picture of how climate work intersects with race became much clearer. We'd like to share with you some of wh at the group mapped out.
It was easy for the group to identify interpersonal/individual examples of racism in climate work. We focused on some common examples that we hear in our everyda y lives, like statement that "people of color don't recycle" and that frequently people of color are educated about how to be eco-friendly by white people. These are the bits of racism that are tangible and gi ve us clues about what's under the surface.
As we moved to identify internalized racism and white supremacy within climate work, things got a little more complex. We discussed the general perception that climate work is for white people, even though people of color work on climate initiatives everyday. We identified the unconscious idea that because climate work benefits the planet and therefore all people, environmentalist are exempt from holding racial bias or being racist. This idea can be a dangerous vehicle for individuals to exonerate themselves of their racist actions and words.
When we delved into the world of institutional and organizational racism, we discussed how climate organizations typically have hiring practices that require higher education, to which whites systematically have more access. While studying environmental science, one can also expect that nearly all environmental science professors will be white men. If we only learn about environmental concepts from this perspective, how can we expect the climate activists that come out of this academic background to have an inclusive and diverse understanding climate work?
Finally, we get to the systemic/structural level of racism and the picture becomes even more grim. We realize in this stage why climate work looks so white, why we think black and brown people don't recycle, why we don't recognize the climate work that people of color do. For centuries, European descendant white people in the United States have been restricting access to land for black and brown people and commodifying indigenous lands for profit through colonization (including contemporary eco-tourism businesses). Historically, white people haven't wanted and have blatantly disregarded the input from people of color regarding treatment of the physical environment. This is facilitated through policy and economic designed by white people for white people.
The systems we have to confront in order to make climate action socially just -- in other words, to work toward climate justice -- are deeply embedded. Participants in this Talking Circle left with a strengthened commitment and a grasp of the deep relationships necessary to take on this critical work. 
One Last Thing: Go Faster and Go Further

As we approach the 100th day of the Trump administration this Saturday, it's clear that the new president has determined to maintain the fossil fuel regime. In response, hundreds of marches will be held around the country (including in Ithaca -- see above), with the main event in Washington, DC. As Bill McKibben notes, "since Trump obviously takes his 100th day seriously, it will be a particularly good day to be around his house reminding him how badly he's doing." 

The rollback of the Obama administration's energy and climate policies, which had their own limitations, means that the U.S. will send up to 900 more megatons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere each year. According to a recent report, that will increase the world's annual greenhouse gas emissions by almost 2 percent at a time when we need to be making dramatic cuts in these emissions.

Trump's advisors are divided about whether the U.S. should abandon the Paris Agreement, but even the strongest advocates for not doing so want to renegotiate the terms of the accord. In any event, it certainly appears as if we're handing over leadership on this critical issue to China and Europe. In terms that Trump might understand, such a failure of leadership will do permanent damage to our nation's brand. But much more than a marketing blunder is at stake;  the fate of human civilization rests on not going down this road.

The one bright light is that the transition to a clean energy economy seems to have reached a tipping point that will carry it forward regardless of any policy shifts. In particular, despite President Trump's rhetoric, It's too late to bring back coal or the associated mining jobs, not just because natural gas has become too cheap for coal to be competitive. The costs of wind and solar have dropped so significantly in the last several years that they, too, have become cheaper than goal. This new reality is apparent in the recent decision of the Kentucky Coal Museum to install solar on its roof as a cost-saving measure. Yes, that's right: the Kentucky Coal Museum is going solar.

The numbers tell an even more impressive story. As the chart above indicates, renewable energy capacity grew 9.3 percent in 2015, the fifth year in a row that the rate has been above 8 percent. In the first quarter of 2016, renewables made up 99 percent of the new electricity production capacity in the U.S., and from Q1 2015 to Q1 2016 they increased from 14 percent of electricity to 17 percent. In contrast, coal dropped during that same period from 36 percent to 29 percent.

The global growth in solar has been especially explosive. For the first time since 2013, solar outpaced wind in 2016. The primary driver has been the astonishing reduction in the cost of utility-scale solar: it fell 62 percent from 2009 to 2015 and is projected to drop another 57 percent by 2025.

At the same time, renewables have become a key source of new employment around the world. Renewable energy jobs rose by 5 percent in 2015 to 8.1 million and there were an additional 1.3 million jobs in large-scale hydropower. In another sign of the historic transition taking place, the American solar industry now employs more workers than coal: 209,000 compared to about 150,000 jobs.

So we're moving in the right direction; that's the good news. The not-so-good news, however, is that we need to move a lot faster and go a lot further. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), we need to double the share of renewables in the world's energy mix by 2030 to keep global warming below 2°C. Overall, we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2.6 percent per year on average to meet the Paris target.

Accomplishing this task is not impossible, but it's going to take a lot of work. And, clearly, we can't count on the federal government to make it happen; it's up to us. All the more reason we need to take to the streets on Saturday and make our voices heard. See you there!

Peter Bardaglio
TCCPI Coordinator


Be sure to visit the website for TCCPI's latest project, the Ithaca 2030 District, an interdisciplinary public-private collaboration working to create a groundbreaking high-performance building district in Downtown Ithaca.