Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative
The TCCPI Newsletter

Issue #51: March-April 2019

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Ithaca Green Building Policy Update

Spring Robin Singing

Welcome to the March-April 2019 issue of the TCCPI Newsletter, an e-update from the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative (TCCPI).

Photo by longyoung 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. 
IC Students Establish Local Chapter of Sunrise Movement
by Alyshia Korba, The Ithacan

Five Ithaca College students have recently brought the national Sunrise Movement campaign to the Ithaca area.

The Sunrise Movement is a nationwide climate activism organization made up entirely of youth activists. According to the  Sunrise Movement website , the goal of the organization is to stop climate change and create jobs in the sustainable energy industry. 

The Ithaca hub of the Sunrise Movement was founded by seniors Marisa Lansing, Mike Moritz  and  Mike Hanlon, sophomore Sophie Becraft, and freshman Emily Gronquist. They began
Students rally on the Ithaca Commons as part of the global student climate strike on March 22. Photo by Peter Bardaglio.
the planning process in early November 2018. The group held its first meeting March 5 with nearly 90 people in attendance, according to Moritz.

Hanlon said they wa nted to get involved with the Sunrise Movement because the group is entirely youth-driven and aims to take serious action against climate change.

Both the local and national branches of the Sunrise Movement take action through rallies, meetings, and petitions to stop politicians from accepting money from the fossil fuel industry and implement policies that support sustainability.

"The climate crisis affects all of us, " Hanlon said. " I'd say it's the biggest issue facing our world today, and it's also the biggest social issue The Sunrise Movement is really important to me because it's doing something serious about this issue."

The primary goal of the group is to accelerate the City of Ithaca's climate action plan. which  has a goal of reducing the community's carbon emissions by 80 percent by the year 2050. Sunrise Ithaca is working to get this goal changed to zero carbon emissions by the year 2030.

Lansing said the movement is important to bring to the college campus because it will encourage younger generations to get involved in taking political action.

"I think there's definitely a lack of political action on our campus,  s o Sunrise is a really good opportunity for young people to start learning how government works and how you can initiate change , "  Lansing said.

In Sunrise Ithaca's weekly newsletter,  members  said they hope to create a climate justice movement that is in solidarity with the labor movement. One of the goals of the Sunrise Movement is to create jobs by expanding the sustainable energy industry.   

Sunrise Ithaca will host a Green New Deal Town Hall meeting on Thursday, May 2 from 7 to 9 pm in the Borg Warner Room of the Tompkins County Public Library. The National Sunrise Movement is encouraging all hubs to organize town hall meetings to have a community discussion about the Green New Deal, which is a proposed plan to address climate change at the federal level.

Students and community members interested in getting involved in Sunrise Ithaca can contact  for more information or to sign up for the weekly newsletter. The Ithaca-based campaign announces events and meeting times through its Instagram account Sunrise Ithaca - @sunrise.ithaca - and on its Facebook page, Sunrise Movement Ithaca.

Next TCCPI Meeting:
Friday, April 26, 2019
9 to 11 am
Tompkins County Public Library
Borg Warner Conference Room
101 E. Green St.
Ithaca, NY 14850
Cornell Breaks Ground on 18MW Community Solar Farm
by Blaine Friedlander,  Cornell Chronicle

University officials, local government representatives and solar power executives ceremonially broke ground March 1 for the new 18-megawatt Cascadilla Community Solar Farm at Cornell. It is the university's sixth large-scale solar project.

Construction is underway at the Cascadilla Community Solar Farm. Photo by Jason Koski/Cornell Brand Communications.
"This represents a concrete and visible step forward in Cornell's commitment toward sustainability and carbon neutrality," Rick Burgess, vice president for facilities and campus services, said at the ceremony.

According to Burgess, Cornell has already reduced its carbon footprint 36 percent since 2008 and has developed relationships with community partners and developers to promote renewable energy and create regional low-carbon strategies. This project advances those efforts.

"In this project, we double the offsets [energy credits, from 10 to 20 percent] with renewable energy by bringing the solar farm online, and we did it in a way that opens [available energy] to the community," Burgess said. "It's a real step forward in terms of extending the art of the possible.

The land is a 125-acre parcel near Game Farm Road, designated by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences as non-producing farmland. The overall project of about 79,000 solar panels has been under construction since late 2018 by developer  Solar Farms New York ;   it will add over 30 gigawatt hours onto the grid to serve about 3,000 average residential homes.

Previous Cornell solar farm projects include:
  • Snyder Road, Lansing, New York, 1.76 megawatts (2014);
  • Rooftop solar on the Ithaca campus, 0.09 megawatts (2015);
  • Geneva, New York, 2 megawatts (2015);
  • Harford, New York, 2 megawatts (2016);
  • Musgrave West and Musgrave East, Aurora, New York, 4 megawatts (2016).
Under New York's new community solar program, the farms sell their electricity to NYSEG; in turn, customers pay Solar Farms New York for electricity.

Residential electricity customers can join this solar farm simply by signing up, without any membership fee - and the customers may have their electric costs reduced by at least 5 percent.
Full Plate Farm Collective Feeds and Serves Community
by Sarah Huang, Communications Intern,
 Get Your GreenBack Tompkins

Christianne White first started her Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) subscription with The Full Plate Farm Collective because she wanted to maintain a healthier diet and support small farms.  "I really wanted to eat food that was produced locally," she explained. "And I wanted to eat more vegetables."

A couple of years ago, CSA also served as a way for Christianne to bring fresh produce to a family member who was ill.

"I would stop at the farm - Stick and Stone Farm - and go in the back to the U-Pick Gardens, and pick just a small box of something," she said.  "It came right from the garden and tasted fresh."
Lucy Garrison, one of the owners of Stick and Stone Farm, harvests spinach in one of the high tunnels on her farm. Photo courtesy of GYGB.

The Full Plate Farm Collective is a multi-farm organic CSA which includes Remembrance Farm, Stick & Stone Farm, and a small network of other local growers. Christianne is a member of their CSA, which is a model for farms that allows subscribers to receive fresh produce every week.

Consumers buy a "share" of a farm's harvest in advance in exchange for a portion of the crops. This offers consumers and farmers many benefits. Farmers have a guaranteed income with money coming in at the beginning of the season, and consumers have access to fresh, quality food.

There are options for a weekly box share, which can be delivered or picked up depending on the farm, as well as a free choice option. The free choice option allows subscribers to visit drop off locations to pick out a variety of produce. Many farms in the area operate with the CSA model, and there are many pickup sites all over the greater Ithaca area.

"They grow more things than what I would buy in a store," Christianne said. "And I love not having to do another errand every week, since I have a pickup box once a week." A  CSA is not just a service that helps people access to fresh fruits and vegetables. According to Molly Flerlage, the CSA Coordinator for Full Plate, CSA strengthens the relationship between the farmer and consumer.

"CSA is a way of connecting the community to their food and the farms that grow it," she said. "And it works by creating a mutual agreement where members agree to pay for food at the beginning of the season and farmers agree to grow food to deliver a good, healthy, and delicious product on a weekly basis."

Lucy Garrison, one of the owners of Stick and Stone Farm, knew she wanted to be a farmer by the age of ten:  "I started college studying anything I could about plants."  Her husband Chaw, another owner of Stick and Stone Farm, founded the farm in 1995 with a group of friends with rented land from Newfield.

"It focuses our work to know that we have this group of people that it's our responsibility to grow food for," Lucy said. "So we need to get to know them, keep really good records of what people take each year, and we shift what we're growing to what they're wanting to eat."

A CSA subscription allows community members to receive fresh and organic produce regularly. Through initiatives such as the   Healthy Food For All, CSA subscriptions have become more accessible. Healthy Food For All is a program that subsidizes CSA shares, which allows low-income households to be able to more easily afford CSA shares.

CSA shares, Molly said, also allow consumers to steer clear of potentially harmful chemicals since most are organic farms.

"Eating more vegetables contributes to better health in general," Molly explained.
And organic CSAs also allows people to avoid chemicals and pesticides that may have unknown or negative impacts."

The Full Plate Farm Collective helps subscribers make full use of their vegetables by sending out recipes in their newsletter every week. Signing up for CSA is simple, and subscribers are able to pay in full or with an installment plan.




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One Last Thing: The Climate Mobilization Act

As the City of Ithaca considers possible next steps on climate action, it would do well to look downstate for inspiration. On April 18 the New York City Council passed a sweeping "Climate Mobilization Act" to fight climate change, a package of seven bills that supporters said would help build a "Green New Deal for New York City." The legislation passed by a 45-2 vote.
Midtown Manhattan. Photo by Andreas Komodromos licensed under  CC BY-2.0.

The centerpiece of the package requires buildings over 25,000 square feet to cut climate emissions 40% by 2030 and more than 80% by 2050, which officials said is "the most ambitious energy efficiency legislation in the country." In addition, the legislation:
  • Requires green roofs, solar panels, and/or small wind turbines on certain buildings
  • Establishes a renewable energy and energy efficiency loan program
  • Streamlines the application and siting process for wind turbine installation across the city
  • Orders the city to carry out a study on the feasibility of closing its 24 oil- and gas-fired power plants and replacing them with energy storage and renewable power
"This legislation will radically change the energy footprint of the built environment and will pay off in the long run with energy costs expected to rise and new business opportunities that will be generated by this forward thinking and radical policy," said Timur Dogan, an architect and building scientist at Cornell University.

As the New York Times observed in its coverage of the story, "Buildings are among the biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions because they use lots of energy for heating, cooling and lighting, and they tend to be inefficient, leaking heat in the winter and cool air in the summer through old windows or inadequate insulation." An inventory published in 2017 of greenhouse gas emissions in New York City found that buildings accounted for two-thirds of the city's overall emissions.

It is for this very reason that TCCPI moved in 2016 to establish the Ithaca 2030 District as its new flagship program, joining a network of 22 cities in North America seeking to improve the energy and water performance of their downtown commercial buildings. Currently, the network has 493 million square feet committed. New York City is in the process of also establishing a 2030 District in Downtown Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan, and it should soon be up and running.

The Ithaca Green Building Policy marks a significant step towards encouraging new development projects to become more environmentally sensitive. As the policy enters the process of codification, however, it is important to remember that the overwhelming majority of commercial construction in the city is made up of already existing buildings. How does Ithaca intend to address this issue? The Climate Mobilization Act just passed by the New York City Council points the way.

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.