Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative
The TCCPI Newsletter

Issue #55: November-December 2019

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

Photo by Jo Zimny Photos licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 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. 
New Businesses and Organizations Join Ithaca 2030 District
by Jessica Wickham,  Tompkins Weekly

The  Ithaca 2030 District announced last month the addition of six new properties to its membership, expanding the number of properties seeking to improve their environmental sustainability.

The Ithaca 2030 District is "an interdisciplinary public-private collaboration working to create a groundbreaking high-performance building district in Downtown Ithaca," according to its website. Initiated by the T ompkins County Climate Protection Initiative (TCCPI), the Ithaca 2030 District is part of a larger effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the county by 80% by 2050.

Peter Bardaglio, executive director of the Ithaca 2030 District, said the Ithaca 2030 District serves a crucial purpose in the community by helping reduce costs associated with high emissions, money which can then be circulated throughout the economy.

Autumn Leaves Used Books is one of six new members in the Ithaca 2030 District. Photo by Jessica Wickham, Tompkins Weekly.
"Energy costs, when they're paid, go out of the community to the utility," he said. "So, if you think about energy inefficiency as leaks in a bucket, when building owners take energy efficiency measures, they're plugging up the holes in that bucket in terms of money leaving the community. And instead, that money stays in the community and is invested in the community."

Bardaglio said there is much conversation around reducing the carbon footprint of downtown Ithaca, but the Ithaca 2030 District is the only collective effort to gather data on a subset of downtown buildings to determine how they're performing on energy reduction goals. Focusing on the commercial buildings can make a large impact on overall emissions reductions, he said.

"We know that buildings make up a very high percentage of that carbon footprint, something in the 60 to 70% range," Bardaglio said.

New buildings under the umbrella of the Ithaca 2030 District as of November include 104 E. State St. (Homegrown Skateshop being the primary tenant) , Autumn Leaves Used Books and Petrune on the Commons, Finger Lakes ReUse Center, New Roots Charter School, and the Paleontological Research Institute and its Museum of the Earth (PRI).

These new properties bring the committed square footage of buildings in the district to 292,776 square feet.

Joe Wetmore, owner of Autumn Leaves Used Books, is on the board of the Downtown Ithaca Alliance and has known about the Ithaca 2030 District since its inception.

"Their basic idea is to try to set some ideas of how much energy's being used and how to bring that down in various businesses, and I think that's a good idea," he said.

Warren Allmon, director of PRI, said he's glad PRI is a part of the 2030 District because the district and PRI share a common goal.

"Not only do we want to do it as an institution for economic, functional reasons, but it's part of our educational mission," Allmon said. "Climate change and how energy is connected to climate change is a huge focus of what we do."

Michael Mazza, director of community engagement for New Roots Charter School, said the school is excited to be a part of the district and the opportunity it presents for bringing the city's Green New Deal to fruition.

The Ithaca 2030 District, launched in 2016, is the first New York 2030 District in a network of 2030 Districts throughout the country.  2030 Districts are "unique private/public partnerships bringing together property owners and managers with community and professional stakeholders to meet the incremental energy, water and transportation emission reduction targets established by Architecture 2030 in its 2030 Challenge for Planning," according to a recent press release.

Set energy, emissions and water reduction targets for all 2030 District buildings include a 20% reduction by 2020, 35% reduction by 2025 and 50% reduction by 2030, according to a recent press release. There is also an incremental target for energy consumption, with 80% reduction by 2020, 90% by 2025 and 100% by 2030.

To help them reach those targets, the Ithaca 2030 District provides owners with a building performance report every year that lays out the targets for their building and their progress toward those targets, Bardaglio said. Several businesses expressed appreciation for these reports.

The new properties join charter members Alternatives Federal Credit Union, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County, HOLT Architects, Press Bay Alley, Ithaca Bakery, Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce, and others.

The planning and establishment of the Ithaca 2030 District was supported by a grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) Cleaner, Greener Communities program, and a Park Foundation grant has supported the district's operation. The original NYSERDA grant ended this November.
Next TCCPI Meeting:
Friday, January 31, 2020
9 to 11 am
Tompkins County Public Library
Borg Warner Conference Room
101 E. Green St.
Ithaca, NY 14850
Extinction Rebellion: The New Face of the Climate Fight
by Noah Barnes, Ithaca Week

When Art Weaver left his position at the wind energy harvesting company he started, he never imagined that just a short time later, he would form one of the fastest-growing environmental activist groups in Ithaca today. Weaver, who has a background in molecular biophysics, quit the wind farm this past August, choosing instead to become a "full-time activist."
After listening to a talk by Gail Bradbrook, one of the co-founders of the global environmental movement  Extinction Rebellion , Weaver decided to adopt the principles of the movement and start an Extinction Rebellion chapter in Ithaca. Called Extinction Rebellion Ithaca, or XR Ithaca, the organization has grown from just 25 members in August, to over 200 members as of late October, according to Weaver.
Art Weaver, founding member of XR Ithaca. Photo by Noarh Barnes/Ithaca Week.

"There is a core group within that 200; most of the 200 just get our announcements, email, and updates about stuff," said Weaver. "But the core group is maybe 30, 40, 50 people who are serious and who are actually devoting some time to this."
The word "serious" is perhaps the best way to describe the Extinction Rebellion movement as a whole, as its goal is to stress the severity and urgency of the climate crisis.  Extinction Rebellion  was formed in the UK in October, 2018, and began as a small group of British academics who met to launch a Declaration of Rebellion against the British Government. At that initial rally in London, over 1,500 protesters came out in support of Extinction Rebellion and its platform.
Since then, the group has expanded to over 130 chapters, including chapters in major cities such as Berlin, Paris, Dublin, New York, and Seattle.
To date, the actions taken by Extinction Rebellion chapters have primarily taken the form of nonviolent civil disobedience. This has included demonstrations in which members have blocked off intersections, roadways, and airport runways, as well as actions involving members gluing themselves to buildings, trains, and buses.  These demonstrations culminated in the two-week long  International Rebellion  in October.
"Much larger kinds of actions that truly do disrupt everyday life are the kinds of things that get the attention of the media," Weaver said. "We have all seen what kind of actions have been taken in Europe, especially in capital cities... that's what we need to get to."

Even so, XR Ithaca has been slow to adopt the larger forms of nonviolent direct action that European groups have made a name doing. XR Ithaca member Jackie Dresser specializes in legal support, and said that part of the reason for this is the amount of training that has to be done prior to any action where people could get arrested.

"People need to think about ahead of time how they are going to diffuse situations," Dresser said. "How they are going to not engage in anger and fear but rather answer that with love and welcoming and inclusiveness. And that's difficult when someone is yelling in your face or you're being dragged into a cop car."

"The slow and steady pace of XR Ithaca is going to really help knit the community together through acts rather than create the us and them perspective that is dividing our country," Dresser said. "How can we create actions that are inclusive, that are welcoming, and that people can walk by, take a video, show it to their friends and say 'Look at this cool thing I saw today'."
Is Solar Really for All? Three Ways to Go Solar
by Phil Cherry
  Get Your GreenBack Tompkins

Solar energy seems to have hit its stride. If you are like me, you receive letters at home weekly with what sound like great deals on solar installations for your home. You're seeing solar systems on every ride you take through the country and your reading about massive solar farms being built that will furnish electricity to thousands of homes.  So, what's the deal?

The fact of the matter is that the State of New York has decided to push heavily for renewable energy as a means of addressing the climate crisis, and they are right to do that.  Our climate is getting warmer, faster than at any time in history, due in large part to the emission of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methan from a host of residential, commercial, and  industrial sources associated with the use of fossil fuels.  Using solar and wind energy to power our homes, businesses and cars is one of the best ways to reduce the use of fossil fuels.
Illustration by Sheri Guo. Courtesy of Get Your GreenBack Tompkins.

Fortunately, the bottom-line cost of solar energy systems has come down in recent years to a point where the system can pay for itself long before the end of its useful life of 25 years and more. While the initial price may give you a shudder, Federal and State governments help bring that cost down  through the use of tax credits, and NYSERDA offers additional incentives to drive down the cost even further. You may be surprised to find the energy savings from your solar installation may pay for itself in less than a decade, and then you can reap free electricity for years to come. In addition, there are all the environmental benefits from clean energy.

So, what do you do if you're interested in solar and don't know where to start? Check out our website at [a sister organization of Get Your GreenBack Tompkins that serves eight counties throughout the Southern Tier region] and learn about the different ways you can invest in solar - by putting it on your roof or backyard, by purchasing a part of a solar farm somewhere else (community solar), or by subscribing to a solar "service" where you save a certain amount of money every month by signing up for a community solar provider. Each approach is somewhat different, but each also will save you money in the long run.

A relatively new option for low-income families is the Solar for All program offered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). With Solar for All, eligible households have the opportunity to subscribe to community solar at no cost. Program participants receive monthly credits on their electricity bills-up to $15 a month-and there are no upfront costs, fees, or payments to participate, and customers can cancel at any time without penalty. If you are interested in learning more about Solar For all, please don't hesitate to contact one of our Community Energy Advisors at, or sign up directly on NYSERDA's website.

No matter where you turn to for solar energy or which solar option you choose, be careful to always read the fine print. NYSERDA has gone to great lengths to certify solar developers and make their services available across all of New York State. If you need a hand figuring out what's best for your family, pick up the phone or email a Community Energy Advisor for assistance. Now is a great time to invest in solar energy, and our planet needs the help. With the programs and incentives available today, solar energy really is available to everyone!

Phil Cherry is a community energy advisor for Smart Energy Choices and Executive Director of the Schuyler County Cornell Cooperative Extension association.




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One Last Thing: The Rise of the Climate Justice Movement

As we close out the second decade of the 21st century, the stark reality is that the climate crisis has been getting worse every year. We are just now wrapping up the second warmest year on record and the last five years are the hottest ever recorded. Australia's  two hottest days  in history took place one after another in mid-December, and then on Christmas Eve exceptionally warm weather   melted the most ice across Antarctica in a single day than any other day on record: 15 percent. Scientists warned earlier this month that the planet's oceans are losing oxygen at an unprecedented rate as the temperature rises. I could go on.

Climate Strike in Edinburgh, September 20, 2019. Photo by Magnus Hagdorn licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.
The worsening climate emergency, however, is not the whole story.  As Sharon Zhang notes , "the climate crisis escalated in 2019," but "so did the climate justice movement."

Arguably the most important development of the climate movement in the past decade, climate justice provides a radically new framework for organizing. It examines the sources and impact of climate change as well as responses to it, and asks who is affected first and worst in each case. In the words of Eddie Bautista, Executive Director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, "Climate change affects everyone, but will not impact everyone equally."

The recent emergence of the Green New Deal has underscored the central tenet of climate justice, that social equity needs to be at the center of any effort to shrink our greenhouse gas emissions. Calling on the federal government to drive public and private investments and meet climate targets, as Julian Brave NoiseCat writes, the Green New Deal seeks to "create millions of green jobs while modernizing infrastructure and leveling the playing field so that everyone - particularly communities of color, women, and working families - can participate in a new economy."

The Sunrise Movement, which first appeared in 2018 and came into its own in 2019, has been one of the most effective proponents of the Green New Deal. Made up mostly of young people who came of age during the climate crisis, the Sunrise Movement campaigned across the country for the Green New Deal this past year. Marisa Lansing and Cheyenne Carter, two local Sunrise Movement leaders, explained at their presentation to TCCPI in October that the Sunrise theory of change emphasizes "democratic people power." As they put it, "We build our people power by talking to people" and "through escalated moral protest."

The Green New Deal has a long ways to go before becoming established policy, but make no mistake: it has dramatically changed the tone and dynamic of the climate debate and who is participating in it. It has brought a new moral focus to the conversation and infused it with a fresh, vibrant energy that can't help but give one hope for the future, even in the face of increasingly dire news about the climate.

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.