Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative
The TCCPI Newsletter

September-October 2018

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It's Time to Seal the Cracks!

Autumn Ducks

Welcome to the September-October 2018 issue of the TCCPI Newsletter, an e-update from the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative (TCCPI).

Photo by Today is My Birthday :) 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. 
Cornell's North Campus Expansion Encounters Push-Back
by Owen Walsh, Ithaca Week

Cornell University has undertaken a large housing expansion project to accommodate a rising student population. It would fix  a number of problems for both the university and the City of Ithaca, but some students and community members have questions about its potential environmental impact.

By adding 2,000 more beds and a dining hall, the North Campus Residential Expansion project would allow the university to house 100% of its first-year and sophomore students. This would alleviate some pressure on the residential areas surrounding campus, already congested by about 15,000 Cornell students.
Site plan for Cornell's Proposed North Campus Residential Expansion.

Project leaders have submitted data to the City of Ithaca concerning the new buildings' energy-use. But members of Climate Justice Cornell, a student organization, circulated  a petition that accumulated over 600 signatures, calling for a complete environmental impact statement. Those who signed the petition include other students, faculty, alumni, and local activists.

CJC's members are demanding that the impact statement include a comprehensive evaluation of the project's greenhouse gas emissions, and specifically that it account for  upstream methane emissions.

Upstream methane emissions refer to the leakage of methane when natural gas, which currently powers Cornell's Central Energy Plant, is transported from the fracking-site to the university.
"Methane is a really big deal," said Julie Kapuvari, CJC general body organizer and a senior environmental and sustainability sciences major. "Like carbon dioxide, [methane]is a greenhouse gas, so it directly contributes to climate change. But over a decade, it is 100 times more potent than carbon dioxide."

Upstream leakage is a relatively new layer to the evaluation of greenhouse gas emissions, but some of the leading researchers on the topic work right at Cornell. That's why Guillermo Metz, Energy Team Leader with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County, feels that the school should be "held to a higher standard."

"If they wanted to, they could be more cutting edge," Metz said.

In response to a request for comment regarding its students criticisms of the project, Cornell reiterated its official position summarized in  a recent Cornell Chronicle story : "The project was guided by the findings of the 2016 housing master plan, which was based on months of conversations with students, alumni, staff, faculty and community members about student housing needs... Conversations with the local community and campus have continued since then and will be ongoing."
Next TCCPI Meeting:
Friday, December 14, 2018
9 to 11 am
Tompkins County Public Library
Borg Warner Conference Room
101 E. Green St.
Ithaca, NY 14850
DEC Recognizes Tompkins County for Climate Action

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced in late September that Tompkins County has achieved silver certification as a Climate Smart Community. Tompkins County is the fourth community in New York State to achieve silver certification. Tompkins County was designated as the 12th Certified Climate Smart Community in 2017, when it achieved bronze certification.
DEC Regional Director Matt Marko presented Tompkins County officials with the Climate Smart Communities award.

At an event at Taughannock Falls State Park, DEC Regional Director Matt Marko congratulated Martha Robertson, Chair of the Tompkins County Legislature, for the County's Climate Smart achievements. He presented her with a street sign declaring Tompkins County as a Certified Climate Smart Community.

Having achieved a 53 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from its government operations from 2008 to 2014 largely due to facility improvements, Tompkins County, among its many energy-related initiatives, is working to reduce overall community emissions through a new Business Energy Advisors Program to help the commercial sector incorporate energy efficiency and renewables into expansions, renovations, and new construction. 

"We are proud of our leadership in reducing emissions and energy use, but we want to keep pushing the envelope," said Martha Robertson, chairwoman of the Tompkins County Legislature. "We take seriously the charge to live up to this recognition by sharing our lessons learned and working with all willing partners to combat climate change while preparing for its impacts." 

Tompkins County's power purchase partnership with a hydroelectric facility met 79 percent of county government electricity needs in 2017, and the county is beginning to transition its fleet to electric vehicles. Tompkins County is building upon the its Energy Roadmap and its Energy Focus Area Study to update the Tompkins County Energy Strategy and achieve its greenhouse gas emission reduction goals. 

The County has also developed " Tools to Promote and Regulate the Deployment of Renewable Energy Systems," a resource which provides its local municipalities with recommendations for effectively regulating renewable energy systems while also encouraging their widespread deployment.
Five Things You Didn't Know About Reuse in Tompkins County
by Sarah Huang,  Get Your GreenBack Tompkins Intern

What first comes to mind when you think of reuse stores? I know I think of cute clothes found at thrift stores and cool trinkets in the antique section. But there are actually so much more to reuse stores than a sustainable place to buy interesting items. Here are five things that you might not know about reuse stores in Tompkins County:
  1. You won't believe the number and diversity of reuse stores we have. There are over 45 reuse stores on the Reuse Trail itself in the Ithaca area. In addition to the usual things that you probably would think of when you think of reuse stores, like clothing, antiques, or books, you can also find building materials, sports equipment, or outdoor gear. The possibilities of what you can find are endless!
  2. Ithaca is Reuse. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2016 and 2017, Tompkins County had about two times more employees in used merchandise stores than the national average.
  3. Reuse shopping is green. According to the EPA, industry makes up 22% of our greenhouse gas emissions, which accounts for everything from the burning of fossil fuels for energy to the chemical reactions necessary to produce goods from raw materials. By reusing goods, we can help reduce our environmental impact.
  4. Secondhand shopping keeps money in the local economy. For example, Mama Goose, a secondhand store in Ithaca and a participating store in the reuse trail, reports that $84 out of every $100 spent at their store stays local, and that the staff is paid a living wage of $11.67 an hour or more. Furthermore, many of these stores, such as the Women's Opportunity Center, Finger Lakes Reuse Center, and Significant Elements, are able to combine reuse and job training, furthering the economic impact on the Ithaca community.
  5. Reuse is more than just buying goods from secondhand store. It's also about borrowing and sharing. We can make an impact by going to the library, sharing bikes, using car sharing services, or just sharing with our friends or neighbors!
Don't miss our 2nd annual Treasure Hunt on the Reuse Trail, beginning October 15 and running through November 15th. Play one of two games and win $50-$200 in gift cards from participating stores. The games are free and no purchase is necessary. Visit to learn more.




Take a step to save money and energy!








One Last Thing: "A Fire Bell in the Night"

In 1820, in a letter to a friend, Thomas Jefferson exclaimed that the admission of Missouri as a slave state was like "a fire bell in the night" that threatened the survival of the Union. Earlier this month, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations' scientific panel on climate change, issued a report that sounded a similar alarm across the land. 

Only a dozen years remain, according to these scientists, before the world spews so much carbon into the atmosphere that it will be impossible to keep global warming to a maximum of 1.5 degrees C. After that all bets are off and human civilization will be courting catastrophe.

As Elizabeth Kolbert writes in The New Yorker, the consequences will "include, but are not limited to, the loss of most of the world's coral reefs, the displacement of millions of people by sea-level rise, and a decline in global crop yields." Only fundamental changes in energy, transportation, agriculture, housing, and infrastructure can head off such a calamity. Even then it is almost certain that vast amounts of carbon dioxide will have to be removed from the atmosphere using technologies that are currently only in the early stages of development.

Two days after the release of the IPCC report, underscoring the urgency of the situation, Hurricane Michael tore through the Florida Panhandle, killing dozens of people and inflicting millions of dollars of property damage. It was the third most intense hurricane to make landfall in the contiguous U.S. in terms of pressure and the fourth strongest hurricane to do so in terms of wind speed.

A harbinger of what's to come, such storms and other extreme weather events will place ever increasing stress on American society, exacerbating class and racial divisions and heightening inequality and civic instability. The strains on American democracy are already tremendous due to a level of political polarization unprecedented since the coming of the Civil War. Accelerating climate chaos will clearly make things far worse.

"The evidence seems to be mounting," The Atlantic  observed last week, "that not only will the developing climate regime, if sustained, expose the cracks in the American democratic project, but it will also widen them." All the more reason, then, to head to the polls on November 6 and vote as if our lives depended on it. Because they do. This time let's make sure to heed the fire bell in the night.

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.