Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative
The TCCPI Newsletter

May-June 2015

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 Over 250 Solar Tompkins Projects Installed

Spring Singing


Welcome to the May-June 2015 issue of the TCCPI Newsletter, an electronic update from the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative (TCCPI).
Photo by Don Rogers is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
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 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. 

County Legislature Approves Sustainable Energy Loan Program

The Tompkins County Legislature, by a 12-1 vote, approved a new proposal last month to establish a sustainable energy loan program in Tompkins County. The program will provide property assessed clean energy (PACE) financing for local energy-related improvement projects by implementing the Energize NY Benefit Financing Program, as authorized under state law. The Legislature also authorized the County Administrator to enter into a municipal agreement on behalf of the County with the Energy Improvement Corporation to implement and administer the program.

County Administrator Joe Mareane called adoption of the Energize NY program "really important." Photo by Tim Gera.


The PACE program offers low-cost, long-term financing for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, supporting up to the entire project cost, for existing properties owned by a commercial or not-for-profit entity. 


Repayments will be collected by the municipality through a charge on the tax bill. While commercially owned multi-family residential properties are among the types covered, non-commercial residential properties are not, due to federal objections to PACE financing for properties with potential to qualify for federally subsidized mortgage loans.


At the public hearing in advance of the vote, Joe DelSindaco, of Energize NY Finance, responded to questions about the use of local labor, saying that Energize NY, through its extensive outreach and training program, has been effective in getting local labor involved in the sustainable energy projects. He suggested it would be better to avoid restrictions on energy-efficiency projects employing natural gas, as had been suggested in discussion at the Legislature's last meeting. Based on that issue, Legislator Dooley Kiefer voted no.


Economic Development Committee Chair Martha Robertson expressed excitement about the program, which has made PACE financing feasible for local government. County Administrator Joe Mareane called the Energize NY program "really important" and acknowledged Planning Commissioner Ed Marx and Deputy Commissioner Katie Borgella for their work in bringing the program forward. He also praised the Energize NY group for its integrity and responsiveness.

Local Municipalities Launch Residential Energy Score Project


Five Tompkins County municipalities are working together to develop a plan for scoring the energy performance of local homes. The goal: to use market forces to improve the energy efficiency of existing housing stock by providing meaningful home performance information to future home buyers.

The Towns of Ithaca, Caroline, Danby, and Ulysses, along with the City of Ithaca, are partners in the Residential Energy Score Project. Tompkins County and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County are also providing guidance to the project, which draws inspiration from the growing number of successful energy rating and disclosure programs across the country. Like fuel efficiency "MPG" ratings for cars, the energy efficiency of homes can be measured in a standardized way. The project will study such rating methods and consider how to create value for energy efficiency in the local housing market.


Programmable thermostats are an effective way to save energy and money.

Participants and stakeholders in a Technical Advisory Committee are formulating the details of the program, which is expected to be developed by spring of 2016. The committee includes realtors, builders, lenders, home performance contractors, low-income housing advocates, and utility companies.

"Home buyers not only ask about taxes, but they want to know about the energy efficiency of the homes they are considering," said Melissa Miller, President of the Ithaca Board of Realtors. "This is why the Ithaca Board of Realtors developed a Green Features Statement to begin capturing information about the homes listed in its multiple listing service."

"Simply looking at the monthly utility costs of a home is not reliable," said Greg Thomas, CEO of Performance Systems Development (PSD), the Ithaca-based energy efficiency consulting firm that is managing the project's development. "One homeowner may set the thermostat low, while another keeps the windows open. The energy efficiency score will be a standardized rating based on the attributes of the home, not the behavior of the occupants. These ratings create a market value for investments in energy efficiency, allowing homeowners who make efficiency investments to recover some or all of that cost upon the sale of their home."

The program is supported by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) Cleaner, Greener Communities program. "Governor Cuomo's Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) encourages all manner of clean energy and energy efficiency around the state. Rating the efficiency of a home will help increase the value of these types of investments, while helping home buyers save energy costs and increase comfort," said John B. Rhodes, President and CEO, NYSERDA. "This is a great example of how an innovative community program can help promote the value of energy efficiency improvements here and in other regions of the state."

According to the Department of Energy, space heating and cooling accounts for more than 50 percent of a typical U.S. home's energy use, making it the largest energy expense for most homes. Home owners can reduce these energy costs with improvements in insulation and air-sealing. There are state incentives as well as financing assistance to help homeowners make these improvements.

"We are excited about this project, which will help homeowners improve the comfort, quality, and value of their homes, while also helping our region reduce its greenhouse gas emissions," said Herb Engman, Town of Ithaca Supervisor. The Town of Ithaca is the grant administrator for this project.

The Residential Energy Score Project officially kicked off in October 2014; since then, the group has studied existing rating methods and programs and conducted legal research into municipal involvement in such programs. The group expects to begin outreach efforts this summer to get feedback from the public about the idea. 

Next TCCPI Meeting:

Friday, June 26, 2015

9 to 11 am

Borg Warner Room

Tompkins County Public Library
101 East Green Street

Ithaca, NY 14850

 Compost Your Way to a More Sustainable Summer
By Karim Beers, Get Your GreenBack Campaign Coordinator

Food scraps and yard waste currently make up 20 to 30 percent of what we throw away. But. of course, there really is no such thing as "away." Making compost keeps these materials out of landfills where they take up space and release methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

Composting is the most practical and convenient way to handle your yard waste. It can be easier and cheaper than bagging and disposing yard waste. It also improves your soil and the plants growing in it. If you have a garden, a lawn, trees, shrubs, or even planter boxes, you have a  use for compost.

Composting demonstration at Ithaca Community Gardens. Photo courtesy of Cornell Cooperative Extension Tompkins County

Almost 60% of Tompkins County residents compost at home. It's really easy! Save money on trash tags and disposal fees, make great soil for your garden and indoor plants, and help keep tons of food waste from being trucked to a landfill.

If you haven't been composting but would like to learn more about it, you're in luck. Beginning Saturday, June 27 local composting experts will be offering a free series on composting basics that will help you address any compost issue you might encounter. They will provide information and give hands-on demonstrations to help you set up and manage a compost system in any setting.

Each class, offered the last Saturday of the month from 11:00 am to noon this June through October, will be held at the Compost Demonstration site on the SOUTHEAST side of the Ithaca Farmers Market Pavilion. Take one or all classes, and be sure to bring your composting questions! To sign up in advance, email Adam Michaelides, or call (607) 272-2292.

Monthly Topics:

  • June 27: "Getting Started" - Covers how to set up and manage a compost bin in any setting!
  • July 25: "Troubleshooting Your Bin" - Covers what could go wrong and how to prevent / remedy the situation.
  • August 29: "Indoor Composting" - How to maintain an indoor bin using a double bin ("stealth") system.
  • September 26: "Is it done? & Compost Uses" - How do you know when your compost is ready to use? And if it is ready, what are some of the ways we can use it?
  • October 31:  "Winter Composting" - How to extend the composting season well into the cold months and the preparations necessary to ensure successful composting over the winter

Don't feel like doing it at home? No worries! Tompkins County Solid Waste has a Food Scraps Recycling Program! It is easy and FREE of charge! For information about how it works and what kind of food is accepted, click here!

Why Compost?

  • Good for your pocketbook: saves $ on trash tags or disposal fees

  • Good for your garden: compost makes great soil for growing flowers and plants

  • Good for the planet: Food scraps make up 30% of our waste. Composting keeps this from being trucked to a landfill far away




Take a step to save money and energy!








One Last Thing: "The Climate is a Common Good"

Pope Francis's just released encyclical on climate change and the environment, as expected, issued a hard-hitting warning about the "unprecedented destruction of the ecosystem" and the need to reject the "throwaway culture," "extreme consumerism,"  and excessive profit-seeking that has led to this life-threatening degradation.


As we noted in our last newsletter, although the Vatican has spoken out on the environment many times before, this is the first encyclical dedicated to the issue. The key theme of this historic document is that climate change and inequality are inextricably linked. In the pope's words, "we have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor."


"The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all. At the global level, it is a complex system linked to many of the essential conditions for human life." Photo courtesy of NASA.

In the encyclical, Pope Francis called for the phasing out of fossil fuels, insisting that the responsibility for paying the cost of this transition belongs to the developed countries, "which are more powerful and pollute the most." He pointed out that developing nations will probably experience "the worst impact" of climate change, and they lack the resources to "adapt to climate change or to face natural disasters, and their access to social services and protection is very limited."


While the groundbreaking encyclical has received wide coverage in the media, it remains to be seen what its longer-term impact will be. In particular, the climate agreement negotiations in Paris at the end of this year will provide a telling indication of whether world leaders will have taken to heart the pope's powerful declaration that "the climate is a common good."


Underscoring the serious consequences at stake, the very next day a new study appeared cautioning that, unless we reversed our climate change trajectory soon, the planet was on course for its sixth mass species extinction. The key difference this time is that it will be the first one induced by human behavior, especially the burning of fossil fuels and the adoption of industrial-scale agriculture.


"Unless we do something radically different soon," observed  Gerardo Ceballos, an ecologist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico and lead author of the study. "we may end up having a big catastrophic collapse of humans, not only animals."


Together, the religious and moral pronouncements of Pope Francis and the scientific analysis of six leading researchers provide a sobering picture of our future. Still, as the pope pointed out, "human beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good, and making a new start, despite their mental and social conditioning."


Peter Bardaglio
TCCPI Coordinator
Upgrade Upstate

Visit to get a no-cost or reduced-cost energy assessment. Learn which rebates, tax credits, and loans you qualify for to help pay for work. Check out how-to videos for low-cost/no-cost improvements and testimonial videos of Tompkins County residents who have made upgrades. Upgrade Upstate is a program of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County.