Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative
The TCCPI Newsletter

May-June 2016

In This Issue
Quick Links

Our Supporters
Featured Article: 
 Sustainability Center Re-Opens in New Location

Welcome to the May-June 2016 issue of the TCCPI Newsletter, an electronic update from the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative (TCCPI).

Photo by Barbara Friedman 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. 
Cornell's Robert Howarth Alerts White House of Methane Dangers

Robert Howarth, the David R. Atkinson Professor of Ecology and Environmental Biology at Cornell University, briefed the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy on May 27 about the growing dangers of methane in the atmosphere and potential solutions. Howarth did a dry run of the presentation at TCCPI's April meeting.

"In Paris at the COP21 [the 21st United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties] last December, the nations of the world came together to recognize that we need to keep our planet well below a 2 degrees Celsius temperature rise - compared to the pre-industrial baseline temperature for the Earth - and that anything above 1.5 degrees Celsius is dangerous," said Howarth. "If we don't, we're at an increased risk of hitting tipping points in the climate system that will lead to runaway global warming."
Robert Howarth is the David R. Atkinson Professor of Ecology and Environmental Biology.

Howarth told senior staff and scientists that Earth's atmosphere is on target to raise the average atmospheric temperature by 1.5 degrees C in the next 10 to 15 years and by 2 degrees C within the next 35 to 40 years. "The only way to slow this rate of warming and meet the COP21 target is to reduce methane emissions," he said. "Although we should reduce carbon dioxide emissions, reducing carbon dioxide alone will not slow global warming on the time scale of the next few decades. The climate system responds much more quickly to reducing methane emissions."

Last October, Howarth published a scientific paper explaining how the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimate for greenhouse gas emissions may be in error by a wide margin due to its computations accounting for natural gas. "Methane emissions from the U.S. are much larger than is recognized by the EPA, according to a large and growing body of evidence," he told the scientists.

"The agency relies on data that are questionable due to misuse of monitoring equipment, according to papers published last year," he said. "Reliable data from satellite and airplane surveys show much higher emissions and indicate that global increases in methane in the atmosphere over the last decade may well be the result of increased emissions from the United States."

Further, the EPA underestimates the importance of methane emissions on global warming, since they only compare methane and carbon dioxide for 100 years following emissions. This greatly discounts the importance of methane and is contrary to the guidance given by the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change. A better approach is to compare to the two greenhouse gases on the time scale of 10 to 20 years following emission, he said.

Statistically, carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel have fallen in the U.S. since 2007 due to the economic recession and switching to natural gas from coal to generate electricity, but, Howarth cautioned, "Total greenhouse gas emissions - after dipping slightly in 2007 - have been rising since at their most rapid rate ever, due to shale gas development and large methane emissions.

"If the U.S. wants to meet the COP21 target - to which we have agreed - we need to recognize that natural gas - and shale gas, in particular - is not a bridge fuel," Howarth told the scientists. "We need to move aggressively move toward an economy based on renewable energy."
TCCPI Releases 2015 Report on Coalition's Achievements
By Peter Bardaglio, TCCPI Coordinator

The Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative has released its 2015 report on the achievements of the coalition's members in fighting climate change and working to accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy. A record number of 40 local member organizations submitted documentation of the work they carried out in 2015. Highlights include the following:

Alternatives Federal Credit Union
  • Introduced new Solar Loan products with interest only payments for first 18 months of loan term
  • Lowered rate through partnership with local solar energy installer
  • Closed 47 Solar Home Equity and Consumer Loans totaling just under $1 million

  • ASI Energy
  • Energize Ithaca, backed by ASI Energy, continued to develop a microgrid to power downtown Ithaca businesses.
  • Work focused on the installation of a combined heat and power (CHP) facility in the basement of Center Ithaca. This project will generate on-site electricity along with heat for in-building use and in the cooling season, excess heat will be converted to cooling with the use of an absorption chiller.

  • Black Oak Wind Farm
  • Completed a 5-year environmental review process
  • Tompkins County IDA approved the PILOT Agreement
  • Signed Host Community Agreement with the Town of Enfield

  • Cayuga Medical Center
  • Finalizing Submission of LEED certification for our new Surgical Services renovations
  • Finalizing Submission of LEED certification for the newly constructed Cayuga Birthplace
  • 2016 capital funding approved and project started for a new Chilled Water Winter Loop project, which will have significant impact on winter cooling needs and water consumption reduction from dietary coolers.

  • City of Ithaca
  • Signed power purchase agreement for a remote net-metered 2 Megawatt solar array at the Tompkins Regional Airport.
  • Purchased Renewable Energy Credits for 100% of City government electricity use.
  • Passed local law to enable Property Assesses Clean Energy (PACE) financing program, which offers long-term low cost financing for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects in commercially-owned buildings.

  • Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County (CCETC)
  • Received NYSERDA funding for promoting solar energy in the four western southern tier counties (Steuben, Schuyler, Chemung and Tompkins) as part of a multi-region, three-year project called Renewable NY. 
  • Continued support of a public/private consortium for the development of a regional bulk wood pellet distribution system across the Southern Tier.
  • Expanded the Energy Warriors pilot program for the development of curriculum for training youth in residential detention facilities on energy efficiency and renewable energy.

  • Cornell University
  • Annual Climate Action Plan Progress Report showed that Cornell has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by more than 30% since the carbon commitment was made in 2007.
  • Commissioned the 2MW Cornell Sutton Road Solar Farm at Geneva, and 90kW of rooftop solar on Klarman Hall and the Human Ecology Building.
  • Executed contracts to construct an additional 6MW solar PV on Cornell property.
  • Campus-wide LED lamp replacement project underway (33% complete as of 3/1/2016). Currently approved work will save 2,900,000 kWh annually.  If the entire project is funded and completed, it could save up to  19,000,000 kWh and $290,000 in O&M costs annually.

  • Downtown Ithaca Alliance
  • The newly rebuilt Commons has greatly increased energy efficiency by upgrading antiquated water, gas, sanitary sewer, and storm utilities. The surface also includes such green-friendly amenities as native-species trees and planters, bike racks, and solar-powered trash and recycling compactors.
  • The DIA continues to work on a transit corridor plan to improve bus service between downtown Ithaca and the campus communities. Downtown Ithaca is the regional transit hub for Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit (TCAT), which was recently recognized by its industry peers as being the best transit system of its size in North America.

  • Finger Lakes Land Trust
  • For 2015, we added a 31-acre parcel to our Lindsay Parsons Biodiversity Preserve in West Danby - this site now spans nearly 550 acres and borders Danby State Forest. 
  • We also completed a 120-acre conservation easement bordering the National Forest in Schuyler County, 200-acres bordering Mark Twain's Quarry Farm in Elmira, and several easements spanning nearly 300 acres of farm and forestland in Cayuga County. 

  • Finger Lakes ReUse
  • Completed renovations and opened doors at the Ithaca ReUse Center, located at 214 Elmira Road, more than doubling the organization's operating space.
  • The Triphammer ReUse Center now has more space dedicated to retail operations and the community now has two convenient locations to donate and shop for reusable items.
  • Awarded $500,000 from the New York State Upstate Revitalization Initiative to assist in the future development of a new, LEED-certified project involving additional buildings on the 2.4 acre parcel purchased in 2014. These funds supplement the $1.89 million awarded through NYSERDA's Cleaner, Greener Communities Program in 2014. 

  • Fossil Free Tompkins
  • 2015 campaigns focused on two major issues: the proposed "repowering" of the Cayuga Power Plant and the proposed West Dryden Road gas pipeline.
  • Worked with Sierra Club and Barbara Lifton's office to secure transition funding in the State budget for communities impacted by closure of fossil fuel plants that make up a large portion of the local tax base.

  • Get Your GreenBack
  • Over 600 low-income households received plant seedlings to grow some of their own food during the summer.
  • Established two CSA drop-off points, serving over 70 employees and promoted over 40 local stores that specialize in used goods.
  • Helped develop and pilot Commercial Energy Workshop series -- more than 15 participants expect to see on average 20% or more energy use reduction as a result of implementation of cost-effective measures.

  • HeatSmart Tompkins
  • The HeatSmart Tompkins program, has stimulated the building energy efficiency and electric heat pump markets by improving the market share of three partnering companies, collectively generating over $1.2M in sales.
  • Public outreach served every town in the county, holding over 30 community meetings and tours between September and December 2015.
  • HeatSmart program enrolled nearly 300 households in the fall of 2015 and is projected to meet its conversion goal of 100 installed projects.

  • HOLT Architects
  • Completed the design work, documentation, and submittal processes for pursuing LEED Certification under the LEED-Healthcare Rating System®. The project, initiated in 2010, culminated with the 2012-2013 construction of a 29,400 gsf addition/renovation at the Cayuga Medical Center main campus for 4 renovated, and 4 newly-constructed surgical suites. 
  • Targeted a "net-zero" energy performance in the design of its new offices, which occurred throughout the first half of 2015, and with construction starting mid-year 2015. 
  • Completed the design work, documentation and submittal processes for pursuing LEED Certification for a 18,540 sf renovation to house a new Obstetrics and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Cayuga Medical Center.

  • Ithaca Carshare
  • 1,324 members took a combined 18,386 trips totaling 235,503 miles. That comes out to only 14 trips and 180 miles per member per year.
  • Met the milestone of the 5,000th approved Ithaca Carshare member. 
  • At 31 mpg, fleetwide fuel economy was 19% above the national average, thanks in part to the inclusion of eleven Toyota Prius C hybrids in the fleet.

  • Ithaca College
  • Started construction of a 2.9MW solar farm that is located in the Town of Seneca and will be remote net metered to Ithaca College.  It will provide enough electricity to meet approximately 10 percent of the college's electricity needs and reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 888 metric tons of carbon equivalent per year. 
  • Ongoing lighting replacement: LED's installed to replace fluorescent and HID completed at Dillingham Performing Arts Center: James J. Whalen Center for Music; and Gannett Library will be completed summer 2016.
  • Continuation of our green cleaning program.

  • Ithaca Tompkins County Transportation Council
  • Planning in 2015 leading to implementation of a regional rideshare program powered online by Zimride in 2016.
  • The ITCTC, working with partners from the City of Ithaca, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Cornell University, Ithaca Carshare, Way2Go and other community partners helped form Bike Walk Tompkins.
  • Bike Walk Tompkins is an active transportation advocacy group, promoting bicycling and walking as primary modes of transportation.

  • Learn@EcoVillage Ithaca 
  • In December, 2015, new residents of the "TREE House" of EcoVillage's third neighborhood, TREE, were able to move into the 15 apartments in the four story LEED Platinum building. The units range from studios to spacious 3 bedroom apartments. The building is extremely well-insulated, and may qualify for Net-Zero energy use.
  • Solar Liberty installed a 50Kw ground-mounted solar array intended to provide at least 60% of the entire electrical usage for the TREE House building. A 12 panel Solar Thermal array on the roof of the TREE House is expected to off-set at least 25,000 Kwh of electricity a year. 

  • Local First Ithaca
  • Membership numbers more than 210 local businesses, organizations, and non-profits and is still growing.
  • Published our 5th issue of the annual "Guide to Being Local."
  • Continued our collaboration with GreenStar Community Projects/Feeding Our Future, Get Your Green Back, and Building Bridges.
  • Continued to work with the New York State Sustainable Business Council (NYSSBC) and American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC), focusing on the fight for a $15 minimum wage, an equitable clean energy system, and regulation of toxic chemicals.

  • New Roots Charter High School
  • Cayuga Nature Center scientists, in collaboration with New Roots science teachers, brought the impact of climate change on our local ecosystem into focus for our students through a series of field trips during the 2014-2015 school year.
  • Three outstanding New Roots students who demonstrated leadership in their school community were selected to represent New Roots at the Student & Climate Conservation Congress, a program of the Green Schools Alliance (GSA) in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the National Conservation Training Center (NCTC).
  • New Roots was chosen to be among national leaders in the sustainability education movement contributing to the Center for Green Schools' "Measuring Our Impact" initiative. 

  • Park Foundation 
  • The Foundation awarded a total of $275,000 for climate and energy related projects including TCCPI, Cornell Extension's energy program and HeatSmart programs. 
  • Grants totaling $455,000 continued to focus on aspects of hydrofracking including pipeline and compressor station issues as well follow-up on the state ban.
  • A conservative estimate of the Foundation's portfolio includes 15% (approximately $45 million) in climate solutions investments.
  • In 2015 the Foundation filed or co-filed 10 shareholder resolutions on hydrofracking environmental and investor risk, carbon stranded asset risk, and greenhouse gas reductions. Companies included ExxonMobil, Chevron, Entergy, and Hess.

  • Paleontological Research Institution, Museum of the Earth, and Cayuga Nature Center
  • Our Weird Weather exhibits - two kiosks focusing on local impacts of climate change on weather, agriculture, public health, and the economy - continued to travel to locations around upstate New York.
  • We continued to publish volumes of our Teacher-Friendly Guide to the Earth Science for additional regions of the U.S. The Guides contain new chapters on climate and energy. We are also working on a separate Guide in this series specifically on climate change. This work was funded by NSF.
  • We offered public programs on tree phenology and climate change on the tree phenology trail at the Cayuga Nature Center. This trail contains 10 trees which are registered with the USA National Phenology Network. This work was funded by the Park Foundation.
  • We worked with New Roots High School 9th graders on climate change-related outdoor education activities at the Cayuga Nature Center. This work was funded by the Park Foundation.

  • Renovus Solar
  • Installed 524 clean solar PV systems, an average of over 10 systems per week! 
  • Installed over 2.5 megawatts of solar generating capacity in the region.
  • Received the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce Distinguished Business of the Year Award.
  • Moved to our new campus at 1520 Trumansburg Road. We totally transformed the long dormant chicken breeding facility into a state of the art warehouse and office space.

  • Sciencenter
  • New exhibitions: The New York Natives Gallery contains 4 exhibits that feature local animals and environments, with graphics that focus on environmental stewardship and sustainability in the Finger lakes Region.
  • New exhibition: The Tidepool Touch Tank lets Sciencenter guests touch and experience live tidepool animals and learn about the fragile nature of marine life in the ocean.
  • New national collaboration: The Sciencenter is part of the Sustainability in Science Museums project with the Walton School of Sustainability at Arizona State University and the Science Museum of Minnesota, to create sustainability themed activity kits that will be shared out to 50 museum partners throughout the US.

  • Snug Planet
  • Completed insulation and ventilation work on the TREE Sustainable Living Center, a super-efficient building that contains 15 apartments and community facilities.
  • Completed 100+ energy saving retrofits in Tompkins County and surrounding areas.
  • Eliminated use of high global warming potential blowing agents in most spray foam operations.
  • Began offering air source heat pumps as an efficient alternative to fossil fuel-based heating systems.

  • Sustainable Tompkins
  •  Expanded the donor base for the Finger Lakes Climate Fund with our 'Seal the Cracks' campaign. Our goal was to raise $10,000 and by the end of 2015 we exceeded that with $15,493 donated by 112 businesses, organizations, and individuals for a collective offset of 768 tons of carbon dioxide. 
  • To date, we have given out $30,366 in grants and offset 1,550 tons of CO2. This year's grants were made via Tompkins Community Action and Snug Planet.
  • Worked to educate local policymakers and the building sector on alternatives to the proposed Drdyen gas pipeline. Put together a seminar comparing climate impacts and energy models for new commercial and multifamily development using smarter design and heat pumps to replace conventional gas heating systems. 
  • Collaborated with Building Bridges to produce a working document providing an overview of why Energy and Equity Go Hand in Hand.

  • Taitem Engineering
  • Taitem began a partnership with Iberdrola (NYSEG/RGE) to develop a NYS REV demonstration project, based in Tompkins County, called Community Energy Coordination. The project will explore how the involvement and support of the utility company can help communities meet their energy goals. 
  • Taitem became the first company in New York to be accepted as an energy modeling partner to provide technical support services for NYSERDA's New Construction Program. The program aims to increase the performance of buildings and to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions with an emphasis on deep energy savings and zero-net energy designs.
  • Tompkins County Commercial Energy Efficiency Collaborative, a free, hands-on workshop series led by energy professionals from Taitem and Cornell Cooperative Extension, completed the first session in a six part series. Local business owners are working with the team and setting energy efficiency goals for 2015.

  • Tompkins Community Action
  • Completed 40 energy efficiency retrofits under the NYSERDA Home Performance with Energy Star Program and the Assisted Home Performance with Energy Star Program.
  • Provided 46 free energy audits / electric reduction / energy efficiency upgrades to low-income households as a designated NYSERDA EmPower NY contractor.
  • Completed 45 energy efficiency upgrades to low-income housing units under the Weatherization Assistance Program.

  • Tompkins County
  • Comprehensive Plan Update. Included a new section on climate change and wove sustainability throughout the plan, which was adopted by the Legislature.
  • Energy Roadmap. Conducted extensive outreach presenting the results of the resource analysis and future energy scenarios, and finalized the topical chapters and drafted conclusions and recommendations in order to complete the Roadmap in 2016.
  • Energize NY Finance. Worked with County and City officials to join Energize NY, the State's property assessed clean energy (PACE) program for commercial properties. 
  • Energy Smart Community.  Worked with Iberdrola USA staff and other community partners to develop a framework for integrated systems planning and other aspects of the utility's proposed Energy Smart Community focused on Tompkins County.

  • Tompkins County Area Development
  • In a joint effort with Tompkins County, the Energy and Economic Development Task Force was created to consider creative solutions to meet the energy needs of Tompkins County's growing economy, while simultaneously supporting the County's goal of reducing carbon emissions by 80% by 2050. The task force is comprised of 16 community leaders.
  • In a joint effort with Tompkins County Planning, hired a consultant to assess potential incentives the Industrial Development Agency could implement to incentivize light industrial and high tech companies to invest in energy efficiency and renewable energy in their facilities.

  • Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce
  • Along with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County, Get Your GreenBack Tompkins, and Taitem Engineering, the Chamber launched the Tompkins County Commercial Energy Efficiency Collaborative, a hands-on workshop series in which participants receive a comprehensive energy audit of their building and support reaching their energy savings goals.
  • The Chamber, along with the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County, introduced a new quarterly newsletter, Commercial Energy Now, sharing success stories and resources to support commercial energy efficiency upgrades.

  • Tompkins County Environmental Management Council, Energy Committee
  • Adopted EMC Resolution 2015-01 Requesting the Tompkins County Legislature to review NYS Assembly bill A.2177-A amending the NYS Tax Law to establish a tax credit for the purchase and installation of geothermal energy systems. Tompkins County Legislature unanimously supported this request.
  • Adopted EMC Resolution 2015-03 Requesting that the Tompkins County Legislature Undertake Specific Measures to Address Environmental Contamination Associated with Cayuga Operating Company's Coal Ash Landfill in the Town of Lansing.
  • Tompkins County EMC hosted 2015 Conference on the Environment in Ithaca in October.

  • Town of Ithaca
  • Continued sustainability partnership with the City of Ithaca through shared Sustainability Coordinator position.
  • Administered and participated in the Residential Energy Score Project.
  • Maintained status as EPA Green Power Partner, Leadership Club by purchasing Renewable Energy Credits for 100% of Town government electricity usage.

  • Travis Hyde Properties
  • Work continues on the five-story "overbuild" of the 1923 vintage Carey Building, part of Travis Hyde's commitment to density in downtown Ithaca. The new building will utilize highly energy efficient HVAC equipment and lighting, and will be eligible for LEED certification.
  • Travis Hyde also continued its work with ASI Energy on the installation of a cogeneration or combined heat and power (CHP) facility in the basement of Center Ithaca. This innovative project will generate on-site electricity along with heat for in-building use.

  • Weaver Wind
  • The Weaver 5 turbine was featured in the 2015 Home Power magazine's Wind Turbine Buyer's Guide as one of only 18 recommended small wind machines for the U.S. market.
  • All employees of Weaver Wind Energy now drive electric vehicles-probably a first in Tompkins County. We installed Level 2 charging stations at our Freeville office, so we can charge while we work.  We are now planning to expand the facility to offer Level 2 charging to all EV drivers via PlugShare.
  • Next TCCPI Meeting:
    Friday, June 24, 2016
    9 to 11 am
    Tompkins County Public Library
    Borg Warner Room
    101 E. Green St.
    Ithaca, NY 14850
    Not Too Late to Sign Up for a Summer CSA Share
    by Karim Beers, GYGB Coordinator

    Hungry for a new way to find local food? Join the thousands of households in Tompkins County enjoying Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). It's cost-saving, delicious, and a great way to know your food and your farmer. You get a weekly share of a local food producer's crops and a farmer gets a stable source of income. Plus, it's cheaper than buying your produce at a grocery store or farmer's market.

    Visit the local CSA Directory to learn about the over forty different local offerings and to get more details about pick-up location options and how to sign up. Questions about CSAs? Contact Avi Miner, Local Food Educator for CCE, at or (607) 272-2292

    If you're still looking for more ways to enjoy healthy, cheap food this summer, visit the Get Your Greenback website to learn growing your own produce. Growing food is not without challenges, but for those who are interested and are willing to get their hands dirty, there is a lot of support around, especially at Cooperative Extension's Ask the Growline (607) 272-2292. Or visit the GYGB online forum for home gardening in Tompkins County

    Living or working in Tompkins County puts you close to a thriving local food economy offering a huge variety of fresh, high quality products. However, sometimes knowing where to find them is not obvious. CCE Tompkins Local Food Educator Avi Miner will discuss numerous ways to find local food such as farmers' markets, pick your own, roadside stands, and more.

    Also covered will be Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), a mutually supportive and cooperative relationship between the farmer and the consumer in which customers pay for a crop "share" in advance, and receive a weekly supply of farm fresh produce. We will cover how to choose between the CSA that best fits your lifestyle, considering pickup locations, different CSA models, products available, and more. Some farms will even create a pickup at your workplace with sufficient interest! Timing is flexible but typically half an hour is a good fit.

    To schedule an info session, please contact Avi Miner, Local Food Educator at CCE Tompkins, at or call 607-272-2292.

    GYGB Logo



    Take a step to save money and energy!








    by Ahja Haedicke, Youth Organizing Fellow

    On Sunday, May 15th, Tahjay Louis, Reed Steberger, and I attended Browns + Greens at the Ithaca Community Gardens. This event was part of a movement for radical sustainability, and less whitewashing of the sustainability movement, hence the name. It was organized by Carolina Osorio Gil (who we met at the partners meeting) Amanda David, Rafael Aponte, and Sam Bosco.

    Many of the organizers and attendees have their own green businesses, some of which we saw at the event. There were knitted goods for sale, vegan donuts and arepas. Dubian Ade's seed exchange was one of the highlights, as were Rafael's seed bombs. They were a form of peaceful protest as we threw clusters of seeds into the pit next to the gardens that is sadly planned to be paved over by Maguire.
    The first ever Browns and Greens event took place on May 15th at the Ithaca Community Gardens.

    After putting up some directory signs, Tahjay and I had wonderful conversations with other volunteers about the event. We met Jamila Simon, who does some great work at the Cornell Cooperative Extension and as the NYS Civic Engagement Specialist. She educated us on the art of gardening as we planted bunches of lettuce and kale.

    Another person I had a chance to talk with was Peter Bardaglio, a co-founder of New Roots Charter School, president of Black Oak Wind Farm, and coordinator of the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative. We discussed New Roots' impact on the community, and more relevantly, how farms have been less that kind to farmers of color, but there is beginning to be more of a platform for them to do their work. He sent me an article detailing the rise of black farmers after a recent decline.

    After we had some donuts (courtesy of Olina Paśl) and arepas (Sam and Carolina) came what was, as far as I'm concerned, the best part of the event. We all gathered in a circle and Carolina had some very important and informative things to say about the event and why it was happening. She spoke about how sustainability is treated as something initiated and led by white people, when that's far from the truth. Brown communities have been practicing sustainability far before it became something of a "trend" to white people, and are anything but followers in the movement. The media has whitewashed the idea of being green, so it's not that we need more brown people being green, it's that we need more recognition of it.

    I left this event with a new perspective on how we treat sustainability. Although I'd already somewhat noticed the lack of representation of people of color in the movement, I had not recognized the full extent of it. Looking back, every time I saw some revolutionary new technology or group of environmentalists, it was never something lead by a person of color- this is not for a lack of environmentally conscious people of color, but a case of them being ignored by the media. This experience was eye-opening, and honestly, just plain awesome.  

    I think that this was a great chance for the community to reach out to each other and make connections, and for white people to learn about the struggle of brown people who do green things. I've heard they plan to hopefully make this an annual event, and I intend to be there. I encourage you all to come as well.
    One Last Thing: Uniting the Labor Movement Behind Clean Energy

    There's plenty going on in the Trump campaign to keep voters' attention on the growing split in the Republican party. But there are also signs of serious divisions in the Democratic party, and I'm not just referring to the tensions between the Sanders and Clinton camps, although these certainly could dampen voter turnout in November.

    Even as the Democrats struggle to find a way to bring progressives and centrists together, a fault line has emerged in the labor movement between the building trade unions and the AFL-CIO. As the Washington Post reported last month, the building trade unions attacked a new labor partnership led by the AFL-CIO with billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer, whose opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline upset unions that viewed the project as an important source of new construction jobs.

    Wind farm under construction. Photo by Portland General Electric licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.
    The primary source of the conflict is a new super PAC called For Our Future that Steyer, a former hedge fund manager, is establishing in conjunction with the AFL-CIO; the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; the American Federation of Teachers; and the National Education Association. 

    The PAC, according to a spokesperson for Steyer, will provide an important vehicle to "help elect progressive leaders who are committed to a just transition to a clean energy economy."

    The fixation of the building trade unions on fossil fuel energy in general and the Keystone XL pipeline in particular overlooks the jobs potential of building the clean energy infrastructure necessary to avoid runaway global warming. Furthermore, there is a pressing need to rebuild our country's civil infrastructure, including roads, bridges, water systems, and schools, And what about making our cities climate resilient, especially along the coasts? An enormous number of construction jobs would be generated, and none of this even involves what a transition to clean energy would generate in the way of new job opportunities.

    In addition, federal borrowing rates are at historic lows (near zero) and the federal deficit has declined dramatically since the early years of the Obama administration, so there's really no excuse for the country not to be undertaking the kinds of public works projects that were so widespread in the 1930s.
    The main difference between now and the 1930s, of course, is that the Republicans are in control of the House and Senate and they are dead set against the federal government borrowing the money necessary to fund these projects. They continually raise the alarm about the federal debt to GDP ratio even though there is no real consensus about what constitutes a "safe zone." See here for more details. We could take a lesson from the Chinese government, which doesn't even put infrastructure spending in the deficit total because they consider it to be an asset, not a liability.
    At any rate, there are plenty of construction jobs to be had with the right national policies in place, many more than will be lost if we stop building pipelines and fossil fuel power plants. In order for this happen, of course, the different wings of the labor movement have to get on the same page. There's no getting around that fact; if it doesn't happen, the political consequences will be dire. It's clearly another reason why the 2016 elections will mark a critical turning point in the nation's path to the future.

    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.