Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative – October and November 2011

November 8, 2011
posted in: 

By Peter Bardaglio, Senior Fellow, Second Nature

Welcome to the October/November 2011 issue of the TCCPI Newsletter, an electronic update from the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative(TCCPI).

Students Help Launch “Get Your GreenBack” Campaign

Six hundred student volunteers from Cornell University visited over 8,000 households in Tompkins County on October 29 to hand deliver free bags containing a compact florescent light-bulb and information on ways to save money on energy. The event marked the 20th anniversary of “Into the Streets,” Cornell’s annual day of community service – sponsored by the Cornell Public Service Center. The energy savings bags are part of an upcoming county-wide campaign, “Get Your GreenBack Tompkins,” which will launch in January, 2012.

Cornell Students go "Into the Streets" to raise awareness about energy efficiency.

Educational materials in the bag included low and no-cost energy-efficiency measures residents can take to save money, an application for a home energy assessment (worth over $400); alternative transportation options, how to buy more local food, and reduce the cost of waste disposal. The materials also provided information on the “Get Your GreenBack Tompkins”campaign, including an entry ticket for a raffle for a chance to win over $2,000 in prizes from local energy efficiency retail product providers.

The “Get Your GreenBack Tompkins” campaign is sponsored by a coalition of over 60 local organizations (visit for a full list) and aims to inspire every household and business in the county to take at least one new energy and money-saving step in their transportation, energy, waste, and food choices in the next year, which can save money and create jobs for Tompkins residents, and bring the county closer to its goal of reducing carbon emissions 80% by 2050.

“The ‘Get Your GreenBack Tompkins’ campaign is a great way to get families talking about energy use and saving money,” said campaign logistics co-coordinator, Shawn Lindabury of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County. “Many people don’t realize how easy it is to make simple changes in their home that can lead to real savings. By handing out these bags and interacting with Tompkins residents, we hope to inform people of all the funding resources that are available to make home energy upgrades.”

As the winter season approaches, home energy demand is set to rise, resulting in higher utility bills for Tompkins families, along with the release of more climate-change causing gases. With many families facing economic hardship, there has never been a better time to make choices that benefit both their wallets and the environment.

According to Mike Koplinka-Loehr, co-coordinator of the Get Your GreenBack Tompkins effort, ‘If every household uses the free energy-efficient light bulb included in the bag, it will result in $667,000 in savings for county residents, and also will prevent the emission of 8.5 million pounds of carbon dioxide, or the equivalent of taking 553 cars off the road. And that’s only from screwing in a free light bulb. If every Tompkins resident takes just one more energy and money saving step, we could all see huge benefits.”

Ideas for energy and money-saving steps can be found on the “Get Your GreenBack Tompkins’| interactive website, which allows residents to see what other people in their community are doing to contribute to the campaign goals.

Ithaca Tompkins Airport Receives “Going Green” Award

Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport’s Sustainable Master Plan received the 2011 “Airports Going Green” (ASG) award on October 31 at the fourth annual Airports Going Green Conference in Chicago, IL.

Chicago’s Deputy Commissioner of Aviation for Sustainability, Amy Malick, noted that the award recognizes the Ithaca Airport Sustainable Master Plan as an important and groundbreaking project, and she lauded the airport’s “outstanding leadership in pursuit of sustainability within the aviation industry.”

“I am delighted to receive this award and happy to play a part in the Sustainable Master Plan initiative,” said Airport Manager Bob Nicholas, a member of the TCCPI coalition. “As the first of its kind, I believe it deserves this kind of recognition, particularly since it has led to a pilot program involving many other airports, and is likely to be the way airport master plans are done from this point on.” Students from Cornell University and Ithaca College participated in the development of the plan.

The terminal at Ithaca Tompkins Airport.

“This Plan is consistent with Tompkins County’s efforts to maintain green and sustainable standards in all our operations,” observed Carol Chock, chair of the County’s Facilities and Infrastructure Committee. “Bob’s work shows it is possible to achieve sustainability-and that those efforts help, not hinder, the ability of local government to run efficiently and in a fiscally sustainable manner.”

In a related sustainability initiative, the airport also announced that it has teamed up with Sustainable Tompkins to place a Carbon Footprint Offset station in the terminal.

Air travelers now have the option of using one of two airport-provided computers, located in the passenger departure lounge and central atrium, to calculate the carbon footprint of their journeys and to make secure credit card payments to the Finger Lakes Climate Fund. (The fund also accepts other forms of payment by mail.)

The Finger Lakes Climate Fund supports charitable local projects that reduce carbon emissions and benefit local sustainability initiatives. The carbon offset contributions are inexpensive and tax-deductable.

One Last Thing

Accounts of climate change taking place now are appearing in the media with increasing frequency. Here are four stories from just the past five days:

  1. National Public Radio reports that wineries in California, taking note of the rising temperatures there, are rethinking the kinds of grapes they are growing and are considering switching to varieties better suited to a warmer climate.
  2. A nature writer for the Telegraph notes that Blackcap warblers, in the past mostly summer visitors to the UK, stick around for the entire winter in the South of England due to the milder climate.
  3. According to the Seattle Times, rising temperatures at higher elevations are leading to an explosion in the population of mountain pine beetles. As a result, thousands of whitebark pine trees in the Northwest are dying.
  4. The Lakeland Ledger, a Florida newspaper, says that strong high tides are already reaching parts of downtown Miami and that local authorities are discussing how to handle an anticipated wave of climate change 1refugees moving inland as the rising sea level swallows up the state’s coastline.

These and other stories like them make clear that adaptation to the shifting climate has become an urgent matter. Even if all greenhouse gas emissions stopped tomorrow there is enough climate change already baked in that we would still have to cope with its widespread consequences. In short, even as TCCPI continues to support steps to reduce our county’s carbon footprint, we must also begin to help develop strategies for climate adaptation.

Second Nature has just released a national report on the role of higher education in adapting to a changing climate. I had the privilege to serve on the committee that produced this report, and our work drove home the pressing need for communities, along with colleges and universities, to come to grips with the reality of a dramatically different future. Indeed, faced with rising sea levels, more extreme weather events, species migration, and other related developments, campus-community collaboration will become a critical priority in the effort to create a more resilient society.

Best wishes as we enjoy these last few  days of fall!

Add new comment