Ithaca College Quarterly 2005/1
The East Hill Connection


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(Un)common Vision

The seed was planted less than two years ago, but already it has borne fruit. Sustainable Tompkins, perhaps the most exciting grass-roots initiative in the Ithaca area, has morphed into a vital organization that is already being hailed as a model for others around the country.

Sustainable Tompkins members had fun at this year's Ithaca Festival parade

Involving not only the people of IC and Cornell but also many other organizations and individuals, Sustainable Tompkins formed after an IC-hosted fall 2003 workshop. The brainchild of Gay Nicholson, CU Ph.D. '91, this regional initiative has sparked interest in the environmental, economic, and social practices and policies embodied in the principles of the sustainable living and sustainable development movement.

Nicholson found broad interest among the Tompkins County community. "Not only academics and students, but also business owners, retirees, farmers, health care professionals, contractors, faith communities, families, municipalities, and even schoolchildren -- almost everyone, it seems -- is waking up to the fact that if we want to continue to have a high quality of life, we must engage in more sustainable land use, purchasing, consuming, employment, waste management, health and fitness, education, and lifestyle behaviors," she says.

Percentage of waste stream
recycled or composted

CU: 57
IC: 43

Sustainable Tompkins volunteers are working on projects involving green building, renewable energy production, land use planning, intergenerational health improvement, communicating sustainability through the arts, and a host of other initiatives.

Cornell-connected members have contributed to IC's thriving academic partnership with the cohousing community EcoVillage at Ithaca. Faculty and staff from both hills are active on the coordinating council of Sustainable Tompkins, and although there's no formal partnership between the institutions themselves, both have made serious commitments to incorporating sustainability into their operations and curricula over the near- and long-term (ICQ 2004/2 and upcoming in CAM).

-- Maura Stephens

Photo by Charles Harrington

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