Make your choice for sustainability awards

By Gay Nicholson

This is the latest installment in our Signs of Sustainability series, organized by Sustainable Tompkins. Visit them online at www.sustainabletompkins.org.

The 2016 presidential race has many of us riveted to our screens as both drama and circus unfold, driven by a strong current of populist arousal. One recent local online poll for the New York Democratic primary showed a 4 to 1 preference for Bernie Sander’s progressive platform—which is not at all surprising in a county full of visionaries, innovators, advocates, and not-your-armchair-activists.

Sustainable Tompkins has been celebrating the progressive spirit of Tompkins County since 2006 with our annual ‘Signs of Sustainability’ Awards program. Each year, Sustainable Tompkins has kept watch for “signs” of sustainable decision-making, practice, and action emerging throughout our community.

Over the next seven years, the annual Signs of Sustainability awards grew rapidly as Tompkins County ramped up hundreds of sustainability-minded projects and enterprises. All told, 1,617 awards were given out between 2006 and 2013.

Last year, we turned it over to the public to help us identify the people who are acting on their visions and making a difference in our community. The People’s Choice Signs of Sustainability Awards are selected through an online poll of community members who nominate those they believe made a contribution in the past year. Polls are open again and it is time to head to the voting booth to show your support for the people, the businesses, and the organizations that stepped up in the past year to make ours a more sustainable and just community.

Voting is simple. Just go to https://sustainabletompkins.org/vote/ and hit the link there to the online survey. You can vote up to 5 times for a mix of your favorite sustainability heroes. Nominees and the top vote getters will be announced at the annual Earth Day Ithaca celebration on Sunday, April 23, 12-3 pm, at The Space. Thanks to sponsorship from Beck Equipment and Renovus Solar, this year’s Earth Day will also feature a community conversation on sustainable development, starting at noon.

Nominations can be made in four categories (Individual, Youth, Organization, Business) and voters are asked to note which sectors were impacted (Transportation, Food Systems, Energy & Climate, Buildings & Infrastructure, Democracy & Social Justice, Arts & Culture, Health & Well Being, Waste Reduction, Resilient Economy, Community Development, and Natural Resource Conservation), and to provide contact information for their nominee.

In 2015, the Forest Home Improvement Association took first place in the Organization category for adopting a community park and transforming it in one day with new trees, shrubs, and benches – creating a lasting legacy for the public to enjoy. Local teen Rayna Joyce inspired a large number of votes with lengthy accolades for her outstanding leadership for the Youth Farm Project, incorporating young people in every step of a sustainable food system. Nick Goldsmith, the Sustainability Coordinator for both the City and Town of Ithaca won the honor of 1st place for individual leadership.

Voters were asked to identify any and all sectors where their nominees were making a difference. The most common was ‘Energy & Climate’ with almost half of all nominations in this category. That was reflected in the winners of the Business category as well with Snug Planet and Renovus Energy tied for 1st place, and Taitem Engineering and Boxy Bikes (electric bicycles) tied for 2nd place.

Sustainable Tompkins’ purpose in annually showcasing these community “signs of sustainability” is multifaceted: to demonstrate what is possible, to encourage the adoption of more sustainable practices, to make the public aware of sustainable enterprises to patronize, and to make you aware of sustainability-related programs and activities in which you can get involved.

Sustainable Tompkins believes there is no one entity or event that set Ithaca on its course, but that it is the collective result of hundreds of initiatives by thousands of residents being woven together into a community fabric – a fabric that is constantly challenged to be more inclusive, more just, and more ecologically responsible.

Learn more about the history of the ‘Signs of Sustainability Awards’ at sustainabletompkins.org/vote.

Gay Nicholson is president of Sustainable Tompkins.