Tompkins County has received recognition from the New York Department of Environmental Conservation for being a leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The county was also recently named a “Certified Climate Smart Community.”

In a letter sent to Tompkins County Legislature Chair Mike Lane, DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos congratulated the county for significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions between 2008 and 2014.

“Climate change is the defining issue of our generation; the actions Tompkins County has taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change embody the kind of commitment needed to face this great challenge,” Seggos wrote.

Seggos said it was a “meaningful accomplishment” that the county was able to reduce government operations greenhouse gas emissions by 53 percent and reduce community greenhouse gas emissions by 21 percent.

The Tompkins County Planning Department completed its 2014 inventories of Greenhouse Gas Emissions in September. According to the report, the reductions so far put the community and county government ahead of the target goal of 20 percent reduction by 2020. By 2050, the county aims to have at least an 80 percent reduction in emissions from 2008 levels. In addition, the inventory also showed that renewable energy generation in Tompkins County has increased by 136 percent since 2008.

“This accomplishment is clearly the crown jewel of a long process of building partnerships, establishing a rigorous system to track and measure GHG emissions, setting targets, and taking systematic steps to reduce emissions. Through this commitment, Tompkins County has established itself as a leader who is well ahead of the curve,” Seggos wrote.

In March, Tompkins County became the first municipality in the Southern Tier and the second county in New York to be certified as a Climate Smart Community by the DEC. The county has also been designated a Clean Energy Community by NYSERDA. Aside from the titles, the designations are also expected to provide opportunities for financial assistance to meet more sustainability goals.

Being a Climate Smart Community means the community is working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while also adapting to climate change.

At Tompkins County Legislature on Tuesday, Megan McDonald of the Planning and Sustainability Department gave a belated Earth Day presentation highlighting some of the green milestones the county met in 2016 in terms of sustainability.

Here are a few ways Tompkins County was more sustainable in 2016:

  1. Energy — In March, legislators authorized a hydroelectric utility remote net metering agreement between Tompkins County and Gravity Renewables, Inc., which is expected to produce electricity to meet about two-thirds of county government electricity needs through “clean, local and renewable generation.” A feasibility study was also developed to assess the technical design and system configuration for a proposed community microgrid for county facilities and nearby uses in and around the airport.
  2. Green transportation — The first five hybrid electric vehicles arrived at the Mental Health Department in January. The facility has charging stations installed. The county also invested in covered bike racks that can be seen now at the Old Courthouse, Main Courthouse and Old Jail. They are meant to encourage employees and visitors to bike more.
  3. Reducing waste — The Solid Waste Division received a three-year $355,000 grant to modify the Recycling and Solid Waste Center to create a centralized transfer area for food scraps and further reduce waste. The center also added a collection station for liquid cooking fats, oils and grease in 2016 and collected nearly 275 gallons of material in the first three months. The fats, oils and grease will be processed and recycled into renewable, biodegradable fuel. The county’s food scraps and recycling drop spots also increased.
  4. Ithaca 2030 — The Ithaca 2030 District officially launched in 2016. Ithaca is a founding member of the first 2030 District in New York. It is a public-private collaboration to create a high-performance building district in Downtown Ithaca. “Through collaboration, leveraged financing, and shared resources, they benchmark, develop and implement creative strategies, and establish best practices and verification methods for measuring progress towards a common goal,” the project website states.
  5. Green buildings — As part of the county’s Green Building Policy, LED lighting was incorporated into the new Mental Health Building reception area and exterior lights were replaced with LEDs at the Health Department and Recycling and Solid Waste Center.

Read the full sustainability report presented to Tompkins County Legislature with more highlights:

Sustainability Presentation to Tompkins County Legislature by Kelsey O’Connor on Scribd

Kelsey O'Connor

Kelsey O'Connor is the managing editor for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at koconnor@ithacavoice.com and follow her on Twitter @bykelseyoconnor.