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Helping the County "Go Green:" Sustainability Team Achieves "Outstanding" Accomplishments

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Helping the County "Go Green:" Sustainability Team Achieves "Outstanding" Accomplishments

Friday, April 23, 2010
In an annual report to the County Legislature this week, Public Works Administrator Cheryl Nelson praised the County's Sustainability Team for its many accomplishments during 2009. The employee-based team, authorized by the Legislature three-and-a-half years ago, strives "to promote sustainable practices including social, environmental, and economic stewardship to benefit future generations and to inspire other municipalities, public and private entities, and residents to do the same."

Nelson has led and facilitated activities of the employee-based team since its inception. She reminded legislators that employees took on their sustainability tasks on top of already full workloads, with no funds or additional personnel committed for this purpose. "Instead of being seen as something added to doing business, sustainable practices and products are now seen as a regular part of doing business," Nelson noted.

Noteworthy accomplishments during 2009 include the following:

Environmentally preferred procurement:
- The County now purchases copier paper that is 30%, 50%, or 100% recycled content, with virgin content paper typically no longer an option.
- County purchasing continually seeks environmentally preferred products, advises departments of "greener" options, and asks staff to test samples and provide feedback.
- A Green Vendor Fair, acquainting county employees and others with preferred products, was held in October.
- The Finger Lakes Environmentally Preferred Procurement Consortium (FLEPPC) works with municipalities and others toward joint purchasing that encourages purchase of friendlier products at a lower price.
- The Environmentally Preferred Procurement Resource Guide, shared throughout the community, provides information on environmentally preferred products.
- The State Electronic Challenge recognized County Purchasing and agent Lisa Jehu for environmental accomplishments in purchasing during 2009.

"Greening the fleets:"
- A county "Green Fleet" policy has been developed and approved by the Legislature, and used by the City of Ithaca as a model in developing its policy.
- The Alternative Fuels Consortium was successful in procuring biodiesel fuel locally and is investigating other alternative fuel options, such as compressed natural gas, propane, and electric vehicle applications.
- Tompkins County became a member of the Clean Cities Coalition, which has provided valuable information on potential grants, alternative fuels, and networking opportunities.

Reducing greenhouse base emissions and making county-owned facilities more sustainable and efficient:
- The Health Department's future headquarters at 55 Brown Road in Lansing is the County's first LEED-certified building project, with "silver" status anticipated.
- A recently approved Facilities Management and Workplace Environment administrative policy addresses many items including thermostat settings, energy reductions, and use of appliances in county buildings.
- County-owned and maintained facilities are cleaned with environmentally preferred products.
- Solid Waste Management staff have conducted waste assessments at all county departments, and departments have implemented waste reduction programs. Each department has a waste reduction representative who serves as the point of contact for all things related to waste. Departments use a listserv to advertise unwanted items to other departments at no cost, saving tax dollars.
- Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport is the first airport in the country approved by the FAA to develop a "green" 20-year master plan.
- Tompkins County's energy performance contract with Johnson Controls, entered into a few years ago, provides information on energy-related improvements needed for county buildings and anticipated payback, with annual reports showing results that slightly exceed expectations.

For 2010 and beyond, the team will continue to monitor and improve upon existing goals and to work toward new initiatives to "keep the county organization leading the way and moving positively and responsibly into the future, Nelson said. The team will continue to work provide ongoing employee education and communication, as well as to seek green alternative products "at prices that budgets can bear in this economic time."

As she makes the transition to retirement, Nelson expressed confidence that next-generation team members will carry on with visions and missions for a sustainable future. "My hope is that everyone who lives in or travels to Tompkins County does their share to protect and improve this area we call home so it can be enjoyed by this and many generations to come," she said. "I have no doubt that Tompkins County will continue to be seen as a leader and set high standards for others to emulate. Although it may seem cliche, the slogan of 'think globally but act locally' seems applicable and appropriate to summarize our actions."

Legislators voiced their appreciation of the Sustainability Team's efforts and ongoing commitment, and thanked Nelson for her leadership and hard work to make the important vision of sustainability a reality.

The full report, "Tompkins County Sustainability Team 2009 Accomplishments and 2010 Goals," may be viewed online at the County's web site at The full report, "Tompkins County Sustainability Team 2009 Accomplishments and 2010 Goals," may be viewed online at the County's web site at http://www.tompkins-co.org/pubinfo/SusRep09.pdf.