Residential Energy Efficiency
The Finger Lakes Climate Fund will initially fund residential energy efficiency projects for low to moderate income households in the Finger Lakes region. The fund will help pay for insulation, air sealing, energy efficient heating equipment, and other upgrades to reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. The energy efficiency upgrades are carried out by Building Performance Institute accredited contractors using guidelines provided by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. These home energy efficiency projects reduce greenhouse gas emissions, support low income families, and help stimulate our local economy.
Project Verification Process
Verification ensures that carbon offset projects accurately calculate the amount of emissions that will be reduced as a result of the project. Through the Home Performance with Energy Star program, the residential energy efficiency projects follow industry best practices for estimating energy savings. Using guidelines provided by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), the contractors follow a strict protocol for accurately predicting the long-term energy savings that will result from the home energy improvements. The energy saving estimates for the projects are also verified by a third party organization that makes sure the energy saving calculations are accurate. The Conservation Services Group partners with NYSERDA to review all energy saving calculations made by contractors to ensure that the calculations are accurate. This process ensures that your carbon offset donations are resulting in actual greenhouse gas emission reductions.
We are proud to present these profiles of the home owners that have benefited from Finger Lakes Climate Fund grants. Thanks to the many donors to the Fund, these local families will be less vulnerable to rising fossil fuel prices and better positioned to remain stable and secure property owners. Over the long term, everyone benefits – the donors, the homeowners, local energy contractors, and the community.
Cayuga Pure Organics
Our eighth carbon offset grant is our first made to a local business. Late last spring, a dreadful fire destroyed the barn at Cayuga Pure Organics (CPO) in Brooktondale along with all the equipment they used for cleaning and packaging organic dry beans and grains grown at their farm and by other local farmers. As the only major supplier of organic beans in the region, CPO had become a key player in efforts to rebuild a secure local food system. Facing bankruptcy, the company launched a fundraising campaign and its customers, fans, and dozens of local food advocates responded with more than $87,000 in donations to help them rebuild.
Sustainable Tompkins, got involved when Snug Planet, the energy contractor for the building, realized they might be able to eliminate the need for a fossil fuel heating system if they could qualify for a grant from the Finger Lakes Climate Fund to help pay for the insulation upgrades. By creating a passive, super-insulated processing facility, the beanery will be able to stay within its required temperature range without supplemental heating or cooling.
The additional insulation will prevent 158 tons of carbon dioxide emissions over the next 30 years, which qualified CPO for the maximum Climate Fund grant of $2,500. This funding was made possible by a generous gift from an anonymous donor whose concern about climate change inspired him to offset several years of carbon emissions through the Finger Lakes Climate Fund.
It’s been a challenging year for the CPO team, but thanks to generous support from the community, the jobs of the young farmers have been saved along with this important component of a healthy local food supply. All this – plus a lighter carbon footprint in the years ahead.
Sometimes there are acts of generosity that are so inspiring they develop their own force field – drawing in others to amplify the original intention of making the world just a little better. The story of the seventh Climate Fund grant of $3,457 to the Second Wind cottages in Newfield is about the intersection of two such force fields.
In the summer of 2013, an anonymous donor approached Sustainable Tompkins with the idea of creating a Sustainable Newfield fund where people concerned about climate disruption could donate money to help lower-income residents in Newfield make their homes more efficient and less dependent on fossil fuel. Other donors have since joined in to help with this mission of slowing climate impacts by helping those least able to afford rising energy bills.
Their generosity intersected with that of the Community Faith Partners when one of their members approached us about the possibility of applying for a climate fund grant to help pay for the insulation of six cottages they are building on donated land in Newfield. The cottages are to house homeless men, and make up the new Second Wind project – – the brainchild of Carmen Guidi, a local business owner whose faith led him to devote himself to healing the wound of homelessness by providing homes to those living in the “Jungle” near Ithaca. Carmen’s generosity and vision quickly drew in others from area churches and a beautiful and expanding circle of generosity has been growing ever since. (Readers can enjoy the full history of the project by visiting SecondWindCottages.org.)
Snug Planet, one of our area’s leading green businesses, played a key role in this web of generosity. Our $3457 carbon offset grant was enough to pay for most of the insulation materials for the six cottages at Second Wind, but Snug Planet stepped up to donate the rest of the materials and to provide their skilled workforce to supervise the insulating and air sealing process.
Max Buckholtz is a local up and coming composer with a busy schedule of teaching, composing, and performance. His wife had purchased a ranch-style house in the Town of Ithaca about a decade ago, and they soon realized they had a difficult problem lurking below the house. They heavy clay soil in the area was perpetually saturated and the moist environment in their crawlspace was rotting out the foundation, leaking tons of heat energy, and loading their indoor air with molds and mildew. Max bravely took on much of the work himself, but the complexity of the project and ill health from hours in the crawlspace sent him to Snug Planet to get help with the project.
The diagnosis was daunting because so much work was needed to rescue the situation, and the Buckholtz family lived on a modest income. Snug Planet organized access to NYSERDA’s Assisted Home Performance Program and also suggested that Max apply to the Finger Lakes Climate Fund for assistance. We calculated that the work being done under the house would result in carbon emissions reductions of about 88 tons, and we were delighted to send them our fifth grant award of $1, 751 to help cover the costs.
When we visited the worksite, Snug Planet’s staff was carefully cutting and fitting large sheets of insulation to build up a thick wall of protection under the entire floor of the house, as well as taking the time to insulate pipes and ductwork running through the crawlspace. Max reports that the house is much more comfortable as winter gets underway, and both he and his older daughter are feeling much healthier now that they are breathing clean indoor air. Kudos to the donors of the Climate Fund for helping make this possible, and to the dedicated and very hard-working crew at Snug Planet for tackling this difficult project.
The Thompson Home
Deborah Thompson’s historic home on Marshall Street in the Fall Creek neighborhood of Ithaca received a thorough energy makeover from Snug Planet in June 2013. Deb received the fourth grant from the Finger Lakes Climate Fund — our first in the city and our first for a senior citizen. Snug Planet estimated that the improvements they made would eliminate about 54 tons of carbon dioxide emissions, which translated into a grant of $1,076 toward the total cost of the project.
The blower door test had revealed that this lovely old home was exceptionally leaky for its size. Insulation in the attic and side walls was scant and uneven, and the basement had all sorts of moisture problems. Over the course of several days, the “Snug” team did extensive work in insulating and sealing leaks in the attic, and addressed moisture problems, air leaks, and lack of insulation in the basement.
Deb Thompson is a well-known and beloved local community organizer and activist. Her life has been lived by the values that guide the donors to the Climate Fund, and thus everyone involved in this project has been extra pleased to see Deb get a “little help from her friends” after so many years of being there to help others. When we visited with Deb in her living room surrounded by the rich gleam of old chestnut woodwork, we imagined her safe and warm during next winter’s storms — thanks to the good people willing to take responsibility for protecting the climate.
The Mazur Home
The Mazur Family of Enfield received our third grant of $2,000 in May 2012. Beth and her two daughters loved the green vistas and rural charm of their new place, but like so many of us they discovered that the house itself was poorly designed in terms of energy and moisture management. Then, to make matters worse, the old furnace ended its life with a sooty fire in its basement chamber.
The folks at Snug Planet did a thorough energy analysis of the house, and proposed a work scope involving major insulation and air sealing, a high efficiency boiler and water heater, and ventilating fans to address mildew and rot problems. The good news was that the Mazurs qualified for a $5,000 grant from NYSERDA for the work; but it was still going to be a big investment for a single mom to handle.
Beth wasn’t sure what to do, but the Snug Planet team helped her apply for additional help from the Finger Lakes Climate Fund. The project offset an estimated 100.4 tons of carbon dioxide, qualifying the Mazurs for our new maximum award of $2,000 to cover 100 tons of emissions. Thanks to the generous donors to the Fund, the Mazurs can relax and enjoy their home in all four seasons.
The Rosentel Home
Our second grant was made to Jill Rosentel of Lansing in February 2011. Jill is a real estate agent and a first-time home buyer. Even though she was really excited to own her first home, the heating bills for her old and drafty house were daunting and the furnace had seen better days. ASI Energy evaluated the situation, and detailed a long list of improvements to reduce her heating bills. Jill needed help in order to go forward with the full project, and applied for a Finger Lakes Climate Fund grant.
Jill’s house needed a new, high-efficiency furnace as well as a new water heater, major insulation work, and lots of air sealing. All of these improvements would remove about 130 tons of CO2 over their lifespan, so we gave Jill our maximum grant of $1500 towards her project. Jill is delighted by the improved comfort in her snug home and the cost savings – but she also recognizes the importance of lower carbon emissions and promised to spread the word to her fellow realtors.
The Ellis Home
Our first grant award from the Finger Lakes Climate Fund went to the Ellis Family in December 2010. Michael, Sherri, and their daughter, Emily, love their home in the woods, but their wood-burning stove was making Sherri’s allergies worse and it was hard to stay warm because of the drafts and lack of insulation. Michael’s schoolteacher salary needed some assistance in order to make the recommended energy improvements, so their contractor, Tompkins Community Action, suggested they apply for a local carbon offset grant from Sustainable Tompkins.
The work scope for the project was estimated to reduce 50.4 tons of CO2 emissions over 20 years by installing an efficient wood pellet stove, insulating the attic, and sealing a variety of leaks in the house. After review by our grant-making committee of Ian Shapiro, Mark Pierce, Kathy Schlather, and Gay Nicholson, and approval by the Board of Directors, we were happy to award the first grant of $1008 to the Ellis Family.
Other Offset Projects
The Finger Lakes Climate Fund is also investigating other cost-effective local carbon offset projects such as solar hot water, solar photovoltaic, biomass heating, and other renewable energy projects. If you would like to submit a proposal for a carbon offset project, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.