Earth Day is celebrated by Ithaca community online, filled with informative sessions and music performances.

Hannah Rosenberg / Sun Assistant Photography Editor

Earth Day is celebrated by Ithaca community online, filled with informative sessions and music performances.

April 23, 2020

Local Activists Raise Awareness on Sustainability and Inequity in Online Earth Day Event

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This year’s Earth Day was bittersweet for Ithaca climate activists.

With an inability to continue live activism efforts and the delay of Ithaca’s Green New Deal caused by the coronavirus pandemic, local activists sought to promote environmental sustainability online.

Building Bridges, SouthSide Community Center, Sunrise Ithaca and Get Your GreenBack Tompkins organized the online Earth Day event , which was live-streamed on Facebook and Zoom.

The event highlighted community organizations attempts to address issues of environmental sustainability and addressing inequities.

Organizers from the Sunrise Ithaca, Mothers Out Front and other activist organizations encouraged people to get involved in advocacy, while others, including representatives for the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County Energy Team, educated viewers about what they can do to reduce their own carbon footprint.

Combining the focus on equity and sustainability, many presenters focused on ways for low income families to live more sustainably, through solar energy and grants provided by a local carbon offset program.

Marisa Lansing, who presented on behalf of Sustainable Tompkins and the Finger Lakes Climate Fund, explained how community members could buy carbon offsets. These carbon offsets would go toward a fund that will provide grants to low income community members who need financial assistance in reducing their carbon footprint.

“Getting off of fossil fuels and buying a new heat pump can be really expensive, but low income folks cannot be left behind,” Lansing said.

Presenters from HeatSmart Tompkins promoted air and ground source heat pumps to reduce fossil fuel use to heat homes, and presenters from the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County informed viewers about electric vehicle options.

Erica Herman, a member of Get Your GreenBack Tompkins, discussed how solar power could be a more affordable alternative. Her presentation included information about state and federal tax credits, as well as financial incentives that make solar panel installation less expensive.

Herman also discussed community subscriptions to solar power and the New York State program, Solar for All — a utility bill assistance program.

The Earth Day event included programming for all ages. The event included musical performances from Rakim “Rock” Jones, Elisa Keeler and The Odyssey Choir that kept spirits high, and programming from 4 to 5 p.m. was geared toward families with children.