Saturday, October 22, 2005

Framing Vision

Patricia Haines of the Level Green Institute and the Cornell chapter of Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW) are working together to create a "Hostel that promotes ecological awareness throught its physical design as well as programs...The intention is to add a low-cost option to area visitor lodging offerings while providing a fiscally self-sustaining training ground for eco-tourism students. Once completed, the facility will also allow Level Green and other groups to host residential activities aimed at fostering sustainable community through shared learning and action."

- Patricia Haines, Level Green Institute

What is Level Green?
- a non-profit organization based in Ithaca, NY, operating under the fiscal umbrella of the Community Foundation of Tompkins County, committed to fostering social, economic and environmental justice through collaborations in hospitality, education and the arts - in the spirit of the Danish Folk School

- catalyst, convenor and coordinator for programs and services that strengthen sustainable democratic community through participatory action learning, planning, evaluation and communications - in collaboration with transformative folk and popular community learning networks worldwide

What do we do?
- Fingerlakes Folk School: short courses in sustainable living, arts & community, grassroots non-profit capacity-building, and learning for life (starting Summer '07)

- The Editors: editing, coaching in research and writing, and communications services for ESL individuals and organizations

- System Dynamics Education Initiative: Systems Thinking/Dynamic Modeling training workshops for k-12 school, family and community learners and educators

- Level Green Farm: a collaborative learning space for sustainable living , with ornamental and produce gardens

- Little Red Barn: 'green' renovation of 1930s barn to create community meeting, dance and arts spaces

- Gully Bridge Trail Head: community access to the south-end trails of the City of Ithaca's Six Mile Creak nature reserve, via a student-built bridge made of recycled plastics

- Eco-Hostel: multi-site, campus/community eco-tourism initiative

- Join the Dance: community outreach component of the U.S. National Dance Week and International Dance Day

- Adult & Community Learning: community-based learning and arts components of U.S. Partnership for the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, 2005-2014

- The Art of Creative Recycling: creativity workshops and exhibits at Level Green and elsewhere, to accompany America Recycles Day, Earth Day, World Environment Day et al

Partners (2005)
- Earth Day, National Dance Week, Music in Motion, Ithaca Community School of Music and Arts
- Creative Learning Exchange, Cornell System Dynamics Network, Center for Environmental Sustainability
- U.S. Partnership for the U.N. Decade of Education for Sustainable Development

"love the earth like a mole, fur-near..."
- William Stafford

Ithaca Eco-Hostel Project
Fall 2005

The Level Green Institute, a non-profit organization based in Ithaca, New York, is coordinating a campus/community project that will broaden understanding of and engagement with the tenets of green building and eco-tourism while laying groundwork for creation of a multi-site hostel that can provide low-cost lodgings for area visitors while anchoring on-going educational programs related to sustainable development.

Bringing together students, faculty and staff at Cornell University, members of the Ithaca College sustainability network, and community members involved with green building and eco-tourism, the first stage of this project (January-May, 2006) focuses on generating a collaborative research base, preliminary business plan, campus/community partnerships, and designs for the hostel's central Lodge, proposed for Level Green's land at 1519 Slaterville Road in the Town of Ithaca. The outcome will be partner presentations at campus and community sites in May, 2006.

Stage two will involve identifying and securing resources to construct the Lodge; developing plans for satellite sites; and coalescing management, fiscal and marketing plans. At present possibilities for additional sites include an upper floor on the Ithaca Commons, rental space near the Cornell campus in the hamlet of Varna, and on private land in Etna, Danby and Brooktondale.

Framing Vision
At the heart of Level Green's vision for its Slaterville Road land is creation of a peaceful, beautiful space that invites learning through hospitality, in the context of sustainable community. A key step toward this goal is to invite campus and community groups to join us in designing, constructing and managing a Hostel that promotes ecological awareness through its physical design as well as programs - hence the name ECO-Hostel.

This project is framed by three existing movements: Hostelling International, whose mission is to foster world peace through hospitality; eco-tourism, which is one of Tompkins County's top economic development priorities; and the U.S. Partnership for the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development , America's response to the U.N. Decade that began January 1, 2005. The final outcome intention is to add a low-cost option to area visitor lodging offerings; provide a fiscally self-sustaining training ground for eco-tourism students; and further the Partnership's vision for integrating the values and skills of sustainability into non-formal as well as formal education by 2014. In this context, once complete, the facility will allow Level Green and other groups to host residential activities aimed at fostering sustainable community through shared learning and action.

Site Elements: 1519 Slaterville Road
As currently envisioned, when complete the anchor site at Level Green would include
- an energy self-sufficient, handicap-accessible central lodge with meeting space, kitchen, library, bathrooms, dormitories, gardens and lap pool, possibly earth-sheltered and sited at the northeast corner of the land

- small cabins exemplifying the range of eco-housing possibilities, all in compliance with Town of Ithaca building codes and constructed as part of educational programs on 'green' building

- readily-accessible driveway, parking areas and pathways articulating with the City of Ithaca's Six Mile Creek Nature Reserve trail system

- sound-proof dome structure providing a permanent home for area drumming circles as well as program space

- sound-proofing walls along Route 79, at the front of the land, constructed with natural and recycled materials

- renovation of the existing 1930s barn into community-meeting space, dance studio and art gallery (2nd/ground floor); apartment for interns and visiting speakers, artists-in-residence etc (3rd floor); and facilities management workshop, equipment storage etc (1st/basement floor)

Project Management
Level Green will be responsible for coordinating the overall project and securing resources for its success. Project team coordinators will provide liaison with learning opportunities and activities at Cornell, Ithaca College and in

the community. Targeted resources will include funding for student interns to work on the project in relation to their studies at Cornell and Ithaca College, and to serve as mentors for community youth wanting to learn the basics of eco-design and building and eco-tourism, as well as for design, construction and implementation of the Hostel itself.

Prospective partners for the project include Engineers for a Sustainable World, Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County, the Ithaca and New York State Green Builders Networks, Ithaca-area engineers and architects engaged with sustainable design and building, the Learning Web, the Native Plant Society and the City of Ithaca. As of November '05, the Cornell University project team includes undergraduate and graduate students and faculty from Civil and Environmental Engineering, Landscape Architecture, Hotel Management and Architecture.

Prospective funding sources include the Tompkins County Strategic Tourism Planning Board, NYS Recreational Trails Program, NYSERDA and foundations that support sustainability education, campus/community collaboration and service-learning, green building, eco-tourism, and sustainable enterprise development.

For further information, contact Patricia Haines ( or James Smithmeyer (

We welcome participation from any and all interested persons, regardless of expertise or experience level. Our primary goal is learning, learning that leads to action but has value in itself. By sharing what we know, and learning together, we can create something far richer and long-lasting than working alone. And in the end, we'll have a unique eco-tourism resource that expresses the best of what Ithacans have to offer.


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