March 21, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 35°F


Students bring fresh voice to green living

Nick Kowalczyk, assistant professor of writing, reads proofs of Fresh Dirt Ithaca, a magazine produced by students, alumni and faculty that focuses on sustainability in Tompkins County. Juan Tamayo/The Ithacan

While sustainability in Ithaca is far from a new trend, a group of students, faculty and staff are digging up the newest and most creative eco-friendly happenings in the area.

Fresh Dirt Ithaca, the newest green living magazine of Tompkins County is scheduled to publish this week. It features stories about community members who have adopted green living practices and offers tools to make sustainability an easier, more effective lifestyle. A class of Ithaca College students produced the magazine in collaboration with college faculty and community members.

Tommy Dunne, a freelance copy editor for Glamour Magazine and former editor of Recruitment Marketing, a subsection of the Office of Marketing Communications focused on undergraduate recruitment, pitched the idea for the course to professors at the college in the spring of 2010, but was turned down.

He then turned to Nancy Cornwell, chair of the television and radio department on leave this year, and was accepted under IC Studio, a series of television-radio mini-courses geared toward raising awareness about social change.

Cornwell advised Dunne to partner up with someone for the project, so he looked to Nick Kowalczyk, assistant writing professor, for assistance. The college agreed to fund the magazine, but students were responsible for selling advertisement space to local businesses to fill out the budget.

Dunne, who became the editor in chief and publisher of Fresh Dirt Ithaca, said he wanted to create a sustainability magazine after working with students on Fuse, a publication
targeted to prospective students that depicts life at the college.

“I was really impressed with much of the writing and photography the students produced,” he said. “The quality of their work
inspired me to start Fresh Dirt Ithaca through IC.”

Creating the magazine became a central goal of “Social Entrepreneurship in Action: Learning the Business of Magazines by Launching a Green Living Magazine for Tompkins County,” a class developed to teach students how to build a magazine from conception to execution. While the writing department originally planned to offer the class from fall 2010 to spring 2011, Dunne said he and Kowalczyk spent the previous summer and fall discussing the idea. The class was not made available until spring of this year. Twenty-one undergraduates and one part-time graduate student, from majors including journalism, photography, politics and business, enrolled in the course. The magazine was completed with help from college faculty and other Ithaca residents with an interest in green living.

Robyn Wishna, a cinema, photography and media arts lecturer, was the photo editor and independent photographer for the magazine. Wishna said the publication highlights what is special about Ithaca.

“It involves students, progressive thinking and ways of living, and delves into some tough and relevant issues like fracking,” she said. “It goes beyond being just a local progressive magazine. There is something for everyone, from food to beauty products.”

Kowalczyk said the magazine will appear in print and online and is composed of feature stories meant to share the imaginative ways that members of the region are choosing to live sustainable lifestyles.

To be considered for the magazine, the stories had to focus on local sustainability initiatives and be creative and fresh. The articles were researched and written mostly within the class, but Kowalczyk, Dunne, and Rebecca Barry, Dunne’s wife, spent the summer fact-checking and revising stories as needed.

“Rather than being the kind of green-living magazine that would make people feel guilty for what they’re not doing, we wanted instead to show this is what people are doing,” Kowalczyk said.

Kowalczyk said working on the magazine helped him to meet interesting people and learn more about Ithaca.

“I think that this project really helped me meet a lot of really cool people,” he said. “I appreciate a lot more where I live because I was actually able to see what was going on.”


The magazine will be available online after it is distributed in print. To read the stories, visit