Kelsey Chatterton

Sponsorships are a great way for Primitive Pursuits to make the most of their resources while strengthening ties to the Ithaca community. As part of my internship, I was asked to profile our newest program sponsor, Taitem Engineering.

TAITEM, I discovered, stands for “Technology as if the Earth Mattered” which gave me my first clue into why the company might be interested in teaming up with an organization like Primitive Pursuits. I learned about Taitem’s work and further connections with our programs when I visited their downtown office to interview Business Development and Marketing Manager, Sara Culotta.

As I walked into the cozy and bright residential-style building from 1880, I noticed several small notes on the wall highlighting sustainability features of the building. One explained how something as simple as wiping your shoes can reduce wear on floors and minimize upkeep and the need for an energy-powered vacuum cleaner.

Culotta described the three-year project that had transformed the house into a LEED Platinum certified facility powered by rooftop solar and heated and cooled with ground-to-air heat pumps. Over time, Taitem’s goal is to attain net-zero energy performance, meaning the building will generate as much energy as it consumes.

Taitem was founded in 1989 with a focus on energy efficiency and green building design. Sara told me, “Our roots are in design engineering: heating, cooling, ventilation. We’re all about great buildings that are healthy and comfortable to be in, and aren’t “gas-guzzlers” as we saw the promise of solar technology—It just made sense to become involved.” Today, Taitem’s award-winning Solar division has installed hundreds of solar photovoltaic arrays across New York State.

As our conversation continued, I learned that Taitem’s energy consulting services help dairy farms and wineries lower their utility costs and that they also works with homeowners and landlords to provide structural inspections and recommendations. When asked about their choice to sponsor Primitive Pursuits, Culotta explained that an organization like Primitive Pursuits fits well with the environmental consciousness that underpins Taitem’s mission.

“We are mindful of the natural world and how it functions—it’s the best-engineered system ever with its interwoven ecosystems.”

“All of the company cofounders believe that human systems, especially buildings and energy systems, need to be the best regarding their impact on the environment. A lot of people here hike, bike, canoe, and kayak. We attract people who love the outdoors. We share that together and we go on outings together where respect for the environment becomes reinforced.”

Taitem has always had a commitment to sustainability and to the triple bottom line—respecting people, planet, and profit. It is important to them that they thrive as an organization without jeopardizing the earth and its inhabitants—and they are thrilled to support organizations that also have a zeal for sustainability.

It turns out that there is another connection that Primitive Pursuits and the Taitem team share—the Arnot Forest and Field Campus. “It’s a special place and a number of us here have spent time there and have come to know the forest” said Culotta. Growing up, Yossi Bronsnick, Taitem partner and senior engineer, attended retreats at the Arnot Forest each Spring, and as an adult, he was married there. Culotta herself has participated in many Dances of Universal Peace camps held at the Arnot each summer for over 20 years.

As part of their sponsorship, Taitem is providing in-kind engineering services for improvements to the kitchen in the Arnot Forest lodge. “It’s a place where I’ve cooked and eaten many meals. It’s nice that we get to provide services that will help make it even better.”

As I said goodbye and made my way out of the building, past the ample bicycle parking spaces, electrical vehicle charging station and compost area, it was clear to me that Taitem Engineering really considers both the large aspects—solar panels and insulation—and the smaller details—wiping your shoes—of sustainability. At Taitem it seems, it isn’t just the Earth that matters—fostering sustainable relationships with people, local institutions like Primitive Pursuits, AND the Earth—all matter.