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Joe Biden’s Contributions to Environmental Protection

By Sustainability Office on March 24, 2017
-Chloe Matonis ’18

As Colgate University prepares for former vice president Joe Biden to visit campus as part of the Global Leaders lecture series, the Sustainability Office would be remiss if we did not acknowledge his numerous contributions to environmental protection, sustainability, and advocacy for animal rights.

During his 34 years in Senate, Biden was primarily known as a chieftain of foreign policy. Behind the scenes, however, he was consistently a strong advocate for environmental protection, earning himself a respectable 84% lifetime voting score from the League of Conservation Voters. Now, he emphasizes the close connection between geopolitics and environmental stewardship. In a statement given before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in 2007, Biden said:

“I personally believe that the single most important step we can take to resume a leadership role in international climate change efforts would be to make real progress toward a domestic emissions-reduction regime. For too long we have abdicated the responsibility to reduce our own emissions, the largest single source of the problem we face today. We have the world’s largest economy, with the highest per-capita emissions. Rather than leading by example, we have retreated from international negotiations.”1

To solve what he sees as the defining challenge of our time, Biden has been pushing for more U.S. involvement in international climate negotiations, more-stringent fuel-economy regulations, and a higher usage of biofuels and other alternative energy sources.2

Courtesy of ontheissues.org, here is sample of the environmental positions Biden has taken:

  • The United States should guarantee Katrina reconstruction. Biden supported a federal law guaranteeing the right to rebuild Gulf regions devastated by Hurricane Katrina, stating that the devastated area is “a national problem.”
  • Take away the billions of subsidies to oil companies. Biden introduced legislation to decrease subsidies from large oil companies. The first step he proposed was lower the $6 billion that go to the oil companies. The second step he proposed was to use the Justice Department to investigate the issue of oil price gouging. Lastly, he advocated for significantly raising and mandating automobile mileage.
  • Voted YES on including oil & gas smokestacks in mercury regulations. This resolution limits smokestack emissions in a two-phase program founded on a market-based capping system. It caps mercury emissions to 38 tons by 2010. It also requires the second and final cap to begin in 2018 and stay fixed at 15 tons.
  • Voted YES on continuing desert protection in California. This ends the discussion, and therefore closes the vote, on terminating existing programs that protect California’s deserts.
  • Voted YES on reducing funds for road-building in National Forests. This was a vote on an amendment to cut the $47.4 million provided for Forest Service road construction by $10 million, and to eliminate the purchaser credit program.
  • Voted YES on requiring EPA risk assessments. This requires risk assessments of any new EPA regulations.
  • End commercial whaling and illegal trade of whale meat. Biden pushed for the International Whaling Commission to remain firmly against commercial whaling, opposed the lethal taking of whales for scientific purposes unless it is specifically authorized by the Scientific Committee of the Commission, and supported the permanent protection of whale populations through the establishment of whale sanctuaries.
  • Higher standards on the EPA for mercury cleanup. Biden proposed stricter regulations for power plants to clean up their mercury pollution and emissions. The regulations follow the requirements of the Clean Air Act to protect our nation from toxic mercury contamination.
  • Stronger prohibitions against animal fighting. Biden co-sponsored strengthening prohibitions against animal fighting. This includes protecting dogs and roosters from being drugged, forced to fight, and physically mutilated for entertainment.

We should embrace Joe Biden’s environmental ideals and make Colgate a sustainable campus that he is proud to visit. Follow @colgatesustainability on Instagram to see how you can get involved!


  1. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/08/24/joe-bidens-environmental_n_120914.html
  2. http://grist.org/article/biden/

Announcing the 2017 Sustainability Summer Internship!

By Sustainability Office on March 13, 2017


The Sustainability Office is pleased to announce three paid positions for students to support the Director of Sustainability and the Sustainability Program Coordinator for 10 weeks during summer 2017.  This is an exciting opportunity for Colgate students to get hands-on experience putting sustainability into action. The position requires up to 40 hours per week, starting the week of May 22nd and ending in early August.  Work schedules are flexible and will allow for vacation time, however, a total of 10 weeks of work during the summer is required.

Each sustainability intern will report to the Sustainability Program Coordinator and support the activities of Colgate’s Office of Sustainability.  Summer 2017 tasks may include, but are not limited to:

  • Novel programming – to further the mission of sustainability, the summer interns will research new and innovative programs to implement on campus.
  • Creative Writing and Video Production – interns may craft creative writing pieces and video blog entries for the Sustainability Office blog.
  • Social media – interns will post comments and events on our Twitter and Facebook accounts.
  • Green Bikes – sustainability interns will help to manage our bike rental program.
  • Community Garden – on occasion, the sustainability interns will spend time helping in Colgate’s Community Vegetable Garden.


The ideal Sustainability Intern:

  • has strong interpersonal skills and is able to work effectively and respectfully in a collaborative, culturally diverse work environment.
  • is detail-oriented and possess the ability to accomplish results in designated time frames.
  • is comfortable working in a fast-moving/changing environment and be able to handle multiple tasks simultaneously.
  • has the ability to effectively motivate community members to act.
  • possesses strong organizational skills.
  • has excellent writing skills.
  • is computer literate and is proficient in the use of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Google Drive applications.
  • has the ability to maintain a productive and healthy work/life balance.

Must be capable of working up to 40 hours per week.

The Sustainability Office is particularly interested in applicants who have demonstrated a commitment to sustainability and are interested in using their work in sustainability to support their academic and professional objectives. Most often, summer interns continue with their work during the academic year.


Interested candidates should send their resume and one-page cover letter to the Program Coordinator, Pamela Gramlich.  The cover letter should explain why you are interested in sustainability at Colgate and specify your personal and/or academic qualifications. The candidate must also apply in the portal. These positions will be open until filled.


Please contact Pamela Gramlich by phone at 315.228.6360 or by email at pgramlich@colgate.edu with any questions.

More information about Colgate’s sustainability efforts can be found online at www.colgate.edu/green.

RecycleMania March Update

By Sustainability Office on March 9, 2017

The numbers are in and this week’s recycling rate is about 14% – a statistic that is still far from our goal of 23%.

In case you missed it, RecycleMania is an 8-week competition in which universities aim to increase their recycling rates and decrease the amount of waste they are sending to local landfills. We have set a campus-wide goal to achieve a 23% recycling rate by the end of the competition, a 5% increase from our baseline 18% recycling rate. If you are interested in learning more about how you can be involved with RecycleMania and increase your personal recycling rate, visit our Green Raiders while they are tabling in the Coop until the end of the competition.

Our RecycleMania theme for this week is plastic! All week we will be focusing our recycling discussions around plastics, how their use can be reduced, how they can be reused, and how they can be recycled in Madison County. If you can’t come see us in the Coop or attend our signature plastics week event, below are some tips to get you started:

Reduce: The best way to help the environment (and our recycling rates) is to skip the plastic altogether. Along with key changes like carrying a water bottle and coffee mug, you might want to start carrying your own reusable utensils and straws. Want to know more ways to reduce your plastic use? Click here

Reuse: If you have plastic containers that you no longer need or want, consider giving them new life with a DIY project designed to reuse them. Not only will you decrease the amount of plastic going into the landfill, you will have a “new” item for no cost to you. Ready to get started? We already did a Pinterest search for you.

Recycle: Recycling your plastics at Colgate is a simple as could be. Just make sure it has the recycling symbol, clean it, and throw it in the recycling bin designated for bottles and cans. (Hint: your Coop soda lids and straws are NOT recyclable, but your Dunkin’ Donuts cup is)

How I Spent my Winter Break

By Sustainability Office on February 20, 2017
-Revee Needham ’18

Over winter break I traveled to Costa Rica to learn more about organic agriculture for my Alumni Memorial Scholars Project. Instead of spending all the days of my travel abroad experience lounging on beaches, I incorporated sustainability into my trip and volunteered at two organic farms, participating in two separate programs through World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) and Osa Conservation.

WWOOF is a fantastic organization around the world that connects organic farms with eager and able-bodied volunteers. The basic idea is to exchange your work, between 2 and 8 hours a day, for a place to stay and some or all of your meals. Most countries have their own WWOOF website with separate membership fees to access the list of participating farms. Some farms will allow you to work for only a few days, others prefer you to stay a minimum of two weeks. After joining the WWOOF Costa Rica website, I reached out to several farms that matched my interests. In the end, I decided to visit Planet Costa Rica. This vegan farm is a sanctuary for injured or retired animals. I worked 5:45am to lunch and then had the afternoons off to explore the local area. Not only did I get to care for numerous animals, I also made great friends. This experience challenged my relationship with animals and showed me how easy it is to be vegan. WWOOF-ing is a great way to travel abroad, or locally, for little costs and great benefits to local farmers.

For the rest of my winter break, I signed up to volunteer at Osa Conservation through their organic agriculture program. They also have volunteer programs focusing on sea turtles, big cats, reforestation, and rivers. I worked on the farm most mornings, helping to plant, harvest crops, and befriend the baby goat. I learned about the challenges of organic farming in Costa Rica, where pesticide use is higher than the U.S. Overall, the work was a lot more time and labor-intensive than I would’ve thought. Also, I learned about the devastation of November’s hurricane on the farm’s crops.

For those who prefer to do less work on vacation, you can also stay at Osa Conservation as a guest. This gives you the freedom to explore the natural beauty of one of the world’s most biodiverse region’s while contributing to a conservation organization. I made friends with those who worked at Osa full time, in addition to the numerous visitors from around the world, including an Earth Watch group.

Regardless of where you are traveling, I encourage you to consider eco-friendly hotels, programs, and trips. There are numerous organizations that provide the same scenic experience while doing some good for the local environment and people!

RecycleMania has begun!

By Sustainability Office on February 7, 2017

RecycleMania has officially begun! Over the next 8 weeks, we will be weighing our waste in order to measure our recycling rates on campus. For the past two weeks, we have been conducting a baseline measurement of our recycling rates and have calculated that our recycling rate is approximately 18%. During the competition, we will be working to increase this by 5% in order to achieve our goal of a 23% recycling rate.

Look out for our interns and Green Ambassadors who will be tabling in the Coop all week to learn more about Recyclemania and how you can do your part!

Do your part by ensuring you are recycling properly according to the recycling guide, and encourage your friends and neighbors to do the same.

For more information about RecycleMania check out our previous blog post.

RecycleMania 2017

By Sustainability Office on January 31, 2017
-Madison Smith ’19

Get ready for RecycleMania! The eight-week long, intercollegiate competition will begin next week on February 5th and formally end on April 1st.

During this competition, representatives from Colgate’s Office of Sustainability will work to educate students, staff, and faculty on how to properly recycle in an effort to reduce the amount of waste sent to the landfill.

According to the RecycleMania website, the mission of the competition is to provide “tools and opportunities that inspire, empower, and mobilize colleges and universities to benchmark and improve efforts to reduce or eliminate waste.”

For the past week and a half, Colgate’s groundskeeping crew has been weighing campus-wide recycling to determine a baseline of what our usual recycling rates are. Once we have established our baseline, we will set a recycling goal – a certain percentage of waste that we would like the university to recycle.

To reach this recycling goal, every two weeks during the eight-week competition, the office will focus on different types of materials that can be recycled.

The first two weeks will aim to inform students that the event is officially starting. Look for Green Raider Interns and Green Ambassadors in the Coop for recycling tips and prizes! Weeks three and four will focus on paper products that can be recycled, weeks five and six on the plastic and cans waste stream, and the final two weeks will highlight things you didn’t know were recyclable, such as e-waste and clothing.

We hope that Recyclemania ends with students, staff, and faculty feeling knowledgeable and excited about recycling both on campus and at home. It is such an easy, sustainable step that makes such a difference. It can help protect wildlife and habitats, reduce our need for landfills, and act as a material for innovative ideas and products. As a part of the Colgate community, we can be a catalyst for a greener and healthier planet!

Keep an eye out around campus for more Recyclemania news, tips, and updates!

Learn more about recycling at Colgate.

Patagonia Extended Study

By Sustainability Office on January 31, 2017

In December, The Off Campus Study committee and Dean’s Advisory Council approved an extended study trip to Patagonia for January of 2018.

The 22-day trip, directed by Colgate Associate Professor of Biology, Eddie Watkins and Sustainability Director, John Pumilio, will give students the opportunity to learn about forest conservation efforts and visit “The Colgate Forest” – a reforestation plot established as part of Colgate’s carbon-offsetting agreement with Patagonia Sur.

The half-credit extended study program, in Chile’s Aysén Region of Patagonia, will be a part of an Environmental Studies class focusing on natural resource conservation.

“Conservation biology is complex and requires an understanding of theory and the development of practice,” Watkins stated. “Part of preparing students to think and develop ideas related to conservation is exposing them to the diversity of models that are employed.”

Watkins and Pumilio hope that this new program will allow students to do just that: understand conservation biology in theory and in practice.

In March of 2016, Pumilio and Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies, Tim McCay,  visited the site to update Colgate about the ongoing reforestation and carbon sequestration project occurring there. After spending nine days on site, they further realized the value of this project to Colgate’s academic mission and that the region, forest, and offset project promise an experience rich in learning and research.

The Colgate Forest sequesters 5,000 tons of CO2 from the atmosphere annually, and plays an important role in helping Colgate to mitigate its impact on climate change and achieve carbon neutrality. Tim McCay (left), John Pumilio (right).

“Besides removing carbon from the atmosphere, the Patagonia Sur reforestation project is also restoring one of the most precious and endangered ecosystems on the planet, creating employment opportunities for local residents, and serving as a national and global model for other similar restoration projects. Above all, the project offers unlimited research potential for students and faculty in an area of the world where we’re just not doing a lot right now,” Pumilio stated.

While in Chile, students will be housed in comfortable staff lodging on the site, eat in a common kitchen, and travel around the area on horseback. Students will visit the Colgate Forest, conduct independent research projects and may help to plant trees as a part of reforestation efforts. Multi-day excursions to Lago Palena National Reserve and Lago Chican, and trips to the Village of Palena will expose students to the broader social context within Patagonian Chile.

The program and associated class will also provide a valuable avenue for academic enrichment.

“Few students are familiar with for-profit conservation models as that developed by Patagonia Sur. This opportunity will combine a semester-long seminar course with an extended study experience to Patagonia Sur,” Watkins stated.

Throughout the semester, students will explore various aspects of conservation biology including carbon sequestration techniques, ecosystem function, and biodiversity assessments.

“On the ground in Patagonia Sur, we will examine their conservation model first hand and study the Colgate Forest – a reforestation plot established as part of Colgate’s carbon-offsetting agreement with Patagonia Sur,” Watkins explained. “Students will be exposed to a wide array of conservation techniques and field ecology tools to measure technique effectiveness.”

Perhaps most importantly, this opportunity will provide students the opportunity to witness first-hand both the effects of and the solutions to climate change.

“Our world is changing and our students are going to be on the front lines to deal with this change,” said Watkins.

For more information about the program, please contact Pamela Gramlich at 315-228-6360.

Sustainability Showcase: Chapel House

By Sustainability Office on January 27, 2017

This summer, Colgate’s first geothermal heat exchange system was installed at the Chapel House, helping the university to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and achieve carbon neutrality by 2019.

“The system is expected to save over $20,000 per year in energy costs and reduce Colgate’s greenhouse gas emissions by about 50 tons,” stated Director of Sustainability, John Pumilio.

The pump acts as a central heating and cooling system that uses electricity to transfer heat to and from the ground. This system takes advantage of the moderate temperatures beneath the earth’s surface, using the earth as a heat source in the winter and as a heat sink when temperatures are high.

“By switching to an electrically based heating system, there are no longer fossil fuels burned on the site… The primary source of electricity used at Colgate is generated by hydroelectric power, thereby reducing the carbon impact of the system further,” explained architect on the project, Tom Hartman.

The $150K project will pay for itself in just seven years and is anticipated to save the university more than $650K over the course of its lifetime, resulting in over a 300% return on investment.

The geothermal system was not the only environmentally friendly addition made to the Chapel House this summer. The building’s ventilation was redone to ensure no heat was being wasted, a new roof was installed and sealed for maximum efficiency, additional insulation was added, and LED light bulbs replaced old lighting throughout the facility. All of these changes have worked together to reduce energy consumption by 50%.

“Project manager, Robert Dwyer, and Colgate’s entire Planning, Design, and Construction team deserve a lot of credit for making this historic, renewable energy project a reality at Colgate,” Pumilio stated.

Representatives from the Chapel House are also pleased with the renovations. They released a statement in response to the sustainability-related updates made to the facility:

“Chapel House’s mission is to provide a quiet space for all to explore their personal, spiritual and religious quests. Chapel House was conceived in relation to and in harmony with the natural wooded environment past Frank dining hall at the edge of the campus. In our 2016 renovation, we wanted to accentuate our relationship to our natural environment both by adding more windows and making the building more energy efficient with a heat pump system, new lights, roofing etc. We are thus pleased that Chapel House now is not only a model for the value of quiet contemplation in a noisy and busy world, but also a model of energy efficiency, sustainability, and humility in a world which is wasteful and often irresponsible about its energy use. Thus Chapel House implicitly states now, that personal and spiritual quests will only really succeed in harmony with nature.”

The additions made to the Chapel House this summer are a great step toward achieving our university-wide goal of being carbon neutral by 2019.

Announcing the Spring/Summer 2017 Community Garden Internship

By Sustainability Office on January 26, 2017

The Sustainability Office is pleased to announce the opening of two Spring/Summer positions in the Community Garden. These positions grant students the ability to spend the summer in Hamilton getting hands-on experience in maintaining an organic vegetable garden, event planning, and volunteer management.

Department: Sustainability Office

Hours per Week: 6 hrs in spring; 40 hrs in summer

Job Description:                                  

The Sustainability Office is offering two paid Garden Internship positions to students starting in late-April 2017 until late-August 2017. Garden interns will help manage and promote the organic community vegetable/herb garden on campus. This is a physically demanding, yet very rewarding job. Work includes long days and exposure to outdoor elements (e.g., heat, sun, rain, etc.). The student interns are expected to coordinate and organize volunteers and student work parties, as well as carry out an independent garden project from conception to completion. The Garden Interns will report directly to garden manager Beth Roy. Interns will work in close collaboration with other Colgate students, faculty, and staff to plan and manage the garden. The student interns will gain life-long skills and knowledge in planting and maintaining an organic garden, organizing events, and supervising volunteer workers.

Required Skills and Experience:                                   

Key Responsibilities

  • Work with garden manager Beth Roy to plan and manage the garden during the spring and summer seasons. Specific tasks include preparing soil, cultivating, planting, weeding, and harvesting.
  • Organize and supervise volunteer work parties.
  • Coordinate with Green Thumbs presidents to schedule a weekly time for volunteer work parties, and be at the garden during those scheduled times to supervise those work parties.
  • Manage an individual garden project, from conception to completion.
  • Provide continuity for work on the garden throughout the 2017 growing season.

Recommended Qualifications and Skills

  • Strong work ethic and self-motivated.
  • Strong interpersonal and communication skills.
  • Preference will be given to those with experience and firsthand knowledge in farming and/or gardening with vegetable crops; though previous garden experience is not required.
  • Experience organizing and supervising the work of others.
  • Tolerance for hard work and exposure to outdoor elements.
  • Excitement about promoting local farming and local food production.

Work Requirements and Benefits

Student interns will begin planning for the garden in late-March and will begin field work in late-April, working 6 hours per week. In May interns will begin to work 40 hours per week until the internship ends in August—the exact starting and ending dates will be set in consultation with Beth Roy. The two interns will also be able to take two weeks (non-overlapping) of vacation during the summer; again, this schedule will be set in consultation with Beth Roy.

To apply, send resume and one page cover letter to garden manager, Beth Roy (eroy@colgate.edu) and apply online. The application deadline is March 22.

Starting Hourly Rate: spring semester – $9.30 (estimated because Financial Aid determines pay rate); summer – $10.00

Supervisor: Beth Roy, Garden Manager

Key Contacts: John Pumilio, Director of Sustainability; Christopher Henke, Associate Professor, Director of Upstate Institute and faculty advisor to the garden; Beth Roy, Colgate Community Garden Consultant

Colgate Annual Commuter Survey

By Sustainability Office on January 25, 2017

Each year, the Sustainability Office conducts a survey to assess the total carbon emissions coming from employees who commute to work.

The survey, distributed via email, asks Colgate employees to share information about their commuting habits such as how often they drive themselves to campus, the distance they drive each time, and the fuel efficiency of their vehicle. This data helps us determine commuting emissions and our overall annual Greenhouse Gas footprint. We have been tracking this data since 2009 as we strive to achieve carbon neutrality by 2019.

319 people representing an impressive 31% of Colgate employees completed this year’s survey. The results provided us with some interesting insights. The average Colgate commuter traveled 3,916 miles to and from work last year, using 156 gallons of gasoline and emitting 2,700 lbs of carbon dioxide in the process. When compared to the average American commuter, the average Colgate commuter traveled a shorter distance to work last year, but used more gallons of gasoline. This suggests that the average Colgate commuter uses a vehicle that is less fuel-efficient than that used by the average American commuter.

In total, Colgate commuters traveled 3,991,229 miles last year and used 150,027 gallons of gasoline. That’s enough travel to go to the moon and back more than eight times! These numbers mark an average increase of 19 gallons per commuter last year from the previous year and the highest numbers since 2013. On the positive side, about 20% of respondents to this year’s survey indicated that they walked or rode a bike to campus at least once per week, with an average of 3.5 days per week – a number that was constant across all seasons. This marks a 5% increase in the number of Colgate employees walking or riding a bike from last year’s average of 15%. Last year’s numbers were also less consistent, with more respondents walking or biking to campus in the summer and fall semester than in the spring semester.

To help Colgate achieve its goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2019, commuters can explore options to decrease the amount of gasoline they use in a year to drive to campus. Driving shorter distances to campus not only saves time and money, but also reduces your carbon footprint. Another option is to invest in a more fuel-efficient vehicle. Several employees have already invested in hybrid or ll-electric vehicles. Reducing the number of days you drive to work can also reduce your carbon footprint. This last option could be accomplished by walking to work when weather and distance permits, working from home with your supervisor’s permission, or by carpooling with another Colgate employee who lives nearby. A number of employees commented on the survey that increased bike lanes would make commuting by bicycle more practical and safe, and suggested a variety of improvements that would make it easier for more people to opt out of driving to campus alone. These suggestions will be carefully considered as we rethink parking and circulation patterns on campus.

In the meantime, thank you as always for all you do to support sustainability on campus.