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Holiday shut down: give the gift of energy savings this holiday season!

By Sustainability Office on December 15, 2014

LET’S ALL COMPLETE 4 IN 4!
Before you leave for holiday break, complete four small actions in under four minutes to help us save energy and achieve our Greenhouse Gas Reduction Goal.

Before you leave for holiday break, don’t forget to:

  1. Unplug. Unplug cell phone chargers, radios, speakers, clocks, printers/copiers, coffee makers!, tea kettles, microwaves and other kitchen appliances.  Many electronic devices continue to drain energy even if they are turned off. This is known as Phantom Load.   According to the U.S. EPA, Phantom Load is responsible for up to 40% of our electricity use!  In fact, a quarter of the energy used by your TV each year is consumed when the TV is off!
  2. Turn off.  What you cannot unplug, turn off!  Turn off computers, monitors, lights, and all electronic devices.
  3. Shut tight.  Close all windows and shut the blinds.
  4. Turn down (the heat).  If you have a controllable office thermostat, lower it to 62 deg F. Please do not set thermostats to a temperature below 58 deg F and check to be sure thermostats remain in “Heat” (NOT “OFF”) position.

Be an energy Grinch this holiday season, do your part to help reduce energy and resource use on campus.

Be an energy Grinch this holiday season.  Shut down and unplug!

Be an energy Grinch this holiday season. Shut down and unplug!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy holidays from Colgate’s Office of Sustainability!


A More Sustainable Sodexo at Colgate University

By Sustainability Office on December 11, 2014

By Emily Adams ‘15, Sodexo sustainability intern & Environmental Geography major and Peace and Conflict Studies minor

I am very passionate about advancing sustainability on campus by sourcing more fresh, local and sustainable foods at Colgate. YUM! For this reason, I was very excited when I became Sodexo’s new sustainability intern on campus. I can’t imagine a more exciting opportunity at this stage in my Colgate experience! Additionally, Sodexo is in the process of hiring a Food Service Manager of Sustainability Programs.  Together, we will be working to make positive changes to the dining services here at Colgate.

Colgate’s Sustainable Food Systems Advisory Group – a group of students, faculty, and staff – in partnership with Sodexo are already working together on exciting new initiatives to make food more sustainable on campus. We are working towards goals of enhanced transparency surrounding the sourcing of our food, larger amounts of local and sustainably grown food, increased interaction with and purchasing from local farmers, and reduced food and overall waste.

Sodexo already sources some local foods.  However, in the past students had no way of knowing which foods were locally produced.  Because it is important to know who is growing our food, we have begun to label local foods throughout our dining facilities. These foods are now being displayed with specific references to the New York town or farm where they are coming from. Additionally, a large map of New York State, which shows where we are obtaining different local foods, now greets students as they enter Frank Dining Hall.

New York Map_opt

Map of foods produced in New York and served in Frank Dining Hall.

In addition to increased labeling, Frank Dining Hall has started a new weekly Farm-to-Table Sunday dinner in which the entire meal consists of only locally sourced foods. In conjunction with this local dinner, the area farmers who source these meals will be highlighted in weekly fact sheets posted alongside the menus. This will increase knowledge about who is growing Colgate’s food and how it is being produced. Stay tuned as we are also working on developing local burger and quesadilla options for the Coop.

Reducing food waste is another important way to advance sustainability in dining services.  For this reason, we will be providing tasting samples of food so that students do not have to take a full portion of a meal to determine whether or not they will eat it. There is also a new “Spotted” reusable mug program where coupons for free 16 oz. hot drinks at any dining location will be rewarded to people seen using reusable mugs on campus.

We are really excited about the future of sustainable dining at Colgate.  By sourcing more local and sustainable foods and by reducing our overall waste, we hope to be able to make significant positive changes in every students’ dining experience while also reducing our ecological and carbon footprints. With your help, we know we can reduce energy usage and waste from production, transportation, and storage; support our local economy; and obtain fresher, more nutrient-rich food.


Managing Colgate’s Forested Lands for Carbon Neutrality

By Sustainability Office on December 10, 2014

Earlier this year, Colgate’s 1,059 acres of forested land received certification from the American Tree Farm System.  This designation confirms Colgate’s long-standing commitment to environmental stewardship and responsible forest management.  Certification was a part of Colgate’s larger effort to manage our forests for carbon sequestration.  In 2014, we determined that our forests store 165,491 tons of carbon and sequester an additional 1,578 tons each year.

Click here to read the article by Kellyann Hayes ’16 published in December 2014.

big picture image for the autumn 2008 colgate scene

Colgate manages 1,059 acres of forested lands that sequester over 1,500 tons of carbon each year.


Colgate’s Document Services Receives Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)® Chain-of-Custody Certification

By Sustainability Office on December 3, 2014

Congratulations to Colgate’s Document Services for completing an extensive Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)® chain-of-custody sustainability audit. FSC® is an international organization that promotes responsible management of our world’s forests. The audit was led by the Printers Green Resource LLC InGreen Group, who is FSC is certified by the Rainforest Alliance. Rainforest Alliance is an accredited certifying body that can provide FSC certification and is widely regarded as the “Gold Standard” of forest certification programs.  FSC’s chain-of-custody certification verifies Document Service’s high-level commitment to environmental stewardship and responsible business practices.

In the words of Kip Manwarren, Interim Director of Document Services, “I am excited that Colgate University Document & Mail Services is supporting both responsible forestry and the sustainability efforts of Colgate University through FSC chain-of-custody certification. Offering FSC certified printed documents reflects positively on Document Services and the way we do business. We take our part in conserving the forests of the world very seriously and are committed to doing our share to preserve the world’s natural resources. We are proud of our environmental record and will continue to pursue additional venues to lessen our impact on the environment.

Located on the lower level of O’Connor Campus Center (Coop), Document Services provides copying and offset printing services as well as type and graphic design for students, faculty, staff, and administration. Products offered include; booklets, flyers, brochures, announcements, stationery, business cards, distributions, tickets, invitations, course packets, post cards and more. Document Services also provides assistance with copyright clearance and produces course packets which are available through the Colgate Bookstore. As an FSC certified printer, Document Services can add the FSC mark to any qualifying job to show that the piece was produced on responsibly sourced paper. If desired, the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal can also be added to the FSC trade marks.  Both logos identify Document Service’s and Colgate University’s commitment to environmental stewardship and are valued by people everywhere who receive your documents!

Colgate Document Services Receives Forest Stewardship Council and Rainforest Alliance Certification.

Colgate Document Services receives Forest Stewardship Council and Rainforest Alliance Certification.


Inspiration, Alumni, & Sustainability in Portland, OR

By John Pumilio on November 28, 2014

I am still energized from my recent west coast visit to Portland, Oregon.  Steve Dickinson ’13, sustainability office program assistant, Katie Williams ’15, Geography and History double major, and I where in town for the annual higher education sustainability conference (AASHE 2014).  The conference attracted over 2,000 sustainability practitioners from across the country and beyond.  The sustainability movement in higher education has exploded over the past few years. Amazing progress has been made in areas of climate action planning, local and sustainable food procurement, alternative transportation, renewable energy, recycling and composting, water conservation, land use, and social justice issues.  The highlight of the conference was connecting with other Colgate graduates who are now doing incredible work in the field of sustainability.  Dr. Lisa Cleckner ’86 is the director of the Finger Lakes Institute at Hobart and William Smith Colleges.  Caitlin Steele ’01 is the Director of Sustainability & Energy at San Francisco State University.  Jessica Prata ’05 is now the Assistant Vice President of Environmental Stewardship at Columbia University.  And, Adam Costello ’10 is the Sustainability Fellow to the SUNY Office of Sustainability & Research Foundation.

Since 2009, Colgate’s sustainability program has gained national recognition and we are widely viewed as a national leader in sustainability in higher education.  Katie and I were at the conference to present on Colgate’s Campus Master Plan and our institutional commitment to carbon neutrality by 2019.  Katie represents Colgate very well and did a fantastic job during our presentation and fielding questions from the audience.  Perhaps she will be a future star in the growing field of sustainability professionals.  Our session was well-attended and generated significant discussion.

The highlight of my trip was meeting with the Alumni Club of Portland in a warm and cozy downtown Portland restaurant.  A huge thank you to Richard Beck ’71 and Ginny Haines ’72 for all their work organizing the group.  The atmosphere was perfect and I thoroughly enjoyed the conversations I had with many of our devoted alumni and parents of current students.  Of course, we discussed my favorite topic – sustainability!  But I also had the chance to connect with a few of our alumni on a deeper level.  I learned about the life, work, and interests of alumni living in Portland.  I heard fascinating personal stories of roads traveled since Colgate.  We were all also impressed by Richard’s impassioned work on the West Coast Electric Highway—an impressive network of electric vehicle charging stations that run through Washington and Oregon and into California. Katie, Steve, and I shared our Colgate experience and why advancing sustainability is so important at Colgate and beyond.

I returned from Portland feeling motivated and privileged that I have the opportunity to collaborate with so many incredible Colgate alumni.  Thank you to Laura Masse and Tim McEvoy ’13, Assistant Directors of Alumni Relations, for making this trip possible.


A small way to make a big change

By Sustainability Office on November 28, 2014

By Ben Schick ’17

This summer I was walking with a few friends along the Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) canal that borders the Potomac River. Being from Potomac, Maryland, I have enjoyed the perks of living with a National Historic Park basically in my backyard for my entire life. The beauty of the Potomac River and the wildlife that freely inhabits the surrounding territory consistently drew my friends, family and myself to the canal during the Spring, Summer and Fall.

After finishing a trek along the Billy Goat Trail this summer, I was walking along the canal and noticed an alarming sight that I never seen in the canal. At one of the locks, or blockages where water is allowed to continue down the canal in small amounts, there was a large buildup of plastic water bottles. As I walked father along the canal, I noticed the same buildup of plastic water bottles at another lock. It struck me as surprising and sad that in an environment as protected and beautiful as a National Historic Park there could be a buildup of harmful plastic. When I got home later that night, the sad feeling I had earlier in the day turned into a slight outrage at how this could possibly happen in a place that is meant to preserve wildlife and allow people to appreciate nature. I decided to do some research to find out why people use plastic water bottles and the negative effects these bottles have on the environment.

Ever since plastic was first mass-produced in the 1950’s, humans have come to rely on plastics as an integral part of their daily lives. Plastics have brought about many societal, medical and technological advances that have helped shape the world that we live in today. (Jstor2)

Although plastic water bottles are seemingly more convenient and safer than tap water, they pose numerous negative effects on the environment. In 2006, Americans consumed 36 billion bottles of water. It is estimated that the creation of the plastic water bottles required 17 million barrels of oil, produced 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide and required an additional two liters of water for the production of every one liter bottle of water. These numbers do not include the energy required to transport the bottled water across the globe, and they are already incredibly high.

In addition to using vital resources in its production, bottled water poses catastrophic repercussions on the environment if disposed of improperly. Plastics that get into ecosystems entangle organisms and can limit their mobility to the point of death. Organisms also ingest small pieces of the plastic water bottles and die. In addition, chemicals that are used on plastic water bottles can get into the environment and have negative repercussions on both animal and human health. (Jstor2, Jstor1, Pacific Institute)

Reducing the negative effects of disposable plastic water bottles has a simple solution: drink tap water. Tap water tastes good, is easily accessible for most Americans, and costs next to nothing to drink. Constantly consuming plastic water bottles requires trips to the super market and costs money for every purchase. Drinking tap water requires no trips to the super market and only requires one purchase of a reusable water bottle. The switch to a reusable water bottle is easy to make and enables you to help the environment in a small but powerful way. It’s the small things that count.

Sources:


Eco-Fashion: A Sustainable Alternative or Social Trend?

By Sustainability Office on November 26, 2014

By Andrew Yurcik ’15

The fashion industry, always being on the forefront of social awareness, has previously played a significant role in environmentalism through donations and fundraisers. However, recently the rising trend of eco-fashion, a practice in which designers assure that their products are produced only from environmentally friendly materials and production practices, has brought in a new scope of how we define ones sustainable practices. Upon learning of this new trend, I wondered whether those buying these clothes actually were making an impactful decision or just following the next fashion trend.

Outside of materials or the production cycle for sustainable fashion, factors including extended shipping and special care or treatment needed for some “sustainable clothing” may be causing harmful impacts that are otherwise not apparent. Major fashion designers do not know all the ins and outs of sustainability so often aspects such as these are over looked when claiming their work to be sustainable created. Regardless of eco-fashion direct impact, its ability to raise awareness among fashion producers and the community at large is unquestioned. Most major fashion companies are moving towards more sustainable practices in their production even if their products cannot be completely deemed as eco-fashion. These changes are noticed by consumers who will lean towards sustainability if it economically feasible. However, the vagueness associated with producers claiming to be eco-friendly can be misleading to most shoppers. “When you only look at the raw materials to ask if something is really green, you are like the blind person holding the tail of the elephant,” said Chris Van Dyke, chief executive of Nau, a three-year-old outdoor clothing line founded on the principle of sustainable practices throughout its production cycle.1 Most consumers will not look beyond the tag that says “eco-friendly” on their new pair of organic cotton jeans.

So how can consumers and producers assure that they are actually being sustainable without overwhelming either side with litigation or long outlines on each part of sustainable fashion production?

One alternative is increased government involvement and regulation to determine what can be deemed sustainable clothing. In 2008, the Federal Trade Commission revised its Green Guidelines to ensure that marketer’s claims they made about the environmental attributes of their products are truthful and non-deceptive. In order to get a green certificate marketers must pass the outline requirements however it’s still possible for marketers to claim to use sustainable practices without needing a green certificate. In order to ensure true changes the FTC must implements more stringent requirements on green marketing.

A second adjustment including increased transparency between the producer and consumers allows for more educated decisions when buying eco-fashion. In industries, including food production, producers must outline the production process of their products. Similar practices could be required of fashion companies who wish to claim to be ecofriendly. By listing materials sources, and production processes, including all steps from creation to shipment and maintenance at stores via online websites, consumers will be able to fully informed on the products they are consuming. Thereby, consumers know if their purchases go beyond a social trend and are actually making impactful differences.

 

Sources:

http://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2012/10/ftc-issues-revised-green-guides

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/13/style/13iht-13green.8728317.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

http://www.postconsumers.com/education/eco-fashion-facts/


Colgate ditches the switch

By Sustainability Office on November 21, 2014

The Colgate Sustainability Office co-hosted the event “Ditch the Switch” with SGA on November 14th 2014 in Parker Commons.  The event was created in order to promote energy reduction in the form of turning off lights, using power strips, and unplugging electronics when they are not in use. “Ditch the Switch” also built awareness about the two events going on around campus to reduce our environmental impact. This event was therefore a culminating event between CCN (Campus Conservation Nationals) and the Broad Street Challenge both working towards the reduction of water, energy, and the environmental education.

Sustainability Staff at Ditch the Switch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When students walked into the venue, they were asked to sign a pledge to reduce their energy, and additionally took pictures in front of a fun backdrop. Within the Parker Commons we turned off all of the lights, hence the name, “Ditch the Switch” and used glow sticks for lighting. Through the event we hoped to promote the reduction of energy and water consumption around campus, and make students aware that they can do small efforts to help the environment. Thanks to everyone who came out!


Rethinking “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”

By Sustainability Office on November 21, 2014

By Allison Shafritz ’15

Everybody knows the common phrase “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” It’s a mantra that kids learn from a young age and is repeatedly used to advertise the rules of recycling. But not everybody actively thinks about the slogan as they proceed with daily activities. Increasing recycling rates is primarily about behavior change, so if we could get more people to really think about “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” on a daily basis, waste would be drastically reduced. And I think we have reached a point where most people agree that recycling is a good thing; it isn’t a controversial topic with people fighting at the picket line. Even so, in a typical day, the average American generates 4.4 pounds of solid waste—that adds up to almost a ton of trash per year! This means we need to rethink “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” and put those words into action.

Recycling is something I have been involved withsince high school, when the Environmental Club decided to revamp the school-wide recycling program. Prior to this, my school essentially dumped all waste into one truck and brought it to the landfill. While jumpstarting this program, I realized how much of our waste is actually recyclable material; the amount we could have saved by recycling sooner is astounding. If more households, campuses, and businesses around the country implemented successful recycling programs, we would make huge strides towards creating a more sustainable planet. The EPA estimates that increasing the nationwide recycling rate from 28% (our current rate) to 35% would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 10 million metric tons of carbon equivalent.

There is usually a moment or set of events that triggers an individual’s interest in something. For me, my interest in recycling and reducing plastic use was triggered by learning about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This “Pacific trash vortex” is comprised of two separate masses of garbage floating in the Pacific Ocean; one is near Japan, and the other is in between California and Hawaii. They are primarily made up of extremely small plastic particles called microplastics, and 80% of the debris is the result of human activity in North America and Asia. Learning about the garbage patch was eye-opening for me because I grew up on the coast and consider the ocean to be an extremely valuable resource.

Screen Shot 2014-11-06 at 10.55.42 AM

National Geographic

Since I started working at the Sustainability Office the summer after my sophomore year, I’ve had the opportunity to work on a few different recycling projects at Colgate. I know that increasing recycling rates at Colgate does not directly connect to the garbage patch floating in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. However, I do believe that increasing awareness plays a pivotal role in both of these issues. Increasing awareness can lead to behavior change, which can lead to environmental action, which can lead to policy reform, and so on. That’s why I have been invested in recycling programs at Colgate over the past few years.

There are so many opportunities to get involved with and expand recycling programs on campus. Although Colgate is a small community, we still generate a lot of waste and ultimately, recycling comes down to the students. Although Recyclemania (an annual recycling competition) does not start until the spring, it is never too early to begin! If we do not collectively make a change in our recycling behavior, we will never be as sustainable as we can be. So next time you’re holding a plastic bottle or a pizza box, take a moment to think about which bin you should be using.


Bees: where would we be without them?

By Sustainability Office on November 19, 2014

By Grace Dennis ’15

Have you ever thought of bees when you bit into an apple? Probably not, unless a swarm of bees was disrupting your picnic. Bees are much more than a buzzing nuisance; according to the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), they are responsible for pollinating 35% of the food we eat. Many foods, from apples to avocados and almonds, wouldn’t be available without the help of bee colonies who pollinate the crops each year. Pollination is carried out by both wild bee colonies and farmed colonies raised by beekeepers that are “rented” by farmers each season.

In the past 10 years bees in the United States and across the globe have been spontaneously leaving their colonies and abandoning their pollination duty. This problem, known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), has already affected about one-third of bee colonies in the US (NRDC). CCD affects both wild bee colonies and farmed colonies and the exact cause is somewhat unknown. One possible cause of CCD is global warming, which is causing the bloom of flowers to come at different times, out of sync with bee hibernation cycles. Blooming flowers provide the food needed by the bees after they come out of hibernation. Another possible cause of CCD, primarily in wild colonies, is habitat destruction. Development has caused a loss of traditional honeybee habitats, which has decreased colony numbers. Pesticides are believed to be the primary cause of CCD, especially a type of widely used pesticides called neonicotinoids. Pesticides used on nearby crops and by beekeepers to control mites in the colonies harm the honeybees and may lead to CCD over time. Neonicotinoids have been banned for two years in many European countries in an effort to determine their effect on honeybee colonies.

Efforts at multiple scales are needed to help reverse the bee decline. Farmers can have the biggest impact on efforts to bring back bees. Farming practices that help preserve the natural habitat of bees could help bee colonies return to areas affected by CCD. Another major way farmers can help bring bee colonies back is to decrease pesticide use. The National Resources Defense Council recommends Integrated Pest Management (IPM) methods to decrease the need of toxic pesticides near bee colonies.

On a smaller scale bee colonies can be restored through the planting of household gardens. By growing plants that bloom at different times of the year, bees species that come out of hibernation at different times will have a source of food and a great habitat to colonize. The Colgate Community Garden grows a variety of plants that help create a healthy habitat for bees. Another way to support bee communities in Hamilton is through the planting of gardens around Broad Street houses. If you don’t have the most green thumb, another way to help restore bee colonies is to buy organic produce. Through supporting organic practices you can ensure toxic pesticides that could harm bee colonies were not used.

Global bee decline is estimated to cost $5.7 billion each year (NRDC). While actions taken by farmers to reverse this decline are extremely important, consumers can also make a big impact. Planting household gardens to increase bee habitats is an option reserved mostly for more suburban dwellers, but anyone who buys groceries can opt for organic in an effort to save the bees. By taking steps to bring back the bees we can all help avoid a world without the delicious produce we consume every day.

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