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The hidden environmental impacts of the fashion industry

By Sustainability Office on April 28, 2015

By Grace Dennis ’15

Few shoppers consider sustainability when purchasing new clothing but surprisingly the fashion industry has a major environmental impact. From production to transport to disposal fashion is the third most polluting industry after oil and agriculture. The impact of clothing begins with the production of fabric materials. Growing natural fibers is incredibly resource-intensive, with cotton alone responsible for a quarter of the pesticides used in the United States. Textile dyeing, which is responsible for 20% of industrial water pollution, also adds to the industry’s environmental impact. Factory-made clothing is extremely inefficient with fabric usage. For each garment produced 15-20% of the fabric is thrown away as scraps. With 1 billion garments coming out of China alone each year, that’s a lot of wasted material.

With the growth of fast fashion and cheap clothing retailers like Forever 21 and H&M society has begun to see clothing as disposable. New wardrobes can be easily bought to follow changing trends and torn clothing can be discarded instead of repaired and worn again. This growing disposable mindset of fashion has lead to the major increase of perfectly good clothing in landfills. In fact, the average American throws away 68 pounds of unwanted clothing each year. Currently only 15% of discarded clothing in the United States is sold in thrift and consignment shops, like Goodwill. As clothing becomes cheaper to buy new, the perceived resale value of unwanted clothes has decreased considerably. Cheap clothing also removes the need to buy used clothing at discounted prices. Only 12-15% of Americans shop at resale shops, creating a major gap in the circle of reuse.

Many clothing companies have acknowledged the environmental impacts of the fashion industry and have begun working towards more sustainable practices. Sustainably harvested fibers, waterless dye processes, and zero-waste manufacturing are all being tested out by many clothing brands. Consumer involvement is also a vital step in decreasing the environmental impact of the fashion industry. A movement away from the disposable mindset of clothing will help address the massive amount of waste created by discarded clothing. Quality of materials and construction should be highly valued and clothing should be seen as an investment. Higher quality garments will last much longer before fading or ripping. Consumers will also be more likely to repair a piece of clothing if they see it as a quality investment.

When a piece of clothing is discarded there are two main ways to keep it out of a landfill:

  • Recycling- clothing that is too worn or stained can be taken to a textile recycling center to be remade into new fabric
  • Donation or consignment- still wearable pieces can be donated to thrift stores like Goodwill or resold at consignment shops or online retailers

In order to complete the circle of recycling more shoppers need to purchase used clothing. Used clothing stores today are much more upscale than many people imagine. Chains like Second Time Around, which has stores in 12 states, and the online retailer tradesy.com specialize in reselling brand name clothing for a fraction of the original price. These new resale stores simplify the shopping experience by eliminating the need to sift through racks and racks of clothes to find quality pieces.

While sustainability may not be a major consideration when purchasing clothing, simple measures can be taken to decrease the impact our clothing choices have on the environment. Shoppers should consider sustainable brands and used clothing stores when making purchases. Many rips can be easily repaired at home or by a tailor, greatly extending the life of a piece of clothing. Finally, unwanted clothing should always be recycled, donated, or resold to ensure it stays out of landfills.


Can drinking beer help the environment?

By Sustainability Office on April 22, 2015

By Katherine Schultz ’15

Due to kegs not being allowed at Colgate, there is a ridiculous amount of beer cans consumed on campus. It is important to understand the benefits and accessibility of recycling in Hamilton, and the positive economic, social, and environmental impacts recycling can have.

Aluminum cans have the ability to be “good for the environment” if properly recycled because they have the ability to save energy, time, money, and natural resources. Unlike plastic bags, which endanger marine life and trash the planet, aluminum cans are 100% recyclable and there is no limit to how many times they can be recycled. Over 100 billion aluminum cans are sold in the United States each year, but less than half are recycled. This means that we are wasting about 1.5 million tons of aluminum worldwide, which contributes to emissions of carbon dioxide, and sulfur and nitrogen oxide during the smelting process. Mining for aluminum can disrupt the land, affect the environment, and create health problems for those exposed to toxins.

Recycling aluminum saves about 90% of the energy needed to make the aluminum because it is more energy efficient to make products from existing aluminum to than to create the aluminum needed for new products. According to the Container Recycling Institute, creating a new can is equivalent to powering a laptop for 11 hours. Additionally, recycling one pound of aluminum (about 33 cans) can save about 7 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity. Overall, the recycling of aluminum uses less energy, less raw materials, sends fewer materials to landfills, and is cost effective.

If Colgate students want to recycle cans in Hamilton, cans can be brought to Caz Cans at 2352 State Rt. 12B, and Price Chopper. Both of these locations are accessible, but nevertheless if students are feeling lazy and do not want to drive their cans to these locations, if the cans are separated from the plastic cups used, Madison County has a recycling facility that accepts and recycles cans to benefit their center.

 

Sources:

http://environment.about.com/od/recycling/a/The-Benefits-Of-Aluminum-Recycling-Why-Recycle-Aluminum.htm

http://myzerowaste.com/articles/food/why-recycle-tins-and-cans/

http://homeguides.sfgate.com/importance-recycling-aluminum-cans-79304.html


Update on Sodexo Sustainability

By Sustainability Office on April 15, 2015

083Since the hire of Food Service Manager of Sustainability Programs at Colgate, Deb Hanson, enhancing the sustainability of foods at dining locations on campus has been in full swing. Most recently, the sustainability team has developed a database of all the local foods Sodexo is currently purchasing and looking for ways and partnerships to increase the percentage of local foods we are buying. Hanson has been regularly speaking with Colgate’s food suppliers to keep them updated on our sustainability goals and discover new opportunities for local and sustainable foods. Hanson and sustainability intern, Emily Adams, took a trip to Purdy & Sons foods in Sherburne, NY to meet with suppliers Dan and Vicki Purdy to discuss our sustainability goals, and were given a tour of their meat processing facility. The Purdys’ shared their process of sourcing local meats, produce, and dairy products and their own personal goals of supporting the local economy. Buying locally requires advanced planning and commitments, as unlike buying from large global corporations, food cannot just be ordered and expected to magically show up at Frank’s doors within a few days. Rather, the Purdys have to have an idea of how much product they will require over the year and inform local farmers to raise certain numbers of cattle or acres of corn, for example, they should be growing. The Purdy’s goal is to work with small local farmers and link them with universities and businesses, as these institutions, such as Sodexo at Colgate, cannot buy directly from local producers without having a third party certify them. The Purdy’s next gave the Sodexo sustainability team a tour of the meat facility, where we were able to see workers carefully hand-rolling sausages and full carcasses of local meat hanging in the coolers waiting to be transformed into ground beef for Colgate’s local burgers. Continuously working with local suppliers and maintaining close relationships with them is something the Sodexo sustainability team believes is important as we continue to expand our local food purchasing.

Recently, the Colgate Sodexo team also signed the Taste NY Pledge which is an agreement to increase the use of New York grown and produced products in our dining locations to at least 10% of total procurement. This pledge also states an agreement to educate and maintain staff’s knowledge about the quality, importance and impact of New York’s locally grown and produced products, to highlight seasonal ingredients, and to note whenever possible, the names of the farms or local companies products are coming from. Sodexo is working to improve transparency of our local items by updating a board of local items in Frank daily, introducing item identifiers in the food lines, and having farmer profiles featured on the dining hall tablets. Frank is also planning for a Local Food Showcase “Get Local New York” where some local suppliers will feature their products and speak with students about how they produce their food. Frank is also planning a coffee sampling event in order to choose a new fair trade sustainable coffee to be implemented across dining locations. Sodexo is also preparing for Earth Day by joining Colgate’s 13 Days of Green. Frank will be preparing a special all-local meal for Earth Day, will be requesting students to make commitments to being more environmentally friendly through the “I Commit” campaign, and will be having another Weigh-the-Waste event to demonstrate the amount of food wasted daily in the dining hall


A costly convenience: Keurig K-Cups

By Sustainability Office on April 6, 2015

By Lindsey Sagasta ’16

It’s easy to see how convenient Keurig machines are for the average college student vying for that extra 10 minutes of sleep or studying, however, the waste associated with the K-cups goes largely unnoticed, and that’s a problem. In the past few years, there has been a large amount of attention drawn to the waste generated by Keurig K-cups, and many protests have sprung up in response to the unsustainable products. At the forefront of this movement is the “Kill the K Cup” campaign. If you haven’t seen the viral video– I strongly suggest you to check it out as well as KillTheKCup.org.Picture1

This recent backlash and attention to the matter has even spurred the creator of the Keurig machine to speak out about the unfolding disaster. According to a Buzzfeed article based off of an interview with The Atlantic, John Sylvan regrets creating the device because of the waste associated with the single-use cups (which are not recyclable or biodegradable). In fact, it was calculated that if each pod that ended up in a landfill in 2014 was lined up, the Earth could be circled an estimated 10.5 times- maybe even more.

The vision Sylvan first had of the pod-based coffee machine was solely for offices, and now, almost one in three American homes is in possession of one, with many more similar pod-requiring appliances in the works (a Keurig for jello shots,  Coca-Cola: “Keurig Cold”, Campbells: Keurig Soups). And although subsets of Keurig, such as Keurig Green Mountain, have announced their commitment to a fully recyclable version of a K-cup by 2020, Sylvan is skeptical of their success. Sylvan told The Atlantic “No matter what they say about recycling, those things will never be recyclable,” largely because of the requirements of the machine’s brewing process.

Until the manufacturers of the cups can address their wrongdoings- there are things that K-Cup users can do to make a difference, and for some, Keurig is willing to assist you.

  • In the “Grounds to Grow On” program, customers using Keurig machines at their offices are able to “collect each brewed pack and return it to our disposal partner.” Left over grounds are collected for compost and use in a variety of agricultural applications, while the packs are given to Covanta Energy to gather energy from the waste.
  • Some environmentally conscious K-Cup lovers have taken to creative and practical ways of reusing the cups.
  • One nifty YouTube user has created a great tutorial on how to repack k-cups for her Keurig machine- using the plastic cups up to for or five times before sending them to the landfill AND composting leftover coffee grounds! (Also mentioning the “My K-Cup” option to reducing waste or using your own coffee)

Stay up to date with KillTheKCup.org if you want to learn more about current efforts to reduce waste and other sustainability issues regarding single-serve items. On campus, you can reduce coffee waste by refilling your coffee mugs at places such as the Coop, Hieber Café, or Frank.


Springing into sustainability

By Sustainability Office on April 1, 2015

By Mallory Hart ’16

As we can all tell, Taylor Lake is beginning to thaw, the snow is melting, and we might even hear some birds chirp outside our windows. Spring is coming! Adding some sustainable checkboxes to that spring-cleaning list of yours could be an easy and effective way to change some unsustainable behaviors. Here’s a list of a few easy things you can do this spring that involves enjoying the warmer weather, staying organized for school, sprucing up the dorm room, and considering your wardrobe.

  • Rent a green bike! It’s a great way to enjoy the outdoors while getting where you need to be. A favorite of mine is biking downtown on weekend mornings for brunch. The rental period for bikes in the spring is from April 1 – May 1 and only cost $15/month. Check out the website for more information colgate.edu/greenbikes
  • Midterms are over so it might be time to reorganize that messy binder and refill all the paper you used up studying. First, try using both sides of any scrap paper you might have. This can help reduce the amount of paper used in general. After, be sure to purchase 100% recycled paper for the rest of the year and continue to use both sides.
  • When its time for the actual dorm room clean up, think about the types of cleaning products to use. Typical chemical spray cleaners release volatile organic compounds and toxins, making air in most homes as much as five times more polluted than air outside. Method, The Honest Co.*, and Seventh Generation are some eco-friendly brands to keep in mind when purchasing products for the home (or dorm). As a general rule of thumb, use cleaning products that…
    • List ingredients
    • Contain no chlorine, ammonia, or synthetic chemicals
    • Are certified biodegradable
    • Come in recyclable packaging
    • Are Green Seal certified
  • Clean out your closet. It’s time to part ways with that old sweater you didn’t wear all winter – yeah; I’m talking about that one. While spring-cleaning usually involves putting away all of the heavy winter gear and replacing it with some fabulous new warm weather clothes, there are a few things to take into account before doing so. It’s important to DONATE your old clothes, since its good for the environment and society at the same time. When it comes to spring shopping, check out vintage stores! The clothes bought at thrift shops are second-hand, making recycling part of your wardrobe as well.

* Shout out to Colgate’s Entrepreneurs Weekend that is bringing The Honest Company’s Founder and CCO Jessica Alba on campus next weekend. Check out http://www.colgate.edu/distinctly-colgate/entrepreneurship/entrepreneur-weekend#ew_schedule for more information.


Get ready for the 13 Days of Green!

By Sustainability Office on March 25, 2015

By Ben Schick ’17

As March comes to a close and Hamilton begins to thaw out of the frozen tundra that has engulfed campus for four months, Colgate prepares for the coming of its annual 13 Days of Green.  13 Days of Green is a campus wide event lasting from April 10-April 22 that aims at raising environmental awareness on campus.  The event offers educational programming, events, and competitions that engage students in sustainability on campus and give them the tools necessary to lead a sustainable lifestyle.

This year’s 13 Days of Green consists of a variety of events that highlight different ways organizations around campus are working to make Colgate more sustainable. The full schedule for the 13 Days of Green will be available on the Colgate mobile app starting next week. However, here are some events to look out for:

  • Ongoing:  Window sticker design competition.  Colgate wastes large amounts of heat every winter due to open windows in residence halls.  Students can help Colgate save heat and energy by designing a window sticker reminding students to keep their windows shut during the winter.  The artist of the winning design will win a gift card to a restaurant in downtown Hamilton.
  • April 11:  Head down to the Community Garden at 1pm to get a tour of the garden and learn about sustainable gardening practices.  Food from Hamilton Whole Foods will be provided.
  • April 14:  Sustainable and local food brownbag.  Led by Environmental Studies Professor April Baptiste and Director of Sustainability John Pumilio, this brown bag will look at Colgate’s initiatives to incorporate sustainably grown and local foods into our dining halls.  We will also explore the emerging local food market network in Hamilton, NY.
  • April 16:  Vegetarian dietician appointments.  Led by the Shaw Wellness center, students have an opportunity to talk one-on-one with a vegetarian dietician to learn how to adopt a nutritious and balanced plant-based diet.  Sign up for a one hour slot from 4-8pm by emailing rhangley@colgate.edu.
  • April 18:  Tree planting with COVE Sidekicks from 1-3pm.  Sidekicks will be celebrating Earth Day by planting saplings at the top of the old ski hill.  There will also be tours of the Darwin Thinking Path and environmentally friendly snacks. All are invited!
  • April 22 (Earth Day):  The 13 Days of Green culminates with the Oak Awards.  Formerly known as the Green Awards, the “Oakies” recognize individuals and groups on campus that have made a positive impact on Colgate’s campus through sustainability-related efforts.  Come join us for the award ceremony and free dinner from Hamilton Whole Foods.  In addition, if you wish to nominate an individual or group for an Oakie, please fill out this form:https://docs.google.com/a/colgate.edu/forms/d/1zaYwaqVmhvylk0CEKCvKMbAqOxiQyHUukiaEI6fzWy0/viewform.

While the 13 Days of Green is a fantastic event that engages students in sustainable living at Colgate, it is by no means the only opportunity students have to get involved in sustainability on campus.  There are countless ways students can immerse themselves in sustainability on campus.  The events, workshops and competitions of the 13 Days of Green is meant to serve as a starting point for students on their road to living a sustainable life now and in the future.  For more information, on how you can get involved beyond the 13 Days, visit colgate.edu/green.


Say Goodbye to Styrofoam

By Sustainability Office on March 17, 2015

By Sara Reese ’16

As members of the Hamilton community, we’ve probably all ordered Dunkin Donuts coffee, thinking nothing of the Styrofoam cup that’s handed to us through the drive-thru window.  And we’ve all probably been to a campus event and been served take-out food on Styrofoam plates.  While the everyday consumer might not consider the type of tableware or cup that they use, the fact is, Styrofoam is harmful to the environment and also our health.  As members of a renowned liberal arts university with one of the most aggressive carbon neutrality dates in higher education, the sustainability of our purchases should always be considered.

Styrofoam is identified as the fifth largest contributor to waste in the environment – occupying an estimated 30% in our nation’s landfills.  Styrofoam is also non-biodegradable, meaning that it will persist in that landfill forever.  An important compound in Styrofoam is Styrene, which was identified as a potential carcinogen and neurotoxin by the U.S. Environment Protection Agency (EPA) several decades ago.  Additional chemicals found in Styrofoam have been known to leach into food and beverages as it is heated up in the Styrofoam tableware or cup, leading to human ingestion of these chemicals.  According to EPA studies, Styrene is now found in 100 percent of the fat tissues sampled from every U.S. citizen (including children).  Clearly, Styrofoam has negative impacts on our environment and our bodies.

On March 10th, the Colgate University Student Government Association unanimously passed both a resolution and a bill against Styrofoam.  The bill, acting as a change to bylaws pertaining to the Budget Allocation Committee, prohibits BAC-funded student groups from using BAC-funding to purchase Styrofoam.  That means when student groups host events and order pizza and drinks for pickup or delivery, there has to be explicit notice given to the vendor that Styrofoam cups or plates should not be provided.  The resolution informs all Colgate departments and offices that the student body dissuades the use of Styrofoam and suggests action to reduce Styrofoam purchasing.

This bill and resolution builds momentum towards the ultimate action that should be taken – a campus-wide Styrofoam ban and ban within the town of Hamilton itself.  With recyclable and biodegradable options being offered at comparable prices, Styrofoam should not be allowed.  This wouldn’t be an unprecedented action – many cities, counties, and states are already banning Styrofoam, including New York City.  There are also many colleges and universities that have banned Styrofoam on campus.

With Styrofoam now banned from BAC-funded events, I encourage all of us – students, staff, and faculty – to invest in reusable cups and mugs.  Instead of using disposable containers, consider purchasing a reusable container or thermos that can be used over and over.  Making more conscious purchasing decisions can protect our environment and our health.  Let’s say goodbye to Styrofoam.


A Drawback of Less Paper Waste at Colgate

By Sustainability Office on March 16, 2015

Over the past few years, Colgate has made a lot of progress in advancing sustainability on campus.  We have reduced our campus carbon footprint by 34 percent while achieving over $500,000 per year in avoided spending on energy, water, and other precious resources.  Perhaps the most astonishing progress has been in our use of printer and copier paper on campus.  In 2009, the Colgate community collectively purchased over 12.3 million sheets of paper.  If stack up, that would have been taller than three Empire State Buildings in height.

Colgate employees purchased over 12.3 million sheets of paper in 2009.

Colgate employees purchased over 12.3 million sheets of paper in 2009.

 

Last year, Colgate purchased less than 3.6 million sheets of paper.  That’s a 71 percent reduction in paper use or a savings of 8.7 million sheets of paper.  That’s the approximate equivalent of 550 trees saved per year!

 

Colgate employees purchased less than 3.6 million sheets of paper in 2014.  That's a 71% reduction compared to 2009.

Colgate employees purchased less than 3.6 million sheets of paper in 2014. That’s a 71% reduction compared to 2009.

What has led to this reduction in paper consumption?  Certainly, digital technologies and an increased awareness of printing only when necessary have contributed.  We also set campus printers to double-sided printing a few years back and installed print-release stations that eliminates most accidental or otherwise unclaimed print jobs.

A few years ago, a few of our more environmentally and cost-conscious employees began collecting perfectly good “scrap” paper from other departments.  Instead of purchasing new paper, they would simply “recycle” this used paper with printing on only one side by running it through their own printers.  According to Roxanne Benson, who has been working in Outdoor Education for the past 8 years, she has never purchased new printer paper.  She has always been able to collect old paper from other departments.  Recently, however, Roxanne’s stockpile of paper has been running low.  When she contacted all her “usual suspects” for a new supply, she was dismayed to discover they had none to spare.  They thought Roxanne’s practice of reusing paper was such a good one that they began doing the same.  While this best practice may be good for Colgate and for our environment, it means hard times for our more sustainably-minded community members.  Chin up, Roxanne, and thank you for helping to advance sustainability at Colgate!


Colgate Community Garden Plot Program Launches

By Sustainability Office on March 13, 2015

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The Colgate Community Garden is now accepting applications for its 2015 Garden Plot Program. This is an exciting opportunity for individuals in the community to be able to tend their own garden plot within the Colgate Community Garden. The garden team hopes for the Colgate Community Garden to become a place where community members can come together to enjoy learning about gardening and sustainable living.

Each of the garden plots offered are approximately 4 ft. W x 8 ft. L x 10 in. H.  Plots are constructed using rot-resistant, untreated lumber.  Program participants will have access to the garden and garden tools but must provide their own seeds and plants.  A $25 annual fee per plot and $5 annual refundable deposit is required for use of one of the garden plots. A Garden Plot Agreement must also be signed by participants, showing agreement to following the rules and guidelines established by the Colgate Community Garden.

Community Garden Plot space is limited and applications will be accepted first-come, first-served. For more information about this program or to apply for a garden plot,  please contact Community Garden Manager Beth Roy (eroy@colgate.edu, 315-335-1433).

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Where are you going for spring break?

By Sustainability Office on March 11, 2015

By Rachel Hangley ’15 (Environmental Geography Major and Spanish Minor from East Falmouth, MA)

Look at any eHarmony, Match.com, or Tinder profile and likely you will see “Travel” under the person’s interests and hobbies section. Nearly everyone loves to travel — whether it be to study abroad, experience new cultures, cross something off a bucket list, or just escape from the frigid tundra that is Hamilton, NY. However, humanity’s amazing ability to fly halfway around the world in half a day does have some downfalls. People rarely take into consideration the massive impact their exciting jaunts have on the climate and the world that they are exploring. The desire to see and visit the four corners of the earth has created a system that is destroying that very planet. Surely there must be some solution to this worldwide dilemma?

The aviation industry emits 705 million tons of carbon dioxide every year. This number is estimated to increase by 70% by 2020, and by 300-700% by 2050, even if fuel efficiency improve by 2% per year. The average American generates 19 tons of CO2 each year, and a quick trip to Europe or the West Coast can eat up one tenth of that annual amount. Consider a Colgate student who lives in California and goes home for Thanksgiving, winter break, heads to the tropics for spring break, and then goes home again for the summer. That is one hefty carbon footprint. However, who can blame that student for wanting to attend an institution such as Colgate, and wanting to have the typical college experience of studying abroad and going somewhere fun for spring break? Even still, if everyone had this lifestyle, the planet’s resources would be drained before we know it.

I don’t think the answer is to cut back on traveling, which I too consider to be one of my favorite activities. So what are some possible solutions that travellers can take to counter this challenge?

Some have suggested a carbon or fuel tax as most effective way to internalize the environmental externalities of flying. Others see biofuels as the best option to directly impact the source of emissions. Carbon offsets is another option that gives the responsibility directly to the consumer, and which Colgate students could take on themselves. A statement made by Connie Hedegaard, the European commissioner for climate action, echoes the sentiments of many climate-conscious travellers: “We believe that those of us who can afford to pay for an air ticket can also afford to pay for the pollution from their travel.”

Another option is carbon offsets, which Colgate University has adopted to counteract many of the emissions that it cannot presently cut through infrastructural or behavioral changes. To put this in context, a roundtrip flight from Syracuse to Cancun, Mexico emits approximately .84 tons of CO2 per person, according to this handy Carbon Footprint Calculator. In order to offset that amount of carbon, one can spend $14.06 to plant native trees in Kenya, or just $12.44 to support Clean Development Mechanism projects verified by UN standards. Surely, as Connie Hedegaard said, if someone can afford a $600 flight then an extra $13 isn’t too much to ask (especially for a Colgate student, #13). Students could also offset their air travel by contributing to the Colgate Forest in Patagonia.

There is no doubt that people will continue to travel and see the world, as they should. Travelling promotes open-mindedness, acceptance, and appreciation for the world around us. However, if that world is deteriorating because of that travel, shouldn’t those travellers feel the need, and take responsibility, to preserve that which they are exploring?

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