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Field Trip! Common Thread and Heritage Farms Visits

By Sustainability Office on July 25, 2017
-Camila Loke ’19

No two days at the garden look the same – there are always new issues to attend to as the plants grow and the weather changes. The work keeps us busy and on our toes, but that doesn’t mean we don’t get the chance to visit other farms in Madison County. Field trips to other farms are one of my favorite parts of working as a summer intern. This past month the garden team volunteered at Common Thread Farm and visited Heritage Farms, both of which are within fifteen minutes of the garden.

Common Thread Farm has been owned and operated since 2012 by Wendy and Asher Berkhart-Spiegel with the purpose of providing the community with sustainably grown food and opportunities to be more involved with the land. Common Thread operates on the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model, in which members purchase a share of the farm’s annual harvest prior to the growing season, and pick up their shares weekly at the farm or other designated sites.

Our visit to Common Thread started bright and early at 7 am. We were lucky enough to be there on a harvest day, so we had the opportunity to witness the behind the scenes of a CSA. On this particular morning, we helped harvest Swiss chard, radishes, zucchinis, and beets. It was truly a pleasure to spend the morning with the Common Thread crew, but several parts of the experience stand out to me. One of my favorite things was seeing the organizational systems they have for harvesting vegetables.

There are two crucial components of harvesting at Common Thread: bins and rubber bands. Three different colors of bins – red, blue, and gray – indicate where the vegetables will be sold (such as wholesale or CSA). Then rubber bands are counted and placed into the correct color bin, corresponding to the number of bunches to be sold. From there, the vegetables are harvested, making sure that any damaged or unattractive ones are removed. It was great experiencing what it’s like to work on a big farm – even just for a few hours. Thank you, Wendy and Asher, for letting us help out!

Heritage Farms was established in 1985 and moved to its present location in Bouckville in 1990. It was designed specifically to promote independence and education in individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Participants in Heritage Farms’ day and summer habilitation programs learn a variety of skills, including tending gardens, caring for livestock, and woodworking. They are organized in groups depending on independence level, and each group leader works closely with their participants to meet their needs.

After touring the farm, I was impressed with the wide range of skills being taught and with the hard work being done to maintain the grounds in such beautiful condition. We were greeted right away by one of the newest members to Heritage Farms – a baby bunny! The farm has a barn in which rabbits, pigs, goats, miniature ponies, donkeys, chickens, and even a peacock live. Participants help clean the stalls and put out food for the animals, which are used mainly for therapeutic purposes. In addition to the barn, the grounds include a koi pond, wood shop, raised beds, greenhouse, and several buildings for indoor activities. In all, the grounds extend more than 150 acres but the buildings and other structures are concentrated in an easily accessible area off the main road.

In addition to operating as a farm, Heritage Farms provides participants with fun and educational experiences. On the day we visited, for example, participants and group leaders were enjoying a snack of banana boats made over a small fire. I also noticed a few individuals expertly using leaf blowers and weed whackers to help maintain the pathways around the buildings. One participant shared that she fed and cleaned the chickens’ cage that morning, and that her favorite thing to do at the farm is to ride in a big tractor. Overall, Heritage Farms appears to be using very creative and engaging ways to educate and support its participants. It’s definitely worth checking out!


Just Scratching the Surface: A Beginner’s Guide to Geothermal Energy

By Sustainability Office on July 19, 2017
-Chaveli Miles ’19

If you’ve ever seen a volcano erupt or a geyser spew hot water and steam, you’ve seen geothermal energy at work! Source: History.com

Underneath the Earth’s surface, large energy reservoirs cradled in subsurface geological formations can be used to illuminate and heat our modern world without the pollution caused by burning fossil fuels. The Earth’s natural heat, geothermal energy, can be harnessed in two ways: deep (geothermal power plants and direct-use) and shallow (geothermal heat pumps). While direct-use is still in its experimental stages, geothermal power plants and geothermal heat pumps have been generating clean, renewable energy for decades.

Geothermal power plants utilize both hydro (water) and thermal (heat) sources to power a turbine. As the turbine spins it generates electricity. This technology first occurred in Larderello, Italy in 1904. In the present day, geothermal energy is created in three ways: dry steam, flash, and binary. As defined by National Geographic, dry steam utilizes naturally occurring steam to directly drive a turbine. This is oldest form of geothermal energy production. Flash geothermal energy pulls high-pressure hot water into low-pressure cooler water, generating steam which can then be used to drive a turbine. As of right now, flash plants are the most common.

Lastly, in binary geothermal energy, hot water is mixed with a “secondary fluid” with a much lower boiling point than water. This causes the secondary fluid to turn to vapor, which then drives a turbine. Secondary fluids are usually hydrocarbons such as isopentane or a refrigerant. Future geothermal plants will likely be binary as this process does not release geothermal fluids such as nitrogen, hydrogen sulfide, and ammonia into the environment which can occur with older geothermal methods. In addition, the water and the secondary fluid are kept separated during the whole process, resulting in little or no air emissions.

Unlike geothermal power plants that are used to generate electricity, geothermal heat pumps are used for heating and cooling. They can also be used to provide hot water all year round. Here at Colgate, Chapel House – Sanctuary and Spiritual Retreat Center –  is heated and cooled using a vertical, closed-loop geothermal pump. Below ground, the temperature remains at about 45 to 75 degrees fahrenheit. Geothermal heat pumps rely on this constant temperature to regulate indoor heating and cooling. A system of polyethylene pipes called a loop transfers heat in or out of a building, depending on the season.

In a vertical closed-loop heat pump, the loop is drilled down approximately 100 to 400 feet deep and conjoined into one continuous pipe. A water solution (usually water in a open-loop system and a mix of water and environmentally-safe antifreeze in a closed-loop system) runs through the loop, transferring heat to and from the ground through a heat pump which is connected to an indoor air duct system. The heat pump contains a refrigerant which undergoes variations in temperature and pressure, alternating between a liquid and gaseous state. This effectively heats and cools the air indoors. The water solution and refrigerant never mix, the refrigerant remains in the heat pump while the water solution remains in the loop.  
A geothermal heat pump simply collects energy and redistributes it unlike a standard gas furnace. For every kilowatt of energy consumed by a geothermal heat pump, approximately 4 kilowatts of energy is generated, making not only more environmentally friendly but also significantly more efficient and economically rewarding than fossil fuels.


The Psychology of Recycling

By Sustainability Office on July 14, 2017
-Annaliese Clauze ’20

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“Reduce, reuse, recycle!” Most of us have heard the championing cry of the green movement so often that it’s now ingrained in the very fabric of our psyches. To hear the mantra, changing our behaviors to make our lives more sustainable and more efficient should be a simple, three-step process.

And yet, recycling rates in the United States in 2013 only reached 34.3%, putting it at the number 17 spot on the list of countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. (Source) Here on Colgate’s campus, recycling rates during Recyclemania 2017 only reached 11.41%.

So what’s stopping us? Even when we have only the best of intentions regarding our recycling habits, something seems to stop us from making the meaningful changes to our behaviors necessary to effect a real change.

Many studies have looked into this very phenomenon. What they have discovered points to a number of effects and biases that often prevent individuals from recycling responsibly.

  1. The Distortion Bias: Studies have shown that one of the strongest influences on recycling behavior is something known as the distortion bias. (Source) The distortion bias is the effect by which people are less likely to recycle an item after the item has been torn, crushed, or dented–in other words, its identity has been distorted. Once a material that normally would be recycled, such as glass, paper, or aluminum, is viewed in the eyes of the consumer as ruined, it is likely that the object will be reidentified subconsciously as garbage and miss the recycling bin entirely.
  2. Peer Pressure: Surprise, surprise: studies show that people tend to adhere to recycling guidelines more when others in their peer group do as well. What’s perhaps more surprising though, is that this effect works similarly in reverse; people are more likely to forego their recycling habits when surrounded by those who do not recycle. (Source) So, for example, a college campus that does not energetically promote healthy recycling behaviors amongst its students will likely see lower recycling rates than one where peer pressure does its part.
  3. Far-Removed Results: Perhaps one of the most negatively impactful biases affecting people’s recycling behavior is the belief that the results of one individual’s behaviors have an inconsequential, meaningless impact on the overall picture. After all, the social and emotional gratification that comes with recycling is short lived, and more often than not the average lay-person will not have the opportunity to see the big-picture effect that their actions can have. (Source)

So what’s to be done to overcome these biases? Mindfulness can go a long way towards improving your own day-to-day behavior, and may make you more aware of just how great of an impact your actions can have. Creating small goals for yourself and rewarding your achievements can go a long way towards establishing healthy recycling behaviors to last you a lifetime.


Applications are now open for the fall 2017 Colgate Community Garden internship

By Sustainability Office on July 12, 2017

The Sustainability Office is offering a paid Garden Internship to a qualified student starting in mid/late-August 2017 until early November 2017 (the end of the growing season). The garden intern will help manage and promote the one-half acre vegetable/herb garden and greenhouse on campus. This is a physically demanding, yet very rewarding job. Work includes exposure to outdoor elements (e.g., heat, sun, rain, etc.). The student intern is expected to coordinate and organize volunteers and student work parties. The Garden Intern will report directly to our garden manager (Beth Roy) and work in close collaboration with other garden interns and other Colgate students, faculty, and staff. The student intern will gain life-long skills and knowledge in harvesting and maintaining a 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 fall season. Specific tasks may 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 the work parties.
  • Provide continuity for work on the garden throughout the 2017 growing season.
  • Prepare for and help run a weekly Farm Stand to sell produce from the garden.

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
The garden internship position is rewarding but demanding work that involves physical exertion and exposure to the outdoor elements.

Starting Hourly Rate: Fall semester – est. $9.90/hour (estimated because Financial Aid determines pay rate)

Department: Sustainability Office
Hours per Week: 6 hrs during fall semester

Supervisor: Beth Roy, Garden Manager

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

To apply, send a resume and one page cover letter to the Garden Manager, Beth Roy (eroy@colgate.edu) and fill out an application on the Colgate Portal.

The application deadline is August 4. Employment will begin on or around August 21.


Organic Fertilizer and Pest Control Practices

By Sustainability Office on June 26, 2017

-Makenna Bridge ’20

With the growing season well underway and nearly all of the crops planted, much of the work of the garden crew has been devoted to monitoring plant growth and making sure that the plants are in an environment which allows them to flourish. While on a conventional farm this may mean applying harsh chemical fertilizers and pesticides, we at the Colgate Community Garden believe in utilizing sustainable organic methods of soil management and pest control.

Instead of using harmful fertilizers, the garden makes use of natural products such as vermicompost to enhance the composition of the soil which leads to healthier, higher-yielding crops. The vermicompost that is used at the garden is produced by  Devine Gardens, a local worm farm. This past week, the garden team, along with the sustainability interns, had the opportunity to travel to Devine Gardens in Morrisville for a tour and to learn more about the vermicompost process.

Devine Gardens is owned by Tina and Mike Jacobs who have been operating a vermicompost business since 2010. They keep their worms in a cool, dark barn inside large containers which resemble the raised beds that we have at the garden. They use byproducts from local sawmills and farms to feed their worms and the worms produce castings through digesting these raw materials. Tina adds the food to the top of the bin, and as the worms mix and eat through it, the final product sinks to the bottom of the container and falls through small openings onto the floor, where it can be collected. In order to produce the best vermicompost, the feedstock given to the worms needs to retain a specific ratio between nitrogen and carbon levels and therefore can be a complicated process.

Their vermicompost has a high concentration of microorganisms and natural plant growth hormones. After the tour, we were able to purchase some of the vermicompost and have been seeing great results at the community garden. Thanks for the tour Tina!

We also have many critters that enjoy visiting the community garden, like the tree frog that is pictured above. However, not all of these visitors are cute or welcome. Recently we have been having a lot of trouble with flea and cucumber beetles eating our plants. Thankfully, there are many organic methods which are beneficial in deterring these damaging bugs. One of our favorite ways to protect crops is through using row cover, a thin agricultural fabric which is placed over plants in order to create a barrier between them and harmful pests. We use hoops made from PVC pipes to hold the cover upright, and then place rocks on the sides to prevent the fabric from blowing in the wind. This method can prove quite successful at deterring many pests, however some bugs are able to infiltrate the row cover. When this occurs, we use other methods, like diatomaceous earth in order to protect the plants. Diatomaceous earth is a white talc-like powder that consists of the fossils of marine phytoplankton. These tiny pieces of fossilized shell are incredibly sharp, and can cut through the exoskeleton of pests when they walk on it, causing them to dry out. We use this powder to sprinkle over the plants, like this cabbage plant which has been severely damaged. It is very effective at killing bugs but is harmless to humans and plants.

By the practicing these organic pest control methods, we are able to produce a variety of delicious vegetables. You can buy these farm fresh veggies at our weekly farmstand, located in front of Huntington Gym, on Tuesday nights from 4:30-6:00!


Applications now open for the 2017-2018 Green Raider Internship Program

By Sustainability Office on June 23, 2017

The Office of Sustainability is now seeking applications for students to join the Green Raider team!

Green Raider Interns learn leadership and professional skills while working to build a culture of sustainability at Colgate. Students on the Green Raider team work to engage their peers in sustainability by using community-based social marketing strategies to develop programs and create campaigns.

Interns are also given the opportunity to pursue their own sustainability initiatives on campus.

“The Office of Sustainability provided me with all the resources and support I needed to bring an apiary to campus and start the beekeeping club. This internship inspired me to address the global issue of Colony Collapse Disorder and enabled me to make a positive change on campus” sustainability intern, Isabel Dove ‘19, stated.

In addition to developing peer-to-peer programs, interns create content for the Colgate Sustainability Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts, help develop sustainability communication strategies, and aid in the creation of Colgate’s annual Greenhouse Gas Inventory.

The personal and professional development of the interns is also a main focus of the program.

“We encourage each other to do our best and, because of this, I’ve started to hold myself to a higher standard,” Revee Needham ‘18 stated in reference to the Green Raider Team. “I can’t imagine my time at Colgate without being an intern.”

Students of all class years and majors are welcome to apply. Students studying abroad in the fall or spring are encouraged to apply as well. Interns are expected to work 6-10 hours a week. Apply by emailing your resume and cover letter to program coordinator, Pamela Gramlich, pgramlich@colgate.edu, by July 10th. See job description below:

INTERNSHIP OVERVIEW AND PRIMARY RESPONSIBILITIES:

The Green Raiders will model and promote sustainable behavior across campus by inspiring and educating their peers using proven community-based social marketing skills (no prior knowledge necessary). The Sustainability Office will hire enthusiastic, self-motivated, high-achieving students who have demonstrated a commitment to sustainability. Interns will have the opportunity to develop events and programs throughout the year. The mission of the Green Raider Program is to help lower Colgate’™s ecological footprint and increase student understanding of sustainability. More specifically, Green Raiders will: 
-Promote sustainable living practices across campus 
-Be an accessible resource to students on campus with any questions they may have about sustainable living 
-Promote a culture of sustainability through the use of blogging, social media, email, and other outlets 
-Plan and execute high-profile campus events that engage and educate students about sustainable behaviors 
-Create materials and behavior change programs that inspire and influence first-year residents to practice environmental stewardship 
-Work on various other tasks supporting sustainability at Colgate.

REQUIRED SKILLS AND EXPERIENCE:

-Strong interpersonal skills and the ability to work effectively and respectfully in a collaborative, culturally diverse work environment 
-Detail-oriented and able to accomplish results in designated time frames 
-Understanding of sustainability-related topics and issues 
-Able to work in a fast moving/changing environment and having the ability to handle multiple tasks simultaneously 
-Able to effectively motivate community members to action 
-Strong organizational skills 
-Excellent written and public presentation skills 
-Computer literacy and proficiency in the use of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and other office applications 
-Proficiency with Google Apps (Drive, Calendar, etc.) 
-Able to maintain a productive and healthy work/life balance 
-Knowledge of design and publicity, as well as associated design programs, is helpful 
-Experience using social media networks, such as Twitter and Facebook, is helpful

 


It’s Essential

By Sustainability Office on June 22, 2017
-Chaveli Miles ’19

Red Thyme and Sweet Orange Essential OilsWhile many scented products like air fresheners, laundry detergents, perfumes, and colognes may contain trace amounts of natural fragrance, they are largely comprised of synthetic fragrances made from petroleum known collectively as “petrochemicals.”

A consumer may never know how many petrochemicals are in their favorite scented product or how concentrated they are. Many companies trademark their particular scent and withhold information from their ingredient list. Synthetic fragrances have been linked to allergic reactions, hormone disruptions, even organ damage under long-term, continuous exposure. Many simply complain fragranced items give them a headache, myself included. In addition, air, water, and soil pollution are byproducts of the petrochemical and petroleum industries.

Synthetic fragrances may not be a good choice for your health or the environment, but you don’t have to go without scented products. For thousands of years people have used essential oils for their potent medicinal, aromatic, and even spiritual benefits. Essential oils are concentrated aromatic compounds in a hydrophobic liquid. They can be derived from the seeds, bark, roots, or flowers of various plants.

Many essential oils contain antibacterial and antimicrobial properties making them great for household cleaning products; yet, are gentle enough, when used correctly, to apply on your face and body. Essential oils by themselves are very concentrated and may be too strong by themselves. It’s best to dilute a few drops in a water/witch hazel solution, or a neutral “carrier oil” like grape seed or jojoba oil. Dilution also means that one bottle of essential oil can last for several years, making them a financially-smart option for college students interested in natural personal care and household products. It is easy to find essential oils and other natural ingredients right here in town at Hamilton Whole Foods.

Remember: If you are ever unsure of how to use a product in a safe way, consult your doctor for help and best practices.


Who pays the price for cheap summer #OOTDs?

By Sustainability Office on June 16, 2017
-Dana Chan ’19

#OOTD or “Outfit of the Day” has been trending on social media, where anyone can snap a photo of their look and share it with their friends and followers. It has been a way for people to communicate about their favorite places to shop – be it boutiques, luxury brands or fast fashion retailers. But what is the true cost of this obsession with OOTDs and buy-in to fast fashion? Let’s start by taking a look at the industry.

Photo: Lance Lee

Fast Fashion refers to the phenomenon wherein clothing is produced, sold and discarded at an accelerated pace. Whereas fashion traditionally has two seasons – Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter,  the fast fashion industry releases as many as 52 “micro-seasons” each year. Fast Fashion evolved to make consumers want to spend more on clothing to keep up with new styles being released almost every week. With summer just around the corner, many of us will start looking at our favorite clothing chains and online stores for the latest summer fad, either as a way to express our personal style or to show that we’re up to date with what’s popular this season.

A trademark of fast fashion is that the latest fashion trend becomes available at a relatively inexpensive price, making it appealing to students like us. While $8 for that cute dress seems like a good deal, it’s important to remember that we are also shouldering the environmental and human consequences of that price tag.

Plants grown for fiber are doused with pesticides to ensure a good yield. These chemicals are essentially poisons that regularly seep into bodies of water that local communities heavily rely on. Most toxic chemicals remain and build up in the waterways to the point that rivers and lakes become too harmful for human use and almost always cause a wide range of health problems for the local population. Additionally, the majority of the manufacturing is done in factories overseas where environmental regulations are looser, contributing to widespread water and air pollution. All of these are done for the sake of cheap, poorly made clothing that, in many cases, end up in landfills after only a few wears. [Source, Source]

Photo: Tomas Munita

While it might be easy to ignore the environmental impacts of this industry, imagine if you were face-to-face with the worker who made your clothes. Many factory workers in developing countries work continuously for long hours on a small, non-livable wage. Most of them barely earn $1 each day, and they often work in harmful and unsafe conditions. The reason retailers can sell clothes at such a low price is because they cut corners on health and safety regulations, resulting in accidents that cost the lives of many of their garment workers. [Source, Source]

As an alternative, there are sustainable brands such as Patagonia, Alternative Apparel, and PACT, who are doing business in an environmentally and socially responsible way. Because these brands make concrete efforts to reduce their footprint and support their workers in a safe and fair way, prices are higher and most likely beyond what an average consumer can afford. Hence, we are in this dilemma where we do want to veer towards more sustainable fashion choices but at the same time, our financial situation prevents us from making that shift.

Being a more responsible consumer does not mean we have to sacrifice our wallets. We can think of sustainable brands as an investment and while they may be pricier, their clothing will most likely last longer. It might be a good idea to shop from sustainable brands for wardrobe staples and basics that we know we will use for a long time. Additionally, we can also look for accessories and trendy pieces from thrift shops and used clothing stores where many brand name clothing and vintage finds are sold at a discounted price. Nowadays, online buy-and-sell platforms like Poshmark, thredUP, and Swap are becoming a popular way to shop for secondhand clothing. By tweaking the way we think about and buy our clothing, we can become more responsible consumers of the fashion industry without having to sacrifice our personal sense of style.

 

 


Where Do the Garden’s Plants Come From?

By Sustainability Office on June 12, 2017

Camila Loke ’19

The summer growing season at the Colgate Community Garden has started!

While the garden team is working hard, it is important to acknowledge the tremendous help we receive from Sam Stradling at the Hamilton Food Cupboard as well as from Johanna Bossard and her high school students at Hamilton Central School.

In addition to planting seeds, the Colgate garden receives a wide variety of starter plants from the Food Cupboard and the high school. This year we received peppers, eggplants, tomatoes, cabbages, and much more. Read on to find out more about the incredible garden Johanna runs at the high school and how we get our plants from her.

Johanna Bossard, an agriculture teacher at Hamilton Central High School, started the garden five years ago with the mission of teaching students about where their food comes from. The garden is taken care of primarily by her classes, with some help from elementary school students participating in an “ag buddies” program that pairs each student with a high school student to help in the garden.

The garden is part of the FFA (Future Farmers of America) program at the school, a leadership organization and an intercurricular part of ag education that strives to prepare students to be successful in agriculture. Students in FFA participate in public speaking and leadership events, classes, and contests.

In an effort to involve younger students and their families, Johanna established the Adopt a Garden summer program. Elementary school students can adopt the garden for a week and support it in various ways, whether that be lending money or taking care of the plants. During the summer, the Colgate Community Garden team also lends a hand twice a week.  The garden also has a strong composting system. It receives compost from all classes as well as the elementary, middle, and high school lunches. The soil generated from composting is used in the garden.  

Everything grown in the school’s greenhouse is for sale at a plant sale held in May. Johanna and the students plant hanging baskets, patio pots, and vegetable plants for the community. They plant as much as they can from what is leftover from the sale straight into their garden, and give what still remains to us.

The Colgate Community Garden has been receiving plants from Hamilton Central for about three or four years, and we are very grateful for this partnership. Receiving starters gives the garden a head start on the summer growing season, which means that harvesting and farm stand sales can start earlier. We’re looking forward to enjoying some harvests soon!


Taking a Cue from Nature

By Sustainability Office on June 9, 2017
-Chaveli Miles ’19

An eye-opening look at the historical significance and today’s application of biomimicry – sustainable technology and design inspired by the world around us.  

Biomimicry (also called, biometrics) is a rapidly emerging discipline within the science field. However, it is truly transdisciplinary in application, drawing from the natural sciences as well as engineering, computer science, mathematics, and the fine arts.

Inspiration for Velcro

Those who study biomimicry draw inspiration from the biophysical world to address the most pressing human challenges such as energy security. While the terminology is relatively new, humankind has modeled nature in man-made design for hundreds of years. One of the best-known examples of biomimicry was the invention of velcro in the 1940s by Swedish engineer George de Mestral.

After a day of hiking, de Mestral noticed small, seed-like burrs attached to his trousers (and his dog). Under a microscope, de Mestral observed the hook-and-loop structure that allows the burrs to cling to animals which helps the plant increase its ecological range. This discovery led to de Mestral designing the first prototype for velcro. Using two strips of velvet, he covered one piece with tiny hoops and the other with crochet needle-like hooks that mimicked the hooked teeth of the burr. He named it “velcro,” blending the words “velvet” and “crochet” together. From there, velcro would be used to fasten numerous items from children’s shoes and equipment in NASA’s Apollo Missions.

Wind Turbine Biomimicry

If you are leaving Colgate University, heading along Route 20, you may have noticed patches of wind turbines, spinning like pinwheels against the Madison sky. Wind energy is a promising form of renewable energy. As the blades spin, the turbine converts kinetic energy into mechanical energy which can be stored and used to power our modern world. The less air friction, or drag, the blades face while rotating the more energy it can produce efficiently. For years, Marine Biologists have suspected that the scalloped fins on a humpback whale allow such a large animal to swim seemingly frictionlessly through the water. Engineers at WhalePower, a Canadian-based Technology Center are already building turbine blades inspired by humpback whale fins. They believe this new design could extend beyond wind turbines to airplanes, submarines, hydropower, and more.

 

Biomimicry is an imaginative practice which has the potential to guide our understanding of the natural world as well as our own. The only limits are, literally, the ends of the earth. Here at Colgate, this is especially true. On a campus dedicated to providing students with the tools for tomorrow, we each have a responsibility to care for the natural world that houses so many possibilities for innovation and discovery which will ultimately shape tomorrow. It is the hope of  Janine Benyus author of Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature that we learn from our elders, the organisms that have thrived on this Earth for millions of year slowly and gracefully perfecting sustainability.

 

 

Sources:

http://www.livescience.com/34572-velcro.html

https://www.technologyreview.com/s/409710/whale-inspired-wind-turbines/

https://www.ted.com/talks/janine_benyus_biomimicry_in_action

https://whalepowercorp.wordpress.com/

Images from: Seabrooke Leckie, coolmaterial.com, Giles Breton and MIT

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