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I Support Local: More Complicated Than It Seems

By Sustainability Office on September 22, 2015

By Missy Velez ’16 (Environmental Studies Major from Baltimore, MD)

downtown hamiltonThe benefit of buying local goods, mostly produce, has, of late, been questioned. This is because what the term “supporting local” means is not fully understood, and the phrase has become something in and of itself, losing its meaning. In the context of “supporting local,” it is important to keep in mind the three pillars of sustainability: economic, environmental and social. Local doesn’t need to be only segregated to the agricultural sector, and nor should it be. There are problems with the term “supporting local,” but perhaps that’s because it has been oversimplified to a bumper sticker- type slogan.

Part of the problem with the phrase “supporting local” is that is has come to mainly address buying produces from local farms, which may not actually have the environmental and health benefits that we assume it does. It has also come to conflate local farms with sustainable, organic, and small farms. Local farms can be those things, but they can also be large-scale enterprises, guilty of mistreating workers and animals and engaging in environmentally irresponsible business practices. Because of this conflation, it is no longer clear that the term “buying local” does not directly mean buying organic or buying goods from small farms. Buying from your local farm, in face of the quickly diminishing number of American farmers, can be a great thing-it helps to sustain a key part of our nation’s identity and economy. This being said, what if the farm doesn’t use sustainable practices? Yes, it’s great to be able to buy eggs from just 5 miles away, and this does mean buying local, but what if the hens are kept in cramped conditions? Sustainable interests like buying from small farms and buying from local farms can conflict with each other in the context of supporting agriculture, which contributes to the conflict surrounding what exactly “supporting local” means.

There are significant barriers to “supporting local” when you look at it from a primarily agricultural aspect. Buying local goods in an effort to support small-scale businesses and farms that struggle to compete in an increasingly globalized economy is a great part of supporting local communities. However, while buying local does fit within the idea of “supporting local,” it should not define the phrase. This ideological mix-up causes the issues related with buying local goods to cross over into the ideas behind supporting local communities, decreasing the legitimacy of the support local movement. Instead, buying local goods should be seen as an action that can be a great step to supporting local communities, but doesn’t define it.

But let’s look at supporting local at its core meaning, which is engaging with the people, businesses and lifestyles that make up our communities. It means keeping a tie with the happenings in our towns, keeping the people down the block or a few miles away in mind, and therefore keeping communities together. Supporting local doesn’t have to mean buying your Swiss chard on the Village Green, although that too has its place. Maybe it can mean telling your professor how much you enjoyed your discussion in class, saying hey to a stranger instead of avoiding their gaze as you pass them walking into town, or thanking a custodian for keeping your favorite study spot clean. Creating diverse, resilient and united communities is an essential part of increasing social sustainability, so let’s question how we can “support local” as Colgate students and, even further, as Hamilton community members.


By Sustainability Office on September 21, 2015

Did you know that you can get a FREE home energy assessment through NYSERDA’s Green Jobs Green NY program?  Most certainly, your home is wasting energy and costing you money.  A home energy assessment can help you determine where and how energy and money is being lost while also highlighting cost-effective measures to make your home more comfortable, affordable, and energy efficient.

During this information session we will:

  • walk you through the process of signing up for the home energy assessment
  • uncover typical myths about energy efficiency including windows, furnaces, new house vs. old house, and others.
  • review insulation types (fiberglass, foam, cellulose, and air sealing)
  • preview what equipment or testing is performed during a home energy assessment
  • discuss rebates, grants, and financing opportunities to help offset the cost of implementing energy savings projects

Hope to see you at 7 PM on September 29 (Tuesday) at the Hamilton Public Library.

Please contact John Pumilio, director of sustainability, with any questions.

This event is sponsored by Colgate’s Office of Sustainability.

Office of Sustainability Logo - Samantha Lee

2015 GREEN SUMMIT: Climate Change in Our Time

By Sustainability Office on September 1, 2015

Office of Sustainability Logo - Samantha Lee

On September 17, the Office of Sustainability will be hosting the 15th annual Green Summit.  The title of this year’s event will be Climate Change in Our Time.

As you likely know, the end of 2015 is gearing up to be a momentous year for climate issues globally, nationally, and here on campus.  In June, Pope Francis released his heavily anticipated encyclical on the environment.  In August, the White House finalized the Clean Power Plan, its flagship policy to combat carbon emissions from power plants.  This coming December at the 21st meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP-21) in Paris, there are high expectations for a global agreement on emissions reductions.  And here at Colgate, we are in the midst of updating our plan to achieve climate neutrality by 2019. The purpose of this year’s Green Summit is to highlight issues of climate change (at Colgate and beyond) from various faculty perspectives.



The 2015 Green Summit will kickoff at 4:30 p.m. in Golden Auditorium (Little Hall) with a faculty panel discussion.

Panelists for this events include:

  • Adam Burnett, William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Geography
  • April Baptiste, Associate Professor of Environmental Studies
  • Engda Hagos, Assistant Professor of Biology
  • Mark Shiner, University Chaplain and Catholic Campus Minister
  • Peter Klepeis, Professor of Geography

The panel will be moderated by John Pumilio, Director of Sustainability.  We will invite questions/comments from the audience.



At 9:00 p.m., the 2015 Green Summit will conclude with a private showing of Naomi Oreskes’ award-winning documentary, Merchants of Doubt.  The program will take place at the Hamilton Merchants of DoubtMovie Theater.  Seating is limited and tickets will be given on a first-come, first-served basis.  Tickets are FREE and can be picked up in the Ho Science Center room 245 (Steve Dickinson’s office) or in Lathrop Hall room 109M (John Pumilio’s office).

To follow the latest news, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

To submit questions in advance of the forum, use #GateGreenSummit.

The 2015 Green Summit is sponsored by CORE Scientific Perspectives, Environmental Studies, Lampert Institute, Office of Sustainability, Upstate Institute.

**We encourage all Green Summit attendees to attend a special event hosted by the Lampert Institute for Civic and Global Affairs.  The event entitled, “Edible Memory: How Tomatoes Became Heirlooms and Apples Became Antiques,” by Dr. Jennifer Jordan, Professor of Sociology and Urban Studies, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee will take place at 7:00 p.m. in 101 Ho Science Center (Meyerhoff Auditorium).

The 2015 Green Summit is sponsored by the Lampert Institute for Civic and Global Affairs, the Picker Interdisciplinary Science Institute, the Upstate Institute, Environmental Studies, and the Department of Sociology and Anthropology.

We look forward to seeing you at our 15th annual Green Summit!

Dealing with Climate Change: Our Country and College

By Sustainability Office on August 11, 2015

By Teddy O’Hara ’17 (Westwood, MA)

On the whole, I think most individuals take the easy road and do what is most convenient, that which disrupts our day-to-day lives the least. For this reason, I am a big believer in the “top-down” approach to dealing with climate change. That is, using the highest levels of government to support sustainability while reducing our carbon footprint and impacts to our environment. We need new policies that essentially force us to live more sustainable lifestyles. To that end, I think this sort of method could work on a college campus like Colgate. Especially with our university goal to be carbon neutral by 2019, we have been fortunate enough to witness change coming from the top. Whether it be from our augmented recycling options to the further installation of motion sensing lights or low-flow shower heads, we are slowly changing the culture of a student body. With almost all climate scientists agreeing that humans are contributing to global warming, this is a problem that needs to be dealt with now, not later. From energy, to food, to water, to ecosystems, and more, climate change is affecting our lives now and will only get worse for the generations to come…if nothing is done. With that being said, I find it both interesting and necessary to examine what we are currently doing as a country and as a college to fight global warming and change the human behavior that has gotten us to this point.


As awareness for climate change has increased, as the whole idea of being “green” has proliferated, positive change has occurred. When I was in elementary school, for example, I remember opening up my lunch box to a plastic bottle of Poland Spring water. Every day! Sure, I was still having trouble tying my shoes but no one really thought twice of consuming the contents of the bottle everyday and proceeding to throw it in the trash. These days, I think most people, at least at Colgate, are aware of the environmental impacts of bottled water and often avoid purchasing them. The point is, while I have changed my behavior and noticed the change in others, I don’t think these small individual behavior changes are enough to get us to where we need to be. We need more substantial change pushed from the top. Our generation, as sustainability awareness has spread, has been better at being “green” than our predecessors, but we need policy and action that will make our country and our campus a better place.

Towards this end, President Barack Obama and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff recently committed their respective countries to a joint agreement to address climate change. As part of the pledge, the United States has committed to increase its share of renewable energy to 20 percent by the year 2030. (This is about triple its current percentage). While steps of this nature are being taken, the “top-down” approach to dealing with climate change is often disrupted, unfortunately, at the top of our federal government. Although it is a small piece to what our nation is doing to front global warming, environmentalists were recently dealt a blow when the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, struck downUntitled_opt an ambitious environmental initiative by Obama that called for an EPA regulation to limit emissions of mercury and other pollutants from coal-fired power plants. The majority opinion revolved around the argument that the EPA had to consider costs before creating these regulations and limitations. Justice Scalia wrote: ““It is not rational, never mind ‘appropriate,’ to impose billions of dollars in economic costs in return for a few dollars in health or environmental benefits. Statutory context supports this reading.”

This, to me it seemed, was truly a microcosm of our current situation. At the top of the government, there seems to be a divide on measures like this, a divide that doesn’t fully look into the economic benefits of sustainable practices. The EPA, although not considering costs per say, noted that the benefits would far outweigh the costs of this pollutant emission. To be clear, this isn’t a political or even an economic complaint on my part. Both are drastically important to how this country functions and it has always been that way. Rather, I think this only goes to show the need for the government and the presidency to continue to push these regulations and programs through the congressional and judicial gauntlet and into practice. It is only then that widespread change will occur, then followed by behavioral change. Our country is run by politics and economics and that is completely fine. But it is these politics and economics that must be utilized to create environmental change, and utilized to ingrain sustainability within these realms. Disagreement and deliberation have always been a part of the law-making process in the United States. I do believe it is an effective and thorough system. But I also believe that climate change is a major dilemma of the 21st century and one that should transgress party lines.

In relation to Colgate, it is very promising that sustainability and our awareness for climate change is often at the forefront of the university’s decision-making process. This “top-down” approach comes in mind most recently with Chartwells’ new dining contract. The company has committed to various sustainable initiatives, including: use and support of local agriculture, reusable to-go coffee cups, solar-powered charging stations, and biodiesel processing, among many other initiatives. Furthermore, our expansion of recycling options, including electronic waste recycling, along with a new Green Buildings Standards for construction, help me to think that Colgate’s administration is doing its part to foster sustainability on campus. Having worked for the Office of Sustainability, I can certainly say that the idea of sustainability has quickly become ingrained within many different parts of Colgate’s management. Whereas the United States has to deal with many factions and obstacles to put sustainable programs, ideas, and regulations into action, it seems that Colgate is inhabited by people who have bought into these new and greener systems that continue to propagate. Thus, even though individuals can certainly make an impact, top level action in our government and at our institutions are necessary to jumpstart, facilitate, and expand sustainable behavior.

Now hiring: Community garden interns for the fall semester!

By Sustainability Office on July 29, 2015

Two students working to plant the Community Garden at Colgate.

Hours per Week: 6 hrs during fall semester

Job Description:
The Sustainability Office is offering a paid Garden Internship to a qualified student starting in late-August 2015 until November 2015 (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 another garden intern 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 2015 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 – $8.50/hour (estimated because Financial Aid determines pay rate)

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 14. Employment will begin on or around August 24.

Colgate Community Garden Summer Programs

By Sustainability Office on July 27, 2015

Article by Beth Roy, manager, Colgate Community Garden

The Colgate Community Garden team has been hard at work this summer in our new location just south of the Colgate Townhouses on route 12B.  The garden is thriving, and there are several events in July and August that we would like to share with you.

Come to the garden for a tour or to lend a helping hand! One of the members of the garden team will be there to greet you.

  • When: Mondays 5:00-7:00 p.m.; Fridays 2:00-4:00 p.m.

Purchase fresh, organically grown produce from the Community Garden each week at the Farm Stand.

  • Where: 104 Broad Street (through August; will move to the COOP once the semester begins)
  • When: Tuesdays from 4:00-5:30 p.m.

Interested in gardening but don’t have a lot of space to garden where you live?  Interested in being a part of the Colgate Community Garden?  The garden has a community plot program where you can rent a space in the garden each year for a small fee.

Think it’s too late in the year to start a garden?  Think again!  We will supply you with the information you need to plant a successful fall garden.  Individual and group applicants both encouraged.  This could be a great opportunity for your campus group to come together to learn about growing your own food!

If interested, please contact garden manager Beth Roy (eroy@colgate.edu).


We hope to see you soon!

Sustainably Unpacking the Pack for Colgate

By Sustainability Office on July 14, 2015


By: Lindsey Sagasta ’16 (Tonawanda, NY)

Class of 2019: At this point in your life, you have chosen your college, been assigned a roommate, and have registered for your fall semester classes, so what’s next?

Soon, it will be August 23rd and you will be moving into your room at Colgate. Choosing what to bring with you, especially when it’s your first year, can be pretty intimidating. Back-to-school ads have been flowing through your mailboxes, and in every store there is some sort of dorm-room display to remind people of the purchases that need to be made. You might have already experienced a move-in or move-out day for a sibling or friend, and it’s highly probable that you also saw the giant mounds of trash produced by each student moving in. On move-in day, this trash largely consists of packaging that is no longer needed. On move-out day, this trash can be used notebooks, empty pizza boxes, worn out shower shoes, broken electronics, or anything else you don’t want to keep for the summer or the next few years.

Although the large amounts of trash produced during move-in and move-out day is highly upsetting to sustainability-minded students, it is actually quite minimal compared to the waste and resources used throughout the year due to inefficient and unsustainable packing. Think about all the energy used for cramming for exams, watching TV, and hanging out late at night with music. Now imagine all of the trash that’s made from snacks, drink containers, and items that you thought would be useful, but have proved otherwise. What you purchase and bring to Colgate will heavily effect your impact as a first-year student on Colgate’s carbon footprint.

So what should you bring?

All over the Internet, there are checklists that were created with first-year college students in mind. Some of these can be overwhelming, some can be a bit excessive, and others too vague. At this point, you need to think about yourself, and what you really think will be necessary at college. It might be helpful to reach out to upperclassmen that you know, or those who have made themselves available to make your transition as easy as possible. Knowing the position that you are in, I am here to help. Below is a list that has been compiled by the Office of Sustainability that advises you on what to bring, leave at home, and consider when you are shopping (it can also be found on the new students section for sustainability). Here I will unpack this information for you, and add more suggestions to avoid the eco-disaster that college dorm rooms can become.

What to bring:

  • Reusable water bottle. Avoid plastic, single-use water bottles. There are plenty of places up-the-hill and down-the-hill that you can refill a reusable bottle, and every time you do refill it, that is one less plastic bottle being made and discarded. If you do end up with a bottle, make sure you recycle it! Check out Klean Kantean, Hydro Flask, and Earth Lust products for some great options.
  • Power strips. Plug electronics into smart, energy-efficient, power strips that you can turn off when you leave the room. Using power strips allows for the avoidance of “vampire energy”, also known as “phantom load”- energy that circulates through devices that are plugged in, even though they are not in use.
  • LED light bulbs. LEDs may be a bit more expensive than tradition incandescent light bulbs, but they will not burnout while you are at Colgate (they have a much longer life!) and a much smaller energy and carbon footprint.
  • Water filter pitcher. Pitchers are another option in case a water fountain isn’t immediately available to fill up your reusable water bottle, but a sink or tap source might be. Although Colgate water doesn’t need to be filtered, if you find peace of mind by doing so, this is a much more cost-effective and sustainable option than one-time use bottled water.
  • Reusable grocery bags. Tote bags can be brought from home, or purchased once you arrive. By opting out of single-use plastic grocery bags, you are eliminating the large amount of chemicals and waste it takes to make the bags, as well as avoiding pollution that can occur by improper disposal.
  • Reusable cutlery/dishes. Reduce waste and pollution from one-time use plastic cutlery or paper plates if you choose to eat food in your room.
  • High-efficiency (HE) detergent. HE detergent results in clean clothes with less waste and pollution. All of Colgate’s washing machines are high-efficiency machines.
  • Green cleaning products. Harsh chemicals and bleaches are bad for the environment and our health. There are several green and sustainable cleaning products such as Method, Ecover, and Seventh Generation.
  • Recycled notebooks. If you have half-filled notebooks – use them again! There’s plenty of paper left to get through another course. This is also a great tip for your entire Colgate career. If you want to avoid paper completely, taking notes on a laptop or tablet is a great option, just check with your professors in each class to make sure its allowed.
  • Bicycle. Although first-years are allowed to have cars on campus, it can be a pain, trust me. Bikes are an awesome alternative. If you can’t bring a bike, you can apply to rent a Green Bike through the Office of Sustainability. The bike will get you where you need to go, and use your power, instead of adding carbon to the atmosphere.
  • Clothes drying rack. Drying racks will eliminate the need for a drying machine and the energy needed to run one. It will also greatly reduce the chance of messing up your favorite clothes!
  • Organic bedding. Organic bedding is free from toxic chemicals and healthier for the planet and you!

Leave at home

  • Printer. There are plenty of places to print for free on campus, so it is not necessary to bring a printer from home. It is also increasingly popular for professors to post all articles online and allow you to use digital versions in class instead of printouts.
  • Car. At Colgate, you will have access to several forms of free and accessible modes of transportation.
  • Bed risers. Bed risers are a waste of plastic since all Colgate beds can be raised to your liking.

When buying supplies consider…

  • Energy Star® appliances. Although appliances are not needed in first year rooms, if you happen to need one, Energy Star® rated appliances use 1/3 less energy.
  • Post-consumer recycled content notebooks. There are plenty of notebooks that have been made from recycled content, just read the labels when you go to buy a new one.
  • Renting textbooks or buying used copies. There is no reason to buy a new textbook- by doing a small amount of searching online, you can find cheap used textbooks in great condition, and you can even rent the textbooks from places such as Amazon, Chegg, and the Colgate Bookstore.
  • Coordinating with your roommates to avoid bring duplicate appliances. Always talk to your roommates before hand, this will avoid duplicate purchases and in the end will save you money.
  • Purchasing used furniture from Hamilton yard sales. Local purchases not only help the Hamilton/Colgate community, but will also reduce shipping costs or gas costs to bring it to campus.

Further, you can use an app such as GoodGuide to search, scan, and browse products that are healthy, green, and socially responsible. This app will rate products and companies for their health, environmental, and social impact.

There is also this incredible green dorm checklist– with everything you might need and companies or products listed that are some of the most sustainable options.

Colgate will soon become a user of the TradePal app, where you can look through things that are being locally sold on campus, and can work with the seller on a price!

If you have any questions, feel free to email me at lsagasta@colgate.edu. Also, if you haven’t checked out the new students sustainability page mentioned before, I highly advise that you do before August 23rd!

What you bring in your dorm room can have an impact on our carbon footprint; we hope you make the right choices to make it a positive impact. See you in August!

Gardening sustainably: potato towers

By Sustainability Office on July 13, 2015

SpudPlantsUrban gardening is a very useful practice to learn. It is a skill that can be used at nearly any home in any location, no matter the size of the yard you have to contend with. Gardening this way maximizes the efficiency at which space is used, therefore allowing very small places to contain much more than they could with normal gardening techniques.

One example of this style of gardening that we use in the Colgate Community Garden is the potato tower. To make a potato tower, you start of with 3 to 4 feet of wire fencing formed into a cylinder. Next you create a barrier of straw all around the cylinder to keep the soil from falling out of the openings. Then you place about 6-8 inches of soil in the bottom of the cylinder, atop a little “nest” of straw, and place several small seed potatoes in a circle around the inside of the fencing.  Repeat the soil and potato layers until you reach the top of your cylinder. The potatoes will begin to grow out of the sides of the potato “tower” and be ready to harvest once they have flowered and the plants begin to die back. At this point, you simply tip the tower over and let all the potatoes fall right out. You can usually expect about 10 potatoes to grow for every one you placed in the tower!

One of the primary goals of the Colgate Community Garden is to educate people about gardening practices.  Recently, members of the Colgate garden team went to Hamilton Central School to show students there how to build these towers. After a brief introduction about the garden, 15-20 students from two different classes built four towers for their own garden at the high school.

Chris Jordan: An artist’s perspective on plastic waste disposal

By Sustainability Office on July 6, 2015

By Kimberly Duncan ’18 (Charlotte, NC)

In most cases, people think plastic waste ends its journey in the trashcan.  It is rare that we consider our waste’s next steps or the harm it may cause. Our society has obtained an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality about the things we throw away because we are often too involved in our own lives and problems to be concerned about a plastic bottle. That, in addition to our high consumption rates and throwaway society, poses an issue for many ecosystems. Specifically, marine ecosystems have experienced much pollution from carelessness in plastic waste disposal in quantities that are too abstract to our minds.

Artist Chris Jordan has closely observed the high rates of plastic consumption in America and the effects it has on Marine ecosystems. He addresses many issues relating to consumption that have social, economic, and environmental themes in his artwork. His focus is to take “statistics from the raw language of data, and to translate them into a more universal visual language, that can be felt” (Jordan 2008). In his series Running the Numbers and Running the Numbers II, he transforms objects that remind us of “the environmental footprints 1,000 miles away of the things that we buy [and] the social consequences 10,000 miles away of the daily decisions that we make as consumers” (Jordan 2008). In several of his pieces, he shows the egregious amounts of plastic we waste in just seconds, minutes, and hours.

Jordan’s website shows his pieces from far away and, upon clicking on the image, it zoom in to show the composition of the piece. Here are a few examples from Running the Numbers and Running the Numbers II of America’s plastic consumption.

Running The Numbers:


Screen Shot 2015-07-06 at 10.22.10 AM

Plastic Bottles, 2007 (60×120″)

From far away, this image is unrecognizable. However, upon looking closer, you can see that this image “depicts two million plastic beverage bottles, the number used in the US every fifteen minutes” (Jordan 2007)

Screen Shot 2015-07-06 at 10.23.21 AM

Plastic Bottles, 2007 (enlarged)

Screen Shot 2015-07-06 at 10_opt

Caps Seurat, 2011 (60×90″ in one panel, and 88×132″ in 3 panels)

This image “depicts 400,000 plastic bottle caps, equal to the average number of plastic bottles consumed in the United States every minute” (Jordan 2011).

Screen Shot 2015-07-06 at 10.27.52 AM

Caps Seurat, 2011 (enlarged)

Running the Numbers II:

In this series you begin to see the direct relationship between plastic waste and the rate at which it enters the ocean.

Screen Shot 2015-07-06 at 10_opt

Gyre, 2009 (8×11 feet, in three vertical panels)

This “depicts 2.4 million pieces of plastic, equal to the estimated number of pounds of plastic pollution that enter the world’s oceans every hour. All of the plastic in this image was collected from the Pacific Ocean” (Jordan 2009).

Jordan is effective in creating jarring images that accurately represent the amount of plastic waste Americans create. He takes abstract statistics and shows them in a more understandable way to evoke a response in his viewers. In his series titled Midway, Jordan reveals the direct effects of this plastic waste circulating in the ocean gyres on birds. These harrowing images document the plastic from the ocean that was consumed by birds that most likely died as a result.

Chris Jordan created these images as an attempt to make Americans more concerned about improper plastic waste disposal and its effect on marine ecosystems. It pays to take a little extra time to make sure you correctly dispose of plastic waste because, even though you may not experience the effects, ecosystems are being polluted. You can start by finding recycling plants in your area and become familiar with recycling protocol for curbside pickup! For more information on the artist Chris Jordan, visit his website.

At Colgate, we recycle all plastics #1-7. For more information, read our post on the FAQs of recycling at Colgate.


Jordan, Chris. (2008, February). Jordan: Turning Powerful Stats into Art. Retrieved from: https://www.ted.com/talks/chris_jordan_pictures_some_shocking_stats/transcript?language=en
All images were retrieved from Chris Jordan’s website. www.chrisjordan.com


Exploring First-Year Course Options: Branching Out with Sustainability

By Sustainability Office on June 26, 2015

By Lindsey Sagasta ’16 (Buffalo, NY)

Knowing from experience, selecting first-year courses is pretty daunting. By the time you graduate Colgate, you must have completed courses in all of the areas of inquiry to satisfy the Liberal Arts Core Curriculum, but you also need to finish all classes for intended majors and minors. How are you ever going to be able to fit that all in, in just four years!? Okay, take a deep breath. It’s not as difficult as you think.  There is plenty of room for classes outside of these requirements. So when courses are sent out for you to select your preferences, don’t fret. You have plenty of time to get through your checklist, and instead of spending your first semester trying to hit every requirement, or trying to stick to a specific area of study- take the time to explore the variety of courses that Colgate has to offer.

Personally, I decided to become a Biology and Environmental Studies double major after taking a sustainability related course called “Human Impact on the Environment” (now called Earth, Society, and Sustainability- GEOG 121) during my second semester at Colgate. This was definitely not a class that I saw myself taking before coming to Colgate. Unexpectedly, that class uncovered my passion for environmental sustainability. My newly formed motivation for environmental issues led me to the Office of Sustainability internship program.  Soon after, I became one of a handful of Green Raiders, helping Colgate achieve its goal to be carbon neutral by 2019!

Sustainability related courses fit squarely within the liberal arts mission.  Courses focusing on sustainability explore the complexities among, between, and within social, ecological, and economic systems, as well as the mechanisms required to encourage the resilience and health of these systems now and into the future. Approximately 10% of Colgate classes focus on or include sustainability as a major component and 45% of our academic departments offer at least one course focusing on issues of sustainability. Most of the courses that more intensively include sustainability are housed in the major/minor programs: Environmental Geography, Environmental Biology, Environmental Geology, Environmental Economics, Environmental Studies (ENST), Geography, Geology, Biology, and Peace and Conflict Studies.

John Pumilio, Director of Sustainability, believes that every student at Colgate would benefit from taking at least one sustainability-related course in his or her time at Colgate:

Contributing to a healthy, just, and environmentally sustainable future belongs to everyone (regardless of majors and future job titles).  Taking a sustainability-related course at Colgate fosters critical thinking and problem solving while also providing students with the skills, background, and habits of mind to contribute to climate solutions and meet environmental challenges head-on. All of which are increasingly valued by future employers.”

Steve Dickinson, Program Coordinator for Environmental Studies and Sustainability, encourages first-year students to explore the Colgate Liberal Arts while they can:

“Generally, your first year is your first opportunity to explore new things that you might not have had the opportunity to learn about in high school. It’s best to explore earlier rather later when major requirements become the biggest priority. My advice is to find a course that is relevant to your personal interest, but also allows you to become more knowledgeable about environmental stewardship. With an increased knowledge in sustainability, you can become a stronger part of the Colgate community striving toward carbon neutrality in 2019.”

Frank Frey, associate professor of Biology and Environmental Studies, advocates for students to take advantage of a liberal arts university:

“To fully engage with and embrace the liberal arts experience, it is important to break out of the shell of high school experiences that have defined your academic trajectory to date.  Are perceived academic comfort zones real, or are they the byproduct of the particular educational system you came up through?  Is your true academic passion waiting to be discovered?  My most successful students have entered Colgate thinking they were going to pursue a singular path, yet were open to intellectual exploration and testing the limits of their academic chops in a diversity of disciplines during their first year.  Most of these students ended up pursuing paths very different from what they originally envisioned, and now as graduates are enjoying successful careers that they could not begin to imagine when they entered Colgate.”

Further, Professor Frey associates sustainability courses as a strong investment in your future academic growth:

“The philosophy, principles, and practice of sustainability are inextricably linked to the human condition today, and if you are a careful observer and thinker you will find an undercurrent of sustainability in every discipline and every profession.  Coming to understanding this interconnectedness, and also learning how to view the world through the rigorous lens of sustainability thought, is a transformative intellectual experience.  No matter what your interests are at the moment, introducing yourself to what sustainability really is and what it really means is a strong investment in your future academic growth.”

Here is a list of courses offered this fall semester for first-years that focus upon or relate to sustainability, as classified in the AASHE STARS report (These are the courses that can be taken right out of high school, there are plenty of other courses that can be taken once pre-requisite courses are fulfilled):


  • FSEM 120: Dangerous Environments
  • FSEM 122: Acid Rain: Environmental Problem
  • FSEM 124: Global Change and You
  • FSEM 130: Energy and Sustainability
  • FSEM 133: Foodwise
  • FSEM 180: Current Economic Issues
  • FSEM 183: Welcome to the Anthropocene
  • FSEM 186: The Geography of Happiness


  • BIOL 101: Topics in Organismal Biology
  • BIOL 181: Evolution, Ecology, and Diversity- (AP BIO coursework recommended for first semester first-years)


  • ENGL 219: American Literature and the Environment


  • ENST 232: Environmental Justice


  • GEOG 111: Global Shift: Economy, Society, and Geography
  • GEOG 121: Earth, Society, and Sustainability
  • GEOG 131: Environmental Geography


  • GEOL 135: Oceanography


  • HIST 218: The African American Struggle for Freedom and Democracy
  • HIST 228: The Caribbean: Conquest, Colonization, and Self-Determination


  • PCON 111: Introduction to Peace and Conflict Studies
  • PCON 225: Theories of Peace and Conflict–War, State, and Society


  • PHIL/ENST 202: Environmental Ethics


  • POSC 152: Global Peace and War

For a complete list of all sustainability-related courses that could be offered in the future, visit: https://stars.aashe.org/media/uploads/test_cases/2013-14AASHESTARS2.0SustainabilityCourses-FINAL.pdf

Another sustainability-related option for first-year students is the Green Ambassador program that aims to develop a culture of sustainability at Colgate through a student-to-student educational program. Enthusiastic first-year students with all backgrounds of sustainability can be directly connected with the Office of Sustainability staff to create this culture. More information will be coming later this summer, so if you are interested, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or contact the Office of Sustainability (sustainability@colgate.edu)!

For general information about sustainability and how you can help as a new student, check out: http://www.colgate.edu/distinctly-colgate/sustainability/for-students/sustainability-for-new-students.