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The Buzz around Colgate’s Apiary

By Sustainability Office on September 13, 2017
-Isabel Dove ’19

In the beginning of the summer, the Colgate Community Garden became home to two beehives. Since their arrival, Colgate’s new honeybees have been buzzing around the Community Garden, producing honey, and pollinating the garden’s crops.

The Office of Sustainability decided to establish an apiary, which is a collection of beehives, on campus in order to help fight against Colony Collapse Disorder, a global issue of declining bee populations, and to give students an opportunity to become actively involved in environmental stewardship.

During the Spring 2017 semester, a Beekeeping Club was founded in order to help take care of the bees. The club’s faculty adviser, Professor Ian Helfant, monitored the hives over the summer while students were off campus. Now that the fall semester is in full swing, the 30+ members of the Beekeeping Club are learning the art of beekeeping and are looking forward to a fun and productive semester. In the next year or two, the Beekeeping Club hopes to expand the apiary as well as harvest and sell honey from the hives.

Members of the Beekeeping Club before conducting a hive inspection.

Along with providing students a unique extracurricular activity, the bees have been contributing to improving the surrounding environment’s ecological health and have been especially helpful to the Colgate Community Garden. According to one of the garden’s summer interns, Camila Loke ‘19, “The flower garden is looking great. The bees love our herb garden and raspberries. They have also been spotted pollinating sweet peas in the community plots.”

Colgate’s apiary presents an exciting opportunity to support local agriculture and learn about how to take care of everybody’s favorite pollinator, so be sure to visit the hives and see what all the buzz is about!


Also ~bee~ sure to follow the Beekeeping Club on Instagram and email idove@colgate.edu if you’re interested in becoming a member!


My Experience as a Sustainability Representative

By Sustainability Office on September 8, 2017
-Cecilia Kane ’20


Green Ambassadors encouraging recycling during the homecoming tailgate last year.

As a first-year student last year, I was presented with an overwhelming number of opportunities to get involved on campus. Excited by the prospect of working with my residence hall to become better stewards of the Earth, I applied to be a Sustainability Representative, or an S-Rep. In this position, I collaborated with like-minded first-years and was mentored by interns in the Office of Sustainability to educate students on sustainable behaviors and promote sustainability events within my residence hall and across campus. While I had often found it easy to “live green” at home, where sustainability was a family value of mine, I realized that it was more difficult—if not seemingly impossible at times—to affect the actions of those with different priorities here on campus. Therefore, I was grateful to have this community to both support and challenge me as I made personal commitments to sustainability and strove to inspire members of my residence hall to do the same.


Some highlights from the program included our biweekly meetings (which were often kicked off with YouTube videos of Snoop Dogg narrating “Plizzanet Earth”); the chance to mingle with alumni as we recycled at the Homecoming and Reunion tailgates; and the overall network I created between my residence hall and the Office of Sustainability. We also helped advertise campaigns such as Colgate Unplugged and Recyclemania in an effort to spread awareness to the broader community outside of our residence halls. The friendly competition generated by these events facilitated camaraderie within my residence hall and gave us a communal goal towards which to work.

My participation in the S-Rep Program provided me with an enriching and informative introduction to sustainability at Colgate and was the primary motivator behind my decision to continue working with the Office of Sustainability. I encourage all first-year students to apply to be an S-Rep!

Why You Should Consider Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA)

By Sustainability Office on September 6, 2017
-Revée Needham ’18

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This fall marks the second season in which I have been a member of
Common Thread’s CSA. This guide will explain what CSA is and the numerous benefits of buying a CSA share, along with the specifics of being a member at Common Thread.

What is CSA?

CSA stands for Community-Supported Agriculture. CSA members buy a “share” of produce, often a full growing season’s worth, typically paying the cost upfront. This benefits farmers by ensuring a steady customer base. CSA members are then committed for the season length, regardless of weather conditions that may impact the crops. In return, members receive fresh and local produce. Most CSAs are vegetable and fruit based, but others may also include dairy products and meat. A CSA enables a much closer relationship between a farmer and the consumer. Across the US, there are estimated to be over 4,000 CSAs.

Why should I choose CSA?

Buying locally provides numerous benefits. Environmentally, the “food miles” for CSA produce, or the distance the food travelled to reach your plate, is very small. Across America, the average distance a food item travels before your home is between 4,000 and 5,000 miles. In contrast, my weekly food miles for picking up my CSA share is less than 11 miles. CSAs cut down on carbon emissions produced in the transportation process. In the Hamilton area, surrounded by so many small farms, it makes sense to support local farmers. According to researchers, around 11% of food-related carbon emissions is due to the transportation. Additionally, the food is all in-season, where the crops are harvested in line with local conditions. Another benefit is simply knowing who produces your food; in the large chain-dominated grocery store culture, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to track where your food comes from. Being a CSA member allows one to support local farmers and to develop a relationship with them. CSAs are a sustainable food option where carbon emissions are lower and many commit to treating the land, the workers, and the consumers fairly.

What has my experience with Common Thread been like?

Common Thread Farm is located about five miles away from Colgate University near Lake Moraine. This farm is run by Wendy and Asher and is committed to producing food grown according to organic practices. They offer a variety of share lengths and sizes. For my own cooking, I purchase a mini share where I receive four items per week. Even cooking a vegetarian diet, I find this size to be plentiful! To reduce costs, you and a friend can split a larger share. Common Thread allows members to pick up their items at the farm or to pick them up at delivery spots for towns further away. I’ve personally enjoyed the variety of produce I’ve encountered. Each week there are different items to choose from and many are local heritage crops that may not be otherwise found in a chain grocery store. They still have fall shares available for any interested students, staff, or community members. Check out their website to learn more and sign up today! If you’re not in the Hamilton area, you can check out https://www.localharvest.org/csa/ to find a CSA near you.

Colgate Community Garden: Fall 2017 Events

By Sustainability Office on September 4, 2017
-Luke Felty ’18

Colgate’s Community Garden (CCG) is returning to campus this fall to bring freshly harvested produce to Colgate students. Major changes have been made in the last few months with the opening of Good Nature Brewery’s farm brewery next door to the garden, and we’re thrilled to expand our relationship with the community through Colgate and Good Nature alike.

Colgate Community Garden’s farmstand will sell fresh, locally grown produce in the O’Connor Campus Center this fall. The farm stand will be open on Tuesdays from 11:15 AM to 1:00 PM beginning September 5 and ending October 31.

If you are interested in learning more about gardening or simply want to get your hands dirty, we welcome you to attend open volunteer hour at the garden every Monday from 5 to 6 PM until October 23. We will also be hosting volunteer work parties on Monday, September 18 and Monday, October 16 from 5 to 6:30 PM with snacks and refreshments. No previous gardening experience is required; we’re here to help interested students and community members learn.

We also invite you to attend our garden events this semester:

Sunday, September 24 12:30-1:30, location TBD

Cornell Cooperative Extension educational event about soil health and composting.

Monday, October 30 5-6 PM, Academic Quad

Halloween-themed pumpkin event with pumpkin carving, painting, and food samples from the garden!


Meet the Fall 2017-Spring 2018 Interns!

By Sustainability Office on August 29, 2017

Maggie Dunn ‘19

Maggie Dunn comes to us from Greensboro, North Carolina and is majoring in Environmental Geography with a minor in Philosophy. In her free time, she enjoys hanging out with friends, reading, finding new music, cooking, and playing sports. When asked what aspects of sustainability she is most interested in, she replied, “I’m very passionate about water, specifically water conservation, contamination, and ocean health.”


Chaveli Miles ‘19

Chaveli Miles, a passionate Shelburne, Vermonter, first joined us as a Summer 2017 sustainability intern and will be staying on for her first full year with the Office this 2017-2018 academic year. Chaveli enjoys rock climbing, hiking, and following track and field (Usain Bolt is always a fair topic for conversation). Her passions include dogs, coffee, reggae music, the Natural Sciences, and Japanese, Scandinavian, and sustainability-focused interior design.


MaryKathryn McCann ‘18

In a group of already academically diverse students, MaryKathryn McCann, from Chester, New Jersey, stands out above the rest with a major in Biology and a minor in Economics. In her free time, MaryKathryn enjoys going on bike rides, watching sporting events, and going to trivia nights on campus. Her favorite scientific focuses include pharmacological studies and water security.


Seamus Crowley ‘18

Seamus Crowley from Aspen, Colorado, like many of our sustainability interns, majors in Geology and minors in Environmental Studies. He enjoys maintaining an active and engaging lifestyle in his free time, which means running, skiing, and reading are always fair game. As you might guess, Seamus claims environmental advocacy and outdoor sports as some of his greatest passions.


Cecilia Kane ‘20

As one of the youngest of our new interns, Cecilia Kane has not yet declared a major or minor, but has expressed interest in Geography, Spanish, and English as possible fields of study. Cecilia comes to us from Alexandria, Virginia and enjoys playing the piano, practicing photography, painting, and hanging out with her dog and three sisters (specifically in that order). She is passionate about her faith, her family, social justice, and sustainability and the environment.


Chloe Matonis ‘18

Chloe Matonis comes to us from Greenwich, Connecticut and is an Environmental Studies and Chinese double major. In her free time, Chloe likes to spend her time running, reading, cooking, playing ultimate frisbee, and expanding her comedy repertoire. “I am incredibly passionate about environmental protection, of course,” she said. “I would have to say that my ‘hot button’ environmental issue is sustainable agriculture and food security, partially due to the fact that I have been vegetarian since I was 8 years old. I am also very passionate about comedy and making people laugh, which corresponds with my love for languages and meeting new people. I guess all in all, I am a people person looking to help the planet.”


Kimberly Duncan ‘18

Kimberly Duncan, from Charlotte, North Carolina, double majors in Environmental Studies and Studio Art. In her free time, she can usually be found drawing, watching Food Network, working out, eating popcorn, or taking long walks on the beach. Her passions include “communication of environmental issues through visual/artistic aids, environmental education, urban farming, food, my two dogs, and playing volleyball.”


Ashlea Raemer ‘18

Ashlea Raemer comes from Troy, New York and is double majoring in Environmental Studies and Biology. She enjoys crocheting/knitting, shopping second-hand, traipsing around Upstate New York, watching reality TV, and making her own graphic tees. Ashlea proclaims an admirable range of personal passions, including sustainable food systems, conservation, environmental education, naps in the ENST study room, and the search for the perfect french fry.


Isabel Dove ‘19

A Geology major from Collegeville, Pennsylvania, Isabel Dove often loves to hike, play tennis, and knit. She recently took up beekeeping and is president of Colgate’s new Beekeeping Club. Isabel is interested in studying climate change and spent the summer working in a micropaleontology lab. Her passions include learning new things and expanding her horizons by traveling to new places.


Revée Needham ‘18

An Environmental Studies and Geography double major, Revée Needham comes to us from Elko, Minnesota. In her free time, she enjoys reading, dancing, doing yoga, learning to cook new vegan and vegetarian recipes, and laughing at relatable maps. Her interests as they relate to sustainability are often focused on “changing the industrial agricultural system in America to be a more inclusive, diverse, and humane system to the workers, animals, and land. Generally, I’m also interested in making sustainable lifestyles more accessible to all.”


Dana Chan ‘19

All the way from Manila, Philippines, Dana Chan is a junior planning to double major in Neuroscience and Biology. She often enjoys teaching herself to cook new traditional dishes, reading, drawing, and Skyping her dog back home. She is self proclaimed to be *very* passionate about guinea pigs and her doggo, Garfield. “I also like sleeping and anything about neuroscience,” she says. “In terms of sustainability, the topics that interest me the most are sustainable urban planning and food security.”


Delaney Pals ‘18

Delaney Pals, from Wilmette, Illinois, pursues a major in Geography and minor in Economics. She can often be found outdoors partaking in any number of activities, including skiing, running, hiking, or reading. Accordingly, she is very passionate about the outdoors and all aspects of sustainability.


Matthew Froelich ‘19

Matthew Froelich, from Seminole, Oklahoma, has planned an academic career majoring in Geography and minoring in Economics. In his free time, he enjoys keeping active and outdoorsy with activities such as hiking, skiing, and rock climbing. Apart from enjoying the great outdoors, Matthew loves to take long road trips, play piano, and binge-watch Parks and Rec.


Madison Smith ‘19

Madison Smith comes to us from the quiet streets of New Boston, New Hampshire, and plans to focus her time here at Colgate studying Environmental Studies and Economics. Some of her favorite pastimes include hiking, kayaking, bike riding, working out, reading, and enjoying a good meal. Madison is a passionate defender of sustainable lifestyles and has an interest in many aspects of sustainability; she is a firm defender of animal rights, vegetarian/vegan diets, environmental justice for marginalized groups around the world, and pushing for sustainable, consumer-friendly alternatives in the corporate sphere.


Julia Feikens ‘18

Julia Feikens hails from West Nyack, New York and is majoring in Environmental Geography. She often can be found taking a few laps in the gym pool, enjoying a nature walk on one of Colgate’s many beautiful trails, or sketching the scenery around her. Her greatest passions include marine ecosystems, geography, music, and art.


Dana Monz ‘18

An Environmental Studies major and Political Science minor, Dana Monz joins us this year from North Haven, Connecticut. One of Dana’s greatest passions is the outdoors; during her free time she enjoys running, skiing, enjoying her natural surroundings, and spending time with her dog, Bryce.


Makenna Bridge ‘20

One of our youngest members, Makenna Bridge is a long-time local, hailing from Madison, New York. She plans to focus her studies here at Colgate on a diverse variety of fields of study, with the ultimate goal of double majoring in Spanish and Environmental Studies. In her free time, Mak enjoys spending as much time outdoors as she can manage: hiking, gardening, exploring Colgate’s forests, and spending time with her dog (one of her greatest passions). With regards to sustainability, Mak is interested in environmental conservation and advocacy as well as food and agriculture.


Miranda Gilgore ‘18

Another relative local, Miranda Gilgore joins us from Scotia, New York, where she enjoys getting outside, visiting new places, researching sustainable living practices, and trying out new and exciting recipes. She is pursuing a double major in Environmental Geography and German, which she intends to put to use in exploring her passions, landfill waste management and advocacy.


Shawn Palmer ’20

A sophomore from Skaneateles, NY, Shawn Palmer is in charge of managing the Office of Sustainability’s Green Bikes program. Shawn has not yet declared a major, but is interested in Environmental Studies. Consistent with his positions the Green Bikes intern, Shawn loves to ride all things 2-wheeled and is passionate about the great outdoors.


Foundations of Sustainability: Staff, Students & Faculty in Dialogue

By Sustainability Office on August 7, 2017
-Annaliese Clauze ’20
Summer 2017 Foundations of Sustainability Participants.

Summer 2017 Foundations of Sustainability Participants.

As the summer draws to the end, so too does the third annual summer session of Foundations of Sustainability, organized and led by the Office of Sustainability.

During the six-week discussion-based course, twenty staff, faculty, and students from departments across campus came together each week over a sustainably-sourced lunch to facilitate an open discussion about personal, university, and national sustainability practices and policies.

Each week of the course focused on a different theme of sustainability, from ecological limits to food and food systems to Colgate’s own sustainable policies and goals, and presented literature relevant to the topic to the participants. The resulting discussions hoped to start an interdepartmental conversation on campus regarding personal and institutional responsibility for one’s actions and resource consumption. These discussions ventured not only into the impact of human consumption on the planet and the environment, but also to the long-term consequences of the current, continued trajectory for humanity itself.

Many graduates of the course found the discussions and contributions from varied perspectives to be an illuminating experience.

This course is invaluable on many levels.  It brought employees and students together and provided a means to meet others and share and learn in a comfortable environment.  It supports sustainability on-campus.  It was just an amazing opportunity,” one participant responded in a follow-up assessment.

Others noted that the course brought to their attention areas for personal change and growth and inspired additional conscientiousness on their parts. For example, one participant mentioned, “sustainability in everyday life is possible. With all the information I have learned, I have definitely been thinking twice before making purchases. The whole cycle of consumerism was very eye-opening and really made me look at myself and how I had been contributing to that.”

It is just these types of self-reflections and behavior changes that Foundations of Sustainability works to inspire.

Foundations of Sustainability and other sustainability-oriented classes will be offered to staff and faculty in the upcoming year as a part of a new Sustainability Passport Program. Stay tuned throughout the fall semester to find out more as information becomes available!

It’s the Little Things

By Sustainability Office on August 1, 2017
-Dana Chan ’19

Cultural knowledge, having withstood the test of time, has proven itself right again. The saying, “you are what you eat” has never become truer than today as the scientific community is learning more and more about the microbes in our gut. What we eat influences the population of beneficial bacteria residing in our stomach and could potentially impact overall health and wellbeing.

Humans have ten times more microbial cells than human cells, and the collection of these microbes in our bodies is called the microbiota. These microbes are linked to important functions of our body, from training our immune system to identify harmful and beneficial microorganisms to sending neurochemicals up to the brain to affect brain development and activity [Source, Source]. While most studies have yet to establish causation, there has been a steady positive correlation between a diverse microbial population and health.

A depiction of microbiota. Photo: Katie Scott

Researchers noticed that as societies mature to resemble developed nations, many key species of microbes disappear and higher incidents of chronic diseases are observed [Source]. To understand this trend, researchers have been looking into the so-called “Western diet”, which is rich in animal meat and low in fiber. More and more studies are showing that the features of a meat-intensive diet may not be compatible with the microbes in our body and may even alter the microbiota in ways that are harmful to us.

Industrialized nations tend to eat high portions of meat, which contains a compound called carnitine (with red meat especially having high levels of carnitine). Through the activity of our gut microbiota, a chemical compound called TMAO is produced from carnitine. TMAO is associated with plaque buildup in artery walls and is considered a marker for cardiovascular disease. One major factor associated with TMAO production is previous dietary habits. In one study, long-term vegans and vegetarians (after consenting to eating red meat) showed significantly less TMAO formation compared to omnivores. More importantly, vegans and vegetarians have a different microbiota composition than meat eaters, leading to the hypothesis that increased levels of carnitine from consuming red meat alters the gut microbiota so that species involved in TMAO production dominate [Source].

By eating a diet heavy on animal products, we are only allowing a small group of microbes to thrive in our digestive system. It is recommended that humans should have a diverse microbiota but the trend leans towards the disappearance of more and more key species from the human gut. When we are eating, we are not only feeding ourselves but also the trillions of microbes within us. What would a diet that keeps our gut microbes happy, healthy and diverse look like? The answer seems to be in increased fiber consumption.

Dietary fibers are long chains of sugar molecules that are hard to break down. Fiber-fermenting microbes in our gut are capable of breaking it down to short-chain fatty acids that maintain the lining of our digestive system. When we don’t feed our fiber-loving microbes and they starve off and disappear (such as in the case of replacing microbes that break down fibers with microbes that break down carnitine in meat-heavy diets), the lining breaks down due to the lack of short-chain fatty acids and harmful microbial substances called endotoxins leak into the bloodstream. This initiates chronic inflammation that is associated with many diseases [Source]. While many processed foods claim to be infused with fiber, they only contain a single kind of fiber. However, different microbes have different fiber preferences [Source]. To address this issue, we have to move towards a fiber-rich and plant-based diet. Not only will this help bring back some of the fiber-fermenting microbes that promote good health, but eating lots of grains, vegetables and fruits also supplies a wide variety of fiber that can nourish a diverse set of microbes.

Keeping our microbes happy is just one of the many benefits of adopting a plant-based diet. Shifting to a diet rich in plant material is also advantageous to the planet! According to Drawdown, a program that ranks climate solutions based on effectiveness, changing to a plant-based diet is one of the most impactful ways a person can combat climate change. The livestock industry ranks high in terms of emissions, and this is fueled largely by the demand for meat products as the Western diet gains in popularity in other nations. Drawdown defines a plant-rich diet as one that involves a) restricting to 2500 kilocalories per day, b) reducing consumption of red meat and other meat-based proteins, and c) purchasing local products when possible. It was estimated that a total of 66 gigatons of CO2 emissions will be reduced by 2050 even if only half of the global population shifts to this kind of diet [Source]. Most of the emissions being reduced come from decreased deforestation. Cattle is the most resource-intensive livestock, demanding large amounts of feed and pasture land. As a result, forests are being cleared at an alarming rate so that more land is available for these livestock [Source].

Eating right is one of the simplest yet most powerful ways to care for ourselves and the planet. There are many reasons why we should seriously start considering a plant-based diet. There is a large amount of data out there that asserts that a plant-based diet is one of the top ways that we can reduce our carbon footprint. To get even more personal, making conscious food choices will nourish the population of microbes that thrive in us and help us. Our gut microbiota will thank us generously when we feed them their favorite foods!

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.