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How I Spent my Winter Break

By Sustainability Office on February 20, 2017
-Revee Needham ’18

Over winter break I traveled to Costa Rica to learn more about organic agriculture for my Alumni Memorial Scholars Project. Instead of spending all the days of my travel abroad experience lounging on beaches, I incorporated sustainability into my trip and volunteered at two organic farms, participating in two separate programs through World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) and Osa Conservation.

WWOOF is a fantastic organization around the world that connects organic farms with eager and able-bodied volunteers. The basic idea is to exchange your work, between 2 and 8 hours a day, for a place to stay and some or all of your meals. Most countries have their own WWOOF website with separate membership fees to access the list of participating farms. Some farms will allow you to work for only a few days, others prefer you to stay a minimum of two weeks. After joining the WWOOF Costa Rica website, I reached out to several farms that matched my interests. In the end, I decided to visit Planet Costa Rica. This vegan farm is a sanctuary for injured or retired animals. I worked 5:45am to lunch and then had the afternoons off to explore the local area. Not only did I get to care for numerous animals, I also made great friends. This experience challenged my relationship with animals and showed me how easy it is to be vegan. WWOOF-ing is a great way to travel abroad, or locally, for little costs and great benefits to local farmers.

For the rest of my winter break, I signed up to volunteer at Osa Conservation through their organic agriculture program. They also have volunteer programs focusing on sea turtles, big cats, reforestation, and rivers. I worked on the farm most mornings, helping to plant, harvest crops, and befriend the baby goat. I learned about the challenges of organic farming in Costa Rica, where pesticide use is higher than the U.S. Overall, the work was a lot more time and labor-intensive than I would’ve thought. Also, I learned about the devastation of November’s hurricane on the farm’s crops.

For those who prefer to do less work on vacation, you can also stay at Osa Conservation as a guest. This gives you the freedom to explore the natural beauty of one of the world’s most biodiverse region’s while contributing to a conservation organization. I made friends with those who worked at Osa full time, in addition to the numerous visitors from around the world, including an Earth Watch group.

Regardless of where you are traveling, I encourage you to consider eco-friendly hotels, programs, and trips. There are numerous organizations that provide the same scenic experience while doing some good for the local environment and people!

RecycleMania has begun!

By Sustainability Office on February 7, 2017

RecycleMania has officially begun! Over the next 8 weeks, we will be weighing our waste in order to measure our recycling rates on campus. For the past two weeks, we have been conducting a baseline measurement of our recycling rates and have calculated that our recycling rate is approximately 18%. During the competition, we will be working to increase this by 5% in order to achieve our goal of a 23% recycling rate.

Look out for our interns and Green Ambassadors who will be tabling in the Coop all week to learn more about Recyclemania and how you can do your part!

Do your part by ensuring you are recycling properly according to the recycling guide, and encourage your friends and neighbors to do the same.

For more information about RecycleMania check out our previous blog post.

RecycleMania 2017

By Sustainability Office on January 31, 2017
-Madison Smith ’19

Get ready for RecycleMania! The eight-week long, intercollegiate competition will begin next week on February 5th and formally end on April 1st.

During this competition, representatives from Colgate’s Office of Sustainability will work to educate students, staff, and faculty on how to properly recycle in an effort to reduce the amount of waste sent to the landfill.

According to the RecycleMania website, the mission of the competition is to provide “tools and opportunities that inspire, empower, and mobilize colleges and universities to benchmark and improve efforts to reduce or eliminate waste.”

For the past week and a half, Colgate’s groundskeeping crew has been weighing campus-wide recycling to determine a baseline of what our usual recycling rates are. Once we have established our baseline, we will set a recycling goal – a certain percentage of waste that we would like the university to recycle.

To reach this recycling goal, every two weeks during the eight-week competition, the office will focus on different types of materials that can be recycled.

The first two weeks will aim to inform students that the event is officially starting. Look for Green Raider Interns and Green Ambassadors in the Coop for recycling tips and prizes! Weeks three and four will focus on paper products that can be recycled, weeks five and six on the plastic and cans waste stream, and the final two weeks will highlight things you didn’t know were recyclable, such as e-waste and clothing.

We hope that Recyclemania ends with students, staff, and faculty feeling knowledgeable and excited about recycling both on campus and at home. It is such an easy, sustainable step that makes such a difference. It can help protect wildlife and habitats, reduce our need for landfills, and act as a material for innovative ideas and products. As a part of the Colgate community, we can be a catalyst for a greener and healthier planet!

Keep an eye out around campus for more Recyclemania news, tips, and updates!

Learn more about recycling at Colgate.

Patagonia Extended Study

By Sustainability Office on January 31, 2017

In December, The Off Campus Study committee and Dean’s Advisory Council approved an extended study trip to Patagonia for January of 2018.

The 22-day trip, directed by Colgate Associate Professor of Biology, Eddie Watkins and Sustainability Director, John Pumilio, will give students the opportunity to learn about forest conservation efforts and visit “The Colgate Forest” – a reforestation plot established as part of Colgate’s carbon-offsetting agreement with Patagonia Sur.

The half-credit extended study program, in Chile’s Aysén Region of Patagonia, will be a part of an Environmental Studies class focusing on natural resource conservation.

“Conservation biology is complex and requires an understanding of theory and the development of practice,” Watkins stated. “Part of preparing students to think and develop ideas related to conservation is exposing them to the diversity of models that are employed.”

Watkins and Pumilio hope that this new program will allow students to do just that: understand conservation biology in theory and in practice.

In March of 2016, Pumilio and Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies, Tim McCay,  visited the site to update Colgate about the ongoing reforestation and carbon sequestration project occurring there. After spending nine days on site, they further realized the value of this project to Colgate’s academic mission and that the region, forest, and offset project promise an experience rich in learning and research.

The Colgate Forest sequesters 5,000 tons of CO2 from the atmosphere annually, and plays an important role in helping Colgate to mitigate its impact on climate change and achieve carbon neutrality. Tim McCay (left), John Pumilio (right).

“Besides removing carbon from the atmosphere, the Patagonia Sur reforestation project is also restoring one of the most precious and endangered ecosystems on the planet, creating employment opportunities for local residents, and serving as a national and global model for other similar restoration projects. Above all, the project offers unlimited research potential for students and faculty in an area of the world where we’re just not doing a lot right now,” Pumilio stated.

While in Chile, students will be housed in comfortable staff lodging on the site, eat in a common kitchen, and travel around the area on horseback. Students will visit the Colgate Forest, conduct independent research projects and may help to plant trees as a part of reforestation efforts. Multi-day excursions to Lago Palena National Reserve and Lago Chican, and trips to the Village of Palena will expose students to the broader social context within Patagonian Chile.

The program and associated class will also provide a valuable avenue for academic enrichment.

“Few students are familiar with for-profit conservation models as that developed by Patagonia Sur. This opportunity will combine a semester-long seminar course with an extended study experience to Patagonia Sur,” Watkins stated.

Throughout the semester, students will explore various aspects of conservation biology including carbon sequestration techniques, ecosystem function, and biodiversity assessments.

“On the ground in Patagonia Sur, we will examine their conservation model first hand and study the Colgate Forest – a reforestation plot established as part of Colgate’s carbon-offsetting agreement with Patagonia Sur,” Watkins explained. “Students will be exposed to a wide array of conservation techniques and field ecology tools to measure technique effectiveness.”

Perhaps most importantly, this opportunity will provide students the opportunity to witness first-hand both the effects of and the solutions to climate change.

“Our world is changing and our students are going to be on the front lines to deal with this change,” said Watkins.

For more information about the program, please contact Pamela Gramlich at 315-228-6360.

Sustainability Showcase: Chapel House

By Sustainability Office on January 27, 2017

This summer, Colgate’s first geothermal heat exchange system was installed at the Chapel House, helping the university to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and achieve carbon neutrality by 2019.

“The system is expected to save over $20,000 per year in energy costs and reduce Colgate’s greenhouse gas emissions by about 50 tons,” stated Director of Sustainability, John Pumilio.

The pump acts as a central heating and cooling system that uses electricity to transfer heat to and from the ground. This system takes advantage of the moderate temperatures beneath the earth’s surface, using the earth as a heat source in the winter and as a heat sink when temperatures are high.

“By switching to an electrically based heating system, there are no longer fossil fuels burned on the site… The primary source of electricity used at Colgate is generated by hydroelectric power, thereby reducing the carbon impact of the system further,” explained architect on the project, Tom Hartman.

The $150K project will pay for itself in just seven years and is anticipated to save the university more than $650K over the course of its lifetime, resulting in over a 300% return on investment.

The geothermal system was not the only environmentally friendly addition made to the Chapel House this summer. The building’s ventilation was redone to ensure no heat was being wasted, a new roof was installed and sealed for maximum efficiency, additional insulation was added, and LED light bulbs replaced old lighting throughout the facility. All of these changes have worked together to reduce energy consumption by 50%.

“Project manager, Robert Dwyer, and Colgate’s entire Planning, Design, and Construction team deserve a lot of credit for making this historic, renewable energy project a reality at Colgate,” Pumilio stated.

Representatives from the Chapel House are also pleased with the renovations. They released a statement in response to the sustainability-related updates made to the facility:

“Chapel House’s mission is to provide a quiet space for all to explore their personal, spiritual and religious quests. Chapel House was conceived in relation to and in harmony with the natural wooded environment past Frank dining hall at the edge of the campus. In our 2016 renovation, we wanted to accentuate our relationship to our natural environment both by adding more windows and making the building more energy efficient with a heat pump system, new lights, roofing etc. We are thus pleased that Chapel House now is not only a model for the value of quiet contemplation in a noisy and busy world, but also a model of energy efficiency, sustainability, and humility in a world which is wasteful and often irresponsible about its energy use. Thus Chapel House implicitly states now, that personal and spiritual quests will only really succeed in harmony with nature.”

The additions made to the Chapel House this summer are a great step toward achieving our university-wide goal of being carbon neutral by 2019.

Announcing the Spring/Summer 2017 Community Garden Internship

By Sustainability Office on January 26, 2017

The Sustainability Office is pleased to announce the opening of two Spring/Summer positions in the Community Garden. These positions grant students the ability to spend the summer in Hamilton getting hands-on experience in maintaining an organic vegetable garden, event planning, and volunteer management.

Department: Sustainability Office

Hours per Week: 6 hrs in spring; 40 hrs in summer

Job Description:                                  

The Sustainability Office is offering two paid Garden Internship positions to students starting in late-April 2017 until late-August 2017. Garden interns will help manage and promote the organic community vegetable/herb garden on campus. This is a physically demanding, yet very rewarding job. Work includes long days and exposure to outdoor elements (e.g., heat, sun, rain, etc.). The student interns are expected to coordinate and organize volunteers and student work parties, as well as carry out an independent garden project from conception to completion. The Garden Interns will report directly to garden manager Beth Roy. Interns will work in close collaboration with other Colgate students, faculty, and staff to plan and manage the garden. The student interns will gain life-long skills and knowledge in planting and maintaining an organic 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 spring and summer seasons. Specific tasks 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 those work parties.
  • Manage an individual garden project, from conception to completion.
  • Provide continuity for work on the garden throughout the 2017 growing season.

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

Student interns will begin planning for the garden in late-March and will begin field work in late-April, working 6 hours per week. In May interns will begin to work 40 hours per week until the internship ends in August—the exact starting and ending dates will be set in consultation with Beth Roy. The two interns will also be able to take two weeks (non-overlapping) of vacation during the summer; again, this schedule will be set in consultation with Beth Roy.

To apply, send resume and one page cover letter to garden manager, Beth Roy (eroy@colgate.edu) and apply online. The application deadline is March 22.

Starting Hourly Rate: spring semester – $9.30 (estimated because Financial Aid determines pay rate); summer – $10.00

Supervisor: Beth Roy, Garden Manager

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

Colgate Annual Commuter Survey

By Sustainability Office on January 25, 2017

Each year, the Sustainability Office conducts a survey to assess the total carbon emissions coming from employees who commute to work.

The survey, distributed via email, asks Colgate employees to share information about their commuting habits such as how often they drive themselves to campus, the distance they drive each time, and the fuel efficiency of their vehicle. This data helps us determine commuting emissions and our overall annual Greenhouse Gas footprint. We have been tracking this data since 2009 as we strive to achieve carbon neutrality by 2019.

319 people representing an impressive 31% of Colgate employees completed this year’s survey. The results provided us with some interesting insights. The average Colgate commuter traveled 3,916 miles to and from work last year, using 156 gallons of gasoline and emitting 2,700 lbs of carbon dioxide in the process. When compared to the average American commuter, the average Colgate commuter traveled a shorter distance to work last year, but used more gallons of gasoline. This suggests that the average Colgate commuter uses a vehicle that is less fuel-efficient than that used by the average American commuter.

In total, Colgate commuters traveled 3,991,229 miles last year and used 150,027 gallons of gasoline. That’s enough travel to go to the moon and back more than eight times! These numbers mark an average increase of 19 gallons per commuter last year from the previous year and the highest numbers since 2013. On the positive side, about 20% of respondents to this year’s survey indicated that they walked or rode a bike to campus at least once per week, with an average of 3.5 days per week – a number that was constant across all seasons. This marks a 5% increase in the number of Colgate employees walking or riding a bike from last year’s average of 15%. Last year’s numbers were also less consistent, with more respondents walking or biking to campus in the summer and fall semester than in the spring semester.

To help Colgate achieve its goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2019, commuters can explore options to decrease the amount of gasoline they use in a year to drive to campus. Driving shorter distances to campus not only saves time and money, but also reduces your carbon footprint. Another option is to invest in a more fuel-efficient vehicle. Several employees have already invested in hybrid or ll-electric vehicles. Reducing the number of days you drive to work can also reduce your carbon footprint. This last option could be accomplished by walking to work when weather and distance permits, working from home with your supervisor’s permission, or by carpooling with another Colgate employee who lives nearby. A number of employees commented on the survey that increased bike lanes would make commuting by bicycle more practical and safe, and suggested a variety of improvements that would make it easier for more people to opt out of driving to campus alone. These suggestions will be carefully considered as we rethink parking and circulation patterns on campus.

In the meantime, thank you as always for all you do to support sustainability on campus.



New Pilot-Course Addresses Sustainability in the 21st Century

By Sustainability Office on December 1, 2016
-Jackson Lucas ‘17

For the five weeks leading up to Thanksgiving Break, a small group of students met every Tuesday evening in a quiet corner classroom on the second floor of McGregory to engage in dialogue often underrepresented on this campus: sustainability.

This pilot course, titled ‘Foundations of Sustainability’, facilitated by Green Raider Interns Grace Thomas (’17), Jackson Lucas (’17), and Fiona Adjei Boateng (’19) resembled a small-group, seminar-style discussion. This course, inspired by a summer seminar for staff and faculty, allowed students to receive P.E. credit in exchange for their weekly participation.

Short term, long term and lifetime goals students committed to during the final week of class.

Short-term, long-term and lifetime goals students committed to during the final week of class.

“I learned that there are passionate and engaged individuals looking to make a change who are right here on campus”, said one student in a post-course survey. The course challenged students to see sustainability through a variety of lenses and to think about ways in which their personal choices impact the environment.

The first four weeks covered a variety of topics including climate change, food and environmental justice, while the fifth and final week focused on applying learned concepts to the Colgate community and daily life. Week one introduced sustainability and examined the historic relationship between civilizations and the environment. In subsequent weeks, the class focused on the material economy and personal consuming habits, sustainability in the social realm, environmental racism, and climate refugees – new topics for many of the students that added to their understanding of sustainability. Students also challenged their thinking about food, and were engaged in dialogues about organic and locally grown food, genetically modified crops, meat, and food access. In the final week, students focused on how their actions affect the environment and determined short-term an long-term goals to live a more sustainable lifestyle. 

These dialogues were small and intimate, with student’s bringing perspectives from across the United States and abroad. Disagreements were frequent and required students to deconstruct and unlearn many of the lifestyle habits and understandings that they had unknowingly brought into the space with them. At the end of each evening session, students were asked to checkout from the space and think about the reactions and experiences that had been shared. 

“I really liked this course because it gave me the motivation to understand sustainability, think of ways to be sustainable and applying these methods to myself while encouraging others to do so,” stated a student in a post-course survey. This course allowed students to engage with materials and subject matter outside of their normal classroom curriculum in a workshop-style setting. Despite being the first session available to students, the Office of Sustainability is already looking for ways to expand the conversations had within the course outward into the greater Colgate community. One student asked in a post-course evaluation if it was “possible to work towards including this course in the core curriculum?” One of the many goals the Office of Sustainability has is for Colgate to implement conversations regarding sustainability into the classroom, Foundations of Sustainability being a great first step.

This course will be offered again in the spring semester for P.E. credit and general educational enrichment.

The Environmental Implications of the 2016 Presidential Election

By Sustainability Office on November 18, 2016
-Seamus Crowley ‘18

In the early hours of November 9th Donald Trump won a long election battle to become the 45th president of the United States. Now, the results of this historic election will have many implications, affecting everything from our nation’s relationships with other countries to the fate of the supreme court and their precedent-setting decisions. Of all the things that will be impacted by this abrupt shift in the governance of our nation, the treatment of the environment is certainly one of them. Putting aside political affiliations and opinions momentarily for the sake of recognizing fact, it is important to realize the implications that a Trump presidency has for our natural environment, both on a domestic and international scale.

While Donald Trump has not come out with any full-fledged policies regarding the environment since becoming president-elect of the United States, he has made numerous comments along the campaign trail that are indicative of what his plans may be. The short answer is that, under a Trump Presidency, the environment now faces an extreme threat from an exceptionally radical policy stance, the consequences of which have not been seen in this country for decades.

Regarding climate change, the most notable part of Trump’s plan is that he very clearly doesn’t believe it exists. More specifically, he believes that climate change is a hoax created by the Chinese government as part of an economic scheme1. Furthermore, he wants to remove the United States from the Paris climate deal, effectively eliminating commitments to reducing the amount of greenhouse gas the country emits1. With Trump as president, the emissions for the U.S. are expected to rise, rather than fall as they have been, on average, since before 20081.

On the topic of domestic policies, Trump plans to limit the power of, if not completely eliminate, the Environmental Protection Agency while in office1. If he were to be successful in this endeavor, regulations on pollution from mercury, smog, and coal ash, among many other toxic materials, would go by the wayside resulting in a less healthy planet and population1. Trump also plans on striking down the Clean Power Plan, which President Obama championed during his time in office, thus allowing for more greenhouse gases to be emitted into the atmosphere via the burning of coal1. Trump has also said he wants to stop government spending on clean energy1.

It is clear that when we delve into the specifics of Trump’s plan for not only the environment, but also climate change, a clear and predictable pattern emerges. It is a pattern that aims to undo any progressive environmental programs previously implemented within the nation, while making it easier to do more harm to the planet with limited, if any repercussions.  Time will tell in the coming months if Trump’s environmental stances become a reality for the United States.



  1. http://www.vox.com/2016/11/9/13571318/donald-trump-disaster-climate

Project Clean Plate: Results

By Sustainability Office on November 14, 2016
-Madison Smith ’19

We did it! Last week ended this semester’s Project Clean Plate in Frank Dining Hall. I am happy to announce that we surpassed our goal of reducing our food waste to 1,100 pounds per week by ending with only 1,038 pounds of post-consumer food screen-shot-2016-11-14-at-3-33-51-pmwaste. This was a 611 pound drop over the course of the six-week event, meaning that significantly less money is being wasted on food within our dining hall and, more importantly, less waste is going into the landfill.

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, the purpose of this project was not only to spread awareness and reduce food waste on campus, but also to give back to our community. Chartwells pledged to donate the difference in our food waste reduction in food pounds to the Hamilton Food Cupboard. 611 pounds of food will be donated to the local cupboard, helping to restock their shelves and ease the cupboard’s economic constraint as we approach the holiday season.

Of course, just because we reached our goal for this semester does not mean that we can stop being conscientious about our food waste. Yes, some waste is inevitable, like banana peels, avocado shells, and meat bones, but there is still a large amount of edible and delicious food being thrown away. Some tips to cut down on your personal food waste include only getting one plate at a time, sampling a food item before committing to it, and sharing with a friend! I truly believe that we can reduce our food waste to far below 1,038 pounds. Let us be our Colgate best and continue to stay out of landfills!