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Jailekha Zutshi’s Puerto Rico Experience

By Sustainability Office on July 3, 2019

-Jailekha Zutshi ’21

A week after the spring semester ended, I left Hamilton for Puerto Rico on a service learning trip organized in conjunction with the COVE. Ten of us had taken Core Puerto Rico or Core Latin America in the last three years with Professor Barreto, who accompanied us  along with Professor Humphrey. Altogether, we spent nine days in Puerto Rico – the first week at Plenitud PR in Las Marías, and an afternoon in Mayagüez interacting with farmers, artists, and activists, The last two days were in Caguas with Tara Rodriguez Besosa, a queer rural activist, largely on her farm. At Plenitud, our mornings were spent working on the farms, and the afternoons participating in cultural activities, attending workshops, or doing household tasks like shelling lentils, processing spices, or helping with meal prep. The vast majority of the produce we worked with, and a large part of what we ate, was  grown on the farm itself. 

Working on the farm, and listening to Tara and folx in Mayagüez, we learned that farmers in rural areas who worked together to create contingency plans before Hurricane Maria hit were able to minimize the long-term impact of the storm. Creating environmentally and economically sustainable methods of agriculture coincided with ensuring self-sufficiency as folx living in a colony in the aftermath of a natural disaster. The agricultural methods involve growing several plants together so that  they naturally return nutrients to the soil, unlike monocrop agriculture which depletes naturally occurring nutrients from the earth. Growing their own food, exchanging services, and creating art to sustain their social networks meant that in a lot of cases, they were able to distribute food and help survivors of the hurricane well before the administration could reach the western part of the island. Thus, farms were part of the movement to create and sustain communities after the trauma of Maria. As a result, farms like the ones we visited serve as a model example of environmental, economic, and social sustainability. 

In the urban sprawl of New Delhi, India, where I grew up, we were taught that urban areas were more developed than their rural counterparts. This trip made me question this  claim and reevaluate the meaning of ‘development.’ Development without sustainability inevitably leads to vulnerable groups being adversely impacted by climate change, capitalism, and colonialism. Reimagining development as sustainable development, where folx could fend for themselves and others with a degree of agency I could not in the city, I thought through new ways to link self reliance and agriculture, climate change and colonialism, and food and resistance. I will always carry these lessons on the most authentic form of sustainability I have seen, eaten, heard, and touched, and will use these to advocate for a more decolonized, sustainable, and equitable approach to addressing climate change. 


Sustainable Reunion 2019

By Sustainability Office on July 3, 2019

Last month over 3,500 alumni, family, and friends gathered on campus for the Bicentennial All-Class Reunion. The Office of Sustainability coordinated efforts with the Office of Alumni Relations to make Lunch and Dinner on Friday as low waste as possible. In addition to obtaining biodegradable plates, napkins, utensils, and cups, zero waste stations were set up across Whitnall Field.

To set up, help guide, and educate alums of our efforts, the Sustainability Office had student and staff volunteers stationed at the various zero waste stations. These zero waste stations had three bins: one for compost, for bottles and cans, and one for landfill waste. The goal of these stations was to reduce the amount of general landfill waste by recycling and composting. We were proud to see much of the food waste being correctly placed in the compost bins! All of the food collected in the compost bins was placed in the office’s composting plot.

Reunion Weekend also featured a number of other sustainable initiatives:

  • Email is the primary method for marketing Reunion, reducing the amount of paper used
  • Local produce and products are integrated into meals
  • Water coolers are provided around campus in place of one-time use disposable water bottles
  • Golf carts are used for transportation (instead of vans) around campus to reduce greenhouse emissions

For almost a decade, the Office of Alumni Relations and the Office of Sustainability have worked to reduce waste in support of campus sustainability and carbon neutrality goals. Colgate is working toward being a zero-waste campus by 2025 and minimizing waste at events like Reunion is a great step in this direction. 
Read more about our journey to become carbon neutral here.


Office of Sustainability Presents the 2019 Oak Awards

By Sustainability Office on May 21, 2019

-Isabel Dove ’19

Every year, the Office of Sustainability hosts the 13 Days of Green to celebrate and promote sustainability on campus. One highlight of the 13 Days of Green is the Oak Awards, which are presented to a student, faculty member, staff member, and organization who have made an impact on Colgate’s campus sustainability.

The Oak Award winners were announced at the Green Summit on Tuesday April 11.

The student winner is Marielle Scheffers ‘19, an environmental studies major and co-president of the Beekeeping Club. Marielle has worked as the environmental studies office assistant since her sophomore year and also worked as a summer intern with the Office of Sustainability. When asked about her involvement in sustainability at Colgate, Marielle responded, “When I came to Colgate, I was very excited to see they had such an active sustainability office, and I just wanted to participate in everything! It has been such a great opportunity to learn from faculty and students who participated in sustainability over the years.”

The faculty winner is Margaretha Haughwout, assistant professor of art and art history. Over the last two years, Professor Haughwout has worked with students and faculty to create 6th E. Street, a series of murals in the tunnels connecting Olin, Wynn, and McGregory that depict the anthropocene, our choices and Colgate’s role. Additionally, she organized the Grafters X event in April and created a  Food Forest Studio at Colgate last year.

The staff winner is Kat Pritts, junior designer for communications. Kat was instrumental in creating programs for the New York State of Sustainability Conference, which Colgate hosted in November. She is also a frequent volunteer at the Community Garden.

The organization winner is ITS. In an initiative led by Ahmad Khazaee and Bill Miller, the ITS department worked with SGA to reduce the paper waste associated with printing. ITS has moved printers next to each other in the library and have plans to work with their programming team to explore how to make Web Print more accessible and customized to student settings and preferences.

We thank our awardees for their dedication to promoting sustainable action at Colgate.


Colgate Celebrates Earth Day With 13 Days of Green Programming

By Sustainability Office on April 10, 2019

Everyone’s favorite time of year is now upon us. 13 Days of Green begins this Wednesday April, 10th and we are excited! This year marks Colgate University’s 10th annual 13th Days of Green, a tradition where the Office of Sustainability hosts programming throughout the 13 days leading up to and including Earth Day.

The first Earth Day in 1970 grew out of the counterculture energy that pervaded America and served as a response to physical environmental harms such as air and water pollution. On April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans took to the streets to demonstrate for a healthy and sustainable environment in coast to coast rallies. This was an important moment in the environmental movement because it represented groups coming together to fight for shared values. In 1990, Earth Day went global, and activists mobilized to lift environmental issues onto the world stage.

Today, Earth Day is now the largest secular observance in the world, as it is celebrated by more than a billion people every year. The day represents decades of activists fighting for change, transboundary solidarity, collective demand for action, and hope for the future. University and college students have always been at the forefront of the environmental movement, so it was only fitting that 10 years ago, Colgate University launched 13 Days of Green in an attempt to do its part and be part of national and global action.

This year, there are many exciting events planned for the 13 Days of Green. Highlights include the Kickoff Celebration on April 10th, the Green Summit and Oak Awards on April 11th, the Day of Service on April 20th, and the Carbon Neutrality Celebration on April 22nd. All of these events are geared towards engaging the student body in environmental action and awareness, as well as bringing a sense of excitement about sustainably to the campus climate. The full 13 Days of Green Calendar can be found here.


Water Research Trip to Italy

By Sustainability Office on April 7, 2019

By: Matt Chistolini ’21

Over the 2019 winter break, I spent ten days with Professor Tseng exploring the water climate in Italy.  On our sojourn, Professor Tseng and I traveled together across the geographic spine of the country. Our journey started in the northern city of Florence and we traveled down the country to the port city of Naples. Along the way, we collected samples from public water fountains, met with colleagues from several Italian universities, and explored the wonderful world of Italian food and culture.

I started conducting research with Professor Tseng after taking her core water class in the spring of 2018. The class opened my eyes to the plastic water system endemic and motivated me to raise the further question as to what environmental impacts this might have. In the fall semester, with the constructive guidance of Professor Tseng, I conducted an experiment to understand on a deeper level how hydrophobic chemicals (particularly how personal care products and pharmaceuticals) bond to plastic strands. Working on this experiment was thrilling and motivated me to continue working on this project this coming summer. This summer, thanks to many of Professor Tseng’s connections in Italy and our information-gathering trip over winter break, I hope to continue this project in Ancona, Italy as I explore some connections between microplastics and wastewater.  


Our journey started at the baggage gate in the Florence airport, gratefully meeting after hours of flight delays. Soon after, we settled in Florence for the night, and the next day I began gathering samples at public fountains scattered throughout the city.

I was provided with a map of the fountains, and from there it was a treasure hunt to collect water at each location. Not only did I enjoy traveling across the city in this manner, but I also gained a deeper understanding and appreciation than what would have been possible as a tourist. The fountains were located in both heavily trafficked parts of the city and more residential parts.  

The main aim of obtaining water from public fountains in Italy is to understand historical patterns of the quality of the drinking water. Professor Tseng has been running this experiment annually for several years, hoping to observe and catalog any trends in the chemicals present in the public Italian fountains. This experiment aims to provide a metric for understanding water contamination in Florence.

The main aim of obtaining water from public fountains in Italy is to understand historical patterns of the quality of the drinking water. Professor Tseng has been running this experiment annually for several years, hoping to observe and catalog any trends in the chemicals present in the public Italian fountains. This experiment aims to provide a metric for understanding water contamination in Florence.


After collecting all the samples we needed from Florence, we took the Frecciarossa to Ancona where we met up with several academic colleagues who study microplastics at the Marche Polytechnic University. It was inspiring to learn about all of their different projects relating to microplastics and how the European and mainly Italian educational system works closely with companies to research and develop new technologies. It was shocking to hear from Professor Francesco Fatone, the project leader in Ancona, that almost no basic research was being conducted in the engineering department of Marche Polytechnic University. While in Ancona, our visit overlapped with the University’s recent shipment of Antarctic sea creatures. It was extremely exciting to see in person creatures that had never left the Antarctic climate.

Once we had finished learning about the projects that the Francesco Fatone’s team were involved with we headed back north to Bologna to spend the weekend. Bologna was an absolutely beautiful city, rich in history and art and quickly became one of the highlights of the entire trip. Over the weekend I visited several churches and a myriad of museums ranging from modern to very historic.

Our final stop on the journey was to the southern city of Naples to visit several professors and graduate students at the University of Naples. This university was an excellent opportunity to meet even more scientists interested in the wastewater and natural water systems. As the University of Naples is much larger than Marche Polytechnic University, I had the privilege to learn about many more projects with a much broader scope of focus of water issue.

I am incredibly thankful to Professor Tseng, the ENST Department and Colgate University for making this trip possible. I was able to take so much of what I learned in Italy over those ten days and bring it back to Colgate. I am beyond grateful for all of the opportunities I had to learn from professors and graduates students. One of the biggest takeaways from the entire trip was learning about the importance of international collaborations and how to develop professional academic networks. I had never explored this learning outcome prior to this trip but with this new found knowledge I hope to continue developing these skills as I explore water-related issues further.


Apply for Summer 2019 Internships with the Office of Sustainability and Community Garden

By Sustainability Office on April 3, 2019

The Office of Sustainability is pleased to announce that applications are now open for paid internship positions with the Office and the Community Garden.

The Office of Sustainability is hiring interns for the summer of 2019 to work on a wide range of projects to advance sustainability at Colgate. This is an exciting opportunity for Colgate students to get hands-on experience putting sustainability into action, working to support the Program Coordinator and Director of Sustainability. The internship requires up to 40 hours per week, starting in late May and ending in early August. Work schedules are flexible and will allow for vacation time, however a total of 10 weeks of work during the summer is required.

“The summer Sustainability internship has many components to it, which makes it even more fun and exciting,” says summer ’18 intern Luvna Dhawka. “I had the opportunity to participate in the Foundations of Sustainability course for staff led by John Pumilio, the Director of the Office of Sustainability, who really drove the point home that somebody, somewhere has to act differently for change to happen, and it might as well just be me. Another aspect of the internship that I really enjoyed was managing a vegetable plot with the other interns at the Colgate Community garden where we would volunteer for an hour every week – a nice break from office work and ideal to enjoy the beautiful summer weather of Hamilton.”

To apply for this position, please email your resume and cover letter to pgramlich@colgate.edu by April 14th. More information about the position and application is available on the portal.

The Colgate Community Garden is hiring two interns starting in early/mid May 2019 until mid/late-August 2019. 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 community 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.

According to former Garden intern Mak Bridge ’20, “I loved being able to see the entire agricultural process from start to finish. Working at the garden is one of the only opportunities students have to get involved with agriculture, and as Colgate is set in such a rural environment, I think it really helps to give the interns a sense of place.”

To apply to be a Garden intern, please email your resume and cover letter to eroy@colgate.edu by April 14th. More information about the position and application is available on the portal.


2018 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory

By Sustainability Office on March 29, 2019

This year marks Colgate’s tenth consecutive greenhouse gas inventory report. Colgate’s gross campus carbon emissions in Fiscal Year 2018 (July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018) was 9,464 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTeCO2). We have reduced our net campus carbon footprint by 12,332 MTeCO2, representing a 72.9 percent reduction since 2009. Since signing the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) in 2009, rebranded as Second Nature’s Carbon Commitment, Colgate has implemented many changes on and off campus to achieve these reductions, moving closer toward our goal of carbon neutrality. 2018 State of Sustainability Report.


Carry Your Trash Week

By Sustainability Office on February 27, 2019

February 10-16 was a garbage week for some people at Colgate.

To bring awareness to the amount of trash produced by individuals on Colgate’s campus on a daily basis, 34 students and 8 faculty and staff members carried their trash with them for a week.

Throughout the week, participants opted to dispose of their waste in a Ziploc bag instead of a trash can. All trash produced during the week, except for hygiene products and food waste due to health and safety concerns, was carried in the bag and was visible for all to see. Many bags were completely full by the end of the seventh day, clearly demonstrating how much waste an individual can produce in a week.

Some of the most common items were food packaging, plastic silverware and food boats from the Coop, and paper towels. Participants say that they tried to limit the amount of trash they produced throughout the week, but many items, such as paper towels used to clean equipment in the gym, were unavoidable. According to one student, “I didn’t realize how many simple items are impossible to use without producing trash, especially food wrappers and containers.” About 50% of participants produced more trash than they originally anticipated.

Carry Your Trash Week has made students, faculty, and staff members more aware of the waste they produce. One student reported that “it is so easy to throw something away without thinking about it. Having to actively put it in a bag makes you much more conscious.” Additionally, Carry Your Trash Week has inspired people to change their behavior. Many students have committed to bringing reusable silverware up the hill and opting for a reusable mug instead of a disposable to-go cup.

In addition to compelling participants to face the amount of trash they produce in a week, another goal of Carry Your Trash Week was to encourage the entire Colgate community to think about their waste. However, despite participants’ best efforts to display the trash they were carrying, many did not receive questions or comments about their trash from others. One student reported that the only people who were willing to talk about reducing waste were already conscious of their own trash. According to Professor Jason Kawall, “I made sure [my trash bag] was highly visible in my classes but no one took me up on it, which was a little disappointing.”

Although overall campus engagement fell short of expectations, Carry Your Trash Week was still a great success, as many people on campus became more aware of the trash they produce and are taking action to consciously reduce their waste.


Sustainably Staying Warm

By Sustainability Office on February 18, 2019

It’s no secret that Colgate students face quite a challenge staying warm during the frigid central New York winters. However, heating is incredibly energy intensive and greatly contributes to Colgate’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Image from https://www.flickr.com/photos/colgateuniversity/

In 2017, over 50% of the university’s carbon emissions were associated with heating. Colgate’s heat comes from multiple sources including wood chips, natural gas, fuel oil, and kerosene. In order to heat campus as sustainably as possible, Colgate has recently made upgrades to campus infrastructure. For example, natural gas replaced fuel oil in the townhouses during summer of 2018. Although natural gas is a non-renewable resource, it is still much less carbon intensive than fuel oil. Additionally, the heating plant has recently been upgraded to support more efficient wood chip burning, which is a carbon neutral source of heat. These upgrades will help to reduce future carbon emissions.

While the university has taken steps to reduce carbon emissions associated with the operational side of heating, students can play a large role in reducing the amount of heating that is actually used. Here are some tips to help you both stay warm and decrease your carbon footprint on campus:

  • Make sure all windows are closed when the heat is on
  • Don’t turn your thermostat above 70 degrees
  • Use a blanket and wear warm socks
  • Lower the temperature a few degrees when you’re not in your room
  • Wear warm winter clothes when you are outside to maintain a healthy body temperature so that you are not tempted to turn up the heat after returning inside
  • Turn the thermostat down to 55 degrees if you won’t be in your housing for an extended period of time, such as over Spring Break

Establishing healthy heating habits now will also benefit you later in life when you’re responsible for paying your own heating bill. According to energy.gov, lowering the thermostat by 10-15 degrees for 8 hours per day will help you reduce your bill by 5-15% per year.

Heating is a necessary part of life, especially during the Spring semester at Colgate, but is unfortunately a large contributor to carbon emissions. Therefore, it is important to be mindful of how much energy we use to heat our rooms and do what we can to stay warm sustainably.


Meet the S-Reps

By Sustainability Office on February 14, 2019

The Sustainability Representative (S-Rep) program introduces first-year students to the sustainability culture at Colgate and equips them with the skills and information they need to improve sustainable practices in their Commons communities. These are the 2018-2019 S-Reps!

Ellie Lawrence is a Brown Commons S-Rep from Chicago, Illinois. She intends to double major in Political Science & Middle East/Islamic Studies. Ellie is involved with Club Ice Hockey & the Office of Admissions, and also enjoys skiing, working on political campaigns, and journalism. Ellie is passionate about making this campus a more environmentally-minded place.

Juliana Koller is a Ciccone Commons S-Rep from Weston, Connecticut. Juliana intends to major in Environmental Studies. She enjoys being in Shock Dance Group and working at her sleep away camp in the Berkshires. Juliana is excited to help run events for Colgate’s 13 Days of Green.

Willa King is a Brown Commons S-Rep from New York, NY. She is an Economics major and is involved with the Hamilton Fire Department. Willa also enjoys baking and backpacking in her free time. She wanted to be an S-Rep because she has been fortunate to see some beautiful places in nature and wants to make sure those places can be preserved for future generations.

Nicole Dienst is a Ciccone Commons S-Rep from Westport, Connecticut. She intends to double major in English and Environmental Studies. Nicole is also a writer for the Maroon News, is on the Residential Commons Council, and is a member of Green Earth Gang. She is also an avid readers and enjoy hanging out with friends and playing sports. Nicole wanted to be an S-Rep so she could have real hands-on ability to improve sustainability at Colgate.

Kate Connelly is a Brown Commons S-Rep from Smithtown, New York. She intends to double major in Environmental Studies and Economics, and is also involved with Model United Nations and Hamilton Outdoor Group. In her free time Kate loves binge-watching Game of Thrones and quoting vines. She became interested in being an S-Rep because she wanted to be an advocate for change at Colgate.

Melanie Crawford is a Ciccone Commons S-Rep from Atlanta, Georgia. She intends to major in Environmental Economics, and spends her free time partaking in Green Earth Gang, spending time outdoors, and hanging out with friends. Nicole wanted to become an S-Rep because she was interested in spreading awareness about the environment through events and campaigns.

Ramy Berenblum is a Dart Colgrove S-Rep from Bedford, New York. She intends to major in Environmental Studies and is also involved in Sidekicks and Club Squash at Colgate. Ramy loves to hike and backpack in her free time. She is excited to be a role model for sustainability on campus.

Clare McCormack is a Dart Colgrove Commons S-Rep who intends to double major in Sociology and Political Science. She is also involved with the Equestrian Team, Planned Parenthood Generation Action, and Spoon University. Clare is a firm believer that everyone can pitch in to keep the Earth inhabitable and beautiful for many generations to come.

Elisabeth Pezzuto is a Brown Commons S-Rep from Hilo, Hawai’i who intends to major in Biochemistry. Elisabeth spends her time on campus partaking in Outdoor Ed programs and dance programs. She also loves hiking, exploring new places, playing volleyball, and making ceramics. Elisabeth is very passionate about sustainable living and collectively doing small things that can make a big difference.

Sam Brotmann is a Brown Commons S-Rep from Pound Ridge, NY. He is currently undecided about his major. Sam is also involved in Students for Environmental Action and WRCU Radio at Colgate. In his free time, he enjoys playing bass guitar. Sam has always been interested in the natural world and living sustainably, and is excited for the opportunity to make Colgate a better place.

Liam Higgins is a Ciccone Commons S-Rep from Massapequa Park, NY. Liam intends to double major in History and Economics and is also a Mock Trial Attorney and Career Services Intern at Colgate. Liam loves listening to music in his free time. He was interested in becoming an S-Rep because he cares about the environment and promoting sustainability and taking every step possible to ensure that the Earth is habitable for generations to come.

Charlotte Carey is a Ciccone Commons S-Rep from Balitmore, Maryland. She intends to major in Environmental Studies and is also in Club Squash and UCAN at Colgate. In her free time she loves to paint, learn about art history, and hike. Charlotte is so excited to learn more about the sustainable initiatives on campus and to be involved in making Colgate a greener school.