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In the United Kingdom, Is Sust a Must or a Bust?

By Sustainability Office on November 9, 2017
-Madison Smith ’19

Upon arriving to Manchester, England in early September to begin my study abroad adventure, I was not entirely sure what to expect in terms of sustainability. Would it be similar to sustainability at home where we struggle to recycle more than 15% of our waste and where climate change is still a wildly partisan issue despite scientific consensus? Or would it be like a utopian society in which everything runs on solar power and people never forget to pack their reusable straws? I attest that my findings have landed somewhere in between.


In general, sustainability appears to be more engrained in everyday life. For example, the University of Manchester supplied sufficient recycling bins and directions to both my apartment kitchen and my individual bedroom before I even got there. Vegetarian and vegan food options are widely available and clearly labeled at most, if not all, restaurants in the city. Plastic and paper bags cost 5 pence at all stores, which very quickly forces you to carry around a backpack or a reusable shopping bag. Finally, due to the adequate bike paths and positive stigma surrounding bikers, one may actually be more likely to get hit by a biker than a car while walking around – a bad thing for an oblivious pedestrian like myself, but a great thing for reducing carbon emissions.


On the other hand, the U.K. has some tendencies that I have found more wasteful and problematic. I don’t think anything can illustrate this better than the time I found an unpeeled orange in a plastic container. To further explain, it is very common for people to buy prepared food at small grocery and convenience stores throughout the day. The sandwiches, salads, etc. are always dressed in heavy plastic and cardboard packaging, and yes, this includes the produce, whether it be raw or ready to eat. I am more accustomed to having to bag our own produce in the U.S., and thus having the option to bring a reusable bag or skip the bag altogether. Here, that autonomy does not exist and if you want the sandwich or broccoli or unpeeled orange, you also get the unnecessary plastic.

It is by no means a perfect system, but the U.K. has nonetheless progressed to certain policies and practices that we are just starting to talk about in the U.S. I would love to investigate beyond my initial observations and look at other areas in which the U.K. may surpass, or perhaps lag behind, the U.S. in terms of sustainability, such as food waste, renewable energy sources, and distribution of environmental burdens. I will keep you all posted!

Green Your Halloween

By Sustainability Office on October 30, 2017
-Julia Feikens ’18

It’s that time of year: scary movies, lots of candy, and fun costumes for everyone! However, while Halloween is considered one of the most popular holidays in America, there’s a way to make it even better…make it green!

Halloween is a great time to start making easy, sustainable decisions, especially in regards to your costume choice. One of the major concerns with Halloween is the abundance of one-time only disposable costumes. Instead, try these fun tips to make your costuming less impactful on the environment (and your wallet). 

  1. Use what you own
  2. Rent a costume at a much cheaper price than buying it
  3. Swap costumes with friends
  4. Buy re-wearable, used, or vintage items
  5. Use natural materials

Photo courtesy of usgbcma.org

In addition, make sure to avoid harmful or offensive costumes, so that everyone can enjoy the night together.

While celebrating, here are some tips to keep on Halloween-ing sustainably:

  1. When possible, use reusable items, such as cups and plates, and avoid disposable or paper products.
  2. Recycle what you can, but make sure to quickly wash out anything besides water to ensure no contamination enters recycling bins.
  3. Avoid smashing pumpkins and leaving waste in public spaces.
  4. Have a fun night!

Are You Nuts to Keep Eating Almonds?

By Sustainability Office on October 27, 2017
-Maggie Dunn ’19

You’ve probably heard that almonds are one of the healthiest foods you can eat, and in many ways this is true. They lower your blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure, and facilitate weight loss. But do these health benefits outweigh the costs to the environment?

Each almond produced consumes 1.1 gallons of water across its lifespan. Americans now consume more than 10 times the amount of almonds they did in 1965. While the US is the world’s leading consumer of almonds by far, it is also the leading producer of almonds. 82% of almonds come from California, the only state in which they grow. However, California just experienced the worst drought in recent history–so bad that experts are considering expanding what is currently a 1-4 drought system to include a whole new level of drought which will be called D5. That is the state that California is in, yet it continues to produce millions of almonds each year.

For the sake of comparison, beef requires 1,847 gal/lb to produce, while almonds take 1,929 gal/lb. Cutting meat out of your diet is certainly good for health reasons as well as for the amount of water it saves. Given the even greater water demand for almond production, almonds also need to be considered as a food that is not environmentally friendly with regards to water consumption. There are plenty of other options that allow you to replace the almonds in your diet with more eco-friendly alternatives.

Photo courtesy of almondinsights.com

Using almond butter? Replace it with peanut butter. Sunflower seed butter, tahini, and soy nut butter are all nut-free alternatives, as well as coconut, hazelnut and so on. Using almond milk? Replace it with soy milk, coconut milk, hazelnut milk, flax milk, cashew milk, or rice milk. Replace almonds in your trail mix or granola with cashews and walnuts, which still use lots of water (1,260 gal/lb and 1,112 gal/lb, respectively) but are much better compared to their alternatives.

Thinking about the food you eat and the impacts it has on the place you live is often a difficult shift in thought, but ultimately an essential one to make. In the changing world in which we live, we can no longer afford to give no thought to where our food comes from and how it is made. So next time you go to Price Chopper, make a decision to save water and skip the almonds.

Sustainability and Greek Life at Colgate – Where We Are and Where We Go from Here

By Sustainability Office on October 13, 2017
-Dana Monz ’18

With roughly one-third of the Colgate student body involved in Greek life, it is important to analyze the various houses’ relationships and actions in accordance with sustainability. While it is easy for individuals to take initiative through incremental actions – such as turning off a light, shorter showers, and recycling, among many others – Greek houses should aim towards collective action and large-scale measures, as they are among some of the largest and most influential groups on campus.

As required by the university, each organization has a “Sustainability Chair” who is responsible for promoting sustainability within their house, implementing sustainable practices, and organizing events within the Greek community. Additionally, throughout the semester, the Sustainability Chairs meet with the Program Coordinator and the Director of Sustainability to discuss action and possible events.

Among the various Greek organizations, there appears to be general measures that each house is practicing. The Sustainability Chairs have articulated that they have two stream recycling (bins for plastics and cans and different bins for paper products), signs communicating what can and cannot be recycled, stickers by the lights reminding individuals to turn them off when the room is vacant, and reusable containers.

While these actions are commendable and helpful initiatives, there remains a lot more that the Greek organizations could be doing in order to be forerunners of sustainability on this campus. For instance, many of the organizations use plastic and Styrofoam cups, paper products, and plastic silverware, thus generating incredible amounts of waste, as well as lack of dialogue about sustainability in their houses and on campus. Not only should the houses work towards reducing their waste, but they should organize and participate in events like Colgate Unplugged and Recyclemania in an effort to take a stance as a large portion of the Colgate community and reduce their carbon footprints.

I commend the Greek organizations for their significant strides towards sustainable actions, but I encourage the Sustainability Chairs and their broader organizations to do more, take initiative, and increase dialogue about the sustainability issues that are meaningful to this campus and imperative to address today.

Link between carbon footprints & affluence has far-reaching policy implications

By Sustainability Office on October 2, 2017
-Seamus Crowley ’18

Greenhouse gas emissions, specifically the policy surrounding their regulation, are at the forefront of a larger dialogue concerning environmental protections. Often there’s talk of wide-reaching, large-scale “solutions” such as a carbon tax. But according to Andy Pattison, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies, these ideas are overgeneralized and don’t always hold the proper people accountable for their emissions.

Pattison, who has a background in public policy as it relates to the environment, has recently been interested in studying the effect that affluence has on the amount of emissions an individual community puts out. “I’m interested in finding a way to unpack the role of carbon emissions on a local level for use in policy”, Pattison explained. Working alongside his colleagues Matthew Clement and Robby Habans, from Texas State University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign respectively, Pattison is working to publish a series of five papers that address this topic. The second in the series to be published came out in September of 2017. This paper, titled “Scaling down the ‘Netherlands Fallacy’: a local-level quantitative study of the effect of affluence on the carbon footprint across the United States”, was published in Environmental Science and Policy.

An important component of this paper is that, as Pattison distinguishes, greenhouse gas emissions can be broken down into two categories: production and consumption emissions. Production emissions are created via the manufacturing of goods, whereas consumption emissions are created through sectors such as energy and transportation. Therefore the “Netherlands Fallacy” can be described wherein, according to Pattison’s paper, “a wealthy developed nation like the Netherlands may appear to have minimal environmental impacts because many of the products consumed within its borders are produced elsewhere”.

By looking at local emissions in the U.S. through the lens of the “Netherlands Fallacy” a lot can be gathered about what groups of people are responsible for certain emissions in different areas, Pattison explained. They found a positive correlation between consumption emissions and the affluence of an area; hence, as wealth increases so do the carbon emissions. However, the relationship between production emissions and affluence is more complicated. In this case the relationship can be represented by an inverted-U; as affluence rises, production emissions rise as well – until a point –  then production emissions start to fall as affluence continues to rise. Therefore, the authors reach the conclusion that more affluent communities are displacing significant, carbon-intensive production operations onto poorer communities. Pattison labels this as the environmental inequality Kuznets curve in order to reflect the disproportional burden of emissions that less affluent communities have to bear.

The most striking finding of Pattison’s paper, however, is the relationship that a community’s carbon footprint has to their affluence. The impact of affluence on emissions is pronounced to an extremely high degree when you factor in both consumption and production variables. In fact, affluence is even more strongly correlated to an intense carbon footprint than it is to consumption emissions. Understanding this direct link between emissions and affluence is important, but as Pattison points out, realizing the impact on emissions policy is critical.

Pattison notes that in order to properly address the impending climate crisis the world as a whole needs to reduce its carbon emissions. However, when you consider the idea of a widespread carbon tax for example, it’s clear now why such an initiative is too general. “When looking at a policy based on penalty or benefit you need to be careful, otherwise you might end up charging the wrong people”, noted Pattison. In order to properly and fairly reduce carbon emissions we have to look at which communities are creating the largest carbon footprint and localize the burden, otherwise the economic strain can begin to fall on those who deserve it the least.

It can be easy to get lost in the research of this work, but it’s important to remember that it’s addressing real-world problems for which we need to work to find solutions. Professor Pattison hopes that in moving forward with the remaining papers in the series addressing this important relationship he and his colleagues can develop a conceptual framework to adequately relate their theories and findings in order to directly inform carbon policy. Pattison sums up his initiative best by saying, “We need to match the goals we have as a society with the goals we have on how to deal with climate change in order to be the most successful”.

Soundscapes of the Colgate Hill

By Sustainability Office on September 28, 2017
-MaryKathryn McCann ’18

Take a few moments to think about an early summer or late spring morning. People normally think of sounds such as birds singing, crickets chirping, and early morning commuters on their daily drive. These sounds are all considered to be part of the environment’s soundscape. A soundscape is composed of the biophony, all biologically sourced sound; anthrophony, sound caused by humans; and geophony, sounds emitted by nonbiological sources of a specific location.¹ From a soundscape, information about the overall health of an ecosystem can be identified.

Recording in the woods on the Colgate Ski Hill.

Over this past summer, under the direction of Professor Ana Jimenez and Director of Sustainability John Pumilio, Erin Biggar, Karl Brown, Sydney Ziatek, and I started a longitudinal study of the soundscape of the Colgate Ski Hill. The recordings of the soundscapes focus mainly on birds. Male birds sing in order to claim territory and attract mates, but singing is very energetically costly to the birds. The collected recordings are able to provide insight into the richness and abundance of bird species in the area; these recordings are then quantified and used to calculate the change in the frequency and intensity of sounds over the breeding season and from year to year due to climate change and increased anthropogenic noise due to changes on Colgate’s campus.

The data collection of this experiment involved taking recordings of individual birds and soundscapes during most dawns and dusks for 7 weeks of the late spring and early summer. The recordings collected were analyzed using computer programs, R and Raven, to understand how the various songs produced by the birds changed over the breeding season and with changes in temperature. Our current data suggest that with continued temperature increases, the bioacoustical sound will decrease. With the increase in temperature, songbirds will be more energetically challenged to attract mates and to breed. This is because most of the energy of a bird will be used in order to keep its temperature regulated, and less energy will be allocated to singing.  As temperatures rise, it is believed that bird migration patterns will alter in response. The birds could fly north earlier and fly further north. This change could have damaging effects on the bird population. The change could create more competition for food and territory among species of birds, driving out many bird species and creating, as Rachel Carson states, a “silent spring.”

Spectrogram from an individual recording of a chestnut sided warbler from the top of the Colgate Ski Hill.

In order to understand the changes that are happening to our forests and how these may impact bird populations, we first need to look at the causes of global climate change, and the major one is human activities that release greenhouse gases. Colgate is working towards climate neutrality by 2019 and it is one way that we can help offset the negative effects of climate change. It is up to us to make sure Colgate’s goal of carbon neutrality is reached and that our own actions are environmentally conscious. Our collective actions caused global warming; therefore, our collective actions can help slow down climate change.

Visit this website to check out Colgate’s soundscape: https://colgatesoundscape.wixsite.com/colgatesoundscape


Bernie Krause, “Anatomy of the Soundscape,” Journal of the Audio Engineering Society, Vol. 56, No. 1/2, 2008 January/February

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!