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Colgate ditches the switch

By Sustainability Office on November 21, 2014

The Colgate Sustainability Office co-hosted the event “Ditch the Switch” with SGA on November 14th 2014 in Parker Commons.  The event was created in order to promote energy reduction in the form of turning off lights, using power strips, and unplugging electronics when they are not in use. “Ditch the Switch” also built awareness about the two events going on around campus to reduce our environmental impact. This event was therefore a culminating event between CCN (Campus Conservation Nationals) and the Broad Street Challenge both working towards the reduction of water, energy, and the environmental education.

Sustainability Staff at Ditch the Switch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When students walked into the venue, they were asked to sign a pledge to reduce their energy, and additionally took pictures in front of a fun backdrop. Within the Parker Commons we turned off all of the lights, hence the name, “Ditch the Switch” and used glow sticks for lighting. Through the event we hoped to promote the reduction of energy and water consumption around campus, and make students aware that they can do small efforts to help the environment. Thanks to everyone who came out!


Climate Action at Colgate

By John Pumilio on November 8, 2014

Earlier this week, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the synthesis report of their 2014 Fifth Assessment Report (AR5).  The release of this major new United Nations report is the most troubling and scientifically conclusive report yet.  For me, the 100+ page report can be boiled down to three simple and profound scientific realities.

First, we must limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels or we will suffer from “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.”  Temperatures have already risen 0.8 degrees Celsius.

Second, limiting warming to 2 degrees Celsius gives us a remaining carbon budget of about 1 trillion tons.  That may sound like a lot, but given our current rate of burning fossil fuels, we have less than 30 years to wean ourselves off of coal and oil.  Since severe climate impacts are already upon us, the passing years promise to bring greater catastrophes and human suffering with every increased ton of carbon burned.

Third, the world’s major energy companies have several trillion tons of known fossil fuel carbon waiting in reserves.  These companies are valued on their known reserves and they have every intention of burning all of it.  To make matters worse, these companies are spending an addition $600 billion annually in search of new sources of coal and oil.  If these reserves are burned, we will be putting ourselves and our children and grandchildren in a very perilous situation.

2011-2015 Climate Action Plan Wedges Graph to Carbon Neutrality

2011-2015 Climate Action Plan.

As one of America’s top higher education institutions, Colgate University places great value on scientific research and integrity.  Our commitment to carbon neutrality by 2019 confirms our institution’s belief in the overwhelming and conclusive science behind climate change (see specific text of ACUPCC).  It is also Colgate University’s mission to educate and prepare students for civic life and work in the 21st Century (see the 13 Goals of a Colgate Education approved by the Academic Affairs Board in 2010).  In order to achieve this mission, we must not only educate all students on the science, impacts, and possible solutions to climate change, but we must also continue to reduce and eventually eliminate all carbon emissions associated with our campus operations.

Achieving this shared goal will not be easy, but it must be done.

Right now, faculty, staff, and students on Colgate’s Sustainability Council are working to develop our road-map to carbon neutrality by 2019.  We need your help.  Please comment below or share any ideas you have with the chair of the Sustainability Council, Catherine Cardelus (ccardelus@colgate.edu) or director of sustainability, John Pumilio (jpumilio@colgate.edu).


Ready for Solar Energy in Central New York?

By John Pumilio on November 2, 2014

A few weeks ago, I attended the CNY Solar Summit in East Syracuse.  The event attracted state and local policy-makers, government officials, industry and community leaders, business owners, installers, homeowners, and curious New Yorkers from every walk of life.  The excitement throughout the day was palpable.  With good reason.  Solar energy in New York is poised to explode.  The NY-Sun initiative, launched in 2012, has created one of the greatest solar market opportunities in the country.  The response has been impressive.  Over the past two years, solar energy in New York grew by 316 megawatts—enough to power about 32,000 homes—eclipsing all installations from the previous decade combined.  Large manufacturers are also taking notice.  Last month, SolarCity, one of the leading solar companies in the world, announced plans to build a 1.2 million square-foot ‘Gigafactory’ in Buffalo.  Not only will this create thousands of new jobs but the manufacturing plant will turn out solar PV arrays at an attractive price using low-cost, carbon-free hydroelectricity from Niagara Falls.

Solar energy is already in our backyard.  You may remember that in 2012 and 2013 we initiated the Solarize Madison project.  By streamlining the installation process and through volume purchasing, we were able to reduce the cost of residential solar installations.  This first-of-a-kind project in New York resulted in over 40 solar installations on Madison County homes including the solar thermal installation on Creative Arts House (100 Broad Street).  The program is now being replicated in over a dozen other New York communities including Syracuse.

While Madison County’s solarize program has concluded, solar energy in New York is just getting started.  The NY-Sun initiative provides a convenient website to explore your options.  I often talk with local homeowners who are waiting on the sidelines for the technology to improve or for costs to come down.  My advice is to explore the option now—while the incentives are right and the cost is low.  If you determine that it makes sense for you now, then get in the game!

You can start the process by contacting a certified installer through the NY-Sun program for residents and small businesses.  The installer will work directly with you to evaluate your options and right-size your system.  The installer will also assist with all NY-Sun and NYSERDA paperwork, including financing options.

Do you think solar energy is right for you?  Share your thoughts on renewable and solar energy in New York. Visit us on Facebook, follow our Twitter feed, email us at sustainability@colgate.edu or comment on this blog post.


Apply to be a garden intern!

By Sustainability Office on July 31, 2014

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Hours per Week: 6 hrs during fall semester

Job Description:
The Sustainability Office is offering a paid Garden Internship to a qualified student starting in late-August 2014 until November 2014 (the end of the growing season). The garden intern will help manage and promote the one-half acre vegetable/herb garden and greenhouse on campus. This is a physically demanding, yet very rewarding job. Work includes exposure to outdoor elements (e.g., heat, sun, rain, etc.). The student intern is expected to coordinate and organize volunteers and student work parties. The Garden Intern will report directly to our garden manager (Beth Roy) and work in close collaboration with another garden intern and other Colgate students, faculty, and staff. The student intern will gain life-long skills and knowledge in harvesting and maintaining a garden, organizing events, and supervising volunteer workers.

Required Skills and Experience

Key Responsibilities:

  • Work with garden manager (Beth Roy) to plan and manage the garden during the fall season. Specific tasks may include preparing soil, cultivating, planting, weeding, and harvesting.

  • Organize and supervise volunteer work parties.

  • Coordinate with Green Thumbs presidents to schedule a weekly time for volunteer work parties (usually for harvest, the day before pick-up), and be at the garden during those scheduled times to supervise those work parties.

  • Provide continuity for work on the garden throughout the 2013 growing season.

  • Prepare for and run a weekly Farm Stand to sell produce from the garden.

Recommended Qualifications and Skills:

  • Strong work ethic and self-motivated.

  • Strong interpersonal and communication skills.

  • Preference will be given to those with experience and firsthand knowledge in farming and/or gardening with vegetable crops; though previous garden experience is not required.

  • Experience organizing and supervising the work of others.

  • Tolerance for hard work and exposure to outdoor elements.

  • Excitement about promoting local farming and local food production

Work Requirements and Benefits
The garden internship position is rewarding but demanding work that involves physical exertion and exposure to the outdoor elements.

Starting Hourly Rate: Fall semester – $8.50/hour (estimated because Financial Aid determines pay rate)

Supervisor: Beth Roy, Garden Manager

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

To apply, send a resume and one page cover letter to the Garden Manager, Beth Roy (eroy@colgate.edu) and fill out an application on the Colgate Portal.

The application deadline is August 15. Employment will begin on or around August 25.


Ben Rich ’99 visits Colgate to recharge his motorcycle

By Sustainability Office on July 23, 2014

On Wednesday of last week, Ben Rich ’99, made a surprise return to Colgate. He was on his way home to New Jersey from Rochester, NY.  But that’s not all.  Ben was on the final leg of an extended road trip that took him south through the mountains of North Carolina, then out to St. Louis, Chicago, and Cleveland on an electric motorcycle!  Ben was on the road helping to promote a new movie featuring his 2013 cross country road trip called Kick Gas (click here to view the website and movie trailer).

Ben Rich '99 charging his electric motorcycle at Colgate.

Ben Rich ’99 charging his electric motorcycle at Colgate.

As Ben was planning his trip, he found Colgate’s recently installed electric vehicle charging station on Plugshare.com and decided to stop by to “refuel.”  This gave him about 90 minutes to have lunch with members of the Sustainability Office and explore campus.

When Ben is not riding his electric motorcycle to far away places, he teaches physics at the Montclair Kimberley Academy and is a semi-professional swing dancer.  Find Ben on Facebook to follow these and his other upcoming adventures (hint: Harley Davidson recently contacted Ben inviting him to test drive their new electric model!).


Electric Vehicle Charging Etiquette Plus a Few Helpful Tips

By Sustainability Office on July 8, 2014
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A new charging station for electric vehicles has been installed on Colgate’s Lally Lane.

In case you haven’t heard, Colgate just installed a new ChargePoint electric vehicle charging station on Lally Lane. Already, we have heard from a few individuals who went out and bought a new electric vehicle! I guess it is true, “build it and they will come!”

If you are a new electric vehicle owner, congratulations! Here are a few tips and basic rules of etiquette that we expect you to follow:

  • Internal combustion cars (the old technology!) should never be parked in one of our electric vehicle spots. Never! If you need a charge and the spot is occupied by an internal combustion engine, leave a firm but otherwise nice note. Inform the occupier what they did (sometimes it is an honest mistake). Write down the make, model, and license plate of their car and give to Campus Safety. Let the car owner know that you did this and let them know that their car may be towed if it happens again.
  • Charge only when necessary. If your battery is nearly full and you only have to drive five miles to get home after work, then leave the spot open for someone who may be in more desperate need. This best practice will likely benefit you someday.
  • Charge up and move on! It is bad practice to occupy a charging spot after your car is fully charged. Once your battery is full (or you have enough charge to confidently reach home) then unplug and move your car as soon as possible. FYI – most electric vehicles will add about 25 miles of range per hour of charging. Download the ChargePoint app. It will notify you by text or email once your charging session is completed. Now that’s cool. As a reminder, it costs $1.50 per hour to charge at Colgate.
  • Never unplug another car. Never! Unless, of course, you know the owner and have their permission.
  • Treat the ChargePoint charging station with a little tender loving care! Carefully and neatly replace the cord when finished charging. Neatly move the cord out of the way and tuck it in so people will not trip on any excess length, or drive over it.
  • Here are a few tips and a short video that explains easy charging.

Read more. Do you have any additional tips? Let us know in the comments below!


Birds and Beans

By John Pumilio on July 1, 2014

Chances are you or someone close to you enjoys watching birds. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, an estimated 47 million American’s birdwatch (making it one of the most popular pastime activities in the country). Take a walk through the Colgate forest on any given spring or summer day and you will notice that our trees are alive with some of North America’s most beautiful songbirds: warblers, thrushes, grosbeaks, tanagers, indigo buntings, orioles, and many others.

Chances are you or someone close to you enjoys drinking coffee. According to the National Coffee Association, over 600 billion cups of coffee are consumed each year making coffee the most popular beverage in the world. Take a walk through Colgate’s offices on any given day and you may notice the aroma of freshly brewed coffee. Students in Prof. Chris Henke’s Fall 2012 Community-Based Study of Environmental Issues (ENST 390) conservatively estimated that we (students, faculty, and staff) consume around 350,000 cups of coffee each year at Colgate. That’s a lot of coffee.

At this point, you may be asking: what do birds have to do with coffee? The answer: plenty! The songbirds breeding in our forest often winter in Latin America, the same region where most of our coffee comes from. In recent decades, millions of acres of tropical forestlands have been converted to industrial coffee plantations. These huge monocultures provide us with the inexpensive coffee found in our homes, offices, and restaurants but they have destroyed millions of acres of tropical bird habitat in the process. This is one of the reasons why many songbird populations are in decline.

In the mid-1990s, I participated in a long-term field study in the West Indies where we compared the biodiversity between industrial “sun” coffee plantations vs. more traditionally grown “shade” coffee plantations. We discovered that while shade coffee plantations produce about 30 percent less coffee (making shade coffee slightly more expensive), they contained about 90 percent more bird species when compared to sun coffee plantations. The coffee plant grows naturally under the canopy of native trees. As a result, shade coffee plantations can mimic an intact, ecologically functional forest that supports numerous plants and animals. I was amazed at the vast number of “our” songbirds that spent their winter in shade coffee plantations. Some of the individual birds we were tracking had returned to the same shade coffee plantation for nine consecutive winters!

The American Redstart breeds in the Colgate forest and winters in Latin American coffee farms.

The American Redstart breeds in the Colgate forest and winters in Latin American coffee farms.

Since those days, shade-grown coffee has become more popular and thousands of acres of coffee plantations have been reverted back to the more traditional method of growing coffee under the canopy of other trees. This is not only good for birds, but produces a higher quality coffee without all the chemical applications necessary in a monoculture.
Smithsonian Bird Friendly Logo_opt
So, if you want to support bird conservation while also enjoying your morning cup of joe, there is something we can do. Buy shade-grown coffee! You can purchase shade-grown coffee from many outlets including your local grocery store including Hamilton Whole Foods, Roger’s Environmental Education Center here in Sherburne, or order online from Birds & Beans. Look for the “Bird Friendly®” seal of approval from the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center to help assure that the coffee you choose meets Smithsonian’s rigorous certification standards. And, if your office has a Keurig machine, you have the option of purchasing a reusable “My K-Cup” and filling it with your favorite shade-grown, bird-friendly coffee.

Hope you always enjoy the songbirds in our forests and the coffee in your mug!


Applications now open for 2014-15 Sustainability Office interns!

By Sustainability Office on June 10, 2014

The Sustainability Office is pleased to announce four paid positions for qualified students to implement and manage Colgate’s Green Living Program. This is an exciting opportunity for Colgate students to get hands-on experience putting sustainability and green living practices into action.

Qualified interns will work up to 12 hours per week, during both fall (2014) and spring (2015) semesters. Official start date is August 25, 2014 with arrival/move-in on August 22nd. Orientation is mandatory and will begin the morning of August 25th.  Weekly work schedule is flexible, however, we will have mandatory team meetings once every week.

Read more


Let the gardening begin!

By Sustainability Office on June 10, 2014

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Colgate’s Community Garden has officially changed locations this summer and is looking forward to the growing season! The new garden is now located on Broad Street, just South of the Colgate townhouses and Community Hospital.  Colgate Community Garden interns Alex Schaff ‘16 and Quincy Pierce ‘16 are starting from the ground up, forming rows, building a compost bin, planting seedlings, and adapting to the new site.  Long-time friend of the garden, Sam Stradling from the Hamilton Food Cupboard, recently dropped off a plentiful load of plants ready to be planted in the garden.  This is the second year in a row Sam and the Food Cupboard have donated seedlings in exchange for produce to be harvested and donated by the Community Garden later in the season.

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We hope to hold events in the near future, and can’t wait to have visitors..stop by and have a look at all the work being done.  Or even better, come on down and get your hands dirty by helping out!  See you soon!


Colgate Installs First Electric Vehicle Charging Station

By Sustainability Office on June 1, 2014
Electric vehicle charging station

This project was made possible with the support of Facilities and Colgate’s trade shops. Special thanks to Hoyt Kelly (Electric Shop), Dan McCoach (Associate Director of Facilities), Jim Hall (Electric Shop) and Lenny Zielasko (Mason).

You may have noticed a growing number of all-electric vehicles cruising around campus. Besides a few Colgate-owned vehicles, proud owners include faculty, staff, and an increasing number of alumni and parents of current students. As the popularity of electric vehicles continues to grow, Colgate decided it was time to further support this emerging technology.

On May 22, we installed our first electric vehicle charging station on Lally Lane (adjacent to the Zipcar parking spots) near Donovan’s Pub. The dual arm Level 2 ChargePoint station has the capacity to charge two cars at once. The cost to charge is $1.50 per hour and it will take anywhere from 3-6 hours to get a full charge (depending on the make and model of the car). The ChargePoint station will connect to any make and model of electric vehicle (though Tesla owners will need to use their adapter). The station is also user-friendly and networked permitting owners to check availability and/or status of their vehicle through a smartphone app.

Over 10 percent of Colgate’s campus carbon footprint is due to commuter emissions and our vehicle fleet. By providing infrastructure to support electric vehicles we are helping car owners overcome one of the key barriers to purchasing electric vehicles: range anxiety. Even though current models of electric vehicles, such as the Nissan LEAF®, can typically travel over 80 miles on a single charge, a lot depends on speed, topography, load, and accessory use which can drive down battery life. Even if your driving habits reduce the range to 60 miles per full charge, this is still well within range of most all faculty and staff commuters. Despite this, having a charging station on campus can help to reduce anxiety. And for those who just can’t get over range anxiety, advanced designs like the Chevy Volt, offer the best of both worlds. An onboard gasoline powered generator can provide electricity only when the battery is depleted.

An electric vehicle is much greener and cheaper to own than gasoline-powered cars. Assuming the typical electric vehicle owner charges their car at home overnight, it would cost about 50¢ to drive 40 miles on Hamilton electric rates or about $1.20 at NYSEG rates. Because most of our power is produced by hydroelectric energy, the carbon footprint of driving an electric vehicle in Central New York is near zero. Moreover, since almost all of our electricity is generated here in New York, switching from gasoline-powered to electric-powered vehicles can help to support our state economy while reducing dependence on imported oil.

For these reasons, we anticipate seeing more electric vehicles on the Colgate campus.

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