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Carbon Neutrality FAQ

By Sustainability Office on March 15, 2018

Colgate is committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2019. To reach this goal, we are exploring a variety of options to offset the emissions we can’t yet reduce. The below answers to some of our most frequently asked questions will help you to gain a better understanding of what carbon neutrality is and why it is important to Colgate:

What is a carbon footprint?

A carbon footprint is the amount of carbon and/or greenhouse gas emitted directly or indirectly by an entity. Each member of the Colgate community has their own carbon footprint associated with things like travel, home energy use, purchasing and food. You can calculate your personal carbon footprint here. Colgate University also has a carbon footprint, encompassing emissions from waste, building heating and cooling, fertilizer use, electricity, business travel, employee commuting and paper procurement. Many of these emissions are associated with the use of fossil fuels. These greenhouse gas emissions from our campus and our personal lives contribute to global climate change.

What is the difference between gross emissions and net emissions?

Our gross emissions are the total emissions produced by Colgate’s buildings and business functions. Our net emissions represent our campus emissions after taking offsets into consideration.

What is Colgate’s Carbon Footprint?

In Fiscal Year 2017 Colgate emitted 13,233 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTeCO2). Since 2009, we have reduced our net campus carbon footprint by 8,632 MTeCO2, representing a 51% reduction. 2017 State of Sustainability Report

What does it mean to be Carbon Neutral?

To be carbon neutral is to have zero net emissions. This means offsetting whatever emissions we cannot reduce organically.

What has Colgate already done to reduce its carbon footprint?

Colgate has reduced its gross carbon emissions by 21% since 2009. This is a result of building and renewable energy projects like the geothermal heat exchange system beneath the Chapel House and the solar thermal array installed at 100 Broad. Peer-to-peer education programs have also helped to change behavior across campus and reduce emissions.

Why can’t we reduce all of our emissions to zero? Why do we need to offset to be carbon neutral?

Some forms of emissions are nearly impossible to eliminate without extraordinary cost or disruption to the university’s academic mission. For example, over 40% (6,147MTeCO2)  of our campus’ gross emissions comes from commuting and business (air and ground) travel. Travel is essential for faculty research, admission, and institutional advancement. So, to compliment emission reduction strategies on campus, Colgate has resolved to invest in carbon offsets.

What does it mean to offset emissions?

An investment in carbon offsets is an investment in a project or program that reduces or eliminates emissions elsewhere. Common offset projects include investments in renewable energy, methane capture, and reforestation projects.  In recent years, the practice of offsetting emissions has become commonplace for a variety of institutions and is seen as an environmentally responsible decision. Colgate’s existing Patagonia offset program aims to restore a forest in Chile. Additional trees and sustainable land management practices allow the forest to sequester more carbon from the atmosphere. Colgate’s financial investment facilitated additional carbon sequestration, allowing us to account for this carbon reduction.

Do carbon offsets actually make a difference when it comes to climate change?

Yes, in fact, carbon offsets are a very useful climate change mitigation tool. By investing in carbon offsets, an organization invests in something that will benefit the environment by either reducing or eliminating emissions. Carbon offsets projects and programs also go through a verification process. Many times, offsets go through a third-party validation and verification process through organizations like the American Carbon Registry. There is also an emerging peer review model used to verify some carbon offset projects.

Why is Colgate’s Carbon Neutrality date so soon? Why not wait?

As outlined in our 2011 Climate Action Plan, Colgate decided to respond to the ongoing and increasing threat of climate change by setting a 2019 carbon neutrality date. Our institution recognized that climate change is happening now and agreed that we need to begin taking responsibility for our emissions. In 2019, we will begin to hold our institution financially accountable for our carbon footprint. In doing so, offset costs factor into decision-making processes, creating an incentive to further reduce our gross campus emissions. 

Why is it important for Colgate to achieve carbon neutrality?

The Thirteen Goals of a Colgate Education reflect the values of our institution and sustainability is a key theme throughout. We cannot expect our students to develop a respect for the environment if our institution does not model the same behavior. Colgate can uphold its value of environmental stewardship by addressing climate change with a sense of urgency.

What happens after 2019?

We will be carbon neutral in 2019, but that doesn’t mean our work is done. We will continue to focus on reducing our gross campus emissions through the new Green Revolving Loan Fund, student programs, and continued employee education. We will make community resilience and climate preparedness a top priority and continue to build a culture of environmental and social responsibility at Colgate.

Visit colgate.edu/carbon for more information about Colgate’s commitment to carbon neutrality. Learn more about the carbon offset options we are exploring here.


2018 Carbon Offset Interim Report

By Sustainability Office on March 15, 2018

Colgate University accepts responsibility for its contribution to global climate change and is preparing to thrive in a low-carbon future.  By achieving carbon neutrality in 2019, Colgate is committed to 1) reducing greenhouse gas emissions on campus and 2) investing in high-quality carbon offset projects that eliminate remaining emissions from Colgate’s operations. Significant sources of emissions such as air travel, commuting, ground transportation, and some forms of energy use are currently impossible to eliminate without extraordinary cost or disruption to our academic mission. Since Colgate cannot eliminate all on-campus emissions by 2019, purchasing offsets to achieve carbon neutrality is necessary.  Investing in offsets creates an opportunity for education and innovation.  It also creates a strong financial incentive to reduce on-campus emissions that would obviate the need to purchase future offsets on an annual and ongoing basis.  While implementing on-campus projects that continue to reduce Colgate’s greenhouse gas emissions remains the top priority, the university must also choose among a myriad of carbon offsets options to achieve its institutional goal of carbon neutrality by 2019.

The Carbon Offsets Working Group was established during the 2016 fall semester to research carbon offset options and propose recommendations for investing in offsets to help meet our 2019 carbon neutrality goal.  The Carbon Offsets Working Group is a subcommittee of the Sustainability Council.  The Working Group has met over a dozen times since its formation and has completed a number of research efforts between meetings. This research includes: a review of reports and approaches developed by other institutions, interviews with colleagues at other colleges and universities (e.g., Duke, Middlebury, Clarkson, and others), interviews with organizations who specialize in various aspects of project development and the offset market (e.g., Second Nature, TerraCarbon, Bluesource, Renewable Choice), conversations with members of Students for Environmental Action (a student organization on campus), and collaboration with ENST 390 students throughout the 2017 fall semester with their research project on forest carbon offsets.

As specified in Colgate’s Bicentennial Plan for a Sustainable and Carbon Neutral Campus, the Working Group is evaluating and recommending offset options that:

  • consider renewable energy certificates (RECs) or green tags to mitigate Colgate’s emissions associated with electricity consumption;
  • place a high value on academic and research opportunities;
  • consider community-based and/or local investment options;
  • are high-quality offsets that are either third-party certified or have direct and measurable carbon and community benefits;
  • consider options for socially responsible, community-based, economic, and environmental co-benefits;
  • make appropriate budgetary recommendations for Fiscal Year 2019.

The purpose of the attached interim report is to provide an initial assessment of our research that includes a list of the most promising offset options for the university to consider. 2018 Offset Interim Report


New Extended Study to Patagonia, Chile Visits Colgate Forest

By Sustainability Office on February 26, 2018

-Revée Needham ‘18

In 2016,  Colgate’s Office for Off-Campus Study, Office of Sustainability, and Patagonia Sur came together to develop a new extended study in Patagonia. Among a large applicant pool excited to participate in this first-time extended study, I was chosen as one of the twelve students to join Biology Associate Professor Eddie Watkins and the Director of Sustainability, John Pumilio, on the trip.

In preparation for the extended study, we took the biology course Field Ecology during the fall semester. In class, we learned about the geography, climate, biology, history and more of South America, Argentina, and Chile, with a focus on the Patagonian region. The class was structured as a “jigsaw,” where we learned from each other and were all given the opportunity to facilitate class discussion, in addition to a variety of class speakers that were brought in. After we finished our coursework we packed up all of our biology field equipment and departed for Buenos Aires, Argentina in late December.

There, we spent four days acquainting ourselves with the southern hemisphere and Argentina’s culture and history. Instead of biking around the vast city, we took motorized bikes to explore the city and examine the urban ecology of the Plaza de las Naciones Unidas. Our hotel, conveniently located across from the local market stalls, overlooked the Recoleta Cemetery. Recoleta Cemetery houses a beautiful collection of Argentinian families’ mausoleums with some still in use today. After trying the delicious Argentine delicacy, empanada, we traveled to our final destination: the Patagonia Sur Valle California property outside of the town of Palena, Chile.

The group after our final hike, overlooking the Valle California properties (Photo courtesy of Austin Sun)

 

Two visitors, Professor Álvaro Promis and Forestry Manager Matias Rio, joined us in Valle California. Professor Promis studies forest ecosystem succession and Mr. Rio was one of the original people to plant the saplings back in 2011. These two were able to teach us about the native plants and reforestation process, respectively. While reforestation may sound simple on paper on paper, the planting of the trees is quite the arduous process. Due to the remote location, transporting the trees to the plots requires numerous trips by horseback. We got a small taste of the endurance required when we planted 160 trees, nowhere near the 40,000+ saplings in the Colgate Forest. Additionally, we learned a subset of the birds and understory plants and even took quizzes to identify them! While I’m not a self-described “plant nerd,” I did find it exhilarating to be able to look at a plant along the path and correctly say “that’s blechnum.”

The research component of the trip involved assessing the health of the forest plots and then comparing them to native forests. We set up 5 transects, or plots, to measure ranging from an old-growth Nothofagus pumilio forest to the young reforested Nothofagus antarctica saplings.

We measured light transmission, tree height and width, soil nutrients, understory plant identification, and classified insects and birds. To determine which birds were visiting the forests, we conducted the Breeding Bird survey, and stopped for 3 minutes every 100 meters in an area to listen with our ears and look with our eyes to then classify the bird species with our books and the help of John Pumilio.

Students enjoyed researching in Patagonia. (Photo courtesy of Austin Sun)

Classifying the understory plants, by walking along the plot and identifying all the species that we could see, helped us to study for our plants quiz! For the focus of our study, the tree saplings, we measured the basal circumference, the tree height, and the season’s growth. We did this for every single sapling in our plot- quite the tedious process. It was tricky at first to distinguish the reforested saplings from the understory plants, but after a while, I could see Nothofagus antarctica in my sleep. Because of the remote location, our limited equipment, and the young age of the trees, we were unable to conclude much, other than that the forest should continue to be monitored in the future to ensure its continued success. The trees have had to be replanted a few times due to disturbances by local hares and wild pigs.

In addition to the biology research, we made the most of the beautiful facilities by hiking, swimming, fly fishing, rafting, camping, and more. I rode a horse for the first time in my life to trek to the Colgate Forest plots thanks to the help of our gauchos (cowboys). Thankfully, I didn’t fall off! After a day of whitewater rafting, we camped in tents alongside a gorgeous river, where the sunset was a picturesque scene for us to enjoy. The next morning, we witnessed what it took to lasso a sheep and sheer its wool by hand. There, we visited a local woman who spun wool from her sheep into yarn that she uses to knit, crochet, weave products that she then sells at a local market. She also continued the tradition of weaving by teaching and empowering local girls with her knowledge of the trade.

Finally, we attended a fundraiser bingo night in Palena to support the nearby landslide-devastated Chilean town, Santa Lucia with the financial assistance of the COVE. Before the trip departed, we had planned on visiting Santa Lucia, but due to the landslide that became impossible. So, we felt a connection to this town that was recovering from a tragedy and we were grateful to be able to give back. At bingo, the gymnasium was packed with the entire town’s population, and us too, an eclectic group of outsiders excited for the game. The entirety of the bingo prizes were donated by the locals, and ranged from sheep to traditional maté tea and everything in between. That night was a highlight for the entire group, where we came together with the town of Palena for a bigger cause. On our final day in Patagonia, we celebrated our time with a traditional lamb feast. We concluded with a reflection of our favorite memories of the trip, and the people who made it so special, with many us tipping our hats to the chef, Alejandro.

Susanna explaining how she weaves using her loom (Photo courtesy of Austin Sun)

At the conclusion of our visit, we gave a final presentation to some of the Valle California staff and wrote a final report detailing our research and recommendations. Our project was geared towards the biology and ecology of the forest, yet many of us were interested in the economic and social factors too. Thus, future extended studies and trips should broaden their focus to include this equally as important factors. We were grateful to use the luxurious amenities at Patagonia Sur, however, these were largely inaccessible to the local people. The gate to the Patagonia Sur properties was locked and locals were only able to visit the beautiful site if they rented out the dining area for a hefty price. From informal discussions with the staff members, they wished there was a greater involvement of the property with the Chileans. While Patagonia Sur started with great intentions to conserve the land and restore the ecosystem, it would better serve the community as an open and accessible site with sustainable use. In addition, while our Colgate group came to conduct research, the type of work we did could be continued by other scholars from the area. With numerous schools and universities in Chile, it would be prudent to continue the forest research with a local team who are equally as capable. We also proposed that Patagonia Sur combine ecotourism with the research opportunities to develop an environmental education and outreach program. While Colgate University is not responsible for the business model and practices of Patagonia Sur, the class participants hope to encourage the board of Patagonia Sur to consider developing a more participatory business venture that benefits the local community.

On behalf of the entire class, I extend our sincerest gratitude to all those who assisted in the preparation for the trip and the fabulous experience we had at Patagonia Sur. I wish the best of luck to the next extended study group of students.

 

FAQ:

How did this project come to fruition?

The extended study trip that culminated in January 2018 has its origins in the creation of the Colgate Forest in 2011. After Colgate’s President signed a commitment in 2009 to our carbon neutrality in 2019, the Sustainability Council and the Office of Sustainability were looking for opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with campus operations and through carbon offsets. Then, the pathway was paved for the creation of the Colgate Forest, as one of the carbon offset options.  

Why does Colgate University invest in carbon offsets?

Carbon offsets are projects that sequester carbon and reduce greenhouse gases in an offsite location. Given the size of Colgate-owned properties, the existing infrastructure, and dependence on air travel for faculty research, it would be impossible to achieve carbon neutrality in 2019 without some form of offset. A variety of improvements on campus have been made, totalling a reduction in gross greenhouse gas emissions of 21% since our baseline emissions in 2009. Furthermore, as climate change is a global issue, doing our part to remove carbon from the atmosphere earlier rather than later will benefit everyone. Partnering with Patagonia Sur was attractive due to its innovative approach, opportunities for travel and research (as evidenced by the extended study), and the benefits it provides to the local ecosystem. Creating the Colgate Forest as an offset project involved the planting of native trees in an area that has been devastated by slash and burn agriculture practices and deforestation. Overall, Colgate signed a 15-year agreement with Patagonia Sur in order to sequester 5,000 tons of carbon each year, which reduces our gross emissions by approximately one-third.

The Extended Study participants at one plot of The Colgate Forest (Picture courtesy of Austin Sun)

How is this project verified?

Patagonia Sur, with the assistance of Colgate’s Office of Sustainability, pursued the rigorous certification for the reforestation project. Verified Carbon Standard is an internationally-recognized standard that ensures various programs meet a set of criteria. They look for a variety of attributes including co-benefits (including biodiversity and ecosystem restoration), third party verification, measurement (on an annual basis), additionality (that the trees would not have grown back naturally), leakage (multiple plots of trees to reduce risk of damage), and permeance (whereby the trees are placed under an easement and are not to be cut down).

What else is Colgate University doing to become more sustainable?

After the University committed to carbon neutrality, the Sustainability Council drafted our Climate Action Plan to detail a pathway to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on campus. Building upon this plan, the Bicentennial Plan aims to integrate sustainability into the campus life and operations. Every year, the Office of Sustainability tracks and publishes an annual report, detailing where our emissions are from on and off campus. A variety of organizations, including Second Nature, the Sierra Club, Princeton Review, and more have recognized Colgate’s efforts. To learn more about Colgate’s initiatives, visit our website.


2017 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory

By Sustainability Office on February 20, 2018

This year marks Colgate’s ninth consecutive greenhouse gas inventory report. Colgate’s gross campus carbon emissions in Fiscal Year 2017 (July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017) was 13,233 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTeCO2). We have reduced our net campus carbon footprint by 8,632 MTeCO2, representing a 51 percent reduction. 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 by 2019. 2017 State of Sustainability Report


Student-run recycling system combats hunger and homelessness in New York

By Sustainability Office on January 31, 2018

In Fall 2017, Colgate student Christina Weiler ‘21 and Cornell student Eleonore Baughan ‘17 founded UCan, a TIA project that encourages recycling while combating hunger and homelessness in Utica, NY.

UCan is a recycling system that collects, recycles, and redeems beverage containers on college campuses, using the generated money to fund hunger relief programs and affordable housing projects designed to accommodate homeless families.

“UCan was founded with the mission to change the way waste is collected. We believe it is possible to transform the overconsumption of single-use materials into an economic opportunity to enact social change,” Weiler stated. “UCan is also a behavioral study. We’re curious to see if giving people the option to do local, social good incentivizes recycling, more so than current municipal waste collection.

UCan is a business model designed to be replicable at universities and urban settings across the United States. Currently, at Colgate, UCan bins are set up in over 13 academic and residential buildings. Students can toss empty $0.05 deposit beverage containers such as water bottles and soda cans into UCan bins. Every week, a team of student volunteers transports the donated bottles and cans to the local redemption center, where they receive a monetary reimbursement.

All raised funds go directly to two programs coordinated by the Rescue Mission of Utica, a nonprofit organization. These programs provide nourishing meals for the hungry or homeless communities and furnish an affordable housing complex in Utica, NY.

“Every student can play a role,” Weiler said. “The most important action is to remember to recycle all bottles and cans in UCan bins, rather than the trash or conventional recycling bin.”

UCan hopes for students to be empowered by the difference they can make, simply by recycling their favorite beverage containers. The participation of students, staff and faculty alike is crucial, since every additional beverage container recycled allows UCan to further support local homeless communities.

UCan is also working with Cornell University to establish a partnership with fraternities and sororities on campus.

This effort has the potential to utilize the refund of 2 billion containers – $144 million – each year from the universities located within ten states under the Bottle Bill. Volunteers, founders, and participating organizations are excited about their beginning efforts to fortify the recycling industry, clean up college campuses, and work to alleviate hunger and homelessness across the country.

UCan is looking for more student volunteers to play a variety of roles, from loading beverage containers onto the UCan truck on collection days to inviting other schools to participate in UCan. Please email cweiler@colgate.edu if interested in being a part of the UCan team.

 


Don’t Feed the (Land)Fill: A Sustainability Office Intern’s Experience at a Zero-Waste Conference

By Sustainability Office on December 6, 2017
-Miranda Gilgore ’18

In early November, the Post Landfill Action Network (PLAN) hosted their 4th annual Students for Zero-Waste Conference in Philadelphia. The conference brought together about 500 students and faculty as well as companies committed to challenging thoughtless, wasteful consumerism.

Sites from the Toxics Tour of Chester, PA.

The conference began on Friday with a discussion of Environmental Justice and a “Toxics Tour” of the astounding number of polluting factories, incinerator, and industrial facilities located in nearby Chester, PA. Chester is in many ways the embodiment of environmental injustice and was therefore a good location for the tour. Among the Chester Water Authority, industrial center, paper mill and paper manufacturer, two chemical plants, empty plots that were formerly home to polluting factories or waste sites, trash substation, power plants (one current, one now turned into office space), and sewer overflow, Chester is perhaps most famously home of the nation’s largest trash incinerator. Despite being the country’s largest trash incinerator, importing trash from the surrounding county, nearby Philadelphia, NY, and NJ, the Covanta trash incinerator lacks many of the pollution controls that other incinerators have. The discussion of environmental justice and the tour were a striking way to start the weekend’s discussion on waste and the hopes of creating a zero-waste future because it showed the consequences of inaction and business as usual: polluted rivers, smelly air, and injustice. On Friday evening, the keynote speaker, Kate Bailey from Eco-Cycle, reminded us to think of zero-waste among other large scale energy saving initiatives.  

 

Well rested and excited for what the day would bring, I started Saturday off by enjoying a zero-waste breakfast (bulk items with no packaging, real silverware, and compostable bowls for attendees who hadn’t brought their own) and meeting new friends. I attended workshops on reducing on-campus disposable coffee cup usage, conducting a waste audit, and discussing zero-waste across different perspectives. I ate a zero-waste lunch. And I was inspired and encouraged.

Having wanted to go to this conference for the past 3 years because of my interest in zero waste initiatives, finally attending the conference was really a dream come true for me. The conference also fits into the larger picture of my work as an intern for the Office of Sustainability here at Colgate. Given Colgate’s waste problem (more than 850 tons of waste produced so far in 2017 and only a 12% recycling rate), I was eager to see what solutions students at other schools have found to reduce waste. One of the biggest takeaways from the conference is how far a little thoughtfulness can go. Bringing something to the correct recycling bin, packing something in a reusable container instead of a ziplock, not taking a straw to go with your disposable cup isn’t hard, it just takes a little extra thought. Colgate has a long way to go before it hits its 2025 goal of a zero waste campus, but with a little intentionality on all of our parts and a commitment to a just future, I think we can make huge strides.


Colgate Receives Highest Ever AASHE STARS Score

By Sustainability Office on December 6, 2017

STARS Gold SealLast week, Colgate University received a STARS Gold rating for the second time with its highest ever score (72.19) from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).

The AASHE Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS) is a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance. Colgate is one of only 124 institutions to receive a gold rating from AASHE STARS.

“AASHE STARS is the gold standard for assessing sustainability programs in higher ed. The fact that we scored so high and achieved a Gold rating illustrates a commitment to sustainability from every level of the institution,” stated director of sustainability, John Pumilio.

The assessment broadly approaches sustainability addressing a range of categories from operations to diversity and affordability. Most notably, Colgate scored well in the water, air and climate, purchasing, curriculum and engagement categories.  

Innovative and forward-thinking initiatives, such as Colgate’s comprehensive wellness program, Chapel House geothermal exchange system and a longitudinal study of the soundscape of Colgate’s hill also played a role in our institution’s new rating.

“I am really proud of the work Colgate is doing toward integrating sustainability across the university and it is wonderful that this work is recognized by the AASHE STARS program,” stated Chair of the Sustainability Council, Dr. Catherine Cardelús.

The nature of this report demonstrates that campus sustainability relies on more than just the work of one office, but rather dedicated student, staff and faculty champions across the institution who work to create a more socially and environmentally responsible and resilient community.

“I’m grateful to be working at an institution that places such a high value on sustainability and especially grateful to members of our sustainability team, Pamela Gramlich, and our student interns for their tireless effort over the past few months,” Pumilio stated. “STARS Gold is something the entire Colgate community can celebrate.”

Colgate’s entire AASHE STARS report can be viewed here. Special thanks to Dana Chan ‘19, Chaveli Miles ‘19, Annaliese Clauze ‘20, and Sonia Ost ‘20 for their work on the report.  Please email sustainability@colgate.edu with any questions.

 


Paper Purchasing at Colgate: Things to Know

By Sustainability Office on October 3, 2016

by John Pumilio, Director of Sustainability

People are often faced with an overwhelming amount of choices when making a purchasing decision for any single product.

Take paper, for example – a simple search for 8.5×11 printer/copier paper on the Staples website will bring up hundreds of choices.  In the end, each of us makes our decisions based on a number of preferences.  For example, price and quality may be priorities for some while environmental sustainability may be important to others.

For several years now, Colgate has had an institution-wide preference to purchase recycled content and/or Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified paper.

We hope this post will help you find the most environmentally responsible paper while also keeping in mind cost and quality.  But first, it is important to know that Staples identifies recycled content paper and various environmental certifications within the product descriptions.  Please read about the products before deciding on a brand.  Additionally, if you search for copy paper within the Staples website, you have the option to narrow your choices to environmentally responsible choices by checking the “ECO-CONSCIOUS” box.  This makes it easier for you to identify the products that have the environmental attributes you are looking for.

Keeping this in mind, here are a few criteria to consider when choosing paper that is best for you:

  • Post-Consumer Recycled Content Paper.  Paper that was once a cardboard box, newspaper, magazine, printer/copier paper, notepad, or any other paper product that was used by someone else before being recycled and processed into something new for you. Paper made with post-consumer recycled content ultimately relies on fewer forests that must be cut down to feed the demand for virgin paper.  In sustainability circles, post-consumer content paper is preferred over recycled content paper.
  • Recycled Content Paper.  Paper made from recycled content (sometimes labeled as pre-consumer recycled content) is created from manufacturer waste that never actually made it to the consumer for one reason or another.  Manufacturer waste such as scraps, rejects, or trimmings that end up on the factory floor is repurposed into something new rather than trashed.  Pre-consumer recycled content paper saves precious resources but is still not as good as post-consumer recycled content paper.

    FSC-100

    Forest Stewardship Council. Look for this logo when purchasing paper at Colgate University.

  • FSC Certified Paper. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Rainforest Alliance certify environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial, and economically viable management of the world’s forests.  By purchasing FSC certified paper, you are doing your part to preserve forests and the wildlife they support.  EarthChoice® and Mohawk® office paper, for example, are FSC and Rainforest Alliance certified. A full list of FSC certified paper offered through Staples can be found here.
  • SFI Certified Paper.  The Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) is another certification that helps the consumer choose paper products from well-managed forests.  In many sustainability circles, SFI is not viewed as favorably as FSC.  SFI was formed by the American Forest and Paper Association, an industry group.  Still, SFI certification is better than nothing.

    sfi-logo

    Sustainable Forestry Initiative. A good second-option if FSC certified paper is not available.

There are also new types of high-quality paper that are made from rapidly renewable resources (e.g., sugarcane, bamboo, and other materials that are not trees) that have gained favor from sustainability advocates.  Step Forward copy paper, for example, is made from 80% wheat straw.  The paper is acid-free, elemental chlorine-free, recyclable, biodegradable, and compostable.  Step Forward paper can be ordered through Staples.

Finally, Colgate’s Office of Sustainability recommends purchasing paper that contains both post-consumer content and is FSC certified.  A few brands of paper that meet these criteria include Hammermill®, Boise® Aspen™, Staples®, Wausau®, and HP Office™ office paper.  Again, it is important to look at the produce description to identify the environmental attributes of the paper.  And, of course, the higher the recycled content (100% vs. 30%) the better the paper is for the environment.


Is unsolicited campus mail getting you down? Here’s what you can do!

By Sustainability Office on September 15, 2016

Many individuals on campus are frustrated by the amount of unsolicited mail they receive.  Not only are some of these advertisements and other announcements bothersome, but they also waste heaps of paper, ink, and toner — not to mention the time and money spent printing, delivering, and recycling these announcements.  According to The Center for a New American Dream (whose mission is to advance sustainability by shifting the way we consume), reducing unsolicited mail can have big environmental benefits.  Did you know:

Photo Credit: Wall Street Journal

Photo Credit: Wall Street Journal

  • Americans spend over 8 months of our lives opening junk mail.
  • Over 100 million trees are cut down annually to produce unsolicited mail.  That’s the equivalent of completely deforesting the Adirondacks in only 3 years.
  • 44% of unsolicited mail is never even opened.
  • Only 1 in 5 pieces of junk mail is recycled.
  • Over 5.6 million tons of paper promotions are landfilled each year.
  • Americans pay $370 million annually to dispose of unsolicited mail.

It is no wonder so many faculty, staff, and students are unnerved by the amount of unsolicited mail we receive.  But what can you do?  Below are a few tips:

1) Reduce it on campus. Did you know that Colgate has five separate mail distribution lists?

  • Distribution A goes to every employee on campus (~940 mailings)
  • Distribution B goes to every faculty member on campus (~540 mailings)
  • Distribution C goes to every faculty member and administrator (~610 mailings)
  • Distribution D goes to each department (one per department or ~115 mailings)
  • Distribution E goes to each student (~2,900 mailings)

If you are producing mail to be distributed on campus, you can easily change your campus distribution list from mailing list A to mailing list D and save over 800 pieces of mail. Alternatively, if you receive unsolicited campus mail from a campus department or program, contact them with a gentle reminder to switch their distribution list. This small change can significantly reduce the amount of paper used, the associated costs to a department and our university’s carbon footprint.

2) Make it eco-friendly. In the event that you need to produce campus mail, use FSC® Certified paper stock. This will significantly reduce the environmental (and social) impacts of producing your mail by ensuring your products come from responsibly managed forests. You can also opt to use soy-based inks. These environmentally friendly inks are renewable, biodegradable and more easily removed during the recycling process. They often produce a richer pigment quality, as well.

3) Recycle it. When you dispose of your mail, please be sure to recycle it in one of the paper recycling bins located in your building.

4) Cut down on mail from outside marketers.  If you receive campus mail from outside marketers or organizations, try this:

  • Register for the National Do Not Mail List.  This free service is quick and easy and gives you the option to continue to receive mailings of your choice.  DirectMail.com will contact you every six months via e-mail so you can review and update your preferences.  Visit DirectMail.com to register at http://www.directmail.com/mail_preference/.
  • Ask companies to stop sending you catalogs.  If you receive unwanted catalogs or other mail from specific sources, call the toll-free customer service number to request that your name be removed from their mailing list. Also, make your request via e-mail from the company’s website. Have the mailing label handy when you call, or attach a picture of it to your email.  No doubt this takes time, but think of all the time you save by not having to deal with unwanted catalogs that routinely show up on campus.  Also, Catalog Choice offers a free service that sends opt-out requests for individual companies on your behalf.
  • At home, if you receive unwanted mail from credit card companies, call 1-888-OPT OUT (or 1-888-567-8688) 24 hours a day.  One short call will remove your name and address from Equifax, TransUnion, Experian and Innovis!

Do you have other ideas on how to reduce or eliminate unsolicited mail?  Please share!

Have other questions about recycling on campus?  Visit our FAQ post!

Thanks for doing your part to save resources and reduce waste on campus and at home!


SOLARIZE CNY (UPDATE)

By Sustainability Office on November 16, 2015

solarize cny

2015 Solarize CNY Update (November 16, 2015)

As of today, 28 solar installations have been completed for a total of 285 kW!

  • Cayuga: 4 installations, 32.1 kW
  • Cortland: 1 installation, 13.4 kW
  • Madison: 1 installation, 10 kW
  • Onondaga: 10 installations, 96.3 kW
  • Oswego: 12 installations, 133.4 kW

125 contracts signed for a total of 1,084 kW

  • Cayuga: 21 contracts, 160.7 kW
  • Cortland: 25 contracts, 255.6 kW
  • Madison: 25 contracts, 276.3 kW
  • Onondaga: 48 contracts, 355 kW
  • Oswego: 6 contracts, 37 kW

That’s 1,369 kW of new solar coming online in Central New York as a result of the Solarize CNY effort! That’s more than 10% of all the solar that has historically been installed in our region!

Per county totals for installations and signed contracts shows:

  • Cayuga: 193 kW
  • Cortland: 269 kW
  • Madison: 286 kW
  • Onondaga: 451 kW
  • Oswego: 170 kW

 


 

 

2015 Solarize CNY Update (October 20, 2015)

With less than two weeks left in our Solarize CNY campaign, organizers are starting to get a rush of online enrollments and phone calls.  Here is a quick update on the Solarize CNY campaign:

  1. We have about 975 enrollments so far, so we almost to our goal of 1,000+ total enrollments!
  2. 21 residents have already had their systems installed!
  3. 79 residents have signed contracts and are waiting for their installations.
  4. Another 63 residents are currently negotiating or reviewing their proposal.

It’s not too late to enroll in the program and schedule your FREE site assessment.  Here is the link: http://solarizecny.org/

 


 

2015 Solarize CNY Original Post (September 8, 2015)

Due to continued interest and ongoing questions regarding the Solarize CNY program, the Office of Sustainability will be hosting an information session specifically for Colgate employees.  The session will take place on September 16 (Wednesday) in the ALANA Cultural Center (Multipurpose Room).  We will be joined by members of Madison County Planning and our local solar installer, CNY Solar, out of Canastota.  Lunch will be provided.

If you have been interested in solar energy but are not sure if it is right for you or where to begin, then now is the time to attend this information session and enroll in the Solarize CNY program.

As a reminder, Solarize CNY is a volume purchasing program that streamlines the process and reduces the cost of installing solar energy for electricity. Through existing federal and state incentives coupled with the bulk purchasing power of the program, residents and small businesses can save up to 64% off the sticker price of a solar PV system. With the Solarize CNY program all permits and paperwork associated with installing the system are taken care of for the participant.

To find out more information and to enroll in the program today, please visit www.solarizecny.org.  To participate, you must enroll in the program by October 31, 2015.

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