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White above our heads

By Sustainability Office on April 16, 2014

By Sale Rhodes ’16

The media is buzzing about LEED building certification, solar hot water heaters, insulation, and other cutting edge ways to ‘greenify’ your home, but have you put enough thought into your roof? Studies and new technologies are ubiquitous about roof options that can help reduce your carbon footprint. From solar panels to rooftop gardens, how should you choose what to put above your head?

A typical roof made of shingles, concrete, tar, or other ‘non-renewables’ are referred to as black roofs and because they neither reflect sunlight nor convert sunlight into energy, they are the least energy efficient option. Solar panels that convert UV rays and heat into energy to be used within the home or elsewhere on the nearby energy grid are a great option, but they are pricey and difficult to get approval for.

Green roofs, otherwise known as rooftop gardens, are a very popular option among environmentalists and outdoorsy folk. While having a living system on your roof fueled by sunlight and rainwater sounds about as ideal as can be, the feasibility of green roofs is often over estimated. Slanted gardens two stories above ground can actually be extremely hard to manage. One of many reasons for this is that soil retains water, so you would definitely need a sturdy roof that won’t spring any leaks to keep the garden from collapsing into your own home. Another worry here is that while every garden needs diversity, your rooftop would be at risk for growing all sorts of weeds and potentially unwanted plants. Therefore, unless you have the ability to weed regularly, a green roof might be a bigger hassle than you think. However, the facts are not all negative; green roofs will save money spent on heating and cooling, as they will effectively insulate the home from the top down. If you’re still set on a green roof regardless of your slanted, difficult to access shingles, check out this link (http://grist.org/list/these-flowerpot-roof-tiles-let-you-make-any-roof-into-a-green-roof/).

What we really want to know is how can you live beneath an earth-friendly roof without breaking your bank or your back? White roofs! According to the White Roof Project, painting your black roof white could save a total of $5 billion in energy costs in the United states and potentially 24 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. Painting rooftops white increased the albedo effect of our homes and cities. This means that it improves the reflective qualities of our structures so that less sunlight is absorbed by the earth and subsequently trapped in our atmosphere. Reducing the dark surfaces on our planet is a major way that we can reduce global warming by reflecting sunlight back out of our atmosphere. So, what do we think? Should Colgate go-white as part of its mission to go-green?

Colgate’s first state electronics challenge environmental report

By Sustainability Office on April 15, 2014

By Jack Eiel ’15

Last September, Colgate joined an initiative called the State Electronics Challenge (SEC).  This organization specializes in assisting organizations with tracking and quantifying the recycling achievements of their eWaste (electronic waste) programs.

Colgate became a partner of SEC to help supplement its recently established eWaste recycling program.  The SEC provides semi-annual reports that document and quantify the environmental impact of Colgate’s eWaste program.

There are three components to the SEC: purchasing, operations, and end-of-life protocol.  Each component deals with a fundamental step in minimizing Colgate’s electronic and energy waste.

Purchasing focuses primarily on which types of computer, monitors, and multifunction devices Colgate is buying for faculty, staff, and student use. SEC uses the EPEAT rating system to judge the energy efficiency of electronics. EPEAT (Energy Product Environmental Assessment Tool) awards electronic devices a medal (bronze, silver, or gold) that corresponds to the level of energy efficiency during manufacturing as well as operational use.

End-of-life protocol deals with the final step in the lifecycle of electronic equipment.  When these units stop working how does Colgate dispose of them?  Typically, Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) is responsible for recycling such big ticket items (i.e. TVs, desktop computers, LCD monitors). These electronics are brought to the Regional Computer Recycling and Recovery (RCR&R), where they are disposed of according to R2RIOS standards.

After collecting data for the fall 2013 semester, we submitted our numbers to the SEC.  Just last week we received Colgate’s first personalized electronics report card.  Needless to say, the results were great!

In 2013, Colgate bought 99% EPEAT GOLD certified electronic devices. This alone kept over 7,000 lbs. of municipal waste out of the landfill.

Additionally, Colgate enables ENERGYSTAR POWER SAVER on 100% of its operational devices.  This practice alone saved almost one million kilowatt-hours of energy.  That’s enough to power 75 homes for a year!

These numbers are very encouraging, but there’s always more you can do.  The easiest thing to do is make sure to properly recycle your eWaste—there are eWaste stations located all over campus for small electronic devices.  For larger electronic equipment, call EHS and they will let you know the proper way to dispose of it.


Recycle Old Televisions & Monitors on Earth Day

By Sustainability Office on April 7, 2014

Do you have old television sets or monitors sitting around that you need to get rid of?  Bring them to the Village of Hamilton Department of Public Works on 18 Milford Street on Earth Day (April 22) between 7 a.m. and 2 p.m.

It is important to properly dispose of old TV’s and computer monitors as they contain lead and other toxins that must be handled carefully,” said James Zecca Director of Madison County Landfill. “The collection provides a great opportunity for residents to dispose of outdated electronics as they make the shift to flat screen, digital and handheld devices.

Madison County TV and Monitor Recycling_opt

The New and Improved Colgate Community Garden

By Sustainability Office on March 24, 2014

rsz_greenhouse_snow_removalSpring is officially here and the Colgate Community Garden is getting a major face lift! Flooding at the current Newell apartment site last year proved to be too much to fully overcome. Over the winter the garden team and Green Thumbs members worked hard to put together a proposal to move the garden to a new location.

We are pleased to announce that, with the support of the University, the Colgate Community Garden will be relocating to a new (and flood-free) location for 2014! The new garden will be located just past the townhouses on Broad Street as you head south from campus. There is currently a greenhouse that was utilized in part by the garden team last year and plenty of land that does not flood on a regular basis, which could not be said for the Newell location!

Over the next few months, the garden team will be hard at work setting into action all of the plans that were made over the winter. First up is a major overhaul of the current greenhouse. The greenhouse will get a new covering and several new raised garden beds installed inside of it. Re-covering a greenhouse of this size (30 feet wide by 60 feet long) is much easier to do with lots of helping hands. Stay tuned for our announcements about how YOU can help with this project!


Once the snow melts (thank you Upstate New York for yet another long winter…), there will be plenty more happening at the new garden site. Tasks will include tilling the grass, moving the garden fence from the old location, moving the shed, forming garden rows, moving plants, and of course planting seeds. Anyone who is interested can come down and lend a helping hand. The more help we get, the quicker we can be on our way to a successful garden this year!

Thanks to all who have helped with the garden so far, and we look forward to many more exciting times to come!

Willful Ignorance? Not at Colgate

By Sustainability Office on March 19, 2014

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), America’s premier scientific society, warned the world is at growing risk of “abrupt, unpredictable and potentially irreversible changes” because of a warming climate.  As a scientific body, the AAAS rarely intervenes on policy issues.  However, in their new report, What We Know, they stated, “We consider it our responsibility as professionals to ensure, to the best of our ability, that people understand what we know: human-caused climate change is happening, we face risks of abrupt, unpredictable and potentially irreversible changes, and responding now will lower the risks and costs of taking action.

Click here to get the facts from AAAS.

Originally published on March 3, 2014

Last month, Pew Research Center released its latest poll results of American viewpoints on climate change. The results are worrying.  According to the poll, 67% of Americans believe that there is solid evidence of global warming while only 44% believe that human activities are responsible. On the contrary, 97% of climate scientists agree that global warming over the past century is due primarily to human activities. Clearly, the public is far behind the science on this issue.

Consensus Gap

Understanding climate change is not only about climate modeling and predicting the future. It is also about historic data and recent trends. Since the 1970s, the rate of global warming has tripled. The 2000s were warmer than the 1990s and the 1990s were warmer than the 1980s. Moreover, nine of the top ten warmest years on record have occurred since the year 2000. And 2013 was the 37th year in a row with above average global temperatures.

But what about this winter? Polar vortex became part of our vernacular and below freezing temperatures have been common and sustained. But if you look across the country and the globe, the warming trend has continued. At the same time we were experiencing -15 degree temperatures in central New York, regions in Alaska were recording temperatures above 60 degrees. That is unheard of. Also, California has been in a record drought, the Northwest has experienced above average temperatures, Sochi hosted one of the warmest Winter Olympics on record, Australia experienced temperatures over 120 degrees, and the U.K. suffered through unprecedented flooding. In fact, NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies just reported that January 2014 was the 3rd warmest January on record going back to 1880.

This warming trend has not been benign. Over the past three years, 80% of U.S. counties have been severely impacted by weather-related events and the burden to U.S. taxpayers is taking its toll. Superstorm Sandy, for example, cost us over $60 billion. In 2013, there were over 41 weather events that cost $1 billion or more in damage. That is an all-time high breaking the record from 2010. The National Flood Insurance Program is currently $25 billion in debt (it is a $30 billion program) and on the brink of insolvency. The Crop Insurance Program is generally a $3-$4 billion per year program. However, in 2013, tax payers shelled out over $11 billion.  This was due in large part to severe droughts in the mid-West which also drove up corn and food prices across the country. Despite all of this, the American public remains complacent on climate change. Out of 20 public policy issues tested in the Pew poll, climate change ranked 19th in the order of importance among Americans.

Until the American public catches up with the science, we may lack the resolve to adequately address climate change. We need to get past climate denial and start aggressively working to reduce carbon emissions. At the same time, we also need to adapt to climate change that has already been locked into the system due to past emissions.

Here at Colgate, we are taking action on climate change. Since 2009, we have reduced our emissions by over 20% and our recently approved Campus Master Plan recommends significant climate-adaptation strategies to overcome flooding and changing weather patterns. These actions will better prepare us to thrive in a changing world.

Colgate experiences dramatic reduction in water usage

By Stephen Dickinson on March 12, 2014

Between fiscal year (FY) 2012 and 2013, Colgate’s water usage plummeted by about 8 million gallons of water, saving the university over $100,000 in operating costs (not including the energy savings due to a reduction in hot water usage!). To put that in perspective, 8 million gallons is approximately enough water to fill more than 12 Olympic-sized swimming pools!

How did Colgate manage to drop its consumption so dramatically in the course of a year? During the summers of 2011 and 2012, Colgate installed a total of 562 Moen low-flow shower heads around campus (107 in 2011 and 455 in 2012). These showerheads use only a third of the water some of the old showerheads used, which results in several gallons of water being saved every time a student showers. The total cost for the showerhead project over the two years, including labor, was approximately $17,400.

While not all of the water reductions might be attributed to the change of showerheads, such a significant drop in just one year is certainly due in large part to this project. In fact, since the showerheads were installed, Colgate’s water usage is down more than 11 million gallons from FY 2011. The use of the low-flow showerheads, coupled with the strong outreach of the Green Raiders (Sustainability Office Interns) has lead to a dramatic reduction in water use; proving once again that investments in sustainable practices can have dramatically positive payoffs.

The Sustainability Office would like to thank Colgate’s entire plumbing shop including Jim Albertina, Mike Bonsi, Jerry Bugbee, Steve Degroat, Chuck Haurik, and especially Tom Kane for making this project possible.

The Hurwitz Admission Center opens. Is it green?

By Sustainability Office on March 10, 2014

Will the newly opened Hurwitz Admission Center save energy?  None of the monitors are Energy Star stamped and the renovation was too small to pursue LEED EB green building certification.  However, the renovation should result in significant energy savings for the university.  The reworking of the entrance way will cut the cross winds that used to penetrate the building from the old side doors.  Also, the building has new energy efficient windows with plans to complete window upgrades for the rest of the building this summer (2014).  The old windows were old and caused a lot of draft and lost heat (as any of the occupants will tell you!).


The Hurwitz Admission Center is now open for visitors. (Photo by Erica Hasenjager)


Also, the building has been connected to our main chiller plant.  So, after this summer (once the window replacement and other work is done), we will not install window air conditioning units anymore.  That will be a big savings of time and energy.  Also, the building incorporated LED lighting in the entrance way, other rooms, and in the exit signs.  This coupled with more natural day-lighting and motion sensor technologies should cut back on overall electricity consumption.  Finally, the renovation replaced all full-voltage motor controls with variable frequency drives (VFDs).  This will also save on heating/cooling and electricity.

In the months ahead, we will be watching the energy performance of the building in order to document any energy savings.

The results of this project are exciting.  The Hurwitz Admission Center is a beautiful space that is welcoming and fresh!  This is a great new home for our Admission staff and all visitors.

Changing Climate Brings a Changing Campus

By Sustainability Office on February 10, 2014

By Jenna Glat ’15

As global temperatures rise, ocean levels are rising and weather is becoming more extreme throughout the world. Here on campus, changes have been noticeable: a surprisingly warm and sunny September, an overly rainy summer, and a hurricane in the fall of 2012. Many students, especially upperclassmen who live in the Newell or Parker apartments, are aware that flooding on lower-campus is becoming much more common, putting student housing at risk. The fields adjacent to Taylor Lake constantly flood due to runoff from the upper hill, and the Community Garden on College Street was destroyed twice this summer alone. As the “100-year flood,” or the flood that only has a 1% chance of occurring in any given year (we’ve seen 3 “100-year floods” in the last 5 years), increases, student and faculty planning committees have begun to plan for the future of Colgate in a warmer climate.

In the 2011-2012 academic year, President Jeffery Herbst began appointing special groups to map out the troublesome areas of campus and to replace them with potential new sites for student housing, academic buildings, and extracurricular space. The Advisory and Planning Committee, or APC, working with the architecture and planning firm Sazaki Associates, has released various presentations to the public on their website, presenting their ideas for our campus.

While the Campus Master Plan group is working on improving many different aspects of campus, one of their goals is to enhance campus systems by attacking the floodplain, which makes up much of lower campus. Their goal is to remove the apartments from their current location, and to separate Taylor Lake from Payne Creek. By rerouting the water, flooding concerns would reduce water buildup on campus as well as turn the campus into a functional arboretum. The campus planners estimate that the annual impervious runoff volume from campus is a whopping 37,430,667 gallons of water. This is roughly twice the volume of Taylor Lake, which explains why flooding is such a concern. Additional goals of the planning are to enhance campus movement, both by pedestrians and vehicles; to promote a community with the Village; and to develop a more compact campus.

Diagram of Colgate Campus

It will be very interesting to see what happens at Colgate in the years to come. While many of us will no longer be on campus to see the brunt of the renovations and redesigning, as the time frame for the improvements is 10-15 years, the changes will likely impact thousands of new students and will hopefully allow Colgate to successfully adapt to the effects of climate change. It is important to note that the planners are keeping sustainability in mind while they design these developments; they intend to change campus in the greenest way as possible.

If students are interested in more information, they can check out www.colgatemasterplan.com for detailed presentations on proposed changes and for the opportunity to submit feedback. The campus community is constantly being consulted in order to bring about the best changes, so keep an eye out for opportunities to meet with the planning committee and to submit input!

Colgate’s Sustainability Program Featured in the Colgate Scene

By Sustainability Office on February 5, 2014

The Office of Sustainability is very appreciative of the recent coverage of our sustainability program in the winter 2014 edition of the Colgate Scene (pg. 36-41).  Working with our Communications team on this story, helped us realize the incredible effort, talent, and love that goes into each edition.  We hope that you will take time to read our story and share with your friends and colleagues.

Colgate Emissions Reductions

Colgate Emissions Reductions

Also, please join the Colgate Sustainability Group on LinkedIn, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to this blog (see right sidebar).

Bottled Water: What you didn’t know

By Sustainability Office on February 3, 2014

By Gillian Fisher ’16

I had never given much thought to the quality of the water I drank until I traveled to Costa Rica this past summer. I never before needed to think twice about what water I was drinking, or even what water I was using to brush my teeth and wash my clothes.

On Playa Buena Vista, a secluded beach in the Pacific-coastal town of Samara, these worries became second nature. In a house with no electricity or way to get to town other than wading across a crocodile-infested river, getting potable water became more of an ordeal.

In the United States and many other Western countries, we do not give a second thought to where our tap water comes from. We flip on the faucet and get as much cold, clean water as our hearts desire. When we take showers, we don’t pause to think about the huge amount of hot, potable water that is going down the drain. Read more