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Join the fun at the Garden

By Sustainability Office on August 2, 2014

If you have been following our blog, then you know that Colgate’s Community Garden has a new location.  This spring, we moved from College Street (near the Newell Apartments) to Broad Street, just south of the Townhouses and Community Hospital.  The garden team including interns Alex Schaff ‘16 and Quincy Pierce ‘16 and our garden manager, Beth Roy, have literally built the garden from the ground up!  The team tilled the field, built a compost bin, formed garden rows, weeded, planted seedlings, and are now harvesting our first vegetables (including zucchini, squash, peas, cucumbers, and spinach).

The garden team is working closely with the Hamilton Food Cupboard and Hamilton Central Schools to grow, share, and donate food.  We also offer fresh produce from our garden through a farm stand at 104 Broad Street every Tuesday at 5:00 p.m.

From left to right: Beth Roy, Quincy Pierce '16, Alex Schaff '16, and Prof. Christopher Henke

From left to right: Beth Roy, Quincy Pierce ’16, Alex Schaff ’16, and Prof. Christopher Henke at the new garden.

The garden team has been thrilled with all of the support and enthusiasm from community members throughout this summer.  A lot of new faces have stopped by to attend work parties, movie nights, and volunteer hours.  Others stop by to care for their own personal raised bed garden.

So, please, stop by to get your hands dirty or just to say hello and get a tour of the garden. All are welcome!  Check the Colgate Calendar for upcoming events.  Also, volunteer hours are on Monday and Friday from 2:00-3:00 p.m. and on Wednesday from 4:00-5:00 p.m.

For more information, email communitygarden@colgate.edu.


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!


Community garden hosts work party

By Sustainability Office on July 7, 2014

With a new herb garden installed, plants in the ground, and a cover crop of buckwheat successfully sprouting in the back corner, the community garden has been progressing beautifully.  On June 18th, we held our first work party of the season.  Approximately 30 attendees helped plant herbs including chives, oregano, mint, and creeping thyme among others.  After an hour of work, we had nearly all of our paths mulched, the rows of tomatoes prepared with straw to hold in moisture, and the rock floor of the greenhouse weeded.  The event finished with a dinner including Oliveris pizza and a “potluck” salad to which community members added their own veggies and dressings.  We are so grateful for the assistance and enthusiasm provided by the volunteers and look forward to inviting them back to the garden for another event in the near future!

Click here to learn more about this event.

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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.
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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!


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.


Smooth Air and Blue Skies, Paul Fick

By John Pumilio on May 30, 2014

Today, the Office of Sustainability is saying farewell to a good friend and colleague. Paul Fick, Associate VP for Facilities, is retiring after eight years at Colgate.

Paul has been my direct supervisor since I started in 2009. Under Paul’s leadership, we built and renovated our first LEED certified buildings, we installed our first solar energy project, purchased our first hybrid vehicles, installed our first electric vehicle charging station, and completed a major upgrade of our central utility plant. We approved our Sustainability and Climate Action Plan and we were able to reduce our campus-wide energy, water, landfill waste, and paper consumption. Taken together, this amounted to cost savings for the university and a 20 percent reduction off our campus carbon footprint since 2009. Paul will be the first to tell you, however, that these accomplishments are secondary to the Colgate people he shared his journey with.

Personally, I will miss Paul’s good-natured and friendly personality. I will miss our lengthy conversations that sometimes strayed way beyond the proximate issues in front of us. I will miss Paul’s engineering mind and intellectual curiosity. He once made me wait while he calculated the molecular formulas for greenhouse gas emissions. He could not reconcile how emissions factors could be greater than the sum of individual molecules. Only when he worked out the formulas to his satisfaction were we able to move forward with our conversation. It took about 10 minutes.

One of Paul’s true passions is flying. And soon after he received his pilot’s license he took me for a memorable flight over the Chenango Valley. I observed that Paul’s approach to flying was the same for work: at once balancing seriousness with pure enjoyment and attention to detail with an appreciation for the bigger picture.

Paul Fick poses with his plane

Click Image for full slideshow

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Facilities directors and sustainability directors sometimes have strained relationships. But Paul has been a great friend and colleague since the first day I stepped foot on campus. He always made me feel welcome and he always gave my ideas serious attention. As I think about our time together at Colgate, my hope is that someone thinks as highly of me on my final day at Colgate as I think of Paul. Paul has been a great pleasure to work with.

While our professional relationship is coming to a close, I know that we will remain friends. We already have intentions to fly again over the beautiful Colgate campus. So, instead of goodbye, I will hope for smooth air and blue skies so Paul may enjoy many good days of flying (and perhaps take me along for a few of them!).

Enjoy retirement, Paul!


The vitality of a sustainability-related education

By Sustainability Office on April 25, 2014

By Sara Reese ’16

As Colgate students and faculty, we are challenged to meet “The 13 Goals of a Colgate Education,” goals that embody the true meaning of a liberal arts education – 1) Conduct interdisciplinary inquiry, 2) See ourselves critically and honestly within a global and historical perspective, 3) Be engaged citizens and strive for a just society, and 4) Respect nature and the diversity of life on earth, just to name a few.  As an Environmental Studies major and intern in the Colgate Office of Sustainability, I believe that integrating sustainability more deeply into the curriculum will help students accomplish these goals and will produce more globally minded students.

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What is environmental justice and why should we care?

By Sustainability Office on April 23, 2014

By Breanna Giovanniello ’16

Environmental activists have recently taken to intertwining the issues of the environment with human rights abuses. The amalgamation of these two movements is more widely known today as environmental justice. The principle of environmental justice asserts that no people, based on their race or economic status, should be forced to bear a disproportionate burden of environmental risks. Innocent bystanders or communities that are not party to the activities generating burdens should not be subject to such burdens (Adeola, 688). Environmental injustices involve a systematic exclusion of minority groups in vital environmental policies and decisions. Environmental justice is the movement that links environmental degradation with social justice in a fight for sustainable human rights.

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