Home - Distinctly Colgate - Sustainability - Sustainability News
Sustainability News

Latest Posts

Local Food at Nelson Farms

By Sustainability Office on November 9, 2015

nelson farms 1By: Mackenzie Hargrave ’16 (Environmental Economics Major from Madison, NJ), Sustainable Dining Intern

The Colgate Dining Sustainability team recently visited Nelson Farms to learn about production of local food.  Amanda Hewitt, the head of Product Development guided us around the product development, ingredient storage and processing rooms of the facility. Each room was stocked with expensive equipment that small-scale farmers may find difficulty investing in. She explained how each machine helps clients transform their produce into marketable products, which can then be sold in the attached storefront and other venues across New York State.

Perusing the aisles of the Nelson Farms Country Store you can find any dressing, marinade, jam, nut butter, or coffee that would usually stock your cupboards. However, instead of being brand name products, produced and packaged on a massive scale, these products are all made by small-scale, local farmers, passionate about their product and the communities to which they distribute. As customers who rely heavily on brand name products, we can easily forget that farms surrounding Colgate are producing high quality, fresh produce that may be packaged up into our favorite condiments and available right around the corner.

The entire operation is housed in what looks like a classic country home set right on Rt. 20 between Morrisville and Cazenovia, just a short drive from Colgate. Despite the understated exterior of the building, Nelson Farms, which is not a farm at all, has created a unique and straightforward way for local farmers to bring their products directly to market.

Amanda Hewitt and Kristi Cranwell, Nelson Farms’ Director, have the knowledge and expertise to guide product development through recipe creation, cost-based analysis, regulatory compliance and production. Standing in the ingredient storage room, with our eyes glazing over, Amanda explained the complex chemistry behind ensuring products remain fresh throughout their shelf life. In addition to ensuring the innelsonfarms2gredients maintain the appropriate pH, they must be carefully coded and tracked, according to FDA regulation.

The resources and information that Amanda, Kristi and the rest of the team at Nelson Farms can provide to farmers opens up opportunities for them to increase their business and take a stake in the local economy. Given the number of mouths Colgate Dining Services feeds daily, we have the potential to provide a massive demand for local products, like those sold at Nelson Farms.

on Facebook: www.facebook.com/NelsonFarmsCountryStore

website:   www.nelsonfarms.org

Nelson Farms is located at 3261 Us Route 20, Cazenovia, NY 13035


Famed American Alpinist to Visit Colgate (Nov 4, 7 p.m., 101 Ho)

By Sustainability Office on October 28, 2015


The Office of Sustainability is thrilled that Kitty Calhoun will be visiting Colgate on November 4. As a premier American Alpinist, Kitty will discuss her adventures in a presentation entitled, “Last Ascents.”  Her passion for alpine exploration and the corresponding ecosystem is under direct threat from climate change.

Dream Big ~ Find Your Passion

Be Inspired ~ Make a Difference!

See you on Wednesday, Nov 4, at 7 p.m. in the Meyerhoff Auditorium (101 Ho).

New legislation bolsters the war against microbeads

By Sustainability Office on October 23, 2015

By Lindsey Sagasta ’16 (Environmental Biology Major from Buffalo, NY)

Last November I published a piece about microplastics in marine environments as a result of consumer hygiene products like toothpastes, body scrubs, and face washes. Essentially, these miniscule plastic microbeads cannot be filtered out of the water during sewage treatment. Enough plastic microbeads enter our water each day to cover eight football fields, over eight trillion single beads, currently concentrated at 1.7 million microplastic pieces for each square mile of the Great Lakes. Once in the water, the microbeads “become a magnet for toxins, Microbead pennysuch as dioxins and volatile organic chemicals found in our waters due to pesticides and industrial pollution.” The toxins are absorbed through the tissue of species that ingest the plastics, then biomagnified across the food web, and at the top trophic level, humans will be exposed to the highest concentrations of toxins.

Earlier in 2014, Illinois was the first state to ban the microbeads in personal care products due to their extensive damage to our skin and the environment, followed by Colorado, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, and New Jersey. Although these early legislations have jump-started the proposal of bans in other states, they have actually hindered the successful passing of bills in some assemblies. Further, these early bans include a “loophole” that allows corn-based plastic microbeads to be exempt because they are biodegradable. Despite “biodegradable” sounding environmentally friendly, corn-based products can only degrade at a very high temperature after a long period of time. Thus, these bans are allowing companies to green wash their products – a way corporations are trying to look green, but aren’t really being green – by including biodegradable plastic although it is just as harmful.

Microbeads scrubsFortunately, California passed a law in October that should ultimately set a nation wide stringent standard for plastic microbead production. Governor Jerry Brown approved Assemblyman Richard Bloom’s (D- Santa Monica) measure that will place a ban on exfoliating microbeads in personal care products as of January 1st, 2020. The passage of this law in California is a large step forward for environmentalists, according to this article, “When California bans something, because it’s a leader in the consumer products world, it tends to start a swell of changes across the industry.” Being the most populated state, it is easier for corporations to just remove the beads instead of designing a separate product to be sold only where bans are in place. As well, this specific ban does not include the loophole, setting an example for states that are in the process of passing legislation.

Michigan and New York, two of the Great Lakes states, are in the process of passing their own bans. In Michigan, the passage of the ban is struggling to stray from the loophole precedent set by the earlier states. The Michigan Chemistry Council currently backs it, but some lawmakers and environmental groups are fighting for more stringency. New York has been having issues passing legislation too. In 2014, the NYS Assembly voted 133-1 to ban microbeads in products, but it never made its way to the State Senate. The next year, the Assembly Microbeads vialsoverwhelmingly voted 139-0 in favor of the ban, but again it never reached the floor in the Senate. However, NYS counties have begun taking the matter into their own hands. In August 2015, Erie County unanimously passed its own ban, with many other counties following suite, including Albany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Monroe, and Niagara.

Federally, in March 2015, Representative Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) introduced a federal ban on microbeads in the U.S. House. Although it stalled out, it notably gathered 36 bipartisan cosponsors and drifted through a committee vote. More recently, Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) introduced a companion bill in the Senate called the Microbead Free Waters Act of 2015 to ban the microbead nationally.

Here’s how you can help The Microbead Free Waters Act of 2015: Send a letter in support of this act to your Senators and Congressman. The Huffington Post suggests you go to Oh Say Nation, a website that facilitates emailing lawmakers on issues that matter to you. Also, check out 5gyres.org to sign their petition and learn more!

All photos courtesy of http://www.5gyres.org/media-kit/.


Fashion’s not-so-stylish reputation

By Sustainability Office on October 21, 2015

By Breanna Giovanniello ’16 (Environmental Studies Major from Cold Spring Harbor, NY)

Sustainability and fashion are two words that are rarely found in the same sentence. However, what most people don’t know about fashion is that it is the third most polluting industry in the world after oil and agriculture. Being glamorous has a surprisingly large impact on water, global climate change, and toxic pollution.

Fashion happens to be the second largest consumer and polluter of water. One pair of denim jeans, for example, uses between 1,000 and 3,000 gallons of water. This polluted water is often released directly back into our rivers, lakes, and oceans.

From growing textile fibers to moving fabrics around the world, clothing is a giant contributor to global climate change. Cotton, leather, and other raw materials grown in industrial farming operations require large land and energy footprints. Many of these operations take place overseas and require a great deal of energy to transport from China to America.

The fashion industry uses thousands of different chemicals to manufacture clothing; many of these chemicals are extremely toxic. The production of textile fibers uses 20 billion pounds of chemicals a year. 1,600 chemicals are used in dyeing processes, but only 16 are actually EPA approved. Runoff from these dye houses can contain heavy metals, alkali salts, toxic solids, and harmful pigments and often end up in our water supplies. These toxins end up harming not only human health, but also the various plants and animals that depend on our water systems.

Fashion has the tendency to be extremely unsustainable, however you have the ability to be a conscious and sustainable consumer. You can do that by:

  1. Investing in clothing made out of sustainable materials such as organic cotton, tencel, or viscose.
  2. Purchasing vintage or remanufactured clothing instead of brand new clothing. Remanufactured clothing can save more than 13,000 pounds of CO2 emissions a year.
  3. Not tossing your old items, but instead recycling and donating your old clothes! If every American recycled one more T-shirt a year, we would recover 210 billion gallons of water and 1 million pounds of CO2.
  4. Stopping water from becoming a fashion victim and washing smart! Wash your clothes only when necessary and in cold water to save water and energy.
  5. Drying smart! Line drying your clothes can eliminate up to 700 pounds of greenhouse gases annually.

It’s important to be aware of your everyday impact on the environment and make decisions to lessen this impact. Do a little research the next time you need a new sweater and look for brands such as Patagonia, the Reformation, and PeopleTree that produce environmentally sustainable clothing.

2015 GREEN SUMMIT: Climate Change in Our Time

By Sustainability Office on October 19, 2015

Office of Sustainability Logo - Samantha Lee

2015 Green Summit Update (October 19, 2015)

Thank you to our esteemed panelists and all who attended our Green Summit panel discussion on climate change.  We filled Golden Auditorium and hosted people in an overflow room.  We had terrific audience participation and the panelist fielded some excellent questions regarding climate change in our time and on our campus.

Below, we are posting the video recording of the discussion.  In response to one of the questions from the audience, we also wanted to follow up with a few resources we think you might find interesting:

***SAVE THE DATE: Our next panel discussion in this series will take place on April 5, 2016 at 4:30 p.m. in Golden Auditorium.  Follow our blog for ongoing updates.




2015 Green Summit Original Post (September 1, 2015)

On September 17, the Office of Sustainability will be hosting the 15th annual Green Summit.  The title of this year’s event will be Climate Change in Our Time.

As you likely know, the end of 2015 is gearing up to be a momentous year for climate issues globally, nationally, and here on campus.  In June, Pope Francis released his heavily anticipated encyclical on the environment.  In August, the White House finalized the Clean Power Plan, its flagship policy to combat carbon emissions from power plants.  This coming December at the 21st meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP-21) in Paris, there are high expectations for a global agreement on emissions reductions.  And here at Colgate, we are in the midst of updating our plan to achieve climate neutrality by 2019. The purpose of this year’s Green Summit is to highlight issues of climate change (at Colgate and beyond) from various faculty perspectives.

The 2015 Green Summit will kickoff at 4:30 p.m. in Golden Auditorium (Little Hall) with a faculty panel discussion.

Panelists for this events include:

  • Adam Burnett, William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Geography
  • April Baptiste, Associate Professor of Environmental Studies
  • Engda Hagos, Assistant Professor of Biology
  • Mark Shiner, University Chaplain and Catholic Campus Minister
  • Peter Klepeis, Professor of Geography

The panel will be moderated by John Pumilio, Director of Sustainability.  We will invite questions/comments from the audience.



At 9:00 p.m., the 2015 Green Summit will conclude with a private showing of Naomi Oreskes’ award-winning documentary, Merchants of Doubt.  The program will take place at the Hamilton Merchants of DoubtMovie Theater.  Seating is limited and tickets will be given on a first-come, first-served basis.  Tickets are FREE and can be picked up in the Ho Science Center room 245 (Steve Dickinson’s office) or in Lathrop Hall room 109M (John Pumilio’s office).

To follow the latest news, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

To submit questions in advance of the forum, use #GateGreenSummit.

The 2015 Green Summit is sponsored by CORE Scientific Perspectives, Environmental Studies, Lampert Institute, Office of Sustainability, Upstate Institute.

**We encourage all Green Summit attendees to attend a special event hosted by the Lampert Institute for Civic and Global Affairs.  The event entitled, “Edible Memory: How Tomatoes Became Heirlooms and Apples Became Antiques,” by Dr. Jennifer Jordan, Professor of Sociology and Urban Studies, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee will take place at 7:00 p.m. in 101 Ho Science Center (Meyerhoff Auditorium).

The 2015 Green Summit is sponsored by the Lampert Institute for Civic and Global Affairs, the Picker Interdisciplinary Science Institute, the Upstate Institute, Environmental Studies, and the Department of Sociology and Anthropology.

We look forward to seeing you at our 15th annual Green Summit!

Celebrating Food Day at Colgate

By Sustainability Office on October 18, 2015

By: Ana Roman ’16 (Environmental Geography Major from Harrison, NY), Sustainable Dining Intern

food day 2015

Every October 24th, thousands of Americans come together for Food Day in an effort to solve food-related issues both locally and nationally. Food Day calls individuals to celebrate food and urges people to make positive changes in their own diets as well as push for initiatives to improve food policies on a wide variety of scales.

This year’s Food Day theme is “Toward a Greener Diet,” and Colgate will be celebrating by honoring our local food partners throughout the week leading up to the 24th. Come join Colgate’s sustainable dining team as we invite our local partners for meet and greets where students and faculty can lunch and learn as we support local businesses that share our sustainability goals.

  • Tuesday October 20: Utica Coffee Roasters from 11:30-1:00 pm at the Coop
  • Wednesday October 21: Flour and Salt Bakery from 9:00-10:00 am at Hieber Café
  • Thursday October 22:  Common Thread Farm from 11:30-1:00 pm at Frank Dining Hall
  • Friday October 23: Utica Bread from 9:00-10:00 am at Hieber Café    

          Stop by for a chance to win prizes at select meet and greets.

campus crunch 2015On Thursday, October 22nd Colgate will join campuses throughout the state to take the New York Campus Crunch. Local apples will be distributed at Frank Dining Hall, The Coop, and Hieber Café for a “collective crunch” at 1pm. Come out to support New York apples and the orchards and farms our food is grown on. http://finys.org/our-projects/new-york-campus-crunch

Happy Food Day!

Please contact Deborah Hanson, Marketing and Sustainability Manager for Colgate Dining Services, with any questions.

Sue Hughes-Smith BA Geology ’93 Returns to Campus (10/24)

By Sustainability Office on October 16, 2015

Sue Hughes-Smith BA Geology ’93, will be on campus and available to meet with students interested in climate change next Saturday, October 24th, 11:00-12:00 in Lawrence 209.

Here is a little more about Sue:
“While teaching science at the secondary level I completed two Master’s Degrees: Education (Michigan State 1998) and Environmental Conservation (NYU 2002).  After moving to Rochester, NY in 2006 I became a lecturer for the department of Public Health and Health Education at SUNY Brockport and an adjunct professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology.  As a climate activist I am affiliated with the Rochester People’s Climate Coalition, Mothers Out Front and Citizen’s Climate Lobby.




The true cost of bottled water

By Sustainability Office on October 6, 2015

By Seamus Crowley ’18 (Geology and Environmental Geography Major from Aspen, CO)

Screen Shot 2015-07-06 at 10.23.21 AM

Every year move-in day is an exciting time, and one of the first things everyone wants to do after setting up their room is make the inaugural trip to the grocery store. Everyone wants to load up on a great snack supply for the start of the year, especially after lugging all of their stuff up four flights of stairs. Students come back with enough food to last them through a Colgate winter, but that’s not the only thing they come back with. Watching some students come back to their residence hall, I noticed one carrying a 24-pack of bottled water into the building. Then I saw, one after another, many more students traipsing up with more of the same cases of bottled water. They must have brought 200 bottles into the building in a span of 30 minutes. That’s when I realized Colgate has a bottled water problem.

It was completely perplexing to me that students would actively choose to spend money on water when it is available, free of charge in their very own residence halls. What’s worse is that students were actively choosing, the environmentally irresponsible mode of obtaining drinking water. I was confused by all of this, or at least I was until an interaction occurred between two friends. One friend said it was gross that the other was filling up her Nalgene from the bathroom faucet, alleging that the water wasn’t clean enough. I was very surprised at this; it appears that some students have a strong aversion to tap water because they have the vague belief that our tap water is unsafe. In fact, the water from our sinks is perfectly fit to drink, as is all water available to students on campus and in the village of Hamilton. The consumption of bottled water on campus serves no purpose in terms of quality, convenience, or economic sense. Most importantly, however, the use of bottled water is nonsensical due to its destructive impact on the environment.

The process of creating and transporting bottled water is not typically thought of by the average consumer, but everyone should be aware of what goes into each bottle before deciding to buy yet another case. The plastic of the bottle is usually polyethylene terephthalate, a product of crude oil, which means that they can never truly degrade.1 Worse still is the fact that it takes three times the amount of the water in a bottle to manufacture the bottle itself.1 This process, in addition to the impact of the transportation of the bottles, results in every single bottle of water producing a carbon footprint of 82.8 grams of CO2, a total of more than 2.5 million tons of CO2 per year in America alone.2 With this level of environmental impact, it is purely irresponsible to support the production and consumption of bottled water.

The wasteful use of bottled water is a problem common to college campuses across the country. However, some universities have taken it upon themselves to ban bottled water on their campuses. I believe that Colgate should do the right thing and follow suit. Colgate should undoubtedly join the movement to ban bottled water that has already been taken up by our peers at other schools. In the meantime however, students should simply voluntarily utilize refillable water bottles and quality tap water to instantly start reducing their waste and carbon footprint, thus leading our campus community to a more sustainable and environmentally conscious future.

1. http://www.dw.com/en/life-cycle-of-a-plastic-water-bottle/g-17266360
2. http://elua.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Elua-Bottled-Water-and-Our-Environment.pdf

I Support Local: More Complicated Than It Seems

By Sustainability Office on September 22, 2015

By Missy Velez ’16 (Environmental Studies Major from Baltimore, MD)

downtown hamiltonThe benefit of buying local goods, mostly produce, has, of late, been questioned. This is because what the term “supporting local” means is not fully understood, and the phrase has become something in and of itself, losing its meaning. In the context of “supporting local,” it is important to keep in mind the three pillars of sustainability: economic, environmental and social. Local doesn’t need to be only segregated to the agricultural sector, and nor should it be. There are problems with the term “supporting local,” but perhaps that’s because it has been oversimplified to a bumper sticker- type slogan.

Part of the problem with the phrase “supporting local” is that is has come to mainly address buying produces from local farms, which may not actually have the environmental and health benefits that we assume it does. It has also come to conflate local farms with sustainable, organic, and small farms. Local farms can be those things, but they can also be large-scale enterprises, guilty of mistreating workers and animals and engaging in environmentally irresponsible business practices. Because of this conflation, it is no longer clear that the term “buying local” does not directly mean buying organic or buying goods from small farms. Buying from your local farm, in face of the quickly diminishing number of American farmers, can be a great thing-it helps to sustain a key part of our nation’s identity and economy. This being said, what if the farm doesn’t use sustainable practices? Yes, it’s great to be able to buy eggs from just 5 miles away, and this does mean buying local, but what if the hens are kept in cramped conditions? Sustainable interests like buying from small farms and buying from local farms can conflict with each other in the context of supporting agriculture, which contributes to the conflict surrounding what exactly “supporting local” means.

There are significant barriers to “supporting local” when you look at it from a primarily agricultural aspect. Buying local goods in an effort to support small-scale businesses and farms that struggle to compete in an increasingly globalized economy is a great part of supporting local communities. However, while buying local does fit within the idea of “supporting local,” it should not define the phrase. This ideological mix-up causes the issues related with buying local goods to cross over into the ideas behind supporting local communities, decreasing the legitimacy of the support local movement. Instead, buying local goods should be seen as an action that can be a great step to supporting local communities, but doesn’t define it.

But let’s look at supporting local at its core meaning, which is engaging with the people, businesses and lifestyles that make up our communities. It means keeping a tie with the happenings in our towns, keeping the people down the block or a few miles away in mind, and therefore keeping communities together. Supporting local doesn’t have to mean buying your Swiss chard on the Village Green, although that too has its place. Maybe it can mean telling your professor how much you enjoyed your discussion in class, saying hey to a stranger instead of avoiding their gaze as you pass them walking into town, or thanking a custodian for keeping your favorite study spot clean. Creating diverse, resilient and united communities is an essential part of increasing social sustainability, so let’s question how we can “support local” as Colgate students and, even further, as Hamilton community members.

Now hiring: Community garden interns for the fall semester!

By Sustainability Office on July 29, 2015

Two students working to plant the Community Garden at Colgate.

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 2015 until November 2015 (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, and be at the garden during those scheduled times to supervise the work parties.
  • Provide continuity for work on the garden throughout the 2015 growing season.
  • Prepare for and help 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 14. Employment will begin on or around August 24.