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Get ready for the 13 Days of Green!

By Sustainability Office on March 25, 2015

By Ben Schick ’17

As March comes to a close and Hamilton begins to thaw out of the frozen tundra that has engulfed campus for four months, Colgate prepares for the coming of its annual 13 Days of Green.  13 Days of Green is a campus wide event lasting from April 10-April 22 that aims at raising environmental awareness on campus.  The event offers educational programming, events, and competitions that engage students in sustainability on campus and give them the tools necessary to lead a sustainable lifestyle.

This year’s 13 Days of Green consists of a variety of events that highlight different ways organizations around campus are working to make Colgate more sustainable. The full schedule for the 13 Days of Green will be available on the Colgate mobile app starting next week. However, here are some events to look out for:

  • Ongoing:  Window sticker design competition.  Colgate wastes large amounts of heat every winter due to open windows in residence halls.  Students can help Colgate save heat and energy by designing a window sticker reminding students to keep their windows shut during the winter.  The artist of the winning design will win a gift card to a restaurant in downtown Hamilton.
  • April 11:  Head down to the Community Garden at 1pm to get a tour of the garden and learn about sustainable gardening practices.  Food from Hamilton Whole Foods will be provided.
  • April 14:  Sustainable and local food brownbag.  Led by Environmental Studies Professor April Baptiste and Director of Sustainability John Pumilio, this brown bag will look at Colgate’s initiatives to incorporate sustainably grown and local foods into our dining halls.  We will also explore the emerging local food market network in Hamilton, NY.
  • April 16:  Vegetarian dietician appointments.  Led by the Shaw Wellness center, students have an opportunity to talk one-on-one with a vegetarian dietician to learn how to adopt a nutritious and balanced plant-based diet.  Sign up for a one hour slot from 4-8pm by emailing rhangley@colgate.edu.
  • April 18:  Tree planting with COVE Sidekicks from 1-3pm.  Sidekicks will be celebrating Earth Day by planting saplings at the top of the old ski hill.  There will also be tours of the Darwin Thinking Path and environmentally friendly snacks. All are invited!
  • April 22 (Earth Day):  The 13 Days of Green culminates with the Oak Awards.  Formerly known as the Green Awards, the “Oakies” recognize individuals and groups on campus that have made a positive impact on Colgate’s campus through sustainability-related efforts.  Come join us for the award ceremony and free dinner from Hamilton Whole Foods.  In addition, if you wish to nominate an individual or group for an Oakie, please fill out this form:https://docs.google.com/a/colgate.edu/forms/d/1zaYwaqVmhvylk0CEKCvKMbAqOxiQyHUukiaEI6fzWy0/viewform.

While the 13 Days of Green is a fantastic event that engages students in sustainable living at Colgate, it is by no means the only opportunity students have to get involved in sustainability on campus.  There are countless ways students can immerse themselves in sustainability on campus.  The events, workshops and competitions of the 13 Days of Green is meant to serve as a starting point for students on their road to living a sustainable life now and in the future.  For more information, on how you can get involved beyond the 13 Days, visit colgate.edu/green.


Say Goodbye to Styrofoam

By Sustainability Office on March 17, 2015

By Sara Reese ’16

As members of the Hamilton community, we’ve probably all ordered Dunkin Donuts coffee, thinking nothing of the Styrofoam cup that’s handed to us through the drive-thru window.  And we’ve all probably been to a campus event and been served take-out food on Styrofoam plates.  While the everyday consumer might not consider the type of tableware or cup that they use, the fact is, Styrofoam is harmful to the environment and also our health.  As members of a renowned liberal arts university with one of the most aggressive carbon neutrality dates in higher education, the sustainability of our purchases should always be considered.

Styrofoam is identified as the fifth largest contributor to waste in the environment – occupying an estimated 30% in our nation’s landfills.  Styrofoam is also non-biodegradable, meaning that it will persist in that landfill forever.  An important compound in Styrofoam is Styrene, which was identified as a potential carcinogen and neurotoxin by the U.S. Environment Protection Agency (EPA) several decades ago.  Additional chemicals found in Styrofoam have been known to leach into food and beverages as it is heated up in the Styrofoam tableware or cup, leading to human ingestion of these chemicals.  According to EPA studies, Styrene is now found in 100 percent of the fat tissues sampled from every U.S. citizen (including children).  Clearly, Styrofoam has negative impacts on our environment and our bodies.

On March 10th, the Colgate University Student Government Association unanimously passed both a resolution and a bill against Styrofoam.  The bill, acting as a change to bylaws pertaining to the Budget Allocation Committee, prohibits BAC-funded student groups from using BAC-funding to purchase Styrofoam.  That means when student groups host events and order pizza and drinks for pickup or delivery, there has to be explicit notice given to the vendor that Styrofoam cups or plates should not be provided.  The resolution informs all Colgate departments and offices that the student body dissuades the use of Styrofoam and suggests action to reduce Styrofoam purchasing.

This bill and resolution builds momentum towards the ultimate action that should be taken – a campus-wide Styrofoam ban and ban within the town of Hamilton itself.  With recyclable and biodegradable options being offered at comparable prices, Styrofoam should not be allowed.  This wouldn’t be an unprecedented action – many cities, counties, and states are already banning Styrofoam, including New York City.  There are also many colleges and universities that have banned Styrofoam on campus.

With Styrofoam now banned from BAC-funded events, I encourage all of us – students, staff, and faculty – to invest in reusable cups and mugs.  Instead of using disposable containers, consider purchasing a reusable container or thermos that can be used over and over.  Making more conscious purchasing decisions can protect our environment and our health.  Let’s say goodbye to Styrofoam.


A Drawback of Less Paper Waste at Colgate

By Sustainability Office on March 16, 2015

Over the past few years, Colgate has made a lot of progress in advancing sustainability on campus.  We have reduced our campus carbon footprint by 34 percent while achieving over $500,000 per year in avoided spending on energy, water, and other precious resources.  Perhaps the most astonishing progress has been in our use of printer and copier paper on campus.  In 2009, the Colgate community collectively purchased over 12.3 million sheets of paper.  If stack up, that would have been taller than three Empire State Buildings in height.

Colgate employees purchased over 12.3 million sheets of paper in 2009.

Colgate employees purchased over 12.3 million sheets of paper in 2009.

 

Last year, Colgate purchased less than 3.6 million sheets of paper.  That’s a 71 percent reduction in paper use or a savings of 8.7 million sheets of paper.  That’s the approximate equivalent of 550 trees saved per year!

 

Colgate employees purchased less than 3.6 million sheets of paper in 2014.  That's a 71% reduction compared to 2009.

Colgate employees purchased less than 3.6 million sheets of paper in 2014. That’s a 71% reduction compared to 2009.

What has led to this reduction in paper consumption?  Certainly, digital technologies and an increased awareness of printing only when necessary have contributed.  We also set campus printers to double-sided printing a few years back and installed print-release stations that eliminates most accidental or otherwise unclaimed print jobs.

A few years ago, a few of our more environmentally and cost-conscious employees began collecting perfectly good “scrap” paper from other departments.  Instead of purchasing new paper, they would simply “recycle” this used paper with printing on only one side by running it through their own printers.  According to Roxanne Benson, who has been working in Outdoor Education for the past 8 years, she has never purchased new printer paper.  She has always been able to collect old paper from other departments.  Recently, however, Roxanne’s stockpile of paper has been running low.  When she contacted all her “usual suspects” for a new supply, she was dismayed to discover they had none to spare.  They thought Roxanne’s practice of reusing paper was such a good one that they began doing the same.  While this best practice may be good for Colgate and for our environment, it means hard times for our more sustainably-minded community members.  Chin up, Roxanne, and thank you for helping to advance sustainability at Colgate!


Where are you going for spring break?

By Sustainability Office on March 11, 2015

By Rachel Hangley ’15 (Environmental Geography Major and Spanish Minor from East Falmouth, MA)

Look at any eHarmony, Match.com, or Tinder profile and likely you will see “Travel” under the person’s interests and hobbies section. Nearly everyone loves to travel — whether it be to study abroad, experience new cultures, cross something off a bucket list, or just escape from the frigid tundra that is Hamilton, NY. However, humanity’s amazing ability to fly halfway around the world in half a day does have some downfalls. People rarely take into consideration the massive impact their exciting jaunts have on the climate and the world that they are exploring. The desire to see and visit the four corners of the earth has created a system that is destroying that very planet. Surely there must be some solution to this worldwide dilemma?

The aviation industry emits 705 million tons of carbon dioxide every year. This number is estimated to increase by 70% by 2020, and by 300-700% by 2050, even if fuel efficiency improve by 2% per year. The average American generates 19 tons of CO2 each year, and a quick trip to Europe or the West Coast can eat up one tenth of that annual amount. Consider a Colgate student who lives in California and goes home for Thanksgiving, winter break, heads to the tropics for spring break, and then goes home again for the summer. That is one hefty carbon footprint. However, who can blame that student for wanting to attend an institution such as Colgate, and wanting to have the typical college experience of studying abroad and going somewhere fun for spring break? Even still, if everyone had this lifestyle, the planet’s resources would be drained before we know it.

I don’t think the answer is to cut back on traveling, which I too consider to be one of my favorite activities. So what are some possible solutions that travellers can take to counter this challenge?

Some have suggested a carbon or fuel tax as most effective way to internalize the environmental externalities of flying. Others see biofuels as the best option to directly impact the source of emissions. Carbon offsets is another option that gives the responsibility directly to the consumer, and which Colgate students could take on themselves. A statement made by Connie Hedegaard, the European commissioner for climate action, echoes the sentiments of many climate-conscious travellers: “We believe that those of us who can afford to pay for an air ticket can also afford to pay for the pollution from their travel.”

Another option is carbon offsets, which Colgate University has adopted to counteract many of the emissions that it cannot presently cut through infrastructural or behavioral changes. To put this in context, a roundtrip flight from Syracuse to Cancun, Mexico emits approximately .84 tons of CO2 per person, according to this handy Carbon Footprint Calculator. In order to offset that amount of carbon, one can spend $14.06 to plant native trees in Kenya, or just $12.44 to support Clean Development Mechanism projects verified by UN standards. Surely, as Connie Hedegaard said, if someone can afford a $600 flight then an extra $13 isn’t too much to ask (especially for a Colgate student, #13). Students could also offset their air travel by contributing to the Colgate Forest in Patagonia.

There is no doubt that people will continue to travel and see the world, as they should. Travelling promotes open-mindedness, acceptance, and appreciation for the world around us. However, if that world is deteriorating because of that travel, shouldn’t those travellers feel the need, and take responsibility, to preserve that which they are exploring?


Colgate hosts TEDxManhattan Viewing Event

By Sustainability Office on March 11, 2015
By Sara Reese ’16
rsz_img_5616-1On Saturday, March 7th, roughly 40 Colgate University students gathered in the LOJ, a historically environmentally and outdoor-themed housing residence on Broad Street, to watch the 2015 TEDxManhattan (and enjoy Chipotle) for much of the snowy afternoon.  This year’s event was entitled “Changing the Way We Eat” and included talks from educators, nonprofit workers, farmers, and many others not only engaged in the conversation of access to high quality, healthy, sustainable food, but also personally acting to bring that access to all Americans.
With Colgate’s food contract opening up, the TEDxManhattan event was a reflection of much of the buzz that has been generated around food at Colgate recently.  The Sodexo focus groups, food service committee, and dining survey have all reflected a desire for more sustainable, local, and healthy options at the dining locations here at Colgate.
Per the recommendations of the Sustainability Food Systems working group, Sodexo recently hired a Food Service Manager of Sustainability, Deb Hanson, who is working to provide more sustainable, local foods and transparency in terms of where our food comes from.
The TEDxManhattan event provided some food-for-thought (literally) for thinking about food transparency and how food can impact our health and environment, and brought together the global issue of food justice and the local food discussion that is occurring here at Colgate.
You can follow the embedded links to learn more about the TEDxManhattan event or Deb Hanson.
rsz_img_5627

Where egg-actly do your eggs come from?

By Sustainability Office on March 4, 2015

By Jack Eiel ’15 (Philosophy and Biology Double Major from Swarthmore, PA)

This past week I went grocery shopping.  My shopping experience was nothing exceptional, but when I reached for a carton of eggs, I hesitated.  For years I have been your typical consumer—buying things based on little other than aesthetic appeal.  However, this time I started to notice what differentiated these eggs.

Each egg carton seemed to have a different label, a different defining factor that made this carton better than the rest.  “Natural” and “Free-Range” and “Organic” were plastered all over the egg cartons, yet I had no idea what the lingo meant.

I did a little research and I thought I’d let you know what I found out.

First off, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has regulations in place that monitor the labeling of food Americans eat.  Here are a few of the most common labels seen on eggs and what exactly they mean.

Natural

The USDA defines a natural product as one “containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed.” This basically ensures that nothing funky is being added to your food.  However, the label guarantees nothing about the quality of life experienced by the hens laying the eggs.

Cage-Free

This term is as simple as it sounds. The birds that lay these eggs are not kept in cages.  These hens are allowed to walk around and more naturally interact with other chickens.  However, the chickens do not necessarily have access to the outdoors and typically live in large barns or warehouses with less than 1 sq. ft. of space per animal.  Additionally, there are no guidelines included here involving diet or animal treatment.

Free-Range

The requirements that earn a company a free-range label are rather sparse.  All that is said is that “[p]roducers must demonstrate to the Agency that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside.” The USDA does not delineate the standard and duration of outdoor access.

Pasture Raised

Hens that are pasture-raised have lives that are as close to natural as possible.  These hens are afforded full outdoor access, fed a grain diet (but are permitted to forage for insects when on the pasture), and participate in their full range of natural behaviors.  These eggs have been shown to contain up to 20 times the healthy omega-3 fatty acids than factory eggs.

Organic Pasture Raised

This is the gold standard of eggs.  Not only do you get all of the benefits of pasture raised eggs, you are assured the hens were raised organically.  As according to the USDA to receive an organic label hens must be kept properly healthy, receive no hormone or antibiotic injections, and feed exclusively on 100% organic materials.

So what should I buy?

Go for the Organic Pasture Raised eggs!  These eggs are raised in humane environments, produce much tastier eggs, and offer a more sustainable alternative to factory-raised eggs.

Sources:

http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/confinement_farm/facts/guide_egg_labels.html

http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/food-labeling/meat-and-poultry-labeling-terms/meat-and-poultry-labeling-terms

http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/getfile?dDocName=STELPRDC5078591&acct=nopgeninfo

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/12/23/370377902/farm-fresh-natural-eggs-not-always-what-they-re-cracked-up-to-be

http://eggindustry.com/cfi/faq/

http://vitalfarms.com/pasture-raised-eggs/

http://www.localharvest.org/pastured-eggs.jsp

http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/getfile?dDocName=STELDEV3004445

 


Is the cold weather freezing sustainability?

By Sustainability Office on February 25, 2015

By: Andrew Yurcik ’15 (Environmental Geography Major from Pelham, NY)

With winter in full swing and no more holidays to provide us with warmth, many of us have chosen to crank the heat in our rooms with little thought to the environmental consequences. Warmth and comfort is seen as a necessity, and as a result most people have little remorse when turning up their heat as the temperature continues to drop outside. Compared to recycling or composting, there is a much larger disconnect between turning up your heat and realizing how the environment will be impacted. Frequently people will continue to pump their rooms and homes full of hot air even after they’ve left for the day. This issue is exacerbated on college campuses where young students continue to heat their rooms unaware of the expenses paid by the school and the environment. Space heating can take up to 50 percent of a home’s energy use so the question remains: how can Colgate and other college students can become more sustainable about their energy use?

  • Lowering your heat at night: By lowering your heat by several degrees you can reduce yearly energy use by up to 10 percent. Instead, by using warm comforters and wearing layers at night, students can remain comfortable.
  • Use insulation strips: Buying insulation strips from local hardware stores is relatively cheap and can cut heat escaping from windows by up to 50 percent.
  • Only heat specific room: Similar to lights you don’t need to use energy in rooms you are not using
  • Bundle up: Warm accessories such as warm socks or scarves greatly reduce your need for heating.
  • Cuddle: Whether it’s with your significant other or roommate who’s finally accepted your weirdness, you can reduce your impact together.
  • Be an example: By acting sustainably your peers will notice and may mimic your good habits

In a place such as Colgate where some will say summer is from May to September and then the rest is winter understanding how to best mange heating and energy is paramount for being sustainable. We should all endeavor to become a community focused on using and planning energy in the most efficient ways.


What we can learn from composting in Seattle

By Sustainability Office on February 17, 2015

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

Seattle is attempting to divert 60 percent of its waste from landfills by the end of 2015. To help them achieve this goal, the city recently announced its plan to fine residents for putting compostable food in the trash bin starting this past summer. Seattle has a long history of improving its waste stream. In 2005, Seattle prohibited recyclables from the garbage and began curbside food waste collection. In 2009, they required all residential properties to either subscribe to food and yard waste collection or participate in backyard composting. The city has an ambitious climate action plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while also supporting vibrant neighborhoods, economic prosperity, and social equity. Seattle demonstrates a strong commitment to actions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance climate resilience. Should we be using Seattle as a model city for the rest of the United States?

Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption (approximately 1.3 billion tons) gets lost or wasted annually. This food waste not only adds to landfill waste (the world’s largest producer of methane gas), but it also amounts to a major squandering of resources including water, land, energy, labor, and capital. In developing countries, food waste occurs at the early stages of the food value chain due to the harvesting and storage techniques utilized. However, in medium- and high-income countries food is wasted at later stages in the supply chain. In the United States, 30% of all food that is produced is thrown away each year. That adds up to approximately $48.3 billion worth of food. This food loss is completely avoidable so what can we do to trim our waste?

We don’t have to jump to imposing fines on those who don’t compost, like Seattle, but we should be more aware of our impact. Three years ago, Frank Dining Hall switched to tray-less dining, which has helped to significantly cut down on food waste. What else can you do to reduce food loss?

  • Buy smarter: don’t buy more food than you can eat before it goes bad.
  • Rethink your portion size: restaurant servings are much larger than necessary so take your leftovers to go instead of leaving it for the trash.
  • Don’t forget about those leftovers: if you’ve spent money purchasing it or time cooking it, don’t forget to eat the remaining portion of your food.
  • Compost whatever remains you might have. It’s tough to have zero waste, but that doesn’t mean we have to send it to the landfill.

We should strive to become a society of sustainable consumption and think about using resources more efficiently, which includes keeping food out of the garbage!

Sources:

http://www.unep.org/wed/2013/quickfacts/

http://www.seattle.gov/util/MyServices/FoodYard/HouseResidents/FoodWasteRequirements/FAQs/index.htm

http://grist.org/news/seattle-to-shame-residents-for-throwing-away-food/

 


Apply to be a summer intern for the Office of Sustainability!

By Sustainability Office on February 12, 2015

JOB DESCRIPTION

The Sustainability Office is pleased to announce a paid position for three students who will serve as assistants to the Director of Sustainability for 10 weeks during summer 2014.  This is an exciting opportunity for Colgate students to get hands-on experience putting sustainability into action. Requires up to 40 hours per week, starting May 27th and ending in early-August.  Work schedules are flexible and will allow for vacation time, however a total of 10 weeks of work during the summer must be completed.

Each sustainability assistant will report to the Sustainability Program Assistant  and support the activities of Colgate’s Office of Sustainability.  Summer 2015 tasks may include, but are not limited to:

  • Green Raider Program.  Student interns will help refine a training and outreach program designed to promote sustainable living in Colgate’s first- and second-year residence halls.
  • Green Ambassador Program. Student interns will develop a program for a first year volunteer program to assist the Green Raider Interns.
  • Green Certification Program. Interns will refine the Green Certification Program that was developed last summer.
  • Creative Writing and Video Production. Interns will craft creative writing pieces and video blog entries for the Sustainability Office blog
  • Social media.  Interns will post comments and events to our Twitter and Facebook accounts.
  • Green Bikes.  Sustainability interns will help to manage our bike rental program.
  • Community Garden.  On occasion sustainability assistants will spend time helping in Colgate’s Community Vegetable Garden.

QUALIFICATIONS AND EXPERIENCE

The Sustainability Assistant should:

  • have solid interpersonal skills and have the ability to work effectively and respectfully in a collaborative, culturally diverse work environment.
  • be detail-oriented and possess the ability to accomplish results in designated time frames.
  • be comfortable working in a fast moving/changing environment and have the ability to handle multiple tasks simultaneously.
  • have the ability to effectively motivate community members to action.
  • possess strong organizational skills.
  • have excellent writing skills.
  • be computer literate and be proficient in the use of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Google Drive applications.
  • have the ability to maintain a productive and healthy work/life balance.

Must be capable of working up to 40 hours per week.

The Sustainability Office is particularly interested in applicants who have demonstrated a commitment to sustainability and are interested in using their work in sustainability to support their academic and professional objectives.

APPLICATION REQUIREMENTS

Interested candidates should send their resume and one-page cover letter to the Program Coordinator of Sustainability, Steve Dickinson.  The cover letter should explain why the candidate is interested in sustainability at Colgate in addition to specifying the candidate’s personal and/or academic qualifications. These positions will be open until filled.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Please contact Steve Dickinson, with any further questions. Steve can be reached by phone at 315.228.6360 or by email at sdickinson@colgate.edu.

More information about Colgate’s sustainability efforts can be found online at www.colgate.edu/green.


2014 Community Garden Annual Report

By Sustainability Office on February 11, 2015

Thanks to support from the Dean of the Faculty’s office along with faculty, students, and staff, last year was an exciting season for the Colgate Community Garden.  Last spring, the garden was moved from College Street to a new location on Broad Street south of the Townhouses called the Snyder Property.  Through lots of hard work and determination, the new 1⁄2 acre garden produced over 2000 pounds of food last growing season – the most we have had since the garden project started in 2010!

The garden team was led by garden consultant, Beth Roy and student interns Alex Schaff ’16, Quincy Pierce ’16, Brett Christensen ’16, and Glenna Thomas ’17. The Garden Interns were assisted in the spring and fall semesters by the student club, Green Thumbs, along dozens of student volunteers.

More than 100 individuals came to the garden throughout the season for visits or to volunteer their time. We are also grateful to all the Facilities’ staff who helped at the garden with tasks such as delivering wood chips and mowing, and were instrumental in the garden relocation process.

Approximately half of the produce that was harvested at the Colgate Community Garden was sold to students, faculty, staff and community members at a farm stand in the COOP. farm stand_opt The Farm Stand was constructed by intern Alex Schaff ’16 and was opened and filled with vegetables every Thursday.  Students were able to pay for their produce in cash or by using their ‘Gate Card.  Any produce that was not sold was donated to the Hamilton Food Cupboard.

For the 2014 growing season, approximately 60-70% of all produce that was grown was donated to the Hamilton Food Cupboard. For the second year in a row, Sam Stradling and the Food Cupboard donated several plants to the Garden in exchange for the donation of fresh produce later in the season.

The Garden also contained a number of raised bed garden plots available to Colgate community members who planted, managed, and harvested some of their own food.  For the 2015 growing season, we hope to expand the number of raised beds available to our community.

In 2015, we will also create a new “demonstration area.” This area of the garden will focus on new and innovative ideas in vegetable gardening (e.g., straw bale gardens, potato towers, and others).

Cooking classes or demonstrations will continue to be a goal of the garden. The team hopes to continue to work with Susan Weitz of the Chapel House, and perhaps even team up with Dining Services and the Shaw Wellness Institute to have cooking demonstrations on campus at the COOP.

If you have ideas on how to make the garden even more successful and/or want to get involved in any way, please contact Green Thumbs (greenthumbs@colgate.edu) for more information.

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