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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!).


Community garden hosts first farm stand of the summer

By Sustainability Office on July 17, 2014

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We held our first fabulous farm stand of the season on the evening of Tuesday, July 15th! The Colgate Community Garden Team as a whole would like to give a huge thanks to everyone who stopped by our stand on the porch of 104 Broad to take a taste of our chocolate chip zucchini bread and buy a few fresh veggies and herbs.  We are extremely grateful to have the privilege to connect the community to fresh produce from our garden.  The farm stand selection included zucchini, squash, peppers, radishes, peas, exactly one cucumber, and a few bunches of herbs.  We are happy to report every piece of produce sold.  Again, thank you to those who stopped by and gave their support.  We are looking forward to having community members over to the garden this fall to help harvest! Happy gardening!

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Thank you from the community garden!

By Sustainability Office on July 14, 2014

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The Colgate Community Garden team would like to give a huge thanks to all the volunteers who have been coming by to visit and lend a hand in the garden.  On July 1st, interns and professors from the SOAN department spent the morning helping us paint the greenhouse and plant a flower bed next to our herb garden.  The extra sets of hands made the work fly by like a breeze, and we were happy to be able to give a tour of the space and show how its grown in the past few weeks. A huge thanks to department head Professor Chris Henke for putting the work party together!

We’d also like to thank Kathy Harold from the Hamilton Center for the Arts for reaching out to us to do a vertical garden project with the kids at the HCA summer camp!  We had a lot of fun teaching the kids about gardening in a small space, and loved hearing about their gardens at home. We used a pallet, landscaping fabric, and chicken wire to create a standing-up space where plant’s roots can roam.

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This summer we are enjoying being able to connect with the surrounding community.  If you’re interested in visiting the Colgate Community Garden, keep an eye out for volunteer hours or send an e-mail to communitygarden@colgate.edu. Happy gardening!


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!


Applications now open for 2014-15 Sustainability Office interns!

By Sustainability Office on June 10, 2014

The Sustainability Office is pleased to announce four paid positions for qualified students to implement and manage Colgate’s Green Living Program. This is an exciting opportunity for Colgate students to get hands-on experience putting sustainability and green living practices into action.

Qualified interns will work up to 12 hours per week, during both fall (2014) and spring (2015) semesters. Official start date is August 25, 2014 with arrival/move-in on August 22nd. Orientation is mandatory and will begin the morning of August 25th.  Weekly work schedule is flexible, however, we will have mandatory team meetings once every week.

Read more


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!


Bottled Water vs. Tap Water: The Ultimate Showdown

By Sustainability Office on May 6, 2014

By Gillian Fisher ’16

Sara Reese '16 runs the water taste test in the Coop.

Sara Reese ’16 runs the water taste test in the Coop.

Last week, my fellow Green Raider interns and I conducted a water taste test in the Coop. At our table, we set up small cups filled with tap, filtered, and Poland Springs bottled water. Then, we had students come drink one cup of each, without knowing which type was in each cup, and rate them on a scale of 1 (best) to 3 (worst).

Overall, the event was a lot of fun and students were very enthusiastic to participate. In total, we got ratings from 60 students over the course of two days.  Going into the taste test, I expected bottled water to be rated the highest and tap water to be rated the lowest. However, the results were unexpectedly more environmentally-friendly!

Surprisingly enough, 33 out of 60 students said that the filtered water tasted the best. This filtered water was originally tap water, but was poured into a Brita water pitcher before being poured into the cups. It was no surprise to me that bottled water was a close second, with 22 out of 60 students rating it #1. Finally, almost everyone rated tap water as the worst.

These results indicate that bottled water is not as tasty and fresh as many people believe it to be! Brita water pitchers can be bought for around $20 and the replacement filters are pretty cheap as well. On the other hand, you would spend about $1,400 per year on bottled water if you drink eight glasses of water each day. If you drank that same amount of tap water, you would pay only $.49 for the whole year (http://www.banthebottle.net/bottled-water-facts/). In the long run, drinking tap or filtered water is a much cheaper and greener way to stay hydrated!

If everyone on campus used filtered or tap water, Colgate would be so much more environmentally friendly! Bottled water is terrible for the environment – the whole process unnecessarily uses huge amounts of energy, produces tons of waste, and depletes too much of the earth’s most precious resource: water. In fact, “Bottling and shipping water is the least efficient method of water delivery ever invented. The energy we waste using bottled water would be enough to power 190,000 homes” (“Not Disposable Anymore.” P.O.V.’s Borders. 2004. PBS). It is crazy how much bottled water can be seen on our own campus, especially when the majority of students prefer the taste of filtered tap water!

Recently, there has been a push among students for the installation of water fountains in the first-year and sophomore residence halls. I have heard many students say that they love the water from the filtered fountain at Trudy Fitness Center. If we could get these fountains in the dorms, so much plastic waste would be eliminated.

Any measures that can be taken to get bottled water off of the Colgate campus should be taken as soon as possible. This semester’s water taste test only gives more proof that bottled water is not the best option for students or for the planet. As 2019 – the year marking Colgate’s climate neutrality – approaches, we all need to keep this in mind and must continue pushing for a more sustainable future!


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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