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Ask Me What’s in My Bag

By Sustainability Office on May 2, 2018

– Miranda Gilgore ‘18 and Revee Needham ‘18

With an increase in the amount of waste that Colgate has sent to the Madison County landfill (see below) in the past few years, two students wanted to raise awareness issue of waste. Miranda and Revee are interns at the Office of Sustainability who have been collaborating to tackle waste issues on campus. Together they have sorted trash for a waste audit and Miranda attended the PLAN Zero Waste Conference. Inspired by students at NYU and Tufts for their zero waste weeks, recruited 22 students and staff members to participate in Colgate’s first “Carry Your Trash” week. Participants were given a clear plastic bag to display their trash for the week of April 2nd-9th and the chance to win stainless steel straws and bamboo utensils.

We decided to make the week “Carry Your Trash” and not “Zero-Waste” because we recognized there were some privileged ideas surrounding zero waste. While it’s aspirational, and for some people, completely possible to keep all your trash for a year in a mason jar, it’s not always feasible. Going zero waste is a process that requires initial investments in reusable items and the time to create many other items. So, we decided to not have a zero waste week, but instead, encourage participants to live their lives as normally as possible in an effort to help them realize their role in waste production.

Due to health concerns, we didn’t recommend placing any food waste items in the bag and encouraged noting when this waste was produced whenever possible. Traditionally, a zero waste challenge involves composting any food or organic waste, but we were unable to do this.

Colgate. Colgate does have a compost pile at the Community Garden, but it is unmanaged during the winter.For support and ideas, we created a Groupme group with the the participants. Largely, we encouraged participants to do their best, as it wasn’t a competition, and to approach the week as “challenge by choice.”

From Revee’s perspective: I was inspired by watching numerous zero waste videos and by making some changes in my life before the week began. While I recognized the inherent privilege associated with living a zero waste lifestyle, I was confident that I could implement some big changes in my life. During the week, I modified my behavior to avoid generating trash, whether that was by not using a paper coffee filter, bringing my own mug to grab coffee, or making my own iced tea. For the trash that I did generate, I noted instances where that waste could have been avoided, such as by making my own almond milk, buying reusable cotton rounds, or making my own spice mix. Whenever I mention zero waste to someone there is a huge misconception that in order to use the term you need to be 100% zero waste. While that is obviously the goal, I’ve learned that it’s actually more of a zero waste journey, with incremental changes over a long period of time. This has been a main topic of conversation in the Zero Waste Facebook groups that I joined for support and new ideas. Another goal I had personally, and maybe for a future rendition of the week, is to keep track of how much plastic I was generating. While it is recyclable, I’m aware of the negative health impacts by ingesting plastic particles, the impact on plastic litter in the ocean, and its dependence on fossil fuels. Many Zero Waste blogs advocate for avoiding plastic as much as possible because it is often downgraded when recycled, whereas glass and aluminium are much more easily recycled.

From Miranda’s perspective: This undertaking has been something I’ve wanted to do for a while now and I was so excited to finally be doing it! Though one of the primary goals of the project was to raise personal awareness of what trash each of us produced in a typical week, I was amazed and inspired by all of the positive feedback I received from so many people. I generally try to be quite mindful of the waste I produce, but I noticed that I was hypersensitive to the trash I was producing during the week and modified my behavior slightly to minimize this as much as possible. Although this may make the week artificial to some degree, being pushed to that awareness means that I discovered zero-waste solutions that I may not have otherwise. I am also cognizant of the fact that I was not always putting trash associated with products I was using in my bag. In some cases, mostly food, I didn’t empty the package and therefore still needed  the packaging. In other cases, such as school supplies, clothing, etc., I had thrown away the packaging upon purchasing the product before the week started. In other instances, like catered or ordered food, the packaging and other associated trash was removed before the product even got to me. Despite all this, I still think Carry Your Trash Week was a worthy project and definitely a success worth repeating! See all of the landfill waste that I generated for the week below.

From participants’ perspectives: Maria Dascalu ‘18 noted that she uses paper towels quite a bit, coming to the solution that she could start bringing a towel up the hill to dry her hands. Ana Tobio ‘18 found that her biggest contributor was tea bags and their packaging, realizing she could reduce waste with loose leaf tea. We also recognized that the participants were not a representative sample of the Colgate community, and wondered how much more trash others produce on a daily basis. Angelica Greco ‘18 pointed out that brown bag lectures produce large amounts of waste, which could be avoided with people bringing their own plates and utensils, or by having the caterer provide reusable dishware.

One of the biggest problems in tackling waste is the lack of agency in limiting the disposal of waste. Once it’s placed in the bin, it seemingly disappears and is out of sight and out of mind. This week caused participants to confront the trash they produce by carrying it around for others to see. Overall, it was a good opportunity to raise awareness for not only the participants but for everyone else who stopped to ask: “What’s in your bag?


Mathematical Models in Environmental Policy

By Sustainability Office on May 1, 2018

– Dana Chan ’19

Ever wondered what math can do for sustainability? The Consortium for Mathematics and Its Applications (COMAP) held its annual Interdisciplinary Contest in Modeling (ICM) from February 8-12, 2018 at Colgate University. At the heart of this competition is the construction of a mathematical model that can help predict the outcomes of real-life problems and aid in the search for solutions. One team from Colgate University’s Mathematics Department – composed of Ruoyu (Tony) Guo, Asad Jamil, and Van Tran – chose to create a model that predicts a reliable timeline for a national switch from diesel to electric vehicles. An essential part of their model is tracking the amount of financial resources and time required to build the necessary facilities around the country to make the all-electric vehicle switch possible.

Tony Guo, one of the architects of the model, commented that they were excited to choose an issue that focuses on sustainability because of its relevance to many countries in the world today. Tony highlighted the importance of implementing environmental solutions in developing countries. “Personally, I think in our environmental conditions right now going all-electric is more important for less developed countries, but these countries have limited funds to make it possible. I think in addition to government subsidies, we need more people contributing to this cause and making investments for it to be realistic.”

According to the team’s model for a developed country, using Ireland as an example, an all-electric vehicle switch could come as early as 2050 with the most ideal conditions. However, this will not only cost the Irish government a fortune, but will also be hindered by the lack of existing infrastructure; hence, using more realistic assumptions pushes the date further into the future. The team strived to create a model that can be generalized to various economic states of different countries. In testing their model on a developing country, like Indonesia, the team found the effort for an all-electric vehicle switch much more challenging but still feasible with the right amount of support from government and private entities. The team also took into consideration the viewpoints of the people who live in these countries, assuming that people would be willing to make the switch, though they would be more comfortable if the switch occurred at a slower pace.

The ICM is an example of how interdisciplinary efforts can help push sustainability initiatives forward. Tony comments, “Math gives you a more precise and quantitative way to predict what will happen in the future, and it is reliable, scientific and easy to communicate. It is a tool in all aspects of initiating, planning and carrying out initiatives – it’s actually more useful than people think.”


The Green Summit and Oak Awards

By Sustainability Office on April 11, 2018

–Dana Monz ’18

Each year, the Office of Sustainability hosts the 13 Days of Green. This Colgate tradition marks the thirteen days leading up to Earth Day, highlighting local and global sustainability challenges and initiatives, while demonstrating ways in which individuals can create change. Notably, two events that feature students, faculty, and staff who have played a substantial role in sustainability and addressing global climate change on campus are coming up this week on Thursday, April 12th in Golden Auditorium.

For this year’s Green Summit, we are inviting the Colgate community from a variety of disciplines to sit on a student-organized panel and share their perspectives on the current and future implications of climate change. The panel will be moderated by Professor Catherine Cardelús, an associate professor of biology and environmental studies. The mission for the Green Summit is as follows:

The Green Summit aims to highlight the relationship between climate change and a diverse group of disciplines across campus, beyond the traditional environmental science perspective, to equip the Colgate Community to address the multifaceted implications of climate change. In doing so we will:

      Highlight the importance of Colgate’s carbon neutrality commitment

      Mobilize multiple stakeholders within the Colgate community

      Demonstrate how everyone fits into the fight against climate change

This year’s Green Summit aims to help people understand that regardless of who they are or where they are on campus, we are all connected to the impacts of climate change. The panel will consist of two students and two faculty members. The first panel member is Kimberly Duncan, a senior Environmental Studies and Studio Art double major.  She has increasingly incorporated environmental activist themes in her artwork while at Colgate and has been an Intern for the Office of Sustainability since the summer of 2015. The second panelist is Christopher Mather, a Peace and Conflict Studies major and a Political Science minor. Chris is also the former president of the Students for Environmental Action club here on campus. The third panelist is Professor Chandra Russo, an assistant professor of Sociology, who focuses on social movements and environmental justice in relation to the issue of climate change. Lastly, Professor Richard Klotz, an assistant professor of Economics, whose work focuses on greenhouse gas emissions and climate policy.  Our goal in selecting these panelists is that they will be able to help you all, the Colgate Community, address the multifaceted nature of climate change and recognize how it will impact people from all disciplines and walks of life.

To wrap up the Green Summit, the Office of Sustainability will present The Oak Awards, celebrating those who have made a significant contribution towards sustainability efforts at Colgate. The categories for the awards are: group of the year, staff member of the year, faculty member of the year, and student of the year.

The Oak Award recipients of 2017.

A complete list of all of the 13 Days of Green events can be found on the Colgate Calendar and in the Colgate Mobile App. Please make an attempt to get involved and help promote sustainability efforts around campus by developing a better understanding of how climate change will impact you.


Sustainability Interns Conduct Waste Audit

By Sustainability Office on April 10, 2018

–Miranda Gilgore ‘18

On Sunday March 25, Office of Sustainability interns conducted the 4th waste audit of the year in Colgate’s first-year and sophomore residential buildings. The purpose of the waste audits has been to determine the effectiveness of various types of recycling bins on increasing recycling and reducing contamination in the recycling stream. This work was motivated by Colgate’s low recycling rate of 15% and the fact that the amount of material that Colgate sent to the Madison County landfill was higher last year than any of the 8 preceding years.

Interns sort trash and recyclables for the waste audit.

The waste audits proved to be very successful, if a little smelly, showing that the Bryan Complex, which has Landmark-style recycling and trash bins has a much higher recycling rate than East Hall, which does not have the Landmark bins. The average recycling rate across the waste audits in the Bryan Complex was 57.78% while in East Hall the rate was only 22.21%.

Each of the four waste audits was conducted on a Sunday morning and afternoon. The dates were October 29th, December 3rd, February 25th, and March 25th. Bags of landfill waste and recycling were collected from all of the hallways and common rooms of the buildings. Each bag was labeled and weighed. Next, non-recyclable items were removed from paper and bottles & cans recycling bags. Common items included coffee and smoothie cups, straws, chip bags, and liquids. The presence of these items in the recycling stream can cause the entire bag of recyclables to be thrown into the landfill, so addressing contamination is an educational and structural priority. 

We also noted and recorded recyclables that were found in the landfill waste bags. Common recyclables in these bags included coffee sleeves, cardboard boxes, aluminum cans and plastic bottles, and paper. Although in general it is better to throw something out if you are unsure if it is recyclable, we believe that education and structural changes regarding recycling on campus can reduce the presence of recyclables sent to the landfill and increase the recycling rate.

The March 25th waste audit marked the last one of this academic year but the waste and recycling team of interns is working hard to compile a full report of the audits and recommend next steps for the university. Based on the initial results, it seems as though the Landmark bins are making a significant difference on the recycling rate and that additional Landmark bins, or similar bins, should be purchased and distributed across campus.

The waste audits helped us to understand some of the sticking points and challenges of recycling on campus, while also providing  an opportunity to examine how to improve the recycling rate. If you would like to become an ‘expert Colgate recycler’ you can check out the guide below or talk to anyone in the Office of Sustainability!


Earth Day on the Horizon: 13 Days of Green

By Sustainability Office on March 29, 2018

–Chloe Matonis ’18

In the 1900s, the world witnessed the rise of unknown diseases due to pesticides and other harmful pollutants. Fed up with corporations and the government’s apathy towards the growing environmental degradation, millions of people took to the streets in 1970 to protest the negative impacts of 150 years of industrial development (earthday.org). In response to the growing global ecological awareness, the U.S. Congress and President Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency and robust environmental laws, such as the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act. April 22nd, 1970, also marked the first official Earth Day.

Earth Day is now a global event each year, with more than 1 billion people in 192 countries celebrating worldwide (earthday.org). It is a day of political action and civic participation. People march, sign petitions, meet with their elected officials, plant trees, clean up their towns and roads. Corporations and governments use it to make pledges and announce sustainability measures. Colgate University recognizes Earth Day in its own, unique way with the 13 Days of Green.

Every year, the Office of Sustainability hosts the 13 Days of Green. It is 13 days dedicated to the celebration, education, and outreach of sustainability, all leading up to Earth Day. The 13 Days of Green include a wide range of events open to all students, faculty, and members of the local Hamilton community. Some 13 Days of Green events to mark on your calendars include:

  • The 13 Days of Green will begin with the Kickoff Festival, taking place on the academic quad on Tuesday April 10th. There will be food, live music, games, and earthy activities co-sponsored by Sidekicks.

 

  • Thursday April 12th in Golden Auditorium is the GreenSummit. The Green Summit aims to highlight the relationship between climate change and a diverse group of disciplines across campus, beyond the traditional environmental science perspective, to equip the Colgate Community to address the multifaceted implications of climate change. The summit will: highlight the importance of Colgate’s carbon neutrality commitment, mobilize multiple stakeholders, and explain how you fit into the fight against climate change.

 

  • An ENST Brown Bag on Friday April 13th. Speaker Isla Globus-Harris will give a lecture on “Free-riding in Energy Efficiency Subsidy Programs.”

 

  • April 15th is the Sustainable Study Break in the Batza room in Case. This event is hosted by the first-year sustainability representatives. Participants will be encouraged to make their own chipwiches, calculate their carbon footprints, and contribute to the climate ribbon project.

 

  • The “Pop-up Thrift Shop” is an event where you can donate your old clothes and come find new treasures. Items available will include jewelry, shoes, professional clothes, costumes, and more! Drop off your old clothes in the ENST Resource Room or in the marked bins in your residence hall between April 4 -18, then stop by the HOP between 12 and 4 pm on April 20th to get new clothes! All remaining items will be donated to the LGBT Initiatives Closet or local charities.

 

  • The Locavore Dinner will take place on Saturday, April 21st. Co-sponsored by Green Thumbs, we are hosting a locavore dinner where we buy local food from the farmer’s market and other farm stands, cook various recipes together, and then enjoy the feast.

 

The last day of 13 Days of Green is the Earth Day Afternoon of Service. On Sunday April 22. The Office of Sustainability will host an afternoon of service in celebration of Earth Day by organizing several exciting volunteer projects oriented around sustainability and ecological awareness. Students will get to know the greater Hamilton area through hands-on engagement with the community.  A snack and transportation will be provided.

A complete list of 13 Days of Green events can be found on the Colgate Calendar and in the Colgate Mobile App. Keep your eyes open for a variety of fun and interesting ways to make a positive impact!

Special thanks to 13 Days of Green Co-sponsors, including the Sustainability Council (through the Sustainability Fund), Sidekicks, Students for Environmental Action, Green Thumbs, Beekeeping Club and the Environmental Studies Program.


The United Kingdom: Is Sust a Must or a Bust? Part 2

By Sustainability Office on March 7, 2018

– Madison Smith ’19

In the fall, I wrote a short blog post about my initial reactions to sustainability in Manchester, England during my semester abroad. My observations included accessible recycling, vast bike paths, and a variety of vegan and vegetarian food options. In general, it seemed like the U.K. had sustainability at the forefront of their decision-making. I even went so far as to say that the United States should use the U.K. as a model for basic sustainable practices. After researching beyond just surface-level environmentalism, however, I no longer fully believe that statement holds true.

Air pollution is the biggest environmental hazard in the United Kingdom. Despite easier access to bike lanes and public transportation than we have in the U.S., air pollution levels have risen dramatically in the past few decades as the demand for personal motor vehicles has increased. According to the European Union’s record of air quality standards, the U.K. regularly exceeds the legal limits of both nitrous oxides and small particulate matter. The World Health Organization highlights how these substances are harmful to not only the environment, but also human health, and can lead to different cancers, respiratory diseases, and premature deaths. These adverse health impacts do not impact U.K. residents equally, indicating a strong case of environmental injustice.

Sources of air pollution, such as major roadways and factories, are often placed in areas with low-income families and people of color. A study done by Craig et al. in 2008 found that over half of all carcinogenic emissions exist in the neighborhoods where people with the bottom 10% income levels reside. Additionally, people of color are four times more likely to be considered “low-income” than white people in the U.K. (Craig et al., 2008). This exhibits how wealthier people have more political clout and face less discrimination when governments are planning where to locate environmental hazards. Additionally, it demonstrates how institutions have kept many non-white families in low-income positions, thus quieting their voices and decision-making power when it comes to adverse  problems like air pollution. Environmental injustice is already widely prevalent in the United States, therefore the U.S. should not attempt to emulate the U.K. when it comes to combating environmental issues, but rather a country that prioritizes the wellbeing of all people.

While recycling, energy efficient light bulbs, and well labeled menus are important in the fight for a more sustainable world, their absence does not necessarily negatively impact the quality of life of marginalized communities. What I have realized in my semester abroad is that a country can do a lot to make themselves appear “green”. What matters more, though, are the underlying, significant externalities that are not advertised. It is a sad reality that issues impacting  minorities and low-income earners are often the ones that are ignored. The first step in fixing these issues, however, is learning about them and bringing them to the forefront of policy-making and the environmental justice movement.

References

Craig, G., Burchardt, T., & Gordon, D. (Eds.). (2008). Social justice and public policy: Seeking fairness in diverse societies. Bristol: Policy Press.

UK air pollution: How bad is it? (2014, April 02). Retrieved November 7, 2017, from http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-26851399

Air Quality Standards. (2008). Retrieved November 14, 2017, from http://ec.europa.eu/environment/air/quality/standards.htm


New Extended Study to Patagonia, Chile Visits Colgate Forest

By Sustainability Office on February 26, 2018

-Revée Needham ‘18

In 2016,  Colgate’s Office for Off-Campus Study, Office of Sustainability, and Patagonia Sur came together to develop a new extended study in Patagonia. Among a large applicant pool excited to participate in this first-time extended study, I was chosen as one of the twelve students to join Biology Associate Professor Eddie Watkins and the Director of Sustainability, John Pumilio, on the trip.

In preparation for the extended study, we took the biology course Field Ecology during the fall semester. In class, we learned about the geography, climate, biology, history and more of South America, Argentina, and Chile, with a focus on the Patagonian region. The class was structured as a “jigsaw,” where we learned from each other and were all given the opportunity to facilitate class discussion, in addition to a variety of class speakers that were brought in. After we finished our coursework we packed up all of our biology field equipment and departed for Buenos Aires, Argentina in late December.

There, we spent four days acquainting ourselves with the southern hemisphere and Argentina’s culture and history. Instead of biking around the vast city, we took motorized bikes to explore the city and examine the urban ecology of the Plaza de las Naciones Unidas. Our hotel, conveniently located across from the local market stalls, overlooked the Recoleta Cemetery. Recoleta Cemetery houses a beautiful collection of Argentinian families’ mausoleums with some still in use today. After trying the delicious Argentine delicacy, empanada, we traveled to our final destination: the Patagonia Sur Valle California property outside of the town of Palena, Chile.

The group after our final hike, overlooking the Valle California properties (Photo courtesy of Austin Sun)

 

Two visitors, Professor Álvaro Promis and Forestry Manager Matias Rio, joined us in Valle California. Professor Promis studies forest ecosystem succession and Mr. Rio was one of the original people to plant the saplings back in 2011. These two were able to teach us about the native plants and reforestation process, respectively. While reforestation may sound simple on paper on paper, the planting of the trees is quite the arduous process. Due to the remote location, transporting the trees to the plots requires numerous trips by horseback. We got a small taste of the endurance required when we planted 160 trees, nowhere near the 40,000+ saplings in the Colgate Forest. Additionally, we learned a subset of the birds and understory plants and even took quizzes to identify them! While I’m not a self-described “plant nerd,” I did find it exhilarating to be able to look at a plant along the path and correctly say “that’s blechnum.”

The research component of the trip involved assessing the health of the forest plots and then comparing them to native forests. We set up 5 transects, or plots, to measure ranging from an old-growth Nothofagus pumilio forest to the young reforested Nothofagus antarctica saplings.

We measured light transmission, tree height and width, soil nutrients, understory plant identification, and classified insects and birds. To determine which birds were visiting the forests, we conducted the Breeding Bird survey, and stopped for 3 minutes every 100 meters in an area to listen with our ears and look with our eyes to then classify the bird species with our books and the help of John Pumilio.

Students enjoyed researching in Patagonia. (Photo courtesy of Austin Sun)

Classifying the understory plants, by walking along the plot and identifying all the species that we could see, helped us to study for our plants quiz! For the focus of our study, the tree saplings, we measured the basal circumference, the tree height, and the season’s growth. We did this for every single sapling in our plot- quite the tedious process. It was tricky at first to distinguish the reforested saplings from the understory plants, but after a while, I could see Nothofagus antarctica in my sleep. Because of the remote location, our limited equipment, and the young age of the trees, we were unable to conclude much, other than that the forest should continue to be monitored in the future to ensure its continued success. The trees have had to be replanted a few times due to disturbances by local hares and wild pigs.

In addition to the biology research, we made the most of the beautiful facilities by hiking, swimming, fly fishing, rafting, camping, and more. I rode a horse for the first time in my life to trek to the Colgate Forest plots thanks to the help of our gauchos (cowboys). Thankfully, I didn’t fall off! After a day of whitewater rafting, we camped in tents alongside a gorgeous river, where the sunset was a picturesque scene for us to enjoy. The next morning, we witnessed what it took to lasso a sheep and sheer its wool by hand. There, we visited a local woman who spun wool from her sheep into yarn that she uses to knit, crochet, weave products that she then sells at a local market. She also continued the tradition of weaving by teaching and empowering local girls with her knowledge of the trade.

Finally, we attended a fundraiser bingo night in Palena to support the nearby landslide-devastated Chilean town, Santa Lucia with the financial assistance of the COVE. Before the trip departed, we had planned on visiting Santa Lucia, but due to the landslide that became impossible. So, we felt a connection to this town that was recovering from a tragedy and we were grateful to be able to give back. At bingo, the gymnasium was packed with the entire town’s population, and us too, an eclectic group of outsiders excited for the game. The entirety of the bingo prizes were donated by the locals, and ranged from sheep to traditional maté tea and everything in between. That night was a highlight for the entire group, where we came together with the town of Palena for a bigger cause. On our final day in Patagonia, we celebrated our time with a traditional lamb feast. We concluded with a reflection of our favorite memories of the trip, and the people who made it so special, with many us tipping our hats to the chef, Alejandro.

Susanna explaining how she weaves using her loom (Photo courtesy of Austin Sun)

At the conclusion of our visit, we gave a final presentation to some of the Valle California staff and wrote a final report detailing our research and recommendations. Our project was geared towards the biology and ecology of the forest, yet many of us were interested in the economic and social factors too. Thus, future extended studies and trips should broaden their focus to include this equally as important factors. We were grateful to use the luxurious amenities at Patagonia Sur, however, these were largely inaccessible to the local people. The gate to the Patagonia Sur properties was locked and locals were only able to visit the beautiful site if they rented out the dining area for a hefty price. From informal discussions with the staff members, they wished there was a greater involvement of the property with the Chileans. While Patagonia Sur started with great intentions to conserve the land and restore the ecosystem, it would better serve the community as an open and accessible site with sustainable use. In addition, while our Colgate group came to conduct research, the type of work we did could be continued by other scholars from the area. With numerous schools and universities in Chile, it would be prudent to continue the forest research with a local team who are equally as capable. We also proposed that Patagonia Sur combine ecotourism with the research opportunities to develop an environmental education and outreach program. While Colgate University is not responsible for the business model and practices of Patagonia Sur, the class participants hope to encourage the board of Patagonia Sur to consider developing a more participatory business venture that benefits the local community.

On behalf of the entire class, I extend our sincerest gratitude to all those who assisted in the preparation for the trip and the fabulous experience we had at Patagonia Sur. I wish the best of luck to the next extended study group of students.

 

FAQ:

How did this project come to fruition?

The extended study trip that culminated in January 2018 has its origins in the creation of the Colgate Forest in 2011. After Colgate’s President signed a commitment in 2009 to our carbon neutrality in 2019, the Sustainability Council and the Office of Sustainability were looking for opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with campus operations and through carbon offsets. Then, the pathway was paved for the creation of the Colgate Forest, as one of the carbon offset options.  

Why does Colgate University invest in carbon offsets?

Carbon offsets are projects that sequester carbon and reduce greenhouse gases in an offsite location. Given the size of Colgate-owned properties, the existing infrastructure, and dependence on air travel for faculty research, it would be impossible to achieve carbon neutrality in 2019 without some form of offset. A variety of improvements on campus have been made, totalling a reduction in gross greenhouse gas emissions of 21% since our baseline emissions in 2009. Furthermore, as climate change is a global issue, doing our part to remove carbon from the atmosphere earlier rather than later will benefit everyone. Partnering with Patagonia Sur was attractive due to its innovative approach, opportunities for travel and research (as evidenced by the extended study), and the benefits it provides to the local ecosystem. Creating the Colgate Forest as an offset project involved the planting of native trees in an area that has been devastated by slash and burn agriculture practices and deforestation. Overall, Colgate signed a 15-year agreement with Patagonia Sur in order to sequester 5,000 tons of carbon each year, which reduces our gross emissions by approximately one-third.

The Extended Study participants at one plot of The Colgate Forest (Picture courtesy of Austin Sun)

How is this project verified?

Patagonia Sur, with the assistance of Colgate’s Office of Sustainability, pursued the rigorous certification for the reforestation project. Verified Carbon Standard is an internationally-recognized standard that ensures various programs meet a set of criteria. They look for a variety of attributes including co-benefits (including biodiversity and ecosystem restoration), third party verification, measurement (on an annual basis), additionality (that the trees would not have grown back naturally), leakage (multiple plots of trees to reduce risk of damage), and permeance (whereby the trees are placed under an easement and are not to be cut down).

What else is Colgate University doing to become more sustainable?

After the University committed to carbon neutrality, the Sustainability Council drafted our Climate Action Plan to detail a pathway to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on campus. Building upon this plan, the Bicentennial Plan aims to integrate sustainability into the campus life and operations. Every year, the Office of Sustainability tracks and publishes an annual report, detailing where our emissions are from on and off campus. A variety of organizations, including Second Nature, the Sierra Club, Princeton Review, and more have recognized Colgate’s efforts. To learn more about Colgate’s initiatives, visit our website.


Water Quality Research in Florence, Italy with Professor Tseng

By Sustainability Office on February 21, 2018

-Noah Campbell ‘18

Over winter break, I spent eight days in Italy with Professor Linda Tseng, collecting water samples from historic fountains in Florence, Siena and Assisi, and visiting with water researchers in the area.

Since the summer of 2017, I have been working with Dr. Tseng to analyze the water and sediment quality in Payne Brook and the Hamilton municipal wastewater treatment plant to better understand the relationship between the wastewater plant and the brook. So when she asked me if I would be interested in accompanying her t o Florence, Italy to take samples of the water there for analysis, I enthusiastically agreed to join her.

On January 3rd, I flew to Florence, traveling through Lisbon and Rome. Upon my arrival, I met up with Dr. Tseng and we began to collect samples, first together, then by myself once I had a good grasp of the city’s geography. The main purpose of the trip was to analyze the quality of the drinkable water connected to many famous fountains across the city. Tourists will often fill their water bottles at these spigots, so we hope to determine if the water quality is acceptable or could use improvement. Over the course of the week I essentially walked the entire length of the city to collect samples, traveling through the traditional historic sites as well as some areas which most tourists would not see.

While in Italy, Dr. Tseng and I both traveled to Siena for a day. We took water samples from the Fonte Gaia, the fountain found in the famous main square of the city, the Piazza del Campo. I also traveled by train to Assisi, birthplace of the Franciscan religious movement, to visit a family friend. In doing so, I was able to take water samples from public fountains in the city, which are frequented by religious pilgrims.

Dr. Tseng and I were also able to meet with her colleagues from the University of Florence. These professors conduct similar research to that which I help with on campus, but there are also unexpected differences between American and European research. For instance, there are contaminants we worry about in the United States which are complete non-issues in Europe, as they are banned by the EU, and vice versa. Meeting with these environmental engineers in Italy was a great learning and networking opportunity for me.

I feel exceptionally lucky to have been able to assist with research in Florence and other cities in Italy. I was able to experience one of the most culturally prominent cities in the world, and learned a great deal about international research. I was also able to conduct many aspects of the research on my own, which gave me insight on how to accomplish work independently, particularly in an unfamiliar country. I hope to eventually become an environmental engineer, and working with Dr. Tseng to analyze fresh water has helped me learn more about the profession. I am grateful to Dr. Tseng, the ENST Department, and Colgate University for this incredible opportunity.


Recyclemania Begins Today!

By Sustainability Office on February 5, 2018

-Revee Needham ‘18

          Once again Colgate University is participating in a competition with other colleges and universities to decrease landfill waste and increase recycling rates. We are competing against Hamilton College in Clinton to see who can improve the most from February 5th to March 9th.  Recycling rates are calculated by dividing the recycled weight by total weight of recycled plus landfill waste. For the past two weeks, the staff at Colgate were measuring the amount of recycling and landfill waste we generated in order to have a baseline to compare to.

          Why is this competition and recycling so important? Landfills across the country release 143 million tons of greenhouse gases (Source). Those greenhouse gases contribute to the many effects of climate change. With the staggering amount of trash we are producing, we are running out of land and sending our garbage overseas, with some of it ending up in the ocean (Source). Furthermore, landfills often pose a health risk to workers and the surrounding community, which historically has been poorer people of color who have less political capital to fight the siting (Source).

          While recycling may seem simple and easy to grasp, the recycling infrastructure varies greatly county-to-county and state-to-state. With Colgate drawing in students from 45+ states and over 100 countries, many students arrive with vastly different experiences and knowledge. Thus, it’s incredibly important to learn about what we have here at Colgate upon arrival.

          Check out this guide for the recycling system in Madison County, NY. The main thing to remember is that we have two-stream recycling: one bin for paper and one bin for plastics/glass/cans. Remember to rinse your recyclable bottles or cans of any food residue first, for health and safety reasons for the workers who sort the recycling. To reduce your own waste, you may first want to look at what’s on your plate. Americans throw away 30% of all food and 50% of all produce (Source). Sorting through or even simply keeping a tally of what you throw away can help you to understand what sorts of waste you are producing, and can then reduce.

          You can help make Recyclemania the best one yet! The Sustainability Office is hosting workshops about recycling for interested students, faculty, or staff and their respective organization, office, or club. Fill out this form to get started.


Don’t Feed the (Land)Fill: A Sustainability Office Intern’s Experience at a Zero-Waste Conference

By Sustainability Office on December 6, 2017
-Miranda Gilgore ’18

In early November, the Post Landfill Action Network (PLAN) hosted their 4th annual Students for Zero-Waste Conference in Philadelphia. The conference brought together about 500 students and faculty as well as companies committed to challenging thoughtless, wasteful consumerism.

Sites from the Toxics Tour of Chester, PA.

The conference began on Friday with a discussion of Environmental Justice and a “Toxics Tour” of the astounding number of polluting factories, incinerator, and industrial facilities located in nearby Chester, PA. Chester is in many ways the embodiment of environmental injustice and was therefore a good location for the tour. Among the Chester Water Authority, industrial center, paper mill and paper manufacturer, two chemical plants, empty plots that were formerly home to polluting factories or waste sites, trash substation, power plants (one current, one now turned into office space), and sewer overflow, Chester is perhaps most famously home of the nation’s largest trash incinerator. Despite being the country’s largest trash incinerator, importing trash from the surrounding county, nearby Philadelphia, NY, and NJ, the Covanta trash incinerator lacks many of the pollution controls that other incinerators have. The discussion of environmental justice and the tour were a striking way to start the weekend’s discussion on waste and the hopes of creating a zero-waste future because it showed the consequences of inaction and business as usual: polluted rivers, smelly air, and injustice. On Friday evening, the keynote speaker, Kate Bailey from Eco-Cycle, reminded us to think of zero-waste among other large scale energy saving initiatives.  

 

Well rested and excited for what the day would bring, I started Saturday off by enjoying a zero-waste breakfast (bulk items with no packaging, real silverware, and compostable bowls for attendees who hadn’t brought their own) and meeting new friends. I attended workshops on reducing on-campus disposable coffee cup usage, conducting a waste audit, and discussing zero-waste across different perspectives. I ate a zero-waste lunch. And I was inspired and encouraged.

Having wanted to go to this conference for the past 3 years because of my interest in zero waste initiatives, finally attending the conference was really a dream come true for me. The conference also fits into the larger picture of my work as an intern for the Office of Sustainability here at Colgate. Given Colgate’s waste problem (more than 850 tons of waste produced so far in 2017 and only a 12% recycling rate), I was eager to see what solutions students at other schools have found to reduce waste. One of the biggest takeaways from the conference is how far a little thoughtfulness can go. Bringing something to the correct recycling bin, packing something in a reusable container instead of a ziplock, not taking a straw to go with your disposable cup isn’t hard, it just takes a little extra thought. Colgate has a long way to go before it hits its 2025 goal of a zero waste campus, but with a little intentionality on all of our parts and a commitment to a just future, I think we can make huge strides.

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