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Colgate University Receives STARS Silver Rating for Sustainability Achievements

By Sustainability Office on July 24, 2013

STARS Silver SealColgate University has received a STARS Silver Rating in recognition of our sustainability achievements from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). STARS, the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System, is a new program that measures and encourages sustainability in all aspects of higher education.

Completing the STARS assessment is another important milestone that further indicates Colgate’s strong commitment to campus sustainability. As we strive to achieve profound sustainability goals highlighted in our 2013 Strategic and Campus Master Plan updates as well as our institutional goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2019, the STARS framework provides a solid baseline for us to monitor our progress over time.

According to President Herbst, “Colgate strives to make sustainability integral to all our campus activities and decision making by creating sustainability awareness among all our faculty, staff and students. As we continue to make great strides with this work, completing STARS has provided us with confidence that we are on a good path towards sustainability for the long-term and will guide us in our next steps.”

AASHE’s STARS program is the only one of its kind that involves publicly reporting comprehensive information related to a college or university’s sustainability performance. Participants report achievements in three overall areas: 1) education & research, 2) operations, and 3) planning, administration & engagement.

STARS was developed by the campus sustainability community to provide high standards for recognizing campus sustainability efforts,” said AASHE Executive Director Wendy Scott. “Colgate University has demonstrated a substantial commitment to sustainability by achieving a STARS Silver Rating and is to be congratulated for their efforts.”

Unlike other rating or ranking systems, this program is open to all institutions of higher education in the U.S. and Canada, and the criteria that determine a STARS Rating are transparent and accessible to anyone. Because STARS is a program based on credits earned, it allows for both internal comparisons as well as comparisons with similar institutions.

We are very proud to have achieved a STARS Silver Rating for our sustainability accomplishments. We look forward to watching our sustainability efforts grow and improve through the STARS program,” said Jessica Graybill, Associate Professor of Geography and Chair of the Sustainability Council.

Click here to access Colgate’s full report.

About AASHE:
AASHE is an association of colleges and universities that are working to create a sustainable future. AASHE’s mission is to empower higher education to lead the sustainability transformation. It provides resources, professional development and a network of support to enable institutions of higher education to model and advance sustainability in everything they do, from governance and operations to education and research. For more information about AASHE, visit www.aashe.org.

For more information about the STARS program, visit stars.aashe.org.

Making the Colgate Community Garden Accessible

By Sustainability Office on July 24, 2013

Professor Aisha Musa working in the Colgate Community Garden

As a part of the Community Garden’s pilot Community Plots program, a raised garden bed was designed specifically for Colgate Professor Aisha Musa. The process was unique, as Prof. Musa gardens from her wheelchair. Community Garden Consultant Beth Roy has a background in Horticultural Therapy, and has designed wheelchair accessible garden beds in the past. While typical raised garden beds are around 12-16” high, Prof. Musa’s bed is 24” high so that she can easily access her garden while in a seated position. And thanks to a new crushed stone pathway put in by Phil Roe from Hamilton Lawn and Garden and funded by the Colgate Accessibility Office, Prof. Musa now has complete access to her bed in the Community Garden.


Prof. Musa says of her bed, “What I have liked most so far is the opportunity to grow organic vegetables. I am really concerned about herbicides, pesticides, and GMOs in our food supply. Growing vegetables gives me more control over what I eat.” Musa’s raised bed is constructed out of larch milled at the local Amish saw mill, Troyer Farms, rather than pressure treated wood which will often leach arsenic and other heavy metals into the soil.

Prof. Musa began work in her plot the week of June 27th, working with Gabe Block ‘15 and Beth to plant several seeds and some small seedlings she had grown at home. “Right now, I am growing beets, broccoli, bush beans, cabbage (red), dragon tongue beans, kale, lettuce, peas, peppermint, salsa peppers, spinach, summer squash, thyme, tomatoes, and zucchini,” says Musa, “My plan was based mostly on what I like to eat.”

She doesn’t see her organic gardening career ending anytime soon either. “For this season, I will be thrilled with whatever I successfully harvest,” Musa says. “In the future, I want to do more careful planning of just what I plant and when.” Thankfully, her raised bed is tall enough not to have sustained any damage from the recent flooding, and her plants are growing beautifully!

For more information on the Colgate Community Garden Plots, contact the garden team at communitygarden@colgate.edu. If we have a successful year, we hope to offer even more plots to community members in the future!

Students building an accessible raised bed at the Colgate Community Garden


Ban the Bottle

By Sustainability Office on July 19, 2013


Article submitted by Allison Shafritz ’15

Bottled water is a tremendous waste of both plastic and water. According to an organization called Ban the Bottle, in 2012 alone, Americans used 50 billion plastic disposable water bottles and only recycled about 20% of them. Mother Nature Network reported that the bottled water industry uses 47 million gallons of oil and produces 1.5 million tons of plastic waste each year. It also takes three liters of water to produce one liter of bottled water. The amount of oil and energy that goes into the production of bottled water is enough to fuel one million cars. Ban the Bottle is jump-starting the campaign to stop the sale and use of plastic water bottles around the country. Its reasoning is simple- bottled water is bad for the environment, your wallet, and your health.

Chris Jordan Photography - Plastic Bottles

Photo by Chris Jordan

Simply put, bottled water is not a good value; it can cost up to ten thousand times more than tap water. As consumers, we need to be conscious of our purchases. When did water become a commodity, and why are we paying for something that we can get for free from the sink? The bottled water industry has completely manufactured the demand for plastic water bottles. Corporations have used advertising to make the public want to buy their “pure water” with its “perfect taste.” Truth is, almost 30% of bottled water IS tap water and the water that actually does come from a private source is tested less frequently and held to a lower standard. Even the plastic bottles themselves can be harmful- they contain PET and BPA, which are toxic substances that can leech into and contaminate the water. And most people buy bottled water because they are sold on the idea that it is the safe and superior choice!

On the other side of the argument are the bottled water enthusiasts, who claim that banning the bottle will reduce the healthy consumption of water by encouraging consumers to drink sweetened beverages like soda and juice. They argue that if water bottles are not readily available, people will turn to the next item on the shelf. But what they have failed to consider is that water is America’s favorite beverage. Bottled water sales have skyrocketed over the past few years solely because people realized that water is the healthiest option. So it is not a question of bottled water versus soda; it is a question of bottled water versus tap water.

Universities across the country have started to “Ban the Bottle.” They provide free reusable water bottles to incoming students, sell reusable bottles to the rest of the student body, and have hydration stations around campus for easy and accessible bottle refill. If our peer institutions can do it, so can we. Banning the bottle at Colgate would reduce campus beverage costs and reduce our carbon footprint, bringing us one step closer to our goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2019.

If the bottled water industry concerns you like it concerns me, there is one easy thing you can do- buy a reusable water bottle. Fill it up with tap water that is safe and clean, never pay for a plastic bottle again, and save the environment from thousands of tons of wasted resources and energy. Banning the bottle is a win-win-win scenario.

To see what Colgate students have to say about banning the bottle, check out this video.

Community Garden is Looking to Hire Fall Intern

By Sustainability Office on July 17, 2013

The Community Vegetable Garden is looking to hire an intern for fall semester

Department: Sustainability Office
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 2013 until November 2013 (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.

To apply, send a resume and one page cover letter to the Director of Sustainability, John Pumilio (jpumilio@colgate.edu). The application deadline is August 15. Employment will begin on or around August 26.

Student Interns Working in the Greenhouse

Student Interns Working in the Greenhouse


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 (usually for harvest, the day before pick-up), and be at the garden during those scheduled times to supervise those work parties.
  • Provide continuity for work on the garden throughout the 2013 growing season.

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.

To apply, send resume and one page cover letter to Director of Sustainability, John Pumilio (jpumilio@colgate.edu). The application deadline is August 15. Employment will begin on or around August 26.

Starting Hourly Rate: $8.10
Supervisor: Garden Manager (Beth Roy)
Key Contacts: John Pumilio, Director of Sustainability and Christopher Henke, Associate Professor and faculty adviser to the garden

Community Garden Greenhouse Takes Off, Raised Beds and All

By Sustainability Office on July 15, 2013

As a result of all the flooding, the garden team has decided to focus most of our effort on the Community Garden Greenhouse. What began as an accessory location to simply hold about 50 extra tomato plants, has now become a refuge for transplanting crops that survived the flooding, and a way to reinvigorate our potential harvest. The greenhouse was originally purchased by Colgate, along with the land that it sits on, from a nursery and garden business that went out-of-business.
Pepper plants went wild, as seedlings and spirits shot up. Up until today, all plants were held in the largest pots we could get our hands on, thanks to a generous donation from Alcott’s Garden Center!  It quickly became clear, however, that we’d need more space and soil depth to really take advantage of the space.

Our root vegetable aspirations, only temporarily stunted by the floods, couldn’t be held in pots. We drew up plans for both a twenty foot and a forty foot long raised bed. With much appreciated emergency funding from Dean Hicks, we were able to finish construction today. Sustainability Office interns (Everett Spencer ’15, Jack Eiel ’15, Jenna Glat ’14, Kathryn Bacher ’14, and Allison Shafritz ’15) helped us for the day and we had a regular ole work party in the rain. If anyone’s curious how much labor it takes to build and fill sixty feet worth of deep raised beds – or how dirty you get in the process – get in touch with any of them.
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Built out of larch from Preston Kelley’s lumber yard in Hubbardsville, the new greenhouse raised beds will hold carrots, turnips, chard, rutabagas, beans, radishes, lettuce and anything else we lost to the flooding that isn’t as viable or efficiently grown in pots. The sustainability interns even pushed through to finish most of the seeding today, so hopefully we’ll see some starts by the end of the weekend. This is the first season the Community Garden has made use of greenhouse space, and we hope to use it for everything from an extended growing season, to cultivating starts for the 2014 season before the last snows.

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Flooding Continues; The Garden Team Presses On

By Sustainability Office on July 10, 2013

As weather stations, radios and our cell phones are all abuzz with the latest flash flood warnings, the agenda of the Colgate Community Garden team turns to evasive action. If you’re wondering why there hasn’t been a follow-up to our last Community Garden work party and dinner, or why there’s been a decrease in our Instagram activity, we apologize. Though we count ourselves lucky to be safe and dry at home, standing water has covered the beds and paths three times since the night of June 24th.

On the morning of the 25th, the garden woke up to around two feet of water and a strong current flowing through the pepper, squash and tomato beds. The neighboring creek had surged over its banks and, covering the parking lots of the Newell and Parker apartment complexes, carried recycling bins down into the garden. In spite of the perilous conditions, the intrepid Community Garden interns ventured out in a canoe to inspect the situation. Nothing was to be done at that point unfortunately, but once the majority of the standing water was gone, we transplanted many peppers, tomatoes and squash that had survived but would struggle if they remained where they were.

Expecting the worst, we were surprised by how many crops made it through the first flood. Cucumbers (fact of the week: these belong to a family of vegetables known as “cucurbits”), cabbage, beans, kale, chard, melons, squash and the pumpkin patch were all still viable. Thankfully, these crops include our famed “spiral bed”, visible from space! Everything is currently underwater once again, but any remaining crops will be the focus of the garden team’s efforts for the rest of the season. The garden has a healthy dose of wood chips, gravel and cardboard washed over it, with most of the wood chips from our paths covering the tomato bed.

The flooding may be undeniably unfortunate, but with the hit to our potential harvests it carries a chance for learning. Cultivating the areas we’ve identified as salvageable will involve learning about organic fungicide and pesticide substitutes, and maintaining the nutrient content of soil. We’re getting things rolling in the Colgate Community Garden greenhouse, located just past the townhouses, and will update with details soon!

For now, everyone in the Sustainability Office is supportive of the salvaging we can do and we are all simply waiting for the soil to dry enough to clean up the area.  Once the standing water in the garden has receded, be looking for a CCG Clean Up Day event and come help us salvage what is left!  For more information, you can follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or contact us by email at communitygarden@colgate.edu.

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We’re Hiring for the 2013-2014 School Year!

By Sustainability Office on July 3, 2013

Interested in getting more involved with the Sustainability Office in the fall? Our office is expanding for the 2013-2014 school year–we are looking for student workers for the Green Raider and Communications Internship positions to join our team. Check out the descriptions below and submit your applications to jpumilio@colgate.edu by August 1st at 5:00 PM.

2013-14 Green Raider Intern – Description

2013-14 Communications Intern – Description