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Where does Colgate’s electronic waste go?

By Sustainability Office on November 27, 2013

During the summer of 2010, Office of Sustainability interns Meghan Kiernan ‘11 and Andrew Pettit ’11 took a road trip with Colgate’s Director of Sustainability, John Pumilio, to visit the Regional Computer Recycling & Recovery Center (RCR&R) in Rochester, NY. For the past 6 years, RCR&R has been handling Colgate’s electronic waste (eWaste) in order to guarantee the safe and appropriate disposal of these hazardous materials, including computers, monitors, circuit boards, batteries, cabling, and televisions.

RCR&R was founded in 1995 and has a mission is to provide cost effective and safe environmental solutions for the disposal of outdated or broken technology products. RCR&R focuses on three methods of disposal: Reuse, Recovery, and Recycling.

Our goal for this field trip was to acquire information for students and staff regarding where our eWaste goes and how it is handled. Read more

Colgate Students Participate in New England Campus Sustainability Forum

By Sustainability Office on November 13, 2013

Ashley James ’14, Ben Campbell ’16, and Edwin Amador ’15 Contributed

Recently, four Colgate students (Ashley James ’14, Ben Campbell ’16, Claire Lichtenstein ’16, and Edwin Amador ’15) attended the New England Campus Sustainability Forum in Boston, Massachusetts. This forum brought students and faculty from universities, colleges, and programs from multiple states in the New England and Mid-Atlantic regions to participate in panels and workshops on a series of topics involved in campus sustainability and environmental activism.

According to Ben Campbell ’16, “The most important thing I learned was that it is extremely possible to make changes at your own campus.  Initially, I thought the concept was rather daunting, but this conference helped me realize that I can actually make changes.  The conference made me feel hopeful and enthusiastic.  The speakers inspired me to feel hopeful about our future and hopeful for my involvement in this movement.

Ashley James ’14 expressed similar sentiments, “The most important thing I learned was the vast amount of resources available to anyone passionate or even just interested in advancing sustainability at any level. The conference made me feel optimistic to know the overwhelming capacity to respond to the situation at hand in order to actively create, rather than simply idealize, a truly sustainable future sooner than we think.

The forum featured many prominent figures in the environmental community including: Professor Julian Agyeman from Tufts University, Mary Powell from Green Mountain Power, and Bill McKibben co-founder of 350.org. Of those, Professor Agyeman presented an inspirational central keynote speech during lunch about the inequity associated with racial discrimination and minority communities. Professor Agyeman also discussed our roles and responsibilities, as the environmentally aware, in distributing knowledge and doing our parts in our respective communities and campuses.

After a brief breakfast and presentation by Mary Powell, the conference broke up into several groups with different themes and workshops.  One of these workshops involved Mark Orlowski (Sustainable Endowments Institute), Joshua Humphreys (Croatan Institute), and Noelle Laing (Cambridge Associates), where they discussed the concept of divestment, or disinvestment in fossil fuels, as a method of reducing campus’ carbon footprint and developing a sustainable environment, a hot topic at Colgate and many universities currently.  They stressed the need for universities, especially ones like Colgate with a goal of carbon neutrality, to use this tactic to not only reduce our carbon footprint but also increase our returns on our endowment via the methods of divestment.

Soon after lunch Professor Agyeman discussed sustainability in cities, immigrant populations, social equity and how it all ties to environmental justice. He focused on urban populations and how urban planners need to start taking into account different social class and immigrants into different urban cities, and provided numerous examples on as to how to go about doing so. He also managed to point out how social injustices can lead to environmental injustice and vice versa. He gave an example of a minority population in Massachusetts and the correlation between the rate of incidence of asthma in the neighborhoods with no clean air buses compared to neighborhoods with clean air buses. Lastly, Professor Agyeman spoke to the interest of the environmental justice movement within students, he called out for students to pick up the environmental justice movement.


Colgate Community Garden’s Fall 2013 Highlights

By Sustainability Office on November 10, 2013

Article submitted by garden interns Zoe Huston ’15 and Gabe Block ’15

After a long and wonderful season, we are wrapping things up at the Colgate Community Garden. We were able to grow vegetables right up until the end of October (thank you Hamilton, NY for providing us with those few extra weeks of sunshine) and implemented a number of new projects during the fall season. We finally had to pull the pumpkins, but we’re keeping our fingers crossed for a few remaining root vegetables.  In the meantime, here are some highlights from the fall growing season:

Community Garden Farm Stand
In an effort to bring fresh and homegrown produce to students up the hill, the garden interns set up a weekly farm stand in the O’Connor Campus Center (Coop). The interns harvested, weighed, and washed the produce on Sunday afternoons and displayed it for sale from 11:00-12:30 every Monday in the Coop. A wide variety of produce was available each week, ranging from the famously delicious cherry tomatoes to the more obscure daikon radishes. An assortment of lettuces, herbs, peppers, and cucumbers were also available for purchase. To make veggies more accessible to students, customers had the option to pay directly with their ‘Gate Card. Proceeds went to the community garden, and excess produce was donated to the Hamilton Food Cupboard. Be on the lookout for a Farm Stand again in the Spring!

Green Thumbs Work Parties
The Green Thumbs club was able to come down to the garden a few times this semester to work on larger scale projects. In October, the club helped lay down recycled cardboard to create walking paths around the herb garden and between beds. We used wood chips that had been washed up from the flooding during the summer to cover the cardboard and mark the pathways. The Thumbs were also able to help harvest produce for the Monday farm stands in the Coop.

Cold Frame Project
In order to extend the garden’s relatively short season (even shorter no thanks to the flood!), the Community Garden teamed up with Green Thumbs to build cold frames. These are structures that are built around the garden to help plants continue to grow even as it gets colder outside – almost like mini green houses. They can be made from miscellaneous materials and built right over existing crops. We built two different styles of cold frames; one with panels and a hinged lid, and one made of a frame of hay bales with two windows resting on top. Two weeks after building the cold frames and planting seeds, our first seedlings appeared!  We will be checking in on them throughout the winter and early spring to see how they fare in the cold weather.

Message from a Bottle

By Sustainability Office on November 7, 2013

By Breanna Giovanniello ’16

We were raised on bottled water. Plastic bottles came with us to little league games and packed in our elementary school lunch boxes. Nowadays they’re waiting for us in meetings or lectures and can be found in everyone’s cup holder at the gym. Disposable plastic water bottles are a phenomenon of our generation. We have grown accustomed to the convenience and choose to ignore the costs, while becoming skeptical of our faucets and water fountains for no reason. We have bought into the manufactured idea of bottled water that it is pure and healthy. This, unfortunately, is all wrong. We must reconsider these preconceptions of water that we’ve grown up with. In order to do so, we must understand where the water comes from, how it got here, and what happens to the bottle after consumption. After learning a bit about the plastic water bottle industry, you may choose to take carelessness out of the equation and then find it hard to purchase that next water bottle at the vending machine.

Read more

Want More, Waste More

By Sustainability Office on November 5, 2013

By Sale Rhodes ’16

Conversations about global climate change are becoming ubiquitous. And as the topic works its way into every subject taught here at Colgate, the daunting, scary, and undeniable problem seems so much bigger than any of us. Fortunately, sustainable initiatives are cropping up everywhere. But while some seem embraceable, it often feels as though our individual actions won’t make much of an impact in the big picture. However, the moment when we can accomplish societal behavior change and all work together seems far off and hard to grasp.

Thus the quest for alternative energy resources has commenced. There are many initiatives trying to steer us away from our reliance on non-renewable resources and fossil fuels. Some are even headed in a very unorthodox direction – toward generating energy from waste! Human waste, trash, and food waste dirty our sidewalks, crowd our landfills, and fill up our sewer systems. Showing no signs of decreasing any time soon, these waste products also share a potential upside as sources of energy. To capitalize on this potential solution, we must encourage a global sustainable mindset that allows people to get past the negative connotations associated with waste.

I spent this past summer in Kenya working with a social enterprise called Sanergy (saner.gy) that provides sanitation facilities in a slum and collects human waste from them daily. Sanergy then uses the human waste (‘humanure’) to create fertilizer through aerobic decomposition (composting), and biogas through anaerobic digestion (where biodigesters trap waste and collects methane generated as microbes in the organic material break down). Yes, I am talking about turning human feces into energy. I know – it sounds gross. You’re worried that the plants grown with the humanure-based fertilizer will carry yucky germs. But the truth is that the finished product of human waste and urine composting is extremely beneficial to plant growth because of its richness in carbon and nitrogen. Not only does this process keep waste out of the sewer system and off the streets of the slum, but it also generates a profitable product and a renewable source of energy. What’s not to love?

A few months ago, the Colgate Office of Sustainability visited Madison County’s recycling center. We were given an in-depth tour of the entire facility, and briefed on both the very extensive list of materials that are recyclable in our area (plastics 1-7, aluminum, glass, cardboard, and paper products), and the amazing renewable energy initiatives underway there. While their plans to put solar panels on top of the landfill are exciting, the methane extraction program – which turns gas, produced naturally from the piles of decomposing landfill waste, into energy – was amazing! Large pipes divert methane from the landfill to a combustion machine, where the gas is converted into energy for electricity. This is then used to fuel parts of the recycling plant, with the excess being sold back to the grid. Besides sequestering methane that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere, this process provides the plant with a constant and renewable energy source that doesn’t involve the combustion of any other fossil fuels, and generates revenue for the recycling center. The recycling center is also piloting a plastic-to-fuel program in which hard plastics can also be collected for recycling and turned into fuel. Madison County Recycling is setting the bar high for the future of trash disposal and recycling, leading the way for reusing waste as a source of renewable energy.

Food waste is a plague afflicting our nation, with more than a third of all the food produced in the United States going to waste. Most of that food ends up in our landfills, but there is more potential energy to be extracted from this food waste. Fermentation of organic materials produces methanol and ethanol, which can both be used as fuel. Both composting food waste (which has become increasingly popular in households and institutions everywhere) and setting up biogas digesters (which trap the gases generated before they are released into the air) are great ways in which we all can generate fuel from what would otherwise be classified as waste. Here at Colgate, we participate in a unique composting system that diverts pre-consumer waste from our dining halls and Greek Houses away from landfill and into a compost pile. We hope to extend this composting system to incorporate all of the Broad St. and Interest houses, and move to include post-consumer waste in our composting in the future. Although we aren’t yet creating a finished product from our compost, yet, the amount of food waste that has been diverted from landfill through this initiative is very significant.

These exciting technologies provide long-term renewable energy resources, keep waste out of landfills, and contribute to the fight against climate change by helping to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. Using waste as an energy resource means reducing both physical waste and the greenhouse gasses emitted into the atmosphere. All in all, it is amazing how much potential there is for re-use of so much what we dispose of. From the most state-of-the-art engineering minds, to start-up companies in third world countries, renewable energy has become a priority. Right here in Madison County and on Colgate’s campus, leaders of the movement toward sustainable living are making themselves known through concerted efforts to implement sustainable mindsets within communities. The potential for replacing non-renewable resources and fossil fuels with waste-based energy is relevant, inspiring, and exciting.

Do It in the Dark

By Liza Solberg on November 5, 2013

From November 3rd– 17th Colgate students will be participating in an energy reduction competition called “Do It In the Dark”. During these two weeks residential halls will compete for the lowest electricity consumption. The Lucid Dashboard, a visual representation of the consumption of each hall matched against its competitors will be posted online as well as in the resident halls. This event not only raises consciousness about electricity usage but will also help prepare Colgate students for the Campus Conservation Nationals in the spring, a similar competition between participating universities.

To kick of “Do It in the Dark” the Sustainability Office and the Theta Chi Fraternity will be hosting an event on Wednesday November 6th from 8-9pm at the Theta Chi house on Broad Street. The event will include live acoustic piano and guitar played by members of the fraternity. Participants will have a chance to win special prizes and gift cards in a black light painting competition, as the whole event will take place lit only by lanterns.

We hope that students will get excited about “Do It in the Dark” with this kickoff event and continue to conserve energy on campus long after the competition is over!

Do you want to reduce home energy bills and protect the environment? Here’s how…

By Sustainability Office on November 1, 2013

Do you want to reduce your home energy bills?  Do you want to do your part to protect our environment?  If so, then your first step is to complete a home energy audit.  The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) is offering FREE (or significantly reduced-cost) in-home energy audits.  The application is simple and can be found here.

Once your application has been approved, then your next step is to contact a NYSERDA approved contractor to schedule your home energy audit.  A list of NYSERDA contractors can be found here.

After completion of this assessment, your NYSERDA recommended auditor will provide you with a list of options for saving energy and cutting costs.  Options can be as simple as identifying and plugging air leaks, installing programmable thermostats, or applying weather stripping.  Recommended projects can also be more involved such as replacing older hot water tanks or applying new insulation.  Right now there are numerous rebates and incentives at both the state and federal level to make these upgrades to your home.  For example, NYSERDA may be able to provide you with a 10% cash back incentive and low-interest financing to help you pay for any energy upgrades.  It is important to note, that you are not obligated to implement any projects.  The auditor can simply provide you with possible options for your consideration.

If you are already energy efficient, then you may be ready to install a renewable energy system.  The timing has never been better! A solar thermal installation, for example, qualifies you for significant rebates and financing options.

The contractor will not only complete your home energy audit, but can also help you implement projects, find reputable installers, or work with you to apply for rebates and incentives.

So, what are you waiting for, complete the application today for your home energy audit!

**Please note that households who do not pay the Systems Benefit Charge (such as those living in the Village of Hamilton and are paying Hamilton Municipal rates) may not qualify for some of these assistance programs.