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Is the cold weather freezing sustainability?

By Sustainability Office on February 25, 2015

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

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

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

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

What we can learn from composting in Seattle

By Sustainability Office on February 17, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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






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

By Sustainability Office on February 12, 2015


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

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

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


The Sustainability Assistant should:

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

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

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


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


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

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

2014 Community Garden Annual Report

By Sustainability Office on February 11, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sodexo hires new Food Service Manager of Sustainability Programs at Colgate

By Sustainability Office on February 10, 2015

In January 2015, Deborah Hanson became Sodexo’s Food Service Manager of Sustainability Programs at Colgate University.  Her immediate plans include implementation of programs to track local food purchases and measure food waste.  She will work with the Colgate community to increase awareness of sustainable dining, enhance purchasing of local food, and minimize waste in campus dining.

Deb Hanson, recently hired Food Service Manager of Sustainability Programs.

Deb Hanson, recently hired Food Service Manager of Sustainability Programs.

Prior to coming to Colgate, Deb was the Director of Sustainability and Housing for Morrisville Auxiliary Corporation at Morrisville State College where she advised the CSTEP (Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program) Sustainability Professionals Group, chaired the campus Sustainability Committee, and was co-coordinator of campus sustainability.  Since 2007 she initiated sustainable Dining practices there, including: Styrofoam free dining, tray less dining, weigh-in Wednesdays (food waste awareness), the switch to compostable disposables, and a composting pilot. She led the campus’ end of year salvage event, implemented blue bin recycling in Housing and a campus wide Event Recycling program. Deb formerly worked in campus dining at Mohawk Valley Community College and Colgate University.

Deb is the Central New York, regional representative, for the New York Coalition for Sustainability in Higher Education (NYCSHE) and is a member of New York State Reduce, Reuse, Recycle (NYSAR3).

Deb earned a BA in Sustainability Studies from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and holds a degree in Restaurant Management from Morrisville State College.

In her spare time Deb enjoys scuba diving, sailing and gardening.

Deb can often be found in Frank Dining Hall or reach out to her via email (dhanson@colgate.edu).  Be sure to give her a warm Colgate welcome!

What low oil prices mean for divestment

By Sustainability Office on February 9, 2015

By Allison Shafritz ’15 (Environmental Economics and Geography Double Major from Middletown, NJ)

With interest in fossil fuel divestment growing on Colgate’s campus and Global Divestment Day right around the corner (February 13th and 14th), what better time to rethink divestment in the context of the current economy?

A recent article in The Economist states that “the fall in the price of oil and gas provides a once-in-a-generation opportunity to fix bad energy policies.” The price of oil has been cut in half over the past six months, and the price of natural gas is at an all-time low. With falling oil and gas prices and rising global support for divestment, we are uniquely situated to make big changes. Now is the time to act on climate through divestment.

Low oil prices can mean a few different things for the divestment movement. On the one hand, low prices are a reminder that oil is volatile and therefore a risky investment. Low prices are also bad news for high cost oil production projects, such as deep-water drilling and tar sands. On the other hand, however, low oil prices do not exactly incentivize people to act sustainably; for example, consumers are generally more willing to fill their gas tanks more often when prices are low. While low oil prices are not necessarily beneficial for the divestment campaign, the good news is that a drop in oil prices ultimately poses a risk for investors. Therefore, divestment is the most responsible course of action.

The divestment movement at Colgate began a few years ago and is starting to gain traction among the student body. The Colgate community has a responsibility to adhere to the Thirteen Goals of a Colgate Education and to our 2019 pledge for carbon neutrality. In keeping with these goals, the university’s endowment should not be invested in industries that contribute to an unsustainable planet. Institutions of higher education can (and should) play an important role in advancing sustainability, which means blazing the trail for divestment campaigns around the world. To date, hundreds of universities, cities, towns, religious institutions, and foundations have committed to divestment. As a leading institution of higher learning, Colgate should focus more energy towards divestment.

Carbon emissions at all-time low at Colgate University

By Sustainability Office on February 4, 2015

The Office of Sustainability just completed Colgate’s annual greenhouse gas inventory and we are happy to report that our emissions are at an all-time low.  In FY 2014, our gross emissions were 13,002 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTeCO2), down from 13,391 in FY 2013. Since our baseline in 2009, we have reduced our emissions by 4,842 MTeCO2 or by 28 percent. Despite a dramatic increase in the consumption of fuel oil #2 following the heating plant upgrade and a particularly cold and long winter, 2014 marked a year of positive trends. Colgate’s continuing drop in emissions associated with our vehicle fleet, refrigerant use, fertilizer use, electricity consumption, commuting, business travel, and paper use is due to the ongoing implementation of effective behavior change programs, numerous energy conservation and efficiency projects, and meticulous implementation of the projects and policies specified in our 2011 Sustainability and Climate Action Plan (S-CAP).

Greenhouse Gas Emissions at Colgate University. Fiscal Year 2009 vs 2014.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions at Colgate University. Fiscal Year 2009 vs 2014.















Projects that have reduced our campus carbon footprint include a lighting upgrade in Sanford Field House.  The installation of a solar energy array on 100 Broad Street. The replacement of all washers and dryers on campus to more water and energy efficient ENERGY STAR rated models.  Trayless dining in Frank Dining Hall.  We also installed alarm systems on all 112 fume hoods on campus to help prevent energy waste when sashes are left open unnecessarily. We estimate that the fume hood project has reduced energy use by 20-30% in each of our science buildings. We also purchased four new bikes for our Green Bikes Program, maintained a reduced mowing program to include over 30 acres of land, and achieved LEED certification for the Lathrop Hall renovation. These projects are part of a suite of projects that have not only reduced our campus carbon footprint but have also resulted in over $500,000 of avoided annual spending due to energy, water, and resource conservation.

In Fiscal Year 2014, Colgate also received American Tree Farm System certification for our 1,059 acres of forested land which confirms our long-term commitment to sustainable forest management. This certification coupled with a comprehensive tree survey estimated that 1,578 tons of carbon are sequestered annually by Colgate’s forested lands.  This coupled with our investment in renewable energy certificates (RECs) and carbon offsets have reduced our net campus emissions to 4,634 tons.  See figure below. This is one of the lowest levels of emissions of any institution in the country and puts us in excellent position to achieve our institutional goal of carbon neutrality by 2019.

2014 Net Emissions

Colgate University’s Net Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Time to backpedal and get your perspective into gear

By Sustainability Office on February 2, 2015

By Adam Berk ’15

Environmental Studies and Music Major from Denville, NJ

Riding a bicycle is a fantastic way to get from place to place. The “fuel” used is efficient and clean, and the “burning” of this fuel keeps you fit and is relatively silent. Luckily, the Colgate community can rent out bikes via our Green Bikes program for whatever rental period is desired. And while biking around campus is manageable, the state of the nation’s biking infrastructure is… shameful, at the very least, and it is one of the many ways that people are deterred from riding.


Photo Credit: Ella Mullins

Although the hipster culture that often came hand in hand with biking may be on the decline, public use of and access to bicycles continue to grow, particularly in cities. But potential bicyclists often hold on many mistaken beliefs that steer them away from riding on the road. Perhaps the most prevalent is the idea that danger is characteristic of biking.

Yes, riding a bicycle can be dangerous, but much like driving, this is typically only if the rules of the road are ignored by drivers and/or riders! Furthermore, learning how to “ride a bicycle” is the minimum amount of training required to get to and fro. Knowing how to scan for traffic without swerving, getting off the seat before coming to a complete halt, make minor bicycle repairs, and position yourself based on the speed of traffic are just a few of the skills that are beneficial to a bicyclist. Regardless, bicycles are internationally recognized by law as vehicles, whose riders have the same right to the road as automobile users. Newer bicyclists should keep this in mind, as they may be fearful about being overtaken and possibly colliding by cars, though it would be more prudent to worry about other, more common dangers, especially since theses tend to be exacerbated by anxiety.

So what can be done besides waiting for road infrastructure to become more accommodating or for public opinion to change, or simply just “getting over it”? One of the easiest—and most fun—ways to become a safer and more confident bicyclist is to find others who share a similar interest in riding. If (after reading this post, perhaps?) you are feeling particularly passionate about biking, you could possibly even bring the Colgate Cycling Club back to life! Of course, cycling is not for everybody and there are more relaxing ways to learn without even having to ride. Whatever you do, however, be sure to wear a helmet whenever you ride—they might not always be stylish, but they are certainly more fashionable than head injuries. If you do not own a helmet, one of the many donated by the Shaw Wellness Program and Dean of College Division can be rented by contacting us at greenbikes@Colgate.edu or dropping by our office at 245A Ho. No matter how you do it though, do not be discouraged! The hardest part of riding a bike is the road.