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Get ready for the 13 Days of Green!

By Sustainability Office on March 25, 2015

By Ben Schick ’17

As March comes to a close and Hamilton begins to thaw out of the frozen tundra that has engulfed campus for four months, Colgate prepares for the coming of its annual 13 Days of Green.  13 Days of Green is a campus wide event lasting from April 10-April 22 that aims at raising environmental awareness on campus.  The event offers educational programming, events, and competitions that engage students in sustainability on campus and give them the tools necessary to lead a sustainable lifestyle.

This year’s 13 Days of Green consists of a variety of events that highlight different ways organizations around campus are working to make Colgate more sustainable. The full schedule for the 13 Days of Green will be available on the Colgate mobile app starting next week. However, here are some events to look out for:

  • Ongoing:  Window sticker design competition.  Colgate wastes large amounts of heat every winter due to open windows in residence halls.  Students can help Colgate save heat and energy by designing a window sticker reminding students to keep their windows shut during the winter.  The artist of the winning design will win a gift card to a restaurant in downtown Hamilton.
  • April 11:  Head down to the Community Garden at 1pm to get a tour of the garden and learn about sustainable gardening practices.  Food from Hamilton Whole Foods will be provided.
  • April 14:  Sustainable and local food brownbag.  Led by Environmental Studies Professor April Baptiste and Director of Sustainability John Pumilio, this brown bag will look at Colgate’s initiatives to incorporate sustainably grown and local foods into our dining halls.  We will also explore the emerging local food market network in Hamilton, NY.
  • April 16:  Vegetarian dietician appointments.  Led by the Shaw Wellness center, students have an opportunity to talk one-on-one with a vegetarian dietician to learn how to adopt a nutritious and balanced plant-based diet.  Sign up for a one hour slot from 4-8pm by emailing rhangley@colgate.edu.
  • April 18:  Tree planting with COVE Sidekicks from 1-3pm.  Sidekicks will be celebrating Earth Day by planting saplings at the top of the old ski hill.  There will also be tours of the Darwin Thinking Path and environmentally friendly snacks. All are invited!
  • April 22 (Earth Day):  The 13 Days of Green culminates with the Oak Awards.  Formerly known as the Green Awards, the “Oakies” recognize individuals and groups on campus that have made a positive impact on Colgate’s campus through sustainability-related efforts.  Come join us for the award ceremony and free dinner from Hamilton Whole Foods.  In addition, if you wish to nominate an individual or group for an Oakie, please fill out this form:https://docs.google.com/a/colgate.edu/forms/d/1zaYwaqVmhvylk0CEKCvKMbAqOxiQyHUukiaEI6fzWy0/viewform.

While the 13 Days of Green is a fantastic event that engages students in sustainable living at Colgate, it is by no means the only opportunity students have to get involved in sustainability on campus.  There are countless ways students can immerse themselves in sustainability on campus.  The events, workshops and competitions of the 13 Days of Green is meant to serve as a starting point for students on their road to living a sustainable life now and in the future.  For more information, on how you can get involved beyond the 13 Days, visit colgate.edu/green.

Say Goodbye to Styrofoam

By Sustainability Office on March 17, 2015

By Sara Reese ’16

As members of the Hamilton community, we’ve probably all ordered Dunkin Donuts coffee, thinking nothing of the Styrofoam cup that’s handed to us through the drive-thru window.  And we’ve all probably been to a campus event and been served take-out food on Styrofoam plates.  While the everyday consumer might not consider the type of tableware or cup that they use, the fact is, Styrofoam is harmful to the environment and also our health.  As members of a renowned liberal arts university with one of the most aggressive carbon neutrality dates in higher education, the sustainability of our purchases should always be considered.

Styrofoam is identified as the fifth largest contributor to waste in the environment – occupying an estimated 30% in our nation’s landfills.  Styrofoam is also non-biodegradable, meaning that it will persist in that landfill forever.  An important compound in Styrofoam is Styrene, which was identified as a potential carcinogen and neurotoxin by the U.S. Environment Protection Agency (EPA) several decades ago.  Additional chemicals found in Styrofoam have been known to leach into food and beverages as it is heated up in the Styrofoam tableware or cup, leading to human ingestion of these chemicals.  According to EPA studies, Styrene is now found in 100 percent of the fat tissues sampled from every U.S. citizen (including children).  Clearly, Styrofoam has negative impacts on our environment and our bodies.

On March 10th, the Colgate University Student Government Association unanimously passed both a resolution and a bill against Styrofoam.  The bill, acting as a change to bylaws pertaining to the Budget Allocation Committee, prohibits BAC-funded student groups from using BAC-funding to purchase Styrofoam.  That means when student groups host events and order pizza and drinks for pickup or delivery, there has to be explicit notice given to the vendor that Styrofoam cups or plates should not be provided.  The resolution informs all Colgate departments and offices that the student body dissuades the use of Styrofoam and suggests action to reduce Styrofoam purchasing.

This bill and resolution builds momentum towards the ultimate action that should be taken – a campus-wide Styrofoam ban and ban within the town of Hamilton itself.  With recyclable and biodegradable options being offered at comparable prices, Styrofoam should not be allowed.  This wouldn’t be an unprecedented action – many cities, counties, and states are already banning Styrofoam, including New York City.  There are also many colleges and universities that have banned Styrofoam on campus.

With Styrofoam now banned from BAC-funded events, I encourage all of us – students, staff, and faculty – to invest in reusable cups and mugs.  Instead of using disposable containers, consider purchasing a reusable container or thermos that can be used over and over.  Making more conscious purchasing decisions can protect our environment and our health.  Let’s say goodbye to Styrofoam.

A Drawback of Less Paper Waste at Colgate

By Sustainability Office on March 16, 2015

Over the past few years, Colgate has made a lot of progress in advancing sustainability on campus.  We have reduced our campus carbon footprint by 34 percent while achieving over $500,000 per year in avoided spending on energy, water, and other precious resources.  Perhaps the most astonishing progress has been in our use of printer and copier paper on campus.  In 2009, the Colgate community collectively purchased over 12.3 million sheets of paper.  If stack up, that would have been taller than three Empire State Buildings in height.

Colgate employees purchased over 12.3 million sheets of paper in 2009.

Colgate employees purchased over 12.3 million sheets of paper in 2009.


Last year, Colgate purchased less than 3.6 million sheets of paper.  That’s a 71 percent reduction in paper use or a savings of 8.7 million sheets of paper.  That’s the approximate equivalent of 550 trees saved per year!


Colgate employees purchased less than 3.6 million sheets of paper in 2014.  That's a 71% reduction compared to 2009.

Colgate employees purchased less than 3.6 million sheets of paper in 2014. That’s a 71% reduction compared to 2009.

What has led to this reduction in paper consumption?  Certainly, digital technologies and an increased awareness of printing only when necessary have contributed.  We also set campus printers to double-sided printing a few years back and installed print-release stations that eliminates most accidental or otherwise unclaimed print jobs.

A few years ago, a few of our more environmentally and cost-conscious employees began collecting perfectly good “scrap” paper from other departments.  Instead of purchasing new paper, they would simply “recycle” this used paper with printing on only one side by running it through their own printers.  According to Roxanne Benson, who has been working in Outdoor Education for the past 8 years, she has never purchased new printer paper.  She has always been able to collect old paper from other departments.  Recently, however, Roxanne’s stockpile of paper has been running low.  When she contacted all her “usual suspects” for a new supply, she was dismayed to discover they had none to spare.  They thought Roxanne’s practice of reusing paper was such a good one that they began doing the same.  While this best practice may be good for Colgate and for our environment, it means hard times for our more sustainably-minded community members.  Chin up, Roxanne, and thank you for helping to advance sustainability at Colgate!

Colgate Community Garden Plot Program Launches

By Sustainability Office on March 13, 2015


The Colgate Community Garden is now accepting applications for its 2015 Garden Plot Program. This is an exciting opportunity for individuals in the community to be able to tend their own garden plot within the Colgate Community Garden. The garden team hopes for the Colgate Community Garden to become a place where community members can come together to enjoy learning about gardening and sustainable living.

Each of the garden plots offered are approximately 4 ft. W x 8 ft. L x 10 in. H.  Plots are constructed using rot-resistant, untreated lumber.  Program participants will have access to the garden and garden tools but must provide their own seeds and plants.  A $25 annual fee per plot and $5 annual refundable deposit is required for use of one of the garden plots. A Garden Plot Agreement must also be signed by participants, showing agreement to following the rules and guidelines established by the Colgate Community Garden.

Community Garden Plot space is limited and applications will be accepted first-come, first-served. For more information about this program or to apply for a garden plot,  please contact Community Garden Manager Beth Roy (eroy@colgate.edu, 315-335-1433).


Where are you going for spring break?

By Sustainability Office on March 11, 2015

By Rachel Hangley ’15 (Environmental Geography Major and Spanish Minor from East Falmouth, MA)

Look at any eHarmony, Match.com, or Tinder profile and likely you will see “Travel” under the person’s interests and hobbies section. Nearly everyone loves to travel — whether it be to study abroad, experience new cultures, cross something off a bucket list, or just escape from the frigid tundra that is Hamilton, NY. However, humanity’s amazing ability to fly halfway around the world in half a day does have some downfalls. People rarely take into consideration the massive impact their exciting jaunts have on the climate and the world that they are exploring. The desire to see and visit the four corners of the earth has created a system that is destroying that very planet. Surely there must be some solution to this worldwide dilemma?

The aviation industry emits 705 million tons of carbon dioxide every year. This number is estimated to increase by 70% by 2020, and by 300-700% by 2050, even if fuel efficiency improve by 2% per year. The average American generates 19 tons of CO2 each year, and a quick trip to Europe or the West Coast can eat up one tenth of that annual amount. Consider a Colgate student who lives in California and goes home for Thanksgiving, winter break, heads to the tropics for spring break, and then goes home again for the summer. That is one hefty carbon footprint. However, who can blame that student for wanting to attend an institution such as Colgate, and wanting to have the typical college experience of studying abroad and going somewhere fun for spring break? Even still, if everyone had this lifestyle, the planet’s resources would be drained before we know it.

I don’t think the answer is to cut back on traveling, which I too consider to be one of my favorite activities. So what are some possible solutions that travellers can take to counter this challenge?

Some have suggested a carbon or fuel tax as most effective way to internalize the environmental externalities of flying. Others see biofuels as the best option to directly impact the source of emissions. Carbon offsets is another option that gives the responsibility directly to the consumer, and which Colgate students could take on themselves. A statement made by Connie Hedegaard, the European commissioner for climate action, echoes the sentiments of many climate-conscious travellers: “We believe that those of us who can afford to pay for an air ticket can also afford to pay for the pollution from their travel.”

Another option is carbon offsets, which Colgate University has adopted to counteract many of the emissions that it cannot presently cut through infrastructural or behavioral changes. To put this in context, a roundtrip flight from Syracuse to Cancun, Mexico emits approximately .84 tons of CO2 per person, according to this handy Carbon Footprint Calculator. In order to offset that amount of carbon, one can spend $14.06 to plant native trees in Kenya, or just $12.44 to support Clean Development Mechanism projects verified by UN standards. Surely, as Connie Hedegaard said, if someone can afford a $600 flight then an extra $13 isn’t too much to ask (especially for a Colgate student, #13). Students could also offset their air travel by contributing to the Colgate Forest in Patagonia.

There is no doubt that people will continue to travel and see the world, as they should. Travelling promotes open-mindedness, acceptance, and appreciation for the world around us. However, if that world is deteriorating because of that travel, shouldn’t those travellers feel the need, and take responsibility, to preserve that which they are exploring?

Colgate hosts TEDxManhattan Viewing Event

By Sustainability Office on March 11, 2015
By Sara Reese ’16
rsz_img_5616-1On Saturday, March 7th, roughly 40 Colgate University students gathered in the LOJ, a historically environmentally and outdoor-themed housing residence on Broad Street, to watch the 2015 TEDxManhattan (and enjoy Chipotle) for much of the snowy afternoon.  This year’s event was entitled “Changing the Way We Eat” and included talks from educators, nonprofit workers, farmers, and many others not only engaged in the conversation of access to high quality, healthy, sustainable food, but also personally acting to bring that access to all Americans.
With Colgate’s food contract opening up, the TEDxManhattan event was a reflection of much of the buzz that has been generated around food at Colgate recently.  The Sodexo focus groups, food service committee, and dining survey have all reflected a desire for more sustainable, local, and healthy options at the dining locations here at Colgate.
Per the recommendations of the Sustainability Food Systems working group, Sodexo recently hired a Food Service Manager of Sustainability, Deb Hanson, who is working to provide more sustainable, local foods and transparency in terms of where our food comes from.
The TEDxManhattan event provided some food-for-thought (literally) for thinking about food transparency and how food can impact our health and environment, and brought together the global issue of food justice and the local food discussion that is occurring here at Colgate.
You can follow the embedded links to learn more about the TEDxManhattan event or Deb Hanson.

Where egg-actly do your eggs come from?

By Sustainability Office on March 4, 2015

By Jack Eiel ’15 (Philosophy and Biology Double Major from Swarthmore, PA)

This past week I went grocery shopping.  My shopping experience was nothing exceptional, but when I reached for a carton of eggs, I hesitated.  For years I have been your typical consumer—buying things based on little other than aesthetic appeal.  However, this time I started to notice what differentiated these eggs.

Each egg carton seemed to have a different label, a different defining factor that made this carton better than the rest.  “Natural” and “Free-Range” and “Organic” were plastered all over the egg cartons, yet I had no idea what the lingo meant.

I did a little research and I thought I’d let you know what I found out.

First off, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has regulations in place that monitor the labeling of food Americans eat.  Here are a few of the most common labels seen on eggs and what exactly they mean.


The USDA defines a natural product as one “containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed.” This basically ensures that nothing funky is being added to your food.  However, the label guarantees nothing about the quality of life experienced by the hens laying the eggs.


This term is as simple as it sounds. The birds that lay these eggs are not kept in cages.  These hens are allowed to walk around and more naturally interact with other chickens.  However, the chickens do not necessarily have access to the outdoors and typically live in large barns or warehouses with less than 1 sq. ft. of space per animal.  Additionally, there are no guidelines included here involving diet or animal treatment.


The requirements that earn a company a free-range label are rather sparse.  All that is said is that “[p]roducers must demonstrate to the Agency that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside.” The USDA does not delineate the standard and duration of outdoor access.

Pasture Raised

Hens that are pasture-raised have lives that are as close to natural as possible.  These hens are afforded full outdoor access, fed a grain diet (but are permitted to forage for insects when on the pasture), and participate in their full range of natural behaviors.  These eggs have been shown to contain up to 20 times the healthy omega-3 fatty acids than factory eggs.

Organic Pasture Raised

This is the gold standard of eggs.  Not only do you get all of the benefits of pasture raised eggs, you are assured the hens were raised organically.  As according to the USDA to receive an organic label hens must be kept properly healthy, receive no hormone or antibiotic injections, and feed exclusively on 100% organic materials.

So what should I buy?

Go for the Organic Pasture Raised eggs!  These eggs are raised in humane environments, produce much tastier eggs, and offer a more sustainable alternative to factory-raised eggs.