Home - Distinctly Colgate - Sustainability - Sustainability News
Sustainability News

Latest Posts

Famed American Alpinist to Visit Colgate (Nov 4, 7 p.m., 101 Ho)

By Sustainability Office on October 28, 2015


The Office of Sustainability is thrilled that Kitty Calhoun will be visiting Colgate on November 4. As a premier American Alpinist, Kitty will discuss her adventures in a presentation entitled, “Last Ascents.”  Her passion for alpine exploration and the corresponding ecosystem is under direct threat from climate change.

Dream Big ~ Find Your Passion

Be Inspired ~ Make a Difference!

See you on Wednesday, Nov 4, at 7 p.m. in the Meyerhoff Auditorium (101 Ho).

New legislation bolsters the war against microbeads

By Sustainability Office on October 23, 2015

By Lindsey Sagasta ’16 (Environmental Biology Major from Buffalo, NY)

Last November I published a piece about microplastics in marine environments as a result of consumer hygiene products like toothpastes, body scrubs, and face washes. Essentially, these miniscule plastic microbeads cannot be filtered out of the water during sewage treatment. Enough plastic microbeads enter our water each day to cover eight football fields, over eight trillion single beads, currently concentrated at 1.7 million microplastic pieces for each square mile of the Great Lakes. Once in the water, the microbeads “become a magnet for toxins, Microbead pennysuch as dioxins and volatile organic chemicals found in our waters due to pesticides and industrial pollution.” The toxins are absorbed through the tissue of species that ingest the plastics, then biomagnified across the food web, and at the top trophic level, humans will be exposed to the highest concentrations of toxins.

Earlier in 2014, Illinois was the first state to ban the microbeads in personal care products due to their extensive damage to our skin and the environment, followed by Colorado, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, and New Jersey. Although these early legislations have jump-started the proposal of bans in other states, they have actually hindered the successful passing of bills in some assemblies. Further, these early bans include a “loophole” that allows corn-based plastic microbeads to be exempt because they are biodegradable. Despite “biodegradable” sounding environmentally friendly, corn-based products can only degrade at a very high temperature after a long period of time. Thus, these bans are allowing companies to green wash their products – a way corporations are trying to look green, but aren’t really being green – by including biodegradable plastic although it is just as harmful.

Microbeads scrubsFortunately, California passed a law in October that should ultimately set a nation wide stringent standard for plastic microbead production. Governor Jerry Brown approved Assemblyman Richard Bloom’s (D- Santa Monica) measure that will place a ban on exfoliating microbeads in personal care products as of January 1st, 2020. The passage of this law in California is a large step forward for environmentalists, according to this article, “When California bans something, because it’s a leader in the consumer products world, it tends to start a swell of changes across the industry.” Being the most populated state, it is easier for corporations to just remove the beads instead of designing a separate product to be sold only where bans are in place. As well, this specific ban does not include the loophole, setting an example for states that are in the process of passing legislation.

Michigan and New York, two of the Great Lakes states, are in the process of passing their own bans. In Michigan, the passage of the ban is struggling to stray from the loophole precedent set by the earlier states. The Michigan Chemistry Council currently backs it, but some lawmakers and environmental groups are fighting for more stringency. New York has been having issues passing legislation too. In 2014, the NYS Assembly voted 133-1 to ban microbeads in products, but it never made its way to the State Senate. The next year, the Assembly Microbeads vialsoverwhelmingly voted 139-0 in favor of the ban, but again it never reached the floor in the Senate. However, NYS counties have begun taking the matter into their own hands. In August 2015, Erie County unanimously passed its own ban, with many other counties following suite, including Albany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Monroe, and Niagara.

Federally, in March 2015, Representative Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) introduced a federal ban on microbeads in the U.S. House. Although it stalled out, it notably gathered 36 bipartisan cosponsors and drifted through a committee vote. More recently, Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) introduced a companion bill in the Senate called the Microbead Free Waters Act of 2015 to ban the microbead nationally.

Here’s how you can help The Microbead Free Waters Act of 2015: Send a letter in support of this act to your Senators and Congressman. The Huffington Post suggests you go to Oh Say Nation, a website that facilitates emailing lawmakers on issues that matter to you. Also, check out 5gyres.org to sign their petition and learn more!

All photos courtesy of http://www.5gyres.org/media-kit/.


Fashion’s not-so-stylish reputation

By Sustainability Office on October 21, 2015

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

Sustainability and fashion are two words that are rarely found in the same sentence. However, what most people don’t know about fashion is that it is the third most polluting industry in the world after oil and agriculture. Being glamorous has a surprisingly large impact on water, global climate change, and toxic pollution.

Fashion happens to be the second largest consumer and polluter of water. One pair of denim jeans, for example, uses between 1,000 and 3,000 gallons of water. This polluted water is often released directly back into our rivers, lakes, and oceans.

From growing textile fibers to moving fabrics around the world, clothing is a giant contributor to global climate change. Cotton, leather, and other raw materials grown in industrial farming operations require large land and energy footprints. Many of these operations take place overseas and require a great deal of energy to transport from China to America.

The fashion industry uses thousands of different chemicals to manufacture clothing; many of these chemicals are extremely toxic. The production of textile fibers uses 20 billion pounds of chemicals a year. 1,600 chemicals are used in dyeing processes, but only 16 are actually EPA approved. Runoff from these dye houses can contain heavy metals, alkali salts, toxic solids, and harmful pigments and often end up in our water supplies. These toxins end up harming not only human health, but also the various plants and animals that depend on our water systems.

Fashion has the tendency to be extremely unsustainable, however you have the ability to be a conscious and sustainable consumer. You can do that by:

  1. Investing in clothing made out of sustainable materials such as organic cotton, tencel, or viscose.
  2. Purchasing vintage or remanufactured clothing instead of brand new clothing. Remanufactured clothing can save more than 13,000 pounds of CO2 emissions a year.
  3. Not tossing your old items, but instead recycling and donating your old clothes! If every American recycled one more T-shirt a year, we would recover 210 billion gallons of water and 1 million pounds of CO2.
  4. Stopping water from becoming a fashion victim and washing smart! Wash your clothes only when necessary and in cold water to save water and energy.
  5. Drying smart! Line drying your clothes can eliminate up to 700 pounds of greenhouse gases annually.

It’s important to be aware of your everyday impact on the environment and make decisions to lessen this impact. Do a little research the next time you need a new sweater and look for brands such as Patagonia, the Reformation, and PeopleTree that produce environmentally sustainable clothing.

2015 GREEN SUMMIT: Climate Change in Our Time

By Sustainability Office on October 19, 2015

Office of Sustainability Logo - Samantha Lee

2015 Green Summit Update (October 19, 2015)

Thank you to our esteemed panelists and all who attended our Green Summit panel discussion on climate change.  We filled Golden Auditorium and hosted people in an overflow room.  We had terrific audience participation and the panelist fielded some excellent questions regarding climate change in our time and on our campus.

Below, we are posting the video recording of the discussion.  In response to one of the questions from the audience, we also wanted to follow up with a few resources we think you might find interesting:

***SAVE THE DATE: Our next panel discussion in this series will take place on April 5, 2016 at 4:30 p.m. in Golden Auditorium.  Follow our blog for ongoing updates.




2015 Green Summit Original Post (September 1, 2015)

On September 17, the Office of Sustainability will be hosting the 15th annual Green Summit.  The title of this year’s event will be Climate Change in Our Time.

As you likely know, the end of 2015 is gearing up to be a momentous year for climate issues globally, nationally, and here on campus.  In June, Pope Francis released his heavily anticipated encyclical on the environment.  In August, the White House finalized the Clean Power Plan, its flagship policy to combat carbon emissions from power plants.  This coming December at the 21st meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP-21) in Paris, there are high expectations for a global agreement on emissions reductions.  And here at Colgate, we are in the midst of updating our plan to achieve climate neutrality by 2019. The purpose of this year’s Green Summit is to highlight issues of climate change (at Colgate and beyond) from various faculty perspectives.

The 2015 Green Summit will kickoff at 4:30 p.m. in Golden Auditorium (Little Hall) with a faculty panel discussion.

Panelists for this events include:

  • Adam Burnett, William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Geography
  • April Baptiste, Associate Professor of Environmental Studies
  • Engda Hagos, Assistant Professor of Biology
  • Mark Shiner, University Chaplain and Catholic Campus Minister
  • Peter Klepeis, Professor of Geography

The panel will be moderated by John Pumilio, Director of Sustainability.  We will invite questions/comments from the audience.



At 9:00 p.m., the 2015 Green Summit will conclude with a private showing of Naomi Oreskes’ award-winning documentary, Merchants of Doubt.  The program will take place at the Hamilton Merchants of DoubtMovie Theater.  Seating is limited and tickets will be given on a first-come, first-served basis.  Tickets are FREE and can be picked up in the Ho Science Center room 245 (Steve Dickinson’s office) or in Lathrop Hall room 109M (John Pumilio’s office).

To follow the latest news, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

To submit questions in advance of the forum, use #GateGreenSummit.

The 2015 Green Summit is sponsored by CORE Scientific Perspectives, Environmental Studies, Lampert Institute, Office of Sustainability, Upstate Institute.

**We encourage all Green Summit attendees to attend a special event hosted by the Lampert Institute for Civic and Global Affairs.  The event entitled, “Edible Memory: How Tomatoes Became Heirlooms and Apples Became Antiques,” by Dr. Jennifer Jordan, Professor of Sociology and Urban Studies, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee will take place at 7:00 p.m. in 101 Ho Science Center (Meyerhoff Auditorium).

The 2015 Green Summit is sponsored by the Lampert Institute for Civic and Global Affairs, the Picker Interdisciplinary Science Institute, the Upstate Institute, Environmental Studies, and the Department of Sociology and Anthropology.

We look forward to seeing you at our 15th annual Green Summit!

Celebrating Food Day at Colgate

By Sustainability Office on October 18, 2015

By: Ana Roman ’16 (Environmental Geography Major from Harrison, NY), Sustainable Dining Intern

food day 2015

Every October 24th, thousands of Americans come together for Food Day in an effort to solve food-related issues both locally and nationally. Food Day calls individuals to celebrate food and urges people to make positive changes in their own diets as well as push for initiatives to improve food policies on a wide variety of scales.

This year’s Food Day theme is “Toward a Greener Diet,” and Colgate will be celebrating by honoring our local food partners throughout the week leading up to the 24th. Come join Colgate’s sustainable dining team as we invite our local partners for meet and greets where students and faculty can lunch and learn as we support local businesses that share our sustainability goals.

  • Tuesday October 20: Utica Coffee Roasters from 11:30-1:00 pm at the Coop
  • Wednesday October 21: Flour and Salt Bakery from 9:00-10:00 am at Hieber Café
  • Thursday October 22:  Common Thread Farm from 11:30-1:00 pm at Frank Dining Hall
  • Friday October 23: Utica Bread from 9:00-10:00 am at Hieber Café    

          Stop by for a chance to win prizes at select meet and greets.

campus crunch 2015On Thursday, October 22nd Colgate will join campuses throughout the state to take the New York Campus Crunch. Local apples will be distributed at Frank Dining Hall, The Coop, and Hieber Café for a “collective crunch” at 1pm. Come out to support New York apples and the orchards and farms our food is grown on. http://finys.org/our-projects/new-york-campus-crunch

Happy Food Day!

Please contact Deborah Hanson, Marketing and Sustainability Manager for Colgate Dining Services, with any questions.

Sue Hughes-Smith BA Geology ’93 Returns to Campus (10/24)

By Sustainability Office on October 16, 2015

Sue Hughes-Smith BA Geology ’93, will be on campus and available to meet with students interested in climate change next Saturday, October 24th, 11:00-12:00 in Lawrence 209.

Here is a little more about Sue:
“While teaching science at the secondary level I completed two Master’s Degrees: Education (Michigan State 1998) and Environmental Conservation (NYU 2002).  After moving to Rochester, NY in 2006 I became a lecturer for the department of Public Health and Health Education at SUNY Brockport and an adjunct professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology.  As a climate activist I am affiliated with the Rochester People’s Climate Coalition, Mothers Out Front and Citizen’s Climate Lobby.




The true cost of bottled water

By Sustainability Office on October 6, 2015

By Seamus Crowley ’18 (Geology and Environmental Geography Major from Aspen, CO)

Screen Shot 2015-07-06 at 10.23.21 AM

Every year move-in day is an exciting time, and one of the first things everyone wants to do after setting up their room is make the inaugural trip to the grocery store. Everyone wants to load up on a great snack supply for the start of the year, especially after lugging all of their stuff up four flights of stairs. Students come back with enough food to last them through a Colgate winter, but that’s not the only thing they come back with. Watching some students come back to their residence hall, I noticed one carrying a 24-pack of bottled water into the building. Then I saw, one after another, many more students traipsing up with more of the same cases of bottled water. They must have brought 200 bottles into the building in a span of 30 minutes. That’s when I realized Colgate has a bottled water problem.

It was completely perplexing to me that students would actively choose to spend money on water when it is available, free of charge in their very own residence halls. What’s worse is that students were actively choosing, the environmentally irresponsible mode of obtaining drinking water. I was confused by all of this, or at least I was until an interaction occurred between two friends. One friend said it was gross that the other was filling up her Nalgene from the bathroom faucet, alleging that the water wasn’t clean enough. I was very surprised at this; it appears that some students have a strong aversion to tap water because they have the vague belief that our tap water is unsafe. In fact, the water from our sinks is perfectly fit to drink, as is all water available to students on campus and in the village of Hamilton. The consumption of bottled water on campus serves no purpose in terms of quality, convenience, or economic sense. Most importantly, however, the use of bottled water is nonsensical due to its destructive impact on the environment.

The process of creating and transporting bottled water is not typically thought of by the average consumer, but everyone should be aware of what goes into each bottle before deciding to buy yet another case. The plastic of the bottle is usually polyethylene terephthalate, a product of crude oil, which means that they can never truly degrade.1 Worse still is the fact that it takes three times the amount of the water in a bottle to manufacture the bottle itself.1 This process, in addition to the impact of the transportation of the bottles, results in every single bottle of water producing a carbon footprint of 82.8 grams of CO2, a total of more than 2.5 million tons of CO2 per year in America alone.2 With this level of environmental impact, it is purely irresponsible to support the production and consumption of bottled water.

The wasteful use of bottled water is a problem common to college campuses across the country. However, some universities have taken it upon themselves to ban bottled water on their campuses. I believe that Colgate should do the right thing and follow suit. Colgate should undoubtedly join the movement to ban bottled water that has already been taken up by our peers at other schools. In the meantime however, students should simply voluntarily utilize refillable water bottles and quality tap water to instantly start reducing their waste and carbon footprint, thus leading our campus community to a more sustainable and environmentally conscious future.

1. http://www.dw.com/en/life-cycle-of-a-plastic-water-bottle/g-17266360
2. http://elua.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Elua-Bottled-Water-and-Our-Environment.pdf