Home - Distinctly Colgate - Sustainability - Sustainability News
Sustainability News

Latest Posts

Supreme Court Pauses the Clean Power Plan as President Obama Increases Commitment to Clean and Sustainable Energy

By Sustainability Office on February 24, 2016

power plantsBy MaryKathryn McCann ’18 (Molecular Biology and Environmental Economics Major from Chester, NY)

As the 2016 Presidential race is heating up in the primaries, President Obama is still trying to pass legislation in support of his climate change agenda. The Clean Power Plan is at the center of this agenda and recently the Supreme Court has voted to put the plan on hold. The Clean Power Plan was announced in August 2015 and aims to decrease the carbon dioxide and pollution emitted from coal-burning power plants, the number one contributor of heat-trapping carbon gas.[1]

The plan is looking to restructure the energy program in the United States by moving states and territories to more sustainable and cleaner sources of energy. The plan sets a deadline of 2018 for each state to have an individual plan to cut emissions and 2022 as the first “real reduction.”[2] This past week, the United States Supreme Court voted 5-4 to put a stay on the plan due to many states arguing that the EPA might be overstepping their designated power. The EPA has stated they are within their legal right to uphold and carry out this legislation and that, after a closer look, the Supreme Court will uphold the plan. The Court has previously upheld the rules of the Clean Air Act, so there is precedent for the passing of this type of legislation. The case will appear in appeals court in late June.[3]

While this battle is being fought in the courts, there is also a battle raging to become the next president. With the election in just a few short months, it is critical to investigate what each candidate is saying about environmental issues. As a new President comes into power, one hopes that President Obama’s successor places environmental issues and sustainable practices on the national agenda. However, it seems some of the candidates will not be as willing to make the environment a priority. I urge anyone who is eligible to vote in this upcoming election to become educated on the stances candidates take towards the environment. The next President has at least four years in the Oval Office, so making the most informed choice on whom to vote for is of the utmost importance.

On April 5, students in Environmental Studies (ENST 390) taught by Professor Kraly are traveling to Albany to speak to New York State regulators about how they are pursuing low-carbon and sustainability goals associated with COP 21 and the Clean Power Plan.  In addition, the Office of Sustainability will be hosting the Green Summit on April 12 in Golden Auditorium starting at 4:30 p.m. to discuss climate change issues broadly and in our local community.  You will not want to miss this panel discussion moderated by Interim Provost and Dean of the Faculty, Constance Harsh.

[1] http://www.npr.org/2016/02/10/466250564/high-court-temporarily-blocks-enforcement-of-carbon-emissions-rules

[2] http://www.epa.gov/cleanpowerplan/fact-sheet-overview-clean-power-plan

[3] http://www.wsj.com/articles/supreme-court-puts-epa-carbon-rule-on-hold-during-litigation-1455061135

The Onondaga Nation: Embodiment of the intersection between social and environmental issues

By Sustainability Office on February 22, 2016

By Sale Rhodes ’16 (Environmental Studies and Biology Major from Seattle, WA)

onondaga nation mapThe Onondaga Nation has inhabited and presided over Central New York for hundreds of years. Located just southwest of Syracuse, the Nation is located nearby to Colgate and is renowned for their non-stop fight for not only their own land rights, but also for the natural environment. Through remediation and preservation efforts, this community has set precedence for simultaneously standing up to social adversity while promoting conservation and stewardship over the environment.

Subject to unfair and unlawful action over the past 500 years, the Onondaga Nation has experienced turbulent relations with European and American governments; exemplified by land exchange, taxation, and frequent arson events. Land rights lawsuits, immigration and travel documentation disputes, and human rights violations occur regularly while the Nation’s remarkable prioritization of the environment endures, “It is the duty of the Nation’s leaders to work for a healing of this land, to protect it, and to pass it on to future generations.”

Onondaga Lake, just east of Syracuse, was the original source of life for the people of the Onondaga Nation, supplying water and nutrition while embodying spiritual significance to the community. As a result of development, the Lake has undergone excessive pollution from local industry and the municipality. Fresh water brine harvesting in both the Onondaga Lake and Creek has caused mud slides and contamination. The Nation holds the lake dearly and has worked tirelessly on the restoration and preservation of it, especially as companies responsible for the pollution have failed to address and correct the source of the problems. Placing the icing on the cake of Onondaga Lake’s detrimental pollution is the sewage treatment plant of Onondaga County that flows right into the lake. The toxins, mercury, and algal blooms within the lake make it dangerous for not only humans, but local biodiversity, particularly marine species, as well. Revered primate biologist Jane Goodall offered recognition and solidarity to the Onondaga Nation’s efforts to recondition the lake in 2006.

Meanwhile, pieces of the Nation’s land have been taken from them as recently as 2014, thrusting the Onondaga people into lawsuits and protests over possession of their own land. The Onondaga Nation has occupied the Central New York area southwest of Syracuse since the twelfth century, if not earlier, and represents admirable dedication to the environment and social justice, making the interconnectedness of these causes clear. Collective voices and efforts are difficult to ignore and form a passionate force able to not only identify these connections, but also to use the dualism of collaboration between social and environmental issues to bolster both causes.

What is it about Flint that has us so concerned?

By Sustainability Office on February 8, 2016

By Missy Velez ’16 (Environmental Studies major from Baltimore, MD)

Type the word “Flint” into any news website, from CNN to NPR, and a slew of videos, articles, podcasts, and news clips will immediately populate. Some stories go as far back as October 2015[1], and the most recent have just been posted hours ago[2].

The unfolding story of lead poisoning in Flint, Michigan has been one of the most continuously covered news stories in the past months. In order to save money, Flint stopped drawing water from Detroit’s urban system and instead turned to the Flint River. This water, however, was more corrosive than Detroit’s water due to chemical treatments used to kill E.boli bacteria. This corrosive water deteriorated Flint’s aging pipes, leaching lead into citizen’s tap water.[3]

When viewed from the perspective of the 24-hour news cycle, what is it about this story that has kept the nation’s attention for close to four months? It could be the fact that children’s lives are being threatened by lead poisoning (Fig. 1), or that Flint’s population has higher percentage of Black or African-American citizens (Fig. 2), or that the crisis reveals the unstable infrastructure supporting America’s aging cities.


Figure 1 Flint

Fig. 1

Figure 2 Flint

Fig. 2

Children are more affected by lead levels because the effects of lead are most apparent in developing bodies and are irreversible. Once the harm is done, it will continue to affect them for the rest of their lives.

Furthermore, Flint’s population has higher percentages of black or African-American citizens than surrounding census tracts in Genesee County. This has raised concerns over environmental justice issues: did historical and contemporary Black and African-American disenfranchisement influence this crisis?

The fact that the “American City” is threatened by aging infrastructure has also been called into play. Established in 1819, Flint rose with the automotive industry, and has been financially and demographically unstable since its demise.[4]

While these causes all come together to attract different interests, ranging from social justice to economics to urbanism, what really involves the media is the universality of the crisis in Flint. We all rely on tap water, and when that source of water is poisoned, we are all reminded of how easily it could happen to us. This then forces us to ask the question of who is responsible for solving this problem. Should Flint citizens not have to pay for their water, even if only some of them are affected? Should Flint be allowed to take water from Detroit’s system for free, because the government never updated the pipes? Who should pay for the ongoing cost of medical treatment for those affected?

Here at Colgate, we use our academic and personal experiences to engage with the ongoing dialogue centered on a range of social justice issues. We should do the same with environmental issues, which more often than not, directly engage with issues of social injustice. Flint demonstrates this relationship very clearly, and its complex nature is perhaps why it has retained ongoing media attention for so long.

[1] http://www.npr.org/2015/10/05/445975954/elevated-lead-levels-detected-in-some-michigan-childrens-blood

[2] http://michiganradio.org/post/new-tests-show-some-homes-flint-have-lead-levels-10x-federal-action-limit

[3] http://www.npr.org/2015/10/05/445975954/elevated-lead-levels-detected-in-some-michigan-childrens-blood

[4] http://www.britannica.com/place/Flint-Michigan

Announcing the 2016 Sustainability Summer Internship!

By Sustainability Office on February 2, 2016

Office of Sustainability Logo - Samantha Lee


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 2016.  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 the week of May 16th 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 is required.

Each sustainability assistant will report to the Sustainability Program Assistant  and support the activities of Colgate’s Office of Sustainability.  Summer 2016 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 on Colgate’s campus.
  • Novel programming. In order to further the mission of sustainability, the 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 ideal Sustainability Intern:

  • has solid interpersonal skills and has the ability to work effectively and respectfully in a collaborative, culturally diverse work environment.
  • is detail-oriented and possess the ability to accomplish results in designated time frames.
  • is comfortable working in a fast-moving/changing environment and be able  to handle multiple tasks simultaneously.
  • has the ability to effectively motivate community members to action.
  • possess strong organizational skills.
  • has excellent writing skills.
  • is computer literate and is proficient in the use of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Google Drive applications.
  • has 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. Most often, summer interns continue with their work during the academic year.


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 you’re interested in sustainability at Colgate and specify the candidate’s personal and/or academic qualifications. These positions will be open until filled.


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

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

Announcing the 2016 Spring/Summer Garden Internship

By Sustainability Office on February 1, 2016

Department: Sustainability Office
Hours per Week: 6 hrs in spring; 40 hrs in summer

Job Description:
The Sustainability Office is offering two paid Garden Internship positions to students starting in late-April 2016 until late-August 2016. Garden interns will help manage and promote the organic community vegetable/herb garden on campus. This is a physically demanding, yet very rewarding job. Work includes long days and exposure to outdoor elements (e.g., heat, sun, rain, etc.). The student interns are expected to coordinate and organize volunteers and student work parties, as well as carry out an independent garden project from conception to completion. The Garden Interns will report directly to garden manager Beth Roy, and should expect weekly or bi-weekly progress meetings as well as an end of season performance review. Interns will work in close collaboration with other Colgate students, faculty, and staff to plan and manage the garden. The student interns will gain life-long skills and knowledge in planting and maintaining an organic garden, organizing events, and supervising volunteer workers.

Required Skills and Experience:
Key Responsibilities
● Work with garden manager Beth Roy to plan and manage the garden during the spring and summer seasons. Specific tasks 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, and be at the garden during those scheduled times to supervise those work parties.
● Manage an individual garden project, from conception to completion.
● Provide continuity for work on the garden throughout the 2016 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
Student interns will begin planning for the garden in late-March and will begin field work in late-April, working 6 hours per week. In May interns will begin to work 40 hours per week until the internship ends in August—the exact starting and ending dates will be set in consultation with Beth Roy. The two interns will also be able to take two weeks (non-overlapping) of vacation during the summer; again, this schedule will be set in consultation with Beth Roy.

To apply, send resume and one page cover letter to garden manager, Beth Roy (eroy@colgate.edu). The application deadline is March 18.

Starting Hourly Rate: spring semester – $9.30 (estimated because Financial Aid determines pay rate); summer – $10.00
Supervisor: Beth Roy, Garden Manager
Key Contacts: John Pumilio, Director of Sustainability; Christopher Henke, Associate Professor, Director of Upstate Institute and faculty advisor to the garden; Beth Roy, Colgate Community Garden Consultant