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Update: Project Clean Plate

By Sustainability Office on October 24, 2016
-Madison Smith ’19

Project Clean PlateAs many of you may know, Colgate’s Project Clean Plate is well underway.

For the past month, we have been keeping track of how much food waste is being created in Frank on a weekly basis. Behind the scenes, there are large scales that  weigh all post-consumer food waste – banana peels, chicken bones, and all of the food that students decide not to eat. We are calculating the difference, in pounds, of waste and taking that difference to see how much food, in pounds, we are going to donate to the Hamilton Food Cupboard. Essentially, the more we reduce our waste in the dining hall, the more food gets donated to our local community.

Part of my job as an intern in the Dining Hall Sustainability Office is to table in Frank, making students aware of the initiative that we have going on. So far, I have seen a great reaction to the project. Many students believe that donating to those less fortunate than us is a great incentive to get students to be more conscious about how much food they throw away. Others are appalled by our baseline waste weight of about 1,600 pounds, but are optimistic about our goal of 1,100 pounds.

Our results so far have been rather up and down. After the first week, as seen in the image, we saw a significant drop, reducing our waste by about 25%. In the weeks since, however, we have seen fluctuations in our waste, some of that unsteadiness from variables such as fall break and a week of not tabling.

We have one more week left in the Clean Plate Project of the semester. We should all try to make it our goal to have our greatest reduction in food waste yet and to keep it at a low level for the rest of the semester!

13 Accounts to Follow if You Love Sustainability

By Sustainability Office on October 19, 2016
-Grace Thomas ’17

13 Accounts to Follow if You Love Sustainability

Social media can be a pretty dismal place, especially if you are very active on Instagram and Twitter.  Sometimes it can feel like the goal of Instagram is to convince you that you don’t have as many friends as everyone else, and lately, Twitter is a cesspool of political arguments and depressing world news.  

A few weeks ago I went through my Instagram and Twitter accounts, and hoping to add some environmental sustainability content, found some great accounts.  Here are thirteen!

Twitter Accounts

1. Yale Environment 360yale-env

If you are looking for just one account to follow to keep you up to date on all current environmental and sustainability news- make it this one.  Run by the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, the account features catchy, easy to read and not-all-depressing headlines.  If you want to learn about everything from updates on the endangered species list, to new art projects around this world generating energy (seen below), click “follow.”


2. UN Environment

Keeping you up to date on global environmental news, this account has great digestible highlights from UN conferences, and easy to read statistics like this one:  

Another great benefit of this account is that they take the time to retweet world leaders in environmental sustainability, so you can keep an eye on policy and scientific discoveries and advancements from all over the world!

3. Forum for the Future

Forum for the Future is a not for profit working with business and government to solve sustainability challenges.  This account is a great source for updates about food, international policy and changing systems.

4. Climate Progressscreen-shot-2016-10-19-at-1-13-50-pm

This account is a spinoff of ThinkProgress, an awesome news platform providing analysis and research on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues.  They cover everything from the election to identity issues to, yes, the climate.  Many of their stories cover environmental justice issues, and they always have current stories about how climate change is affecting various populations.   

5. HuffPost Green

If this one feels obvious, it’s because it is. Huffington Post’s sector for energy, the environment and all things “green” is not the account that is going to spam your newsfeed a million times a day. Rather, they offer quality and interesting pieces every few days on a variety of subjects (one that caught my interest the other day was “this town will keep throwing live turkeys out of planes).  If you like the Huffington Post, or even if you don’t, try this one.  

6. Sustainable Cities

This account is a community of bloggers that focuses on green design in urban spaces, civic policy and sustainable development and planning.  The account has a great target for city residents, and emphasizes everything from urban planning standards, to policy, to rooftop design.  If you have lived in a city, plant to live in a city, or have interest in urban design and planning, this account is perfect for you.

7. Seafood Watchscreen-shot-2016-10-19-at-1-14-37-pm

Seafood Watch is a program run by the Monterey Aquarium to help individuals make responsible choices about the seafood they consume.  They place emphasis on sourcing from sustainable, ethical sources, and the account associated echoes many of these themes.  “The Lazy Person’s Guide to Sustainable Sushi” and ending fraud and illegal fishing are ideas I think all of us can get on board with.  

8. Tree Hugger

For the tech-savvy and problem-solving individual, Tree Hugger has updates on all news pertaining to technological advances to solve climate change related problems.  From solar powered water filters to self-sufficient islands for sale, this account is a must-follow for the innovator and day-dreamer.  


Instagram Accounts

9. Sustainably Chicscreen-shot-2016-10-19-at-1-51-28-pm

Let’s not lie to ourselves; at some point, all of us have gone on Instagram and followed an outdoor equipment retailer or fashion blogger that made us want to online order everything in sight.  Needing clothes, snacks, and other products is a reality of our world.  This account is a little gimmicky at times, but she offers wonderful brands and daily tips for being a mindful, ethical and environmentally friendly consumer.  

10. National Geographic

The postings can feel a little bit overwhelming sometimes, but it’s hard to argue with the most stunning, interesting and beautiful photos of the world Natgeo can offer.  This account is a great reminder of what we need to protect.  I think I watched a video of a bald eagle catching a salmon at least ten times on loop the other day.

11. Everyday Climate Changescreen-shot-2016-10-19-at-1-24-57-pm

This account is run by a number of photographers from five continents with the goal of sharing photos of the effects of climate change in real time.  Their photos show the effects of drastic and dramatic weather events, as well as everyday lives that are already being changed by an altered climate.  


12. Harvard Sustainability

Understanding how other campus’ are approaching environmental sustainability is a great step to improving sustainability here at Colgate.  Harvard has an excellent instagram account that documents a variety of projects they are working on, from biking to greening urban spaces.  


13. Colgate’s Office of Sustainability Instagram and Twitter

Because what else would be a more fitting 13th recommendation?  Your all-inclusive guide to sustainability on campus.  


Bee the Change

By Sustainability Office on October 14, 2016
-Isabel Dove ’19

In case you haven’t heard the latest buzz: bees have been added to the endangered species list.

Colgate professor, Dr. Ian Helfant's, honey bees. Professor Helfant recently harvested close to 400lbs of honey from his ten hives.

Colgate professor, Dr. Ian Helfant’s, honey bees. Professor Helfant recently harvested about 400lbs of honey from his ten hives.

Earlier this month, seven species of bees native to Hawaii were added to the endangered species list by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. As the first bees to be protected under the Endangered Species Act, they will now benefit from authorities’ newfound ability to implement recovery programs and limit harm from outside sources.

Although just recently recognized as endangered, bee populations have been suffering since 2006. The rapid loss of adult bee populations, a phenomenon broadly defined as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), has plagued hives worldwide. CCD is likely due to changes in bees’ habitats, diseases, pesticide poisoning, and inadequate nutrition due to a lack of sufficiently diverse food sources. Between 2015-2016, approximately 40% of honeybee colonies in the United States were lost.

Why should we be worried about endangered bee populations?

Bees are pollinators, and therefore are vital elements of ecosystems. Additionally, bees are an essential feature of commercial agriculture, contributing more than $15 billion to U.S. crop production. Bees are responsible for much more than producing honey, as dozens of crops are dependent upon the pollination they provide. Some examples include apples, pears, avocados, coffee, cotton, lemons, walnuts, carrots, cocoa, tomatoes, and watermelon.

If you are understandably distraught over the prospect of losing chocolate and avocados, you may be wondering what you can do to help support bee populations. The Honeybee Conservancy recommends planting a bee-friendly garden, protecting bee habitats, sponsoring hives, and supporting local beekeepers.

Of course, you can also start your own beehive! Here at Colgate, the Sustainability Office is hoping to establish an apiary on campus by this spring. Along with producing honey, the apiary would help support local agriculture and provide research opportunities for students.

Amidst the alarming decline in honeybee populations, it is important to be aware of such a crucial environmental issue and to do our part to help solve this problem. Recognizing bees as endangered species is a significant step in the process of revitalizing bee populations. At Colgate, concerned and passionate students have the potential to take another step in the effort to save the bees with a campus apiary.

Interested in becoming involved with an apiary at Colgate or joining a beekeeping club? Contact Isabel Dove ’19 at idove@colgate.edu.

Green Raiders: Wearing a Better Story

By Sustainability Office on October 6, 2016
-Anna McHugh ’17

While tailgating for the homecoming game this weekend, you may have noticed students wearing “Green Raider” t-shirts.

Green Ambassadors encouraging recycling during the homecoming tailgates this weekend, sporting their SustainU Green Raider Shirts.

Green Ambassadors encouraging recycling during the homecoming tailgates this weekend, sporting their SustainU Green Raider Shirts.

These students were not only promoting sustainability by providing tailgaters with bags for their recycling, but they were also wearing shirts from SustainU – a clothing company that  exemplifies sustainability in their textile and manufacturing practices. This brand aims to change the way clothes are made by focusing on environmental, economic and social sustainability.

Clothing manufacturing has very significant impacts on the natural world. The production and transportation of clothing products require massive amounts of water and petroleum can result in a carbon footprint of up to 12.5 kg of carbon dioxide per kg of fabric.

SustainU uses recycled fabrics, conserving 712 gallons of water per shirt. Two pounds of recycled polyester yarn can conserve a gallon of gasoline. These practices help to reduce the company’s carbon footprint dramatically.

Many textile and clothing companies currently outsource labor which, over time, has resulted in over 1 million jobs lost in this industry. Through outsourcing, these companies pay lower wages and force workers to work longer hours with little to no breaks.

SustainU values the importance of social and economic sustainability. The company aims to reinvest in American manufacturing to promote growth in local communities while reducing transportation and other associated environmental and economic costs.

It is the small steps we take, like supporting a sustainable clothing brand or recycling at a tailgate, that will add up to make a big impact on the environment and people locally and globally.

Watch Chris Yura’s TED Talk about SustainU and it’s origin.

Food Waste: Food for Thought…

By Sustainability Office on October 4, 2016
-Miranda Gilgore ’18

Several pounds of food versus maybe a piece of lettuce or some green beans, if anything at all; it’s amazing what a difference age, awareness, and a bit of competitive motivation can make.

The ‘Ort Report’ is one of the most beloved traditions at the camp I worked at this summer.  If you’re unfamiliar with the term ‘ort,’  it is essentially the food that a person puts on their plate, but then ends up not eating.

Sign at Frank Dining Hall

Food statistics displayed at Frank Dining Hall

At camp, we hold sustainability as one of our core values and one of the ways we embody this is by having the Ort Report at the end of every meal – weighing and reporting the amount of ort with the goal of reducing it as the week progresses. As could probably be expected, our youngest campers ages 8-10, tend to have a lot of ort, several pounds among the 70 or so of them. Yet, through education (and some friendly competition) by the time these campers grow up, the now 120 high schoolers meet any ort at the end of a meal with groans of frustration.

As the signs at Frank Dining hall tell us, 40% of the food produced in the U.S. is not eaten. The USDA expands upon this statistic estimating that the United States generates approximately 133 billion pounds of food waste each year. That is equivalent to over one pound of food waste per person each day or 47 pounds of ort for one meal at camp. Of course, a portion of this food waste is beyond one’s immediate control; for example, food lost during the shipping process or food that has gone bad before a restaurant can serve it. Yet, there is a lot that we as individuals do have control over. 

Here are just a few tips to get you started:

If you’re eating on campus…

  • Take only what you know you will eat. If you don’t know if you’ll like something, try a small portion first.
  • Remember you can always go up for seconds if you’re still hungry. You don’t need to take one of everything right off the bat. Start with what you know you can finish and go back for more if you are still hungry.
  • Eat all of what you take. In a way, by putting something on your plate you are making a commitment to eat it.
  • At the Coop, take home what you don’t finish right away and eat it later in one of the reusable ‘gate-to-go containers.
  • Look for the Project Clean Plate signs at Frank Dining Hall to take a look into Frank’s “Ort Report.”

If you’re eating off campus

  • Meal plan to make sure you are not shopping for ingredients that will go unused.
  • Keep track of the food you have. If it is something perishable, be mindful of expiration dates and prioritize eating the most perishable food first.
  • Freeze what you know you won’t finish right away.
  • Use the food you have already before buying too much more – it’s amazing how resourceful you can be when you only have a few ingredients!

For everyone:

  • Remember, wasted food = wasted money. Whether that be your own, the university’s or all of the money and resources that went into bringing the food to your table. As with most environmental problems, we can’t solve the problem of food waste individually, but we can all take steps to reduce our own food waste and encourage others around us to do the same.

Paper Purchasing at Colgate: Things to Know

By Sustainability Office on October 3, 2016

by John Pumilio, Director of Sustainability

People are often faced with an overwhelming amount of choices when making a purchasing decision for any single product.

Take paper, for example – a simple search for 8.5×11 printer/copier paper on the Staples website will bring up hundreds of choices.  In the end, each of us makes our decisions based on a number of preferences.  For example, price and quality may be priorities for some while environmental sustainability may be important to others.

For several years now, Colgate has had an institution-wide preference to purchase recycled content and/or Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified paper.

We hope this post will help you find the most environmentally responsible paper while also keeping in mind cost and quality.  But first, it is important to know that Staples identifies recycled content paper and various environmental certifications within the product descriptions.  Please read about the products before deciding on a brand.  Additionally, if you search for copy paper within the Staples website, you have the option to narrow your choices to environmentally responsible choices by checking the “ECO-CONSCIOUS” box.  This makes it easier for you to identify the products that have the environmental attributes you are looking for.

Keeping this in mind, here are a few criteria to consider when choosing paper that is best for you:

  • Post-Consumer Recycled Content Paper.  Paper that was once a cardboard box, newspaper, magazine, printer/copier paper, notepad, or any other paper product that was used by someone else before being recycled and processed into something new for you. Paper made with post-consumer recycled content ultimately relies on fewer forests that must be cut down to feed the demand for virgin paper.  In sustainability circles, post-consumer content paper is preferred over recycled content paper.
  • Recycled Content Paper.  Paper made from recycled content (sometimes labeled as pre-consumer recycled content) is created from manufacturer waste that never actually made it to the consumer for one reason or another.  Manufacturer waste such as scraps, rejects, or trimmings that end up on the factory floor is repurposed into something new rather than trashed.  Pre-consumer recycled content paper saves precious resources but is still not as good as post-consumer recycled content paper.


    Forest Stewardship Council. Look for this logo when purchasing paper at Colgate University.

  • FSC Certified Paper. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Rainforest Alliance certify environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial, and economically viable management of the world’s forests.  By purchasing FSC certified paper, you are doing your part to preserve forests and the wildlife they support.  EarthChoice® and Mohawk® office paper, for example, are FSC and Rainforest Alliance certified. A full list of FSC certified paper offered through Staples can be found here.
  • SFI Certified Paper.  The Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) is another certification that helps the consumer choose paper products from well-managed forests.  In many sustainability circles, SFI is not viewed as favorably as FSC.  SFI was formed by the American Forest and Paper Association, an industry group.  Still, SFI certification is better than nothing.


    Sustainable Forestry Initiative. A good second-option if FSC certified paper is not available.

There are also new types of high-quality paper that are made from rapidly renewable resources (e.g., sugarcane, bamboo, and other materials that are not trees) that have gained favor from sustainability advocates.  Step Forward copy paper, for example, is made from 80% wheat straw.  The paper is acid-free, elemental chlorine-free, recyclable, biodegradable, and compostable.  Step Forward paper can be ordered through Staples.

Finally, Colgate’s Office of Sustainability recommends purchasing paper that contains both post-consumer content and is FSC certified.  A few brands of paper that meet these criteria include Hammermill®, Boise® Aspen™, Staples®, Wausau®, and HP Office™ office paper.  Again, it is important to look at the produce description to identify the environmental attributes of the paper.  And, of course, the higher the recycled content (100% vs. 30%) the better the paper is for the environment.