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Organic Fertilizer and Pest Control Practices

By Sustainability Office on June 26, 2017

-Makenna Bridge ’20

With the growing season well underway and nearly all of the crops planted, much of the work of the garden crew has been devoted to monitoring plant growth and making sure that the plants are in an environment which allows them to flourish. While on a conventional farm this may mean applying harsh chemical fertilizers and pesticides, we at the Colgate Community Garden believe in utilizing sustainable organic methods of soil management and pest control.

Instead of using harmful fertilizers, the garden makes use of natural products such as vermicompost to enhance the composition of the soil which leads to healthier, higher-yielding crops. The vermicompost that is used at the garden is produced by  Devine Gardens, a local worm farm. This past week, the garden team, along with the sustainability interns, had the opportunity to travel to Devine Gardens in Morrisville for a tour and to learn more about the vermicompost process.

Devine Gardens is owned by Tina and Mike Jacobs who have been operating a vermicompost business since 2010. They keep their worms in a cool, dark barn inside large containers which resemble the raised beds that we have at the garden. They use byproducts from local sawmills and farms to feed their worms and the worms produce castings through digesting these raw materials. Tina adds the food to the top of the bin, and as the worms mix and eat through it, the final product sinks to the bottom of the container and falls through small openings onto the floor, where it can be collected. In order to produce the best vermicompost, the feedstock given to the worms needs to retain a specific ratio between nitrogen and carbon levels and therefore can be a complicated process.

Their vermicompost has a high concentration of microorganisms and natural plant growth hormones. After the tour, we were able to purchase some of the vermicompost and have been seeing great results at the community garden. Thanks for the tour Tina!

We also have many critters that enjoy visiting the community garden, like the tree frog that is pictured above. However, not all of these visitors are cute or welcome. Recently we have been having a lot of trouble with flea and cucumber beetles eating our plants. Thankfully, there are many organic methods which are beneficial in deterring these damaging bugs. One of our favorite ways to protect crops is through using row cover, a thin agricultural fabric which is placed over plants in order to create a barrier between them and harmful pests. We use hoops made from PVC pipes to hold the cover upright, and then place rocks on the sides to prevent the fabric from blowing in the wind. This method can prove quite successful at deterring many pests, however some bugs are able to infiltrate the row cover. When this occurs, we use other methods, like diatomaceous earth in order to protect the plants. Diatomaceous earth is a white talc-like powder that consists of the fossils of marine phytoplankton. These tiny pieces of fossilized shell are incredibly sharp, and can cut through the exoskeleton of pests when they walk on it, causing them to dry out. We use this powder to sprinkle over the plants, like this cabbage plant which has been severely damaged. It is very effective at killing bugs but is harmless to humans and plants.

By the practicing these organic pest control methods, we are able to produce a variety of delicious vegetables. You can buy these farm fresh veggies at our weekly farmstand, located in front of Huntington Gym, on Tuesday nights from 4:30-6:00!

Applications now open for the 2017-2018 Green Raider Internship Program

By Sustainability Office on June 23, 2017

The Office of Sustainability is now seeking applications for students to join the Green Raider team!

Green Raider Interns learn leadership and professional skills while working to build a culture of sustainability at Colgate. Students on the Green Raider team work to engage their peers in sustainability by using community-based social marketing strategies to develop programs and create campaigns.

Interns are also given the opportunity to pursue their own sustainability initiatives on campus.

“The Office of Sustainability provided me with all the resources and support I needed to bring an apiary to campus and start the beekeeping club. This internship inspired me to address the global issue of Colony Collapse Disorder and enabled me to make a positive change on campus” sustainability intern, Isabel Dove ‘19, stated.

In addition to developing peer-to-peer programs, interns create content for the Colgate Sustainability Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts, help develop sustainability communication strategies, and aid in the creation of Colgate’s annual Greenhouse Gas Inventory.

The personal and professional development of the interns is also a main focus of the program.

“We encourage each other to do our best and, because of this, I’ve started to hold myself to a higher standard,” Revee Needham ‘18 stated in reference to the Green Raider Team. “I can’t imagine my time at Colgate without being an intern.”

Students of all class years and majors are welcome to apply. Students studying abroad in the fall or spring are encouraged to apply as well. Interns are expected to work 6-10 hours a week. Apply by emailing your resume and cover letter to program coordinator, Pamela Gramlich, pgramlich@colgate.edu, by July 10th. See job description below:


The Green Raiders will model and promote sustainable behavior across campus by inspiring and educating their peers using proven community-based social marketing skills (no prior knowledge necessary). The Sustainability Office will hire enthusiastic, self-motivated, high-achieving students who have demonstrated a commitment to sustainability. Interns will have the opportunity to develop events and programs throughout the year. The mission of the Green Raider Program is to help lower Colgate’™s ecological footprint and increase student understanding of sustainability. More specifically, Green Raiders will: 
-Promote sustainable living practices across campus 
-Be an accessible resource to students on campus with any questions they may have about sustainable living 
-Promote a culture of sustainability through the use of blogging, social media, email, and other outlets 
-Plan and execute high-profile campus events that engage and educate students about sustainable behaviors 
-Create materials and behavior change programs that inspire and influence first-year residents to practice environmental stewardship 
-Work on various other tasks supporting sustainability at Colgate.


-Strong interpersonal skills and the ability to work effectively and respectfully in a collaborative, culturally diverse work environment 
-Detail-oriented and able to accomplish results in designated time frames 
-Understanding of sustainability-related topics and issues 
-Able to work in a fast moving/changing environment and having the ability to handle multiple tasks simultaneously 
-Able to effectively motivate community members to action 
-Strong organizational skills 
-Excellent written and public presentation skills 
-Computer literacy and proficiency in the use of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and other office applications 
-Proficiency with Google Apps (Drive, Calendar, etc.) 
-Able to maintain a productive and healthy work/life balance 
-Knowledge of design and publicity, as well as associated design programs, is helpful 
-Experience using social media networks, such as Twitter and Facebook, is helpful


It’s Essential

By Sustainability Office on June 22, 2017
-Chaveli Miles ’19

Red Thyme and Sweet Orange Essential OilsWhile many scented products like air fresheners, laundry detergents, perfumes, and colognes may contain trace amounts of natural fragrance, they are largely comprised of synthetic fragrances made from petroleum known collectively as “petrochemicals.”

A consumer may never know how many petrochemicals are in their favorite scented product or how concentrated they are. Many companies trademark their particular scent and withhold information from their ingredient list. Synthetic fragrances have been linked to allergic reactions, hormone disruptions, even organ damage under long-term, continuous exposure. Many simply complain fragranced items give them a headache, myself included. In addition, air, water, and soil pollution are byproducts of the petrochemical and petroleum industries.

Synthetic fragrances may not be a good choice for your health or the environment, but you don’t have to go without scented products. For thousands of years people have used essential oils for their potent medicinal, aromatic, and even spiritual benefits. Essential oils are concentrated aromatic compounds in a hydrophobic liquid. They can be derived from the seeds, bark, roots, or flowers of various plants.

Many essential oils contain antibacterial and antimicrobial properties making them great for household cleaning products; yet, are gentle enough, when used correctly, to apply on your face and body. Essential oils by themselves are very concentrated and may be too strong by themselves. It’s best to dilute a few drops in a water/witch hazel solution, or a neutral “carrier oil” like grape seed or jojoba oil. Dilution also means that one bottle of essential oil can last for several years, making them a financially-smart option for college students interested in natural personal care and household products. It is easy to find essential oils and other natural ingredients right here in town at Hamilton Whole Foods.

Remember: If you are ever unsure of how to use a product in a safe way, consult your doctor for help and best practices.

Who pays the price for cheap summer #OOTDs?

By Sustainability Office on June 16, 2017
-Dana Chan ’19

#OOTD or “Outfit of the Day” has been trending on social media, where anyone can snap a photo of their look and share it with their friends and followers. It has been a way for people to communicate about their favorite places to shop – be it boutiques, luxury brands or fast fashion retailers. But what is the true cost of this obsession with OOTDs and buy-in to fast fashion? Let’s start by taking a look at the industry.

Photo: Lance Lee

Fast Fashion refers to the phenomenon wherein clothing is produced, sold and discarded at an accelerated pace. Whereas fashion traditionally has two seasons – Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter,  the fast fashion industry releases as many as 52 “micro-seasons” each year. Fast Fashion evolved to make consumers want to spend more on clothing to keep up with new styles being released almost every week. With summer just around the corner, many of us will start looking at our favorite clothing chains and online stores for the latest summer fad, either as a way to express our personal style or to show that we’re up to date with what’s popular this season.

A trademark of fast fashion is that the latest fashion trend becomes available at a relatively inexpensive price, making it appealing to students like us. While $8 for that cute dress seems like a good deal, it’s important to remember that we are also shouldering the environmental and human consequences of that price tag.

Plants grown for fiber are doused with pesticides to ensure a good yield. These chemicals are essentially poisons that regularly seep into bodies of water that local communities heavily rely on. Most toxic chemicals remain and build up in the waterways to the point that rivers and lakes become too harmful for human use and almost always cause a wide range of health problems for the local population. Additionally, the majority of the manufacturing is done in factories overseas where environmental regulations are looser, contributing to widespread water and air pollution. All of these are done for the sake of cheap, poorly made clothing that, in many cases, end up in landfills after only a few wears. [Source, Source]

Photo: Tomas Munita

While it might be easy to ignore the environmental impacts of this industry, imagine if you were face-to-face with the worker who made your clothes. Many factory workers in developing countries work continuously for long hours on a small, non-livable wage. Most of them barely earn $1 each day, and they often work in harmful and unsafe conditions. The reason retailers can sell clothes at such a low price is because they cut corners on health and safety regulations, resulting in accidents that cost the lives of many of their garment workers. [Source, Source]

As an alternative, there are sustainable brands such as Patagonia, Alternative Apparel, and PACT, who are doing business in an environmentally and socially responsible way. Because these brands make concrete efforts to reduce their footprint and support their workers in a safe and fair way, prices are higher and most likely beyond what an average consumer can afford. Hence, we are in this dilemma where we do want to veer towards more sustainable fashion choices but at the same time, our financial situation prevents us from making that shift.

Being a more responsible consumer does not mean we have to sacrifice our wallets. We can think of sustainable brands as an investment and while they may be pricier, their clothing will most likely last longer. It might be a good idea to shop from sustainable brands for wardrobe staples and basics that we know we will use for a long time. Additionally, we can also look for accessories and trendy pieces from thrift shops and used clothing stores where many brand name clothing and vintage finds are sold at a discounted price. Nowadays, online buy-and-sell platforms like Poshmark, thredUP, and Swap are becoming a popular way to shop for secondhand clothing. By tweaking the way we think about and buy our clothing, we can become more responsible consumers of the fashion industry without having to sacrifice our personal sense of style.



Where Do the Garden’s Plants Come From?

By Sustainability Office on June 12, 2017

Camila Loke ’19

The summer growing season at the Colgate Community Garden has started!

While the garden team is working hard, it is important to acknowledge the tremendous help we receive from Sam Stradling at the Hamilton Food Cupboard as well as from Johanna Bossard and her high school students at Hamilton Central School.

In addition to planting seeds, the Colgate garden receives a wide variety of starter plants from the Food Cupboard and the high school. This year we received peppers, eggplants, tomatoes, cabbages, and much more. Read on to find out more about the incredible garden Johanna runs at the high school and how we get our plants from her.

Johanna Bossard, an agriculture teacher at Hamilton Central High School, started the garden five years ago with the mission of teaching students about where their food comes from. The garden is taken care of primarily by her classes, with some help from elementary school students participating in an “ag buddies” program that pairs each student with a high school student to help in the garden.

The garden is part of the FFA (Future Farmers of America) program at the school, a leadership organization and an intercurricular part of ag education that strives to prepare students to be successful in agriculture. Students in FFA participate in public speaking and leadership events, classes, and contests.

In an effort to involve younger students and their families, Johanna established the Adopt a Garden summer program. Elementary school students can adopt the garden for a week and support it in various ways, whether that be lending money or taking care of the plants. During the summer, the Colgate Community Garden team also lends a hand twice a week.  The garden also has a strong composting system. It receives compost from all classes as well as the elementary, middle, and high school lunches. The soil generated from composting is used in the garden.  

Everything grown in the school’s greenhouse is for sale at a plant sale held in May. Johanna and the students plant hanging baskets, patio pots, and vegetable plants for the community. They plant as much as they can from what is leftover from the sale straight into their garden, and give what still remains to us.

The Colgate Community Garden has been receiving plants from Hamilton Central for about three or four years, and we are very grateful for this partnership. Receiving starters gives the garden a head start on the summer growing season, which means that harvesting and farm stand sales can start earlier. We’re looking forward to enjoying some harvests soon!

Taking a Cue from Nature

By Sustainability Office on June 9, 2017
-Chaveli Miles ’19

An eye-opening look at the historical significance and today’s application of biomimicry – sustainable technology and design inspired by the world around us.  

Biomimicry (also called, biometrics) is a rapidly emerging discipline within the science field. However, it is truly transdisciplinary in application, drawing from the natural sciences as well as engineering, computer science, mathematics, and the fine arts.

Inspiration for Velcro

Those who study biomimicry draw inspiration from the biophysical world to address the most pressing human challenges such as energy security. While the terminology is relatively new, humankind has modeled nature in man-made design for hundreds of years. One of the best-known examples of biomimicry was the invention of velcro in the 1940s by Swedish engineer George de Mestral.

After a day of hiking, de Mestral noticed small, seed-like burrs attached to his trousers (and his dog). Under a microscope, de Mestral observed the hook-and-loop structure that allows the burrs to cling to animals which helps the plant increase its ecological range. This discovery led to de Mestral designing the first prototype for velcro. Using two strips of velvet, he covered one piece with tiny hoops and the other with crochet needle-like hooks that mimicked the hooked teeth of the burr. He named it “velcro,” blending the words “velvet” and “crochet” together. From there, velcro would be used to fasten numerous items from children’s shoes and equipment in NASA’s Apollo Missions.

Wind Turbine Biomimicry

If you are leaving Colgate University, heading along Route 20, you may have noticed patches of wind turbines, spinning like pinwheels against the Madison sky. Wind energy is a promising form of renewable energy. As the blades spin, the turbine converts kinetic energy into mechanical energy which can be stored and used to power our modern world. The less air friction, or drag, the blades face while rotating the more energy it can produce efficiently. For years, Marine Biologists have suspected that the scalloped fins on a humpback whale allow such a large animal to swim seemingly frictionlessly through the water. Engineers at WhalePower, a Canadian-based Technology Center are already building turbine blades inspired by humpback whale fins. They believe this new design could extend beyond wind turbines to airplanes, submarines, hydropower, and more.


Biomimicry is an imaginative practice which has the potential to guide our understanding of the natural world as well as our own. The only limits are, literally, the ends of the earth. Here at Colgate, this is especially true. On a campus dedicated to providing students with the tools for tomorrow, we each have a responsibility to care for the natural world that houses so many possibilities for innovation and discovery which will ultimately shape tomorrow. It is the hope of  Janine Benyus author of Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature that we learn from our elders, the organisms that have thrived on this Earth for millions of year slowly and gracefully perfecting sustainability.








Images from: Seabrooke Leckie, coolmaterial.com, Giles Breton and MIT