Home - Distinctly Colgate - Sustainability - Sustainability News
Sustainability News

Latest Posts

Green Your Halloween

By Sustainability Office on October 30, 2017
-Julia Feikens ’18

It’s that time of year: scary movies, lots of candy, and fun costumes for everyone! However, while Halloween is considered one of the most popular holidays in America, there’s a way to make it even better…make it green!

Halloween is a great time to start making easy, sustainable decisions, especially in regards to your costume choice. One of the major concerns with Halloween is the abundance of one-time only disposable costumes. Instead, try these fun tips to make your costuming less impactful on the environment (and your wallet). 

  1. Use what you own
  2. Rent a costume at a much cheaper price than buying it
  3. Swap costumes with friends
  4. Buy re-wearable, used, or vintage items
  5. Use natural materials

Photo courtesy of usgbcma.org

In addition, make sure to avoid harmful or offensive costumes, so that everyone can enjoy the night together.

While celebrating, here are some tips to keep on Halloween-ing sustainably:

  1. When possible, use reusable items, such as cups and plates, and avoid disposable or paper products.
  2. Recycle what you can, but make sure to quickly wash out anything besides water to ensure no contamination enters recycling bins.
  3. Avoid smashing pumpkins and leaving waste in public spaces.
  4. Have a fun night!

Are You Nuts to Keep Eating Almonds?

By Sustainability Office on October 27, 2017
-Maggie Dunn ’19

You’ve probably heard that almonds are one of the healthiest foods you can eat, and in many ways this is true. They lower your blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure, and facilitate weight loss. But do these health benefits outweigh the costs to the environment?

Each almond produced consumes 1.1 gallons of water across its lifespan. Americans now consume more than 10 times the amount of almonds they did in 1965. While the US is the world’s leading consumer of almonds by far, it is also the leading producer of almonds. 82% of almonds come from California, the only state in which they grow. However, California just experienced the worst drought in recent history–so bad that experts are considering expanding what is currently a 1-4 drought system to include a whole new level of drought which will be called D5. That is the state that California is in, yet it continues to produce millions of almonds each year.

For the sake of comparison, beef requires 1,847 gal/lb to produce, while almonds take 1,929 gal/lb. Cutting meat out of your diet is certainly good for health reasons as well as for the amount of water it saves. Given the even greater water demand for almond production, almonds also need to be considered as a food that is not environmentally friendly with regards to water consumption. There are plenty of other options that allow you to replace the almonds in your diet with more eco-friendly alternatives.

Photo courtesy of almondinsights.com

Using almond butter? Replace it with peanut butter. Sunflower seed butter, tahini, and soy nut butter are all nut-free alternatives, as well as coconut, hazelnut and so on. Using almond milk? Replace it with soy milk, coconut milk, hazelnut milk, flax milk, cashew milk, or rice milk. Replace almonds in your trail mix or granola with cashews and walnuts, which still use lots of water (1,260 gal/lb and 1,112 gal/lb, respectively) but are much better compared to their alternatives.

Thinking about the food you eat and the impacts it has on the place you live is often a difficult shift in thought, but ultimately an essential one to make. In the changing world in which we live, we can no longer afford to give no thought to where our food comes from and how it is made. So next time you go to Price Chopper, make a decision to save water and skip the almonds.

Sustainability and Greek Life at Colgate – Where We Are and Where We Go from Here

By Sustainability Office on October 13, 2017
-Dana Monz ’18

With roughly one-third of the Colgate student body involved in Greek life, it is important to analyze the various houses’ relationships and actions in accordance with sustainability. While it is easy for individuals to take initiative through incremental actions – such as turning off a light, shorter showers, and recycling, among many others – Greek houses should aim towards collective action and large-scale measures, as they are among some of the largest and most influential groups on campus.

As required by the university, each organization has a “Sustainability Chair” who is responsible for promoting sustainability within their house, implementing sustainable practices, and organizing events within the Greek community. Additionally, throughout the semester, the Sustainability Chairs meet with the Program Coordinator and the Director of Sustainability to discuss action and possible events.

Among the various Greek organizations, there appears to be general measures that each house is practicing. The Sustainability Chairs have articulated that they have two stream recycling (bins for plastics and cans and different bins for paper products), signs communicating what can and cannot be recycled, stickers by the lights reminding individuals to turn them off when the room is vacant, and reusable containers.

While these actions are commendable and helpful initiatives, there remains a lot more that the Greek organizations could be doing in order to be forerunners of sustainability on this campus. For instance, many of the organizations use plastic and Styrofoam cups, paper products, and plastic silverware, thus generating incredible amounts of waste, as well as lack of dialogue about sustainability in their houses and on campus. Not only should the houses work towards reducing their waste, but they should organize and participate in events like Colgate Unplugged and Recyclemania in an effort to take a stance as a large portion of the Colgate community and reduce their carbon footprints.

I commend the Greek organizations for their significant strides towards sustainable actions, but I encourage the Sustainability Chairs and their broader organizations to do more, take initiative, and increase dialogue about the sustainability issues that are meaningful to this campus and imperative to address today.

Link between carbon footprints & affluence has far-reaching policy implications

By Sustainability Office on October 2, 2017
-Seamus Crowley ’18

Greenhouse gas emissions, specifically the policy surrounding their regulation, are at the forefront of a larger dialogue concerning environmental protections. Often there’s talk of wide-reaching, large-scale “solutions” such as a carbon tax. But according to Andy Pattison, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies, these ideas are overgeneralized and don’t always hold the proper people accountable for their emissions.

Pattison, who has a background in public policy as it relates to the environment, has recently been interested in studying the effect that affluence has on the amount of emissions an individual community puts out. “I’m interested in finding a way to unpack the role of carbon emissions on a local level for use in policy”, Pattison explained. Working alongside his colleagues Matthew Clement and Robby Habans, from Texas State University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign respectively, Pattison is working to publish a series of five papers that address this topic. The second in the series to be published came out in September of 2017. This paper, titled “Scaling down the ‘Netherlands Fallacy’: a local-level quantitative study of the effect of affluence on the carbon footprint across the United States”, was published in Environmental Science and Policy.

An important component of this paper is that, as Pattison distinguishes, greenhouse gas emissions can be broken down into two categories: production and consumption emissions. Production emissions are created via the manufacturing of goods, whereas consumption emissions are created through sectors such as energy and transportation. Therefore the “Netherlands Fallacy” can be described wherein, according to Pattison’s paper, “a wealthy developed nation like the Netherlands may appear to have minimal environmental impacts because many of the products consumed within its borders are produced elsewhere”.

By looking at local emissions in the U.S. through the lens of the “Netherlands Fallacy” a lot can be gathered about what groups of people are responsible for certain emissions in different areas, Pattison explained. They found a positive correlation between consumption emissions and the affluence of an area; hence, as wealth increases so do the carbon emissions. However, the relationship between production emissions and affluence is more complicated. In this case the relationship can be represented by an inverted-U; as affluence rises, production emissions rise as well – until a point –  then production emissions start to fall as affluence continues to rise. Therefore, the authors reach the conclusion that more affluent communities are displacing significant, carbon-intensive production operations onto poorer communities. Pattison labels this as the environmental inequality Kuznets curve in order to reflect the disproportional burden of emissions that less affluent communities have to bear.

The most striking finding of Pattison’s paper, however, is the relationship that a community’s carbon footprint has to their affluence. The impact of affluence on emissions is pronounced to an extremely high degree when you factor in both consumption and production variables. In fact, affluence is even more strongly correlated to an intense carbon footprint than it is to consumption emissions. Understanding this direct link between emissions and affluence is important, but as Pattison points out, realizing the impact on emissions policy is critical.

Pattison notes that in order to properly address the impending climate crisis the world as a whole needs to reduce its carbon emissions. However, when you consider the idea of a widespread carbon tax for example, it’s clear now why such an initiative is too general. “When looking at a policy based on penalty or benefit you need to be careful, otherwise you might end up charging the wrong people”, noted Pattison. In order to properly and fairly reduce carbon emissions we have to look at which communities are creating the largest carbon footprint and localize the burden, otherwise the economic strain can begin to fall on those who deserve it the least.

It can be easy to get lost in the research of this work, but it’s important to remember that it’s addressing real-world problems for which we need to work to find solutions. Professor Pattison hopes that in moving forward with the remaining papers in the series addressing this important relationship he and his colleagues can develop a conceptual framework to adequately relate their theories and findings in order to directly inform carbon policy. Pattison sums up his initiative best by saying, “We need to match the goals we have as a society with the goals we have on how to deal with climate change in order to be the most successful”.