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Kimberly Duncan ’18 Presents Environmental Artwork

By Sustainability Office on December 14, 2017

H2CO3 is a two-dimensional piece depicting the degradation of coral reefs. The piece consists of three panels of detailed drawings of healthy, bleached, and algal corals descending down the paper.  On two panels, the corals are met with abstract markings made by household bleach and distress from sandpaper towards the bottom. The paper is black not only so the bleaching is visible but also to make the connection that ocean acidification and coral bleaching are really effects of increased atmospheric carbon caused by anthropogenic activity (carbon is traditionally depicted as black). Each strip can stand in place of many coral reefs, the outermost in poorest health— like the Great Barrier Reef and Hawaiian Reefs— and the inner one of the remaining reefs in good health— like Indonesian Reefs. Additionally, the evolution and processes I use in this piece is meaningful. I initially drew in healthy corals followed by gradually increasing introductions of bleach and bleached corals in a pace similar to the Keeling curve. Both the method and the details of the piece portray the effect of anthropogenic climate change on coral reefs.

This piece can be connected to Anthropogenic rhetoric in Eco Art, an art movement informed by contemporary environmental issues and social justice. Visually, the use of size in Eco Art pieces is a formal quality most often utilized. As a result, the scale of my piece is inspired by others that use size as a projection of the large-scale of the environmental damage being surveyed. My past work has been a gradual incline to the investigation of environmental issues. I have mostly had a focus in projects based around people and the communication of displaced environmental degradation. Last year, I created an installation, Carbon Cube, to similarly draw attention to an environmental issue that can seem abstract.  In that piece I was giving an abstract atmospheric emission a concrete form to bridge daily human activity and environmental impact. With this project, I am bridging the gap between the daily human activity and a displaced impact.

The content I have chosen, though explored by other artists, is unique because I don’t approach it from a perspective that seldom highlights the aesthetic value of a reef. Though aesthetic, social values are capable of emotionally seducing viewers I wanted to portray the intrinsic value of ocean health as well. By connecting humans to the health of ecosystems so far from their daily lives, the piece minimizes space between them. This emphasizes not only the need for humans to fix this issue but that we are complicit as well. Formally, the incorporation of bleach as a mode of mark making is a fairly unique method.  I wanted to connect the content and form by mimicking the removal of the color of healthy corals by stripping the paper of its original color. The paper is tall to mimic the vastness of the ocean ecosystem and our effect on it. Additionally, the paper will extend out onto the floor to invite the viewer to consider their impact on the issue. Viewers will interact with the piece spatially and hopefully will consider their own “footprint”.

The most important idea I want to communicate to the viewer is that their daily actions and lifestyles do have an impact. More importantly, I want to show that the degradation of these ecosystems is not directly attributed to their surrounding countries. The issue is due to a global increase in outputs of CO2. This piece is meant to serve as a reminder that our actions have a bigger effect outside of our ecosystem and are harshly affecting oceanic systems. The piece is not meant to serve as an answer or solution but to place the responsibility for the damage on humans, a responsibility that so many deny.

Come to Clifford Gallery to see all the art theses! The exhibit will be open from December 13-February 14th.

Don’t Feed the (Land)Fill: A Sustainability Office Intern’s Experience at a Zero-Waste Conference

By Sustainability Office on December 6, 2017
-Miranda Gilgore ’18

In early November, the Post Landfill Action Network (PLAN) hosted their 4th annual Students for Zero-Waste Conference in Philadelphia. The conference brought together about 500 students and faculty as well as companies committed to challenging thoughtless, wasteful consumerism.

Sites from the Toxics Tour of Chester, PA.

The conference began on Friday with a discussion of Environmental Justice and a “Toxics Tour” of the astounding number of polluting factories, incinerator, and industrial facilities located in nearby Chester, PA. Chester is in many ways the embodiment of environmental injustice and was therefore a good location for the tour. Among the Chester Water Authority, industrial center, paper mill and paper manufacturer, two chemical plants, empty plots that were formerly home to polluting factories or waste sites, trash substation, power plants (one current, one now turned into office space), and sewer overflow, Chester is perhaps most famously home of the nation’s largest trash incinerator. Despite being the country’s largest trash incinerator, importing trash from the surrounding county, nearby Philadelphia, NY, and NJ, the Covanta trash incinerator lacks many of the pollution controls that other incinerators have. The discussion of environmental justice and the tour were a striking way to start the weekend’s discussion on waste and the hopes of creating a zero-waste future because it showed the consequences of inaction and business as usual: polluted rivers, smelly air, and injustice. On Friday evening, the keynote speaker, Kate Bailey from Eco-Cycle, reminded us to think of zero-waste among other large scale energy saving initiatives.  


Well rested and excited for what the day would bring, I started Saturday off by enjoying a zero-waste breakfast (bulk items with no packaging, real silverware, and compostable bowls for attendees who hadn’t brought their own) and meeting new friends. I attended workshops on reducing on-campus disposable coffee cup usage, conducting a waste audit, and discussing zero-waste across different perspectives. I ate a zero-waste lunch. And I was inspired and encouraged.

Having wanted to go to this conference for the past 3 years because of my interest in zero waste initiatives, finally attending the conference was really a dream come true for me. The conference also fits into the larger picture of my work as an intern for the Office of Sustainability here at Colgate. Given Colgate’s waste problem (more than 850 tons of waste produced so far in 2017 and only a 12% recycling rate), I was eager to see what solutions students at other schools have found to reduce waste. One of the biggest takeaways from the conference is how far a little thoughtfulness can go. Bringing something to the correct recycling bin, packing something in a reusable container instead of a ziplock, not taking a straw to go with your disposable cup isn’t hard, it just takes a little extra thought. Colgate has a long way to go before it hits its 2025 goal of a zero waste campus, but with a little intentionality on all of our parts and a commitment to a just future, I think we can make huge strides.

Colgate Receives Highest Ever AASHE STARS Score

By Sustainability Office on December 6, 2017

STARS Gold SealLast week, Colgate University received a STARS Gold rating for the second time with its highest ever score (72.19) from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).

The AASHE Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS) is a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance. Colgate is one of only 124 institutions to receive a gold rating from AASHE STARS.

“AASHE STARS is the gold standard for assessing sustainability programs in higher ed. The fact that we scored so high and achieved a Gold rating illustrates a commitment to sustainability from every level of the institution,” stated director of sustainability, John Pumilio.

The assessment broadly approaches sustainability addressing a range of categories from operations to diversity and affordability. Most notably, Colgate scored well in the water, air and climate, purchasing, curriculum and engagement categories.  

Innovative and forward-thinking initiatives, such as Colgate’s comprehensive wellness program, Chapel House geothermal exchange system and a longitudinal study of the soundscape of Colgate’s hill also played a role in our institution’s new rating.

“I am really proud of the work Colgate is doing toward integrating sustainability across the university and it is wonderful that this work is recognized by the AASHE STARS program,” stated Chair of the Sustainability Council, Dr. Catherine Cardelús.

The nature of this report demonstrates that campus sustainability relies on more than just the work of one office, but rather dedicated student, staff and faculty champions across the institution who work to create a more socially and environmentally responsible and resilient community.

“I’m grateful to be working at an institution that places such a high value on sustainability and especially grateful to members of our sustainability team, Pamela Gramlich, and our student interns for their tireless effort over the past few months,” Pumilio stated. “STARS Gold is something the entire Colgate community can celebrate.”

Colgate’s entire AASHE STARS report can be viewed here. Special thanks to Dana Chan ‘19, Chaveli Miles ‘19, Annaliese Clauze ‘20, and Sonia Ost ‘20 for their work on the report.  Please email sustainability@colgate.edu with any questions.


Library Staff Members Form Sustainability Group

By Sustainability Office on December 5, 2017
-Revee Needham ‘18

This semester, a Library Sustainability Group formed under the direction of staff members Sergei Domashenko and Jesi Buell. Over a dozen staff members have joined and pledged to make an impact in their workplace. The three main focuses of the group are waste reduction, outreach and marketing, and literacy and education. In order to educate all staff members on how to be sustainable in their job at Case-Geyer Library, the literacy subgroup is focused on creating a staff sustainability guide. To save energy, personal desk light bulbs are in the process of being converted to LED light bulbs.

To make the all staff meetings zero-waste, recycling and compost bins are available to use.

The waste reduction subgroup is focusing on educating library staff and visitors on how to properly recycle and dispose of waste. The new landmark bins for bottles and cans, waste, and paper are an important infrastructure investment for clear signage. However, issues with contamination persist, as some people do not empty their liquids before recycling. When this happens, the entire bag of recycling must be thrown out.

Earlier in the semester, the Library Sustainability Group collaborated with the Office of Sustainability to ensure the all-staff meeting was zero-waste. Staff members were encouraged to bring their own mug or water bottle and recycling bins and compost bins were available for food waste. Focusing on staff education and sustainability literacy is as important to advancing the university’s sustainability mission as student education efforts.

Upon speaking with the Interim University Librarian, Steve Black, it’s clear that sustainability is supported at all levels within the Library. Mr. Black applauded the grassroots campaign and is happy to see staff members taking initiative to make their workplace more sustainable. He is collaborating with the Office of Sustainability to conduct an electricity analysis of the Library with its 2,500+ light fixtures.

Case-Geyer Library is uniquely situated to highlight its sustainability measures since its role as a public space differs from personal residence halls, for example. While students spend around 4 years at Colgate, staff members stay much longer, emphasizing the importance of this group’s efforts. Staff members are excited to go above and beyond their primary job descriptions to enact change.

New signage promotes the proper disposal of your materials into the recycling and waste bins.


Speaking to several members of the group, each had their own motivation and goals for their work in advancing sustainability in Case-Geyer Library. Mark Sandford explained that this group is important to have, as many other sustainability efforts are focused on student life, and overlook the staff who work at Colgate too. Joe Bernet emphasized that every person needs to step up and do their part in regard to sustainability. Additionally, Michael Sitts was eager to learn more after taking the Foundations of Sustainability course with John Pumilio, Director of the Office of Sustainability.

The group has been reaching out to other notable library institutions, such as Cornell and College of the Atlantic, to gather ideas to bring to Colgate. Overall, the members are excited and motivated to work collaboratively to tackle incorporating sustainability into the library. Mr. Domashenko, a leader of the Sustainability Group, hopes that in the future the library can serve as a model for other buildings and staff to learn from on campus.

You too can assist in their mission and the university’s mission for sustainability while visiting Case-Geyer Library. Take advantage of the natural window light and be sure to turn off lights after you leave an empty room. Follow the direction of the “Leave No Trace” signs, and properly dispose of any food or beverages in the appropriate bins. Empty liquids from your bottles before disposing in the Bottles and Cans recycling bin. Additionally, be sure to place any paper coffee cups in the waste bin, as they are not recyclable. If you’re unsure of how to dispose of something, remember “when in doubt, throw it out.” We can all do our part to make the library even greener.