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Apply Now for this Summer’s Colgate Community Garden Internship

By Sustainability Office on February 28, 2018

-Mak Bridge ’20

In the summer of 2017, I was given the opportunity  to work at the Colgate Community Garden and it was hands down one of the best experiences of my Colgate career. Working in the garden is by no means easy, but it is an incredibly rewarding experience.


Summer Garden Interns Camila Loke ’19 and Mak Bridge ’20 at the Colgate Community Garden

Each summer, two interns are hired to maintain the garden with the help of the garden manager, Beth Roy. I worked roughly 40 hours a week, whether that time be spent weeding, planting, or harvesting for our weekly farm stand. I loved being able to see the entire agricultural process from start to finish. Working at the garden is one of the only opportunities students have to get involved with agriculture, and as Colgate is set in such a rural environment, I think it really helps to give the interns a sense of place.

I grew up on a dairy farm, but still managed to learn so much about vegetable farming and organic practices through my job at the garden. As part of the internship, I was also able to take a course facilitated by John Pumilio who is the Director of the Office of Sustainability at Colgate. Through this course I was able to engage in conversations about sustainability at Colgate with faculty members, while also learning how my role in the community garden plays into sustainability  initiatives on campus.

The Garden Interns engage with the local community through the weekly farm stand

The Colgate Community Garden is searching for interns to hire for the upcoming summer season. I cannot emphasize enough how cool it is to learn and observe first-hand where your food is coming from and how it is produced. Furthermore, Beth is such a great resource and was able to teach me so much in such a short span of time, so there’s no need to worry if you don’t have previous experience with farming or gardening. Don’t miss out on this unique and amazing opportunity!

Apply for this year’s summer internship by sending your resume and one page cover letter to garden manager, Beth Roy (eroy@colgate.edu). The application deadline is March 23. More information.


New Extended Study to Patagonia, Chile Visits Colgate Forest

By Sustainability Office on February 26, 2018

-Revée Needham ‘18

In 2016,  Colgate’s Office for Off-Campus Study, Office of Sustainability, and Patagonia Sur came together to develop a new extended study in Patagonia. Among a large applicant pool excited to participate in this first-time extended study, I was chosen as one of the twelve students to join Biology Associate Professor Eddie Watkins and the Director of Sustainability, John Pumilio, on the trip.

In preparation for the extended study, we took the biology course Field Ecology during the fall semester. In class, we learned about the geography, climate, biology, history and more of South America, Argentina, and Chile, with a focus on the Patagonian region. The class was structured as a “jigsaw,” where we learned from each other and were all given the opportunity to facilitate class discussion, in addition to a variety of class speakers that were brought in. After we finished our coursework we packed up all of our biology field equipment and departed for Buenos Aires, Argentina in late December.

There, we spent four days acquainting ourselves with the southern hemisphere and Argentina’s culture and history. Instead of biking around the vast city, we took motorized bikes to explore the city and examine the urban ecology of the Plaza de las Naciones Unidas. Our hotel, conveniently located across from the local market stalls, overlooked the Recoleta Cemetery. Recoleta Cemetery houses a beautiful collection of Argentinian families’ mausoleums with some still in use today. After trying the delicious Argentine delicacy, empanada, we traveled to our final destination: the Patagonia Sur Valle California property outside of the town of Palena, Chile.

The group after our final hike, overlooking the Valle California properties (Photo courtesy of Austin Sun)


Two visitors, Professor Álvaro Promis and Forestry Manager Matias Rio, joined us in Valle California. Professor Promis studies forest ecosystem succession and Mr. Rio was one of the original people to plant the saplings back in 2011. These two were able to teach us about the native plants and reforestation process, respectively. While reforestation may sound simple on paper on paper, the planting of the trees is quite the arduous process. Due to the remote location, transporting the trees to the plots requires numerous trips by horseback. We got a small taste of the endurance required when we planted 160 trees, nowhere near the 40,000+ saplings in the Colgate Forest. Additionally, we learned a subset of the birds and understory plants and even took quizzes to identify them! While I’m not a self-described “plant nerd,” I did find it exhilarating to be able to look at a plant along the path and correctly say “that’s blechnum.”

The research component of the trip involved assessing the health of the forest plots and then comparing them to native forests. We set up 5 transects, or plots, to measure ranging from an old-growth Nothofagus pumilio forest to the young reforested Nothofagus antarctica saplings.

We measured light transmission, tree height and width, soil nutrients, understory plant identification, and classified insects and birds. To determine which birds were visiting the forests, we conducted the Breeding Bird survey, and stopped for 3 minutes every 100 meters in an area to listen with our ears and look with our eyes to then classify the bird species with our books and the help of John Pumilio.

Students enjoyed researching in Patagonia. (Photo courtesy of Austin Sun)

Classifying the understory plants, by walking along the plot and identifying all the species that we could see, helped us to study for our plants quiz! For the focus of our study, the tree saplings, we measured the basal circumference, the tree height, and the season’s growth. We did this for every single sapling in our plot- quite the tedious process. It was tricky at first to distinguish the reforested saplings from the understory plants, but after a while, I could see Nothofagus antarctica in my sleep. Because of the remote location, our limited equipment, and the young age of the trees, we were unable to conclude much, other than that the forest should continue to be monitored in the future to ensure its continued success. The trees have had to be replanted a few times due to disturbances by local hares and wild pigs.

In addition to the biology research, we made the most of the beautiful facilities by hiking, swimming, fly fishing, rafting, camping, and more. I rode a horse for the first time in my life to trek to the Colgate Forest plots thanks to the help of our gauchos (cowboys). Thankfully, I didn’t fall off! After a day of whitewater rafting, we camped in tents alongside a gorgeous river, where the sunset was a picturesque scene for us to enjoy. The next morning, we witnessed what it took to lasso a sheep and sheer its wool by hand. There, we visited a local woman who spun wool from her sheep into yarn that she uses to knit, crochet, weave products that she then sells at a local market. She also continued the tradition of weaving by teaching and empowering local girls with her knowledge of the trade.

Finally, we attended a fundraiser bingo night in Palena to support the nearby landslide-devastated Chilean town, Santa Lucia with the financial assistance of the COVE. Before the trip departed, we had planned on visiting Santa Lucia, but due to the landslide that became impossible. So, we felt a connection to this town that was recovering from a tragedy and we were grateful to be able to give back. At bingo, the gymnasium was packed with the entire town’s population, and us too, an eclectic group of outsiders excited for the game. The entirety of the bingo prizes were donated by the locals, and ranged from sheep to traditional maté tea and everything in between. That night was a highlight for the entire group, where we came together with the town of Palena for a bigger cause. On our final day in Patagonia, we celebrated our time with a traditional lamb feast. We concluded with a reflection of our favorite memories of the trip, and the people who made it so special, with many us tipping our hats to the chef, Alejandro.

Susanna explaining how she weaves using her loom (Photo courtesy of Austin Sun)

At the conclusion of our visit, we gave a final presentation to some of the Valle California staff and wrote a final report detailing our research and recommendations. Our project was geared towards the biology and ecology of the forest, yet many of us were interested in the economic and social factors too. Thus, future extended studies and trips should broaden their focus to include this equally as important factors. We were grateful to use the luxurious amenities at Patagonia Sur, however, these were largely inaccessible to the local people. The gate to the Patagonia Sur properties was locked and locals were only able to visit the beautiful site if they rented out the dining area for a hefty price. From informal discussions with the staff members, they wished there was a greater involvement of the property with the Chileans. While Patagonia Sur started with great intentions to conserve the land and restore the ecosystem, it would better serve the community as an open and accessible site with sustainable use. In addition, while our Colgate group came to conduct research, the type of work we did could be continued by other scholars from the area. With numerous schools and universities in Chile, it would be prudent to continue the forest research with a local team who are equally as capable. We also proposed that Patagonia Sur combine ecotourism with the research opportunities to develop an environmental education and outreach program. While Colgate University is not responsible for the business model and practices of Patagonia Sur, the class participants hope to encourage the board of Patagonia Sur to consider developing a more participatory business venture that benefits the local community.

On behalf of the entire class, I extend our sincerest gratitude to all those who assisted in the preparation for the trip and the fabulous experience we had at Patagonia Sur. I wish the best of luck to the next extended study group of students.



How did this project come to fruition?

The extended study trip that culminated in January 2018 has its origins in the creation of the Colgate Forest in 2011. After Colgate’s President signed a commitment in 2009 to our carbon neutrality in 2019, the Sustainability Council and the Office of Sustainability were looking for opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with campus operations and through carbon offsets. Then, the pathway was paved for the creation of the Colgate Forest, as one of the carbon offset options.  

Why does Colgate University invest in carbon offsets?

Carbon offsets are projects that sequester carbon and reduce greenhouse gases in an offsite location. Given the size of Colgate-owned properties, the existing infrastructure, and dependence on air travel for faculty research, it would be impossible to achieve carbon neutrality in 2019 without some form of offset. A variety of improvements on campus have been made, totalling a reduction in gross greenhouse gas emissions of 21% since our baseline emissions in 2009. Furthermore, as climate change is a global issue, doing our part to remove carbon from the atmosphere earlier rather than later will benefit everyone. Partnering with Patagonia Sur was attractive due to its innovative approach, opportunities for travel and research (as evidenced by the extended study), and the benefits it provides to the local ecosystem. Creating the Colgate Forest as an offset project involved the planting of native trees in an area that has been devastated by slash and burn agriculture practices and deforestation. Overall, Colgate signed a 15-year agreement with Patagonia Sur in order to sequester 5,000 tons of carbon each year, which reduces our gross emissions by approximately one-third.

The Extended Study participants at one plot of The Colgate Forest (Picture courtesy of Austin Sun)

How is this project verified?

Patagonia Sur, with the assistance of Colgate’s Office of Sustainability, pursued the rigorous certification for the reforestation project. Verified Carbon Standard is an internationally-recognized standard that ensures various programs meet a set of criteria. They look for a variety of attributes including co-benefits (including biodiversity and ecosystem restoration), third party verification, measurement (on an annual basis), additionality (that the trees would not have grown back naturally), leakage (multiple plots of trees to reduce risk of damage), and permeance (whereby the trees are placed under an easement and are not to be cut down).

What else is Colgate University doing to become more sustainable?

After the University committed to carbon neutrality, the Sustainability Council drafted our Climate Action Plan to detail a pathway to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on campus. Building upon this plan, the Bicentennial Plan aims to integrate sustainability into the campus life and operations. Every year, the Office of Sustainability tracks and publishes an annual report, detailing where our emissions are from on and off campus. A variety of organizations, including Second Nature, the Sierra Club, Princeton Review, and more have recognized Colgate’s efforts. To learn more about Colgate’s initiatives, visit our website.

Water Quality Research in Florence, Italy with Professor Tseng

By Sustainability Office on February 21, 2018

-Noah Campbell ‘18

Over winter break, I spent eight days in Italy with Professor Linda Tseng, collecting water samples from historic fountains in Florence, Siena and Assisi, and visiting with water researchers in the area.

Since the summer of 2017, I have been working with Dr. Tseng to analyze the water and sediment quality in Payne Brook and the Hamilton municipal wastewater treatment plant to better understand the relationship between the wastewater plant and the brook. So when she asked me if I would be interested in accompanying her t o Florence, Italy to take samples of the water there for analysis, I enthusiastically agreed to join her.

On January 3rd, I flew to Florence, traveling through Lisbon and Rome. Upon my arrival, I met up with Dr. Tseng and we began to collect samples, first together, then by myself once I had a good grasp of the city’s geography. The main purpose of the trip was to analyze the quality of the drinkable water connected to many famous fountains across the city. Tourists will often fill their water bottles at these spigots, so we hope to determine if the water quality is acceptable or could use improvement. Over the course of the week I essentially walked the entire length of the city to collect samples, traveling through the traditional historic sites as well as some areas which most tourists would not see.

While in Italy, Dr. Tseng and I both traveled to Siena for a day. We took water samples from the Fonte Gaia, the fountain found in the famous main square of the city, the Piazza del Campo. I also traveled by train to Assisi, birthplace of the Franciscan religious movement, to visit a family friend. In doing so, I was able to take water samples from public fountains in the city, which are frequented by religious pilgrims.

Dr. Tseng and I were also able to meet with her colleagues from the University of Florence. These professors conduct similar research to that which I help with on campus, but there are also unexpected differences between American and European research. For instance, there are contaminants we worry about in the United States which are complete non-issues in Europe, as they are banned by the EU, and vice versa. Meeting with these environmental engineers in Italy was a great learning and networking opportunity for me.

I feel exceptionally lucky to have been able to assist with research in Florence and other cities in Italy. I was able to experience one of the most culturally prominent cities in the world, and learned a great deal about international research. I was also able to conduct many aspects of the research on my own, which gave me insight on how to accomplish work independently, particularly in an unfamiliar country. I hope to eventually become an environmental engineer, and working with Dr. Tseng to analyze fresh water has helped me learn more about the profession. I am grateful to Dr. Tseng, the ENST Department, and Colgate University for this incredible opportunity.

2017 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory

By Sustainability Office on February 20, 2018

This year marks Colgate’s ninth consecutive greenhouse gas inventory report. Colgate’s gross campus carbon emissions in Fiscal Year 2017 (July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017) was 13,233 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTeCO2). We have reduced our net campus carbon footprint by 8,632 MTeCO2, representing a 51 percent reduction. Since signing the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) in 2009, rebranded as Second Nature’s Carbon Commitment, Colgate has implemented many changes on and off campus to achieve these reductions, moving closer toward our goal of carbon neutrality by 2019. 2017 State of Sustainability Report

Pilot “Carry in – Carry out” Program in Alumni Hall

By Sustainability Office on February 9, 2018

The recycling stations in Alumni Hall that students, faculty, and staff are being encouraged to use.

– Delaney Pals ’18

Starting this spring there is a pilot program being implemented in Alumni hall that is attempting to reduce recycling contamination and increase overall recycling rates. In order to achieve these goals, there are no longer small trash and recycling bins in two of the seminar rooms. Instead, students, faculty, and staff have to go to the hallway to the recycling stations to dispose of their items. This is theorized to reduce contamination for many reasons. First, most classrooms only have one small waste bin and one recycling bin. The recycling bin in classrooms is meant for paper recycling, however, the recycling stream ends up being contaminated with many plastic bottles and cups. This does not align with our two-stream recycling program and ends up confusing people on what should be recycled where. When recycling bins are contaminated (for example plastic in a paper bin and vice versa), more often than not, the entire contents of the recycling bin ends up in the trash.

By encouraging students to take their items to the hallway they are then presented with all three options: paper, bottles & cans, and trash. This way items are disposed of properly and recycling rates will hopefully increase. These bins have been placed in the hallways where there is the most visibility and access, areas where students walk right by. This way people will pass at least one grouping of trash/recycling bins in the hallway and they will be able to dispose of or recycle those items there.

This pilot is being tested out in the two seminar rooms in alumni (431 and 432). Once the results from this pilot program come back it can be determined whether or not the program will be expanded to the rest of Alumni and, potentially, the rest of the campus. Let the Office of Sustainability know if you have any experience with these carry in – carry out classrooms and want to let us know how the pilot is going. Any feedback is appreciated as we try to find the best way to increase recycling rates and decrease contamination across campus!

Recyclemania Begins Today!

By Sustainability Office on February 5, 2018

-Revee Needham ‘18

          Once again Colgate University is participating in a competition with other colleges and universities to decrease landfill waste and increase recycling rates. We are competing against Hamilton College in Clinton to see who can improve the most from February 5th to March 9th.  Recycling rates are calculated by dividing the recycled weight by total weight of recycled plus landfill waste. For the past two weeks, the staff at Colgate were measuring the amount of recycling and landfill waste we generated in order to have a baseline to compare to.

          Why is this competition and recycling so important? Landfills across the country release 143 million tons of greenhouse gases (Source). Those greenhouse gases contribute to the many effects of climate change. With the staggering amount of trash we are producing, we are running out of land and sending our garbage overseas, with some of it ending up in the ocean (Source). Furthermore, landfills often pose a health risk to workers and the surrounding community, which historically has been poorer people of color who have less political capital to fight the siting (Source).

          While recycling may seem simple and easy to grasp, the recycling infrastructure varies greatly county-to-county and state-to-state. With Colgate drawing in students from 45+ states and over 100 countries, many students arrive with vastly different experiences and knowledge. Thus, it’s incredibly important to learn about what we have here at Colgate upon arrival.

          Check out this guide for the recycling system in Madison County, NY. The main thing to remember is that we have two-stream recycling: one bin for paper and one bin for plastics/glass/cans. Remember to rinse your recyclable bottles or cans of any food residue first, for health and safety reasons for the workers who sort the recycling. To reduce your own waste, you may first want to look at what’s on your plate. Americans throw away 30% of all food and 50% of all produce (Source). Sorting through or even simply keeping a tally of what you throw away can help you to understand what sorts of waste you are producing, and can then reduce.

          You can help make Recyclemania the best one yet! The Sustainability Office is hosting workshops about recycling for interested students, faculty, or staff and their respective organization, office, or club. Fill out this form to get started.