Home - Distinctly Colgate - Sustainability - Sustainability News
Sustainability News

Latest Posts

Earth Day on the Horizon: 13 Days of Green

By Sustainability Office on March 29, 2018

–Chloe Matonis ’18

In the 1900s, the world witnessed the rise of unknown diseases due to pesticides and other harmful pollutants. Fed up with corporations and the government’s apathy towards the growing environmental degradation, millions of people took to the streets in 1970 to protest the negative impacts of 150 years of industrial development (earthday.org). In response to the growing global ecological awareness, the U.S. Congress and President Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency and robust environmental laws, such as the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act. April 22nd, 1970, also marked the first official Earth Day.

Earth Day is now a global event each year, with more than 1 billion people in 192 countries celebrating worldwide (earthday.org). It is a day of political action and civic participation. People march, sign petitions, meet with their elected officials, plant trees, clean up their towns and roads. Corporations and governments use it to make pledges and announce sustainability measures. Colgate University recognizes Earth Day in its own, unique way with the 13 Days of Green.

Every year, the Office of Sustainability hosts the 13 Days of Green. It is 13 days dedicated to the celebration, education, and outreach of sustainability, all leading up to Earth Day. The 13 Days of Green include a wide range of events open to all students, faculty, and members of the local Hamilton community. Some 13 Days of Green events to mark on your calendars include:

  • The 13 Days of Green will begin with the Kickoff Festival, taking place on the academic quad on Tuesday April 10th. There will be food, live music, games, and earthy activities co-sponsored by Sidekicks.


  • Thursday April 12th in Golden Auditorium is the GreenSummit. The Green Summit aims to highlight the relationship between climate change and a diverse group of disciplines across campus, beyond the traditional environmental science perspective, to equip the Colgate Community to address the multifaceted implications of climate change. The summit will: highlight the importance of Colgate’s carbon neutrality commitment, mobilize multiple stakeholders, and explain how you fit into the fight against climate change.


  • An ENST Brown Bag on Friday April 13th. Speaker Isla Globus-Harris will give a lecture on “Free-riding in Energy Efficiency Subsidy Programs.”


  • April 15th is the Sustainable Study Break in the Batza room in Case. This event is hosted by the first-year sustainability representatives. Participants will be encouraged to make their own chipwiches, calculate their carbon footprints, and contribute to the climate ribbon project.


  • The “Pop-up Thrift Shop” is an event where you can donate your old clothes and come find new treasures. Items available will include jewelry, shoes, professional clothes, costumes, and more! Drop off your old clothes in the ENST Resource Room or in the marked bins in your residence hall between April 4 -18, then stop by the HOP between 12 and 4 pm on April 20th to get new clothes! All remaining items will be donated to the LGBT Initiatives Closet or local charities.


  • The Locavore Dinner will take place on Saturday, April 21st. Co-sponsored by Green Thumbs, we are hosting a locavore dinner where we buy local food from the farmer’s market and other farm stands, cook various recipes together, and then enjoy the feast.


The last day of 13 Days of Green is the Earth Day Afternoon of Service. On Sunday April 22. The Office of Sustainability will host an afternoon of service in celebration of Earth Day by organizing several exciting volunteer projects oriented around sustainability and ecological awareness. Students will get to know the greater Hamilton area through hands-on engagement with the community.  A snack and transportation will be provided.

A complete list of 13 Days of Green events can be found on the Colgate Calendar and in the Colgate Mobile App. Keep your eyes open for a variety of fun and interesting ways to make a positive impact!

Special thanks to 13 Days of Green Co-sponsors, including the Sustainability Council (through the Sustainability Fund), Sidekicks, Students for Environmental Action, Green Thumbs, Beekeeping Club and the Environmental Studies Program.

Carbon Neutrality FAQ

By Sustainability Office on March 15, 2018

Colgate is committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2019. To reach this goal, we are exploring a variety of options to offset the emissions we can’t yet reduce. The below answers to some of our most frequently asked questions will help you to gain a better understanding of what carbon neutrality is and why it is important to Colgate:

What is a carbon footprint?

A carbon footprint is the amount of carbon and/or greenhouse gas emitted directly or indirectly by an entity. Each member of the Colgate community has their own carbon footprint associated with things like travel, home energy use, purchasing and food. You can calculate your personal carbon footprint here. Colgate University also has a carbon footprint, encompassing emissions from waste, building heating and cooling, fertilizer use, electricity, business travel, employee commuting and paper procurement. Many of these emissions are associated with the use of fossil fuels. These greenhouse gas emissions from our campus and our personal lives contribute to global climate change.

What is the difference between gross emissions and net emissions?

Our gross emissions are the total emissions produced by Colgate’s buildings and business functions. Our net emissions represent our campus emissions after taking offsets into consideration.

What is Colgate’s Carbon Footprint?

In Fiscal Year 2017 Colgate emitted 13,233 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTeCO2). Since 2009, we have reduced our net campus carbon footprint by 8,632 MTeCO2, representing a 51% reduction. 2017 State of Sustainability Report

What does it mean to be Carbon Neutral?

To be carbon neutral is to have zero net emissions. This means offsetting whatever emissions we cannot reduce organically.

What has Colgate already done to reduce its carbon footprint?

Colgate has reduced its gross carbon emissions by 21% since 2009. This is a result of building and renewable energy projects like the geothermal heat exchange system beneath the Chapel House and the solar thermal array installed at 100 Broad. Peer-to-peer education programs have also helped to change behavior across campus and reduce emissions.

Why can’t we reduce all of our emissions to zero? Why do we need to offset to be carbon neutral?

Some forms of emissions are nearly impossible to eliminate without extraordinary cost or disruption to the university’s academic mission. For example, over 40% (6,147MTeCO2)  of our campus’ gross emissions comes from commuting and business (air and ground) travel. Travel is essential for faculty research, admission, and institutional advancement. So, to compliment emission reduction strategies on campus, Colgate has resolved to invest in carbon offsets.

What does it mean to offset emissions?

An investment in carbon offsets is an investment in a project or program that reduces or eliminates emissions elsewhere. Common offset projects include investments in renewable energy, methane capture, and reforestation projects.  In recent years, the practice of offsetting emissions has become commonplace for a variety of institutions and is seen as an environmentally responsible decision. Colgate’s existing Patagonia offset program aims to restore a forest in Chile. Additional trees and sustainable land management practices allow the forest to sequester more carbon from the atmosphere. Colgate’s financial investment facilitated additional carbon sequestration, allowing us to account for this carbon reduction.

Do carbon offsets actually make a difference when it comes to climate change?

Yes, in fact, carbon offsets are a very useful climate change mitigation tool. By investing in carbon offsets, an organization invests in something that will benefit the environment by either reducing or eliminating emissions. Carbon offsets projects and programs also go through a verification process. Many times, offsets go through a third-party validation and verification process through organizations like the American Carbon Registry. There is also an emerging peer review model used to verify some carbon offset projects.

Why is Colgate’s Carbon Neutrality date so soon? Why not wait?

As outlined in our 2011 Climate Action Plan, Colgate decided to respond to the ongoing and increasing threat of climate change by setting a 2019 carbon neutrality date. Our institution recognized that climate change is happening now and agreed that we need to begin taking responsibility for our emissions. In 2019, we will begin to hold our institution financially accountable for our carbon footprint. In doing so, offset costs factor into decision-making processes, creating an incentive to further reduce our gross campus emissions. 

Why is it important for Colgate to achieve carbon neutrality?

The Thirteen Goals of a Colgate Education reflect the values of our institution and sustainability is a key theme throughout. We cannot expect our students to develop a respect for the environment if our institution does not model the same behavior. Colgate can uphold its value of environmental stewardship by addressing climate change with a sense of urgency.

What happens after 2019?

We will be carbon neutral in 2019, but that doesn’t mean our work is done. We will continue to focus on reducing our gross campus emissions through the new Green Revolving Loan Fund, student programs, and continued employee education. We will make community resilience and climate preparedness a top priority and continue to build a culture of environmental and social responsibility at Colgate.

Visit colgate.edu/carbon for more information about Colgate’s commitment to carbon neutrality. Learn more about the carbon offset options we are exploring here.

2018 Carbon Offset Interim Report

By Sustainability Office on March 15, 2018

Colgate University accepts responsibility for its contribution to global climate change and is preparing to thrive in a low-carbon future.  By achieving carbon neutrality in 2019, Colgate is committed to 1) reducing greenhouse gas emissions on campus and 2) investing in high-quality carbon offset projects that eliminate remaining emissions from Colgate’s operations. Significant sources of emissions such as air travel, commuting, ground transportation, and some forms of energy use are currently impossible to eliminate without extraordinary cost or disruption to our academic mission. Since Colgate cannot eliminate all on-campus emissions by 2019, purchasing offsets to achieve carbon neutrality is necessary.  Investing in offsets creates an opportunity for education and innovation.  It also creates a strong financial incentive to reduce on-campus emissions that would obviate the need to purchase future offsets on an annual and ongoing basis.  While implementing on-campus projects that continue to reduce Colgate’s greenhouse gas emissions remains the top priority, the university must also choose among a myriad of carbon offsets options to achieve its institutional goal of carbon neutrality by 2019.

The Carbon Offsets Working Group was established during the 2016 fall semester to research carbon offset options and propose recommendations for investing in offsets to help meet our 2019 carbon neutrality goal.  The Carbon Offsets Working Group is a subcommittee of the Sustainability Council.  The Working Group has met over a dozen times since its formation and has completed a number of research efforts between meetings. This research includes: a review of reports and approaches developed by other institutions, interviews with colleagues at other colleges and universities (e.g., Duke, Middlebury, Clarkson, and others), interviews with organizations who specialize in various aspects of project development and the offset market (e.g., Second Nature, TerraCarbon, Bluesource, Renewable Choice), conversations with members of Students for Environmental Action (a student organization on campus), and collaboration with ENST 390 students throughout the 2017 fall semester with their research project on forest carbon offsets.

As specified in Colgate’s Bicentennial Plan for a Sustainable and Carbon Neutral Campus, the Working Group is evaluating and recommending offset options that:

  • consider renewable energy certificates (RECs) or green tags to mitigate Colgate’s emissions associated with electricity consumption;
  • place a high value on academic and research opportunities;
  • consider community-based and/or local investment options;
  • are high-quality offsets that are either third-party certified or have direct and measurable carbon and community benefits;
  • consider options for socially responsible, community-based, economic, and environmental co-benefits;
  • make appropriate budgetary recommendations for Fiscal Year 2019.

The purpose of the attached interim report is to provide an initial assessment of our research that includes a list of the most promising offset options for the university to consider. 2018 Offset Interim Report

The United Kingdom: Is Sust a Must or a Bust? Part 2

By Sustainability Office on March 7, 2018

– Madison Smith ’19

In the fall, I wrote a short blog post about my initial reactions to sustainability in Manchester, England during my semester abroad. My observations included accessible recycling, vast bike paths, and a variety of vegan and vegetarian food options. In general, it seemed like the U.K. had sustainability at the forefront of their decision-making. I even went so far as to say that the United States should use the U.K. as a model for basic sustainable practices. After researching beyond just surface-level environmentalism, however, I no longer fully believe that statement holds true.

Air pollution is the biggest environmental hazard in the United Kingdom. Despite easier access to bike lanes and public transportation than we have in the U.S., air pollution levels have risen dramatically in the past few decades as the demand for personal motor vehicles has increased. According to the European Union’s record of air quality standards, the U.K. regularly exceeds the legal limits of both nitrous oxides and small particulate matter. The World Health Organization highlights how these substances are harmful to not only the environment, but also human health, and can lead to different cancers, respiratory diseases, and premature deaths. These adverse health impacts do not impact U.K. residents equally, indicating a strong case of environmental injustice.

Sources of air pollution, such as major roadways and factories, are often placed in areas with low-income families and people of color. A study done by Craig et al. in 2008 found that over half of all carcinogenic emissions exist in the neighborhoods where people with the bottom 10% income levels reside. Additionally, people of color are four times more likely to be considered “low-income” than white people in the U.K. (Craig et al., 2008). This exhibits how wealthier people have more political clout and face less discrimination when governments are planning where to locate environmental hazards. Additionally, it demonstrates how institutions have kept many non-white families in low-income positions, thus quieting their voices and decision-making power when it comes to adverse  problems like air pollution. Environmental injustice is already widely prevalent in the United States, therefore the U.S. should not attempt to emulate the U.K. when it comes to combating environmental issues, but rather a country that prioritizes the wellbeing of all people.

While recycling, energy efficient light bulbs, and well labeled menus are important in the fight for a more sustainable world, their absence does not necessarily negatively impact the quality of life of marginalized communities. What I have realized in my semester abroad is that a country can do a lot to make themselves appear “green”. What matters more, though, are the underlying, significant externalities that are not advertised. It is a sad reality that issues impacting  minorities and low-income earners are often the ones that are ignored. The first step in fixing these issues, however, is learning about them and bringing them to the forefront of policy-making and the environmental justice movement.


Craig, G., Burchardt, T., & Gordon, D. (Eds.). (2008). Social justice and public policy: Seeking fairness in diverse societies. Bristol: Policy Press.

UK air pollution: How bad is it? (2014, April 02). Retrieved November 7, 2017, from http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-26851399

Air Quality Standards. (2008). Retrieved November 14, 2017, from http://ec.europa.eu/environment/air/quality/standards.htm

Apply to be a Summer 2018 Sustainability Office Intern

By Sustainability Office on March 1, 2018

The Sustainability Office is hiring three interns for the summer of 2018 to work on a wide range of projects to advance sustainability at Colgate and help bring Colgate to carbon neutrality.

This is an exciting opportunity for Colgate students to get hands-on experience putting sustainability into action.

Summer 2017 intern, Chaveli Miles ’19, stated the following about her experience:

“One very important thing I learned while working as a Sustainability Intern over the summer is that sustainability doesn’t have to occur in the political arena to be impactful. In Hamilton, New York sustainability happens right here. It’s initiated by my peers and supported by my institution. It’s the do-it-yourself sustainability that is designed, implemented and re-designed, constantly improving and working towards a more resilient community and a healthier Earth.”

The position requires up to 40 hours per week, starting the week of May 21st.  Work schedules are flexible and will allow for vacation time, however, a total of 10 weeks of work during the summer is required.

Each sustainability intern will report to the Sustainability Office Program Coordinator and support the activities of Colgate’€™s Office of Sustainability. Summer 2018 tasks may include, but are not limited to:
-Research and execute novel programming
-Creative Writing and Video Production: Interns may craft creative writing pieces and video blog entries for the Sustainability Office blog
-Social media: Interns will post comments and events to our Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts.
-Green Bikes: Interns will help to manage our bike rental program.
-Community Garden: On occasion, Interns will spend time helping in Colgate’€™s Community Vegetable Garden.
-State of NY Sustainability Conference: Interns may support planning efforts for 2018 State of NY Sustainability Conference being hosted at Colgate.
-Carbon Neutrality: Interns may help to develop programs and communications focused on Colgate’s upcoming carbon neutrality date and investment in carbon offsets.

**To apply, you must submit a resume and cover letter to pgramlich@colgate.edu by March 23rd – more information in the portal**