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From Sap to Syrup: Maple Syrup in Upstate New York

By Sustainability Office on April 30, 2018

– Chaveli Miles ’19

February through April is the sweetest time of the year. When temperatures finally rise above freezing during the day, sugaring season begins! At Colgate, two community-based projects on local maple syrup production have been conducted as part of the interdisciplinary Environmental Studies course, ENST 390.

The first project was conducted in 2014 in Professor Galusky’s ENST 390 course. Andrew Mazen ‘15, Sarah DeFalco ‘15, and Drew Myers ‘15 examined the history and current production of maple syrup in Madison County, New York. They found maple syrup production fostered a sense of community and tradition as current sugar makers represented a lineage of sugarmakers spanning several generations. Using this information, they described various considerations for maintaining and improving future maple syrup production in the county.  

This semester, in Professor Helfant’s ENST 390 course, Quinn Kim’ 19, Carol Rodriguez ’18 and Will Besen ’19 are assessing the practicality of establishing a maple syrup operation on Colgate’s campus. This may be a possibility in the future as central New York has always been a main producer of maple syrup. New England, Michigan, and parts of Canada also produce maple syrup.

The sugaring season can last about 4 to 6 weeks depending on the weather. Consistent temperatures that fluctuate between above freezing during the day to below freezing at night are necessary to build up pressure within the trees, causing the sap to flow from carefully drilled holes in the tree. A well managed sugar maple forest can be used to sustainably produce maple syrup for over 100 years.

When the sap is first collected, it only contains about 2% sugar. It takes about 40 gallons of sap to make a gallon of syrup. Centuries ago, sap was collected and boiled until the final product was granulated maple sugar. This is why we say “sugaring season.” When granulated sugar from the sugar cane plant became more widely available, sugar makers started boiling their sap less to create a sweet, amber syrup.

Could Colgate become a little hub for maple syrup production? Until then, New York maple syrup is available at the Hamilton Farmers Market, Hamilton Whole Foods, Parry’s, and even Price Chopper. Buying locally produced syrup is an easy, and delicious, way to support local businesses and welcome spring in the Northeast.   

Sustainability Hosts Twitter Q&A

By Sustainability Office on April 16, 2018

The Office of Sustainability hosted a question and answer session on the Colgate University Twitter account Saturday, April 14. See the full thread below, and follow Colgate and the Office of Sustainability on Twitter.

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The Green Summit and Oak Awards

By Sustainability Office on April 11, 2018

–Dana Monz ’18

Each year, the Office of Sustainability hosts the 13 Days of Green. This Colgate tradition marks the thirteen days leading up to Earth Day, highlighting local and global sustainability challenges and initiatives, while demonstrating ways in which individuals can create change. Notably, two events that feature students, faculty, and staff who have played a substantial role in sustainability and addressing global climate change on campus are coming up this week on Thursday, April 12th in Golden Auditorium.

For this year’s Green Summit, we are inviting the Colgate community from a variety of disciplines to sit on a student-organized panel and share their perspectives on the current and future implications of climate change. The panel will be moderated by Professor Catherine Cardelús, an associate professor of biology and environmental studies. The mission for the Green Summit is as follows:

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. In doing so we will:

      Highlight the importance of Colgate’s carbon neutrality commitment

      Mobilize multiple stakeholders within the Colgate community

      Demonstrate how everyone fits into the fight against climate change

This year’s Green Summit aims to help people understand that regardless of who they are or where they are on campus, we are all connected to the impacts of climate change. The panel will consist of two students and two faculty members. The first panel member is Kimberly Duncan, a senior Environmental Studies and Studio Art double major.  She has increasingly incorporated environmental activist themes in her artwork while at Colgate and has been an Intern for the Office of Sustainability since the summer of 2015. The second panelist is Christopher Mather, a Peace and Conflict Studies major and a Political Science minor. Chris is also the former president of the Students for Environmental Action club here on campus. The third panelist is Professor Chandra Russo, an assistant professor of Sociology, who focuses on social movements and environmental justice in relation to the issue of climate change. Lastly, Professor Richard Klotz, an assistant professor of Economics, whose work focuses on greenhouse gas emissions and climate policy.  Our goal in selecting these panelists is that they will be able to help you all, the Colgate Community, address the multifaceted nature of climate change and recognize how it will impact people from all disciplines and walks of life.

To wrap up the Green Summit, the Office of Sustainability will present The Oak Awards, celebrating those who have made a significant contribution towards sustainability efforts at Colgate. The categories for the awards are: group of the year, staff member of the year, faculty member of the year, and student of the year.

The Oak Award recipients of 2017.

A complete list of all of the 13 Days of Green events can be found on the Colgate Calendar and in the Colgate Mobile App. Please make an attempt to get involved and help promote sustainability efforts around campus by developing a better understanding of how climate change will impact you.

Sustainability Interns Conduct Waste Audit

By Sustainability Office on April 10, 2018

–Miranda Gilgore ‘18

On Sunday March 25, Office of Sustainability interns conducted the 4th waste audit of the year in Colgate’s first-year and sophomore residential buildings. The purpose of the waste audits has been to determine the effectiveness of various types of recycling bins on increasing recycling and reducing contamination in the recycling stream. This work was motivated by Colgate’s low recycling rate of 15% and the fact that the amount of material that Colgate sent to the Madison County landfill was higher last year than any of the 8 preceding years.

Interns sort trash and recyclables for the waste audit.

The waste audits proved to be very successful, if a little smelly, showing that the Bryan Complex, which has Landmark-style recycling and trash bins has a much higher recycling rate than East Hall, which does not have the Landmark bins. The average recycling rate across the waste audits in the Bryan Complex was 57.78% while in East Hall the rate was only 22.21%.

Each of the four waste audits was conducted on a Sunday morning and afternoon. The dates were October 29th, December 3rd, February 25th, and March 25th. Bags of landfill waste and recycling were collected from all of the hallways and common rooms of the buildings. Each bag was labeled and weighed. Next, non-recyclable items were removed from paper and bottles & cans recycling bags. Common items included coffee and smoothie cups, straws, chip bags, and liquids. The presence of these items in the recycling stream can cause the entire bag of recyclables to be thrown into the landfill, so addressing contamination is an educational and structural priority. 

We also noted and recorded recyclables that were found in the landfill waste bags. Common recyclables in these bags included coffee sleeves, cardboard boxes, aluminum cans and plastic bottles, and paper. Although in general it is better to throw something out if you are unsure if it is recyclable, we believe that education and structural changes regarding recycling on campus can reduce the presence of recyclables sent to the landfill and increase the recycling rate.

The March 25th waste audit marked the last one of this academic year but the waste and recycling team of interns is working hard to compile a full report of the audits and recommend next steps for the university. Based on the initial results, it seems as though the Landmark bins are making a significant difference on the recycling rate and that additional Landmark bins, or similar bins, should be purchased and distributed across campus.

The waste audits helped us to understand some of the sticking points and challenges of recycling on campus, while also providing  an opportunity to examine how to improve the recycling rate. If you would like to become an ‘expert Colgate recycler’ you can check out the guide below or talk to anyone in the Office of Sustainability!