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Jailekha Zutshi’s Puerto Rico Experience

By Sustainability Office on July 3, 2019

-Jailekha Zutshi ’21

A week after the spring semester ended, I left Hamilton for Puerto Rico on a service learning trip organized in conjunction with the COVE. Ten of us had taken Core Puerto Rico or Core Latin America in the last three years with Professor Barreto, who accompanied us  along with Professor Humphrey. Altogether, we spent nine days in Puerto Rico – the first week at Plenitud PR in Las Marías, and an afternoon in Mayagüez interacting with farmers, artists, and activists, The last two days were in Caguas with Tara Rodriguez Besosa, a queer rural activist, largely on her farm. At Plenitud, our mornings were spent working on the farms, and the afternoons participating in cultural activities, attending workshops, or doing household tasks like shelling lentils, processing spices, or helping with meal prep. The vast majority of the produce we worked with, and a large part of what we ate, was  grown on the farm itself. 

Working on the farm, and listening to Tara and folx in Mayagüez, we learned that farmers in rural areas who worked together to create contingency plans before Hurricane Maria hit were able to minimize the long-term impact of the storm. Creating environmentally and economically sustainable methods of agriculture coincided with ensuring self-sufficiency as folx living in a colony in the aftermath of a natural disaster. The agricultural methods involve growing several plants together so that  they naturally return nutrients to the soil, unlike monocrop agriculture which depletes naturally occurring nutrients from the earth. Growing their own food, exchanging services, and creating art to sustain their social networks meant that in a lot of cases, they were able to distribute food and help survivors of the hurricane well before the administration could reach the western part of the island. Thus, farms were part of the movement to create and sustain communities after the trauma of Maria. As a result, farms like the ones we visited serve as a model example of environmental, economic, and social sustainability. 

In the urban sprawl of New Delhi, India, where I grew up, we were taught that urban areas were more developed than their rural counterparts. This trip made me question this  claim and reevaluate the meaning of ‘development.’ Development without sustainability inevitably leads to vulnerable groups being adversely impacted by climate change, capitalism, and colonialism. Reimagining development as sustainable development, where folx could fend for themselves and others with a degree of agency I could not in the city, I thought through new ways to link self reliance and agriculture, climate change and colonialism, and food and resistance. I will always carry these lessons on the most authentic form of sustainability I have seen, eaten, heard, and touched, and will use these to advocate for a more decolonized, sustainable, and equitable approach to addressing climate change. 

Sustainable Reunion 2019

By Sustainability Office on July 3, 2019

Last month over 3,500 alumni, family, and friends gathered on campus for the Bicentennial All-Class Reunion. The Office of Sustainability coordinated efforts with the Office of Alumni Relations to make Lunch and Dinner on Friday as low waste as possible. In addition to obtaining biodegradable plates, napkins, utensils, and cups, zero waste stations were set up across Whitnall Field.

To set up, help guide, and educate alums of our efforts, the Sustainability Office had student and staff volunteers stationed at the various zero waste stations. These zero waste stations had three bins: one for compost, for bottles and cans, and one for landfill waste. The goal of these stations was to reduce the amount of general landfill waste by recycling and composting. We were proud to see much of the food waste being correctly placed in the compost bins! All of the food collected in the compost bins was placed in the office’s composting plot.

Reunion Weekend also featured a number of other sustainable initiatives:

  • Email is the primary method for marketing Reunion, reducing the amount of paper used
  • Local produce and products are integrated into meals
  • Water coolers are provided around campus in place of one-time use disposable water bottles
  • Golf carts are used for transportation (instead of vans) around campus to reduce greenhouse emissions

For almost a decade, the Office of Alumni Relations and the Office of Sustainability have worked to reduce waste in support of campus sustainability and carbon neutrality goals. Colgate is working toward being a zero-waste campus by 2025 and minimizing waste at events like Reunion is a great step in this direction. 
Read more about our journey to become carbon neutral here.