Sustainability: Colgate’s Ongoing Efforts To Address Sustainability Issues

Cat Wang, Contributing Writer

In celebration of Earth Day each year, the Office of Sustainability puts together its 13 Days of Green program during the 13 days leading up to Earth Day. Despite multiple COVID-19 restrictions and even a brief backsliding to Gate 1, this year was no different and it’s safe to say it was successful, as well. The Kick-off of the program started on Saturday, April 10 with various environmentally conscious clubs tabling and leading fun projects on the academic quad to share how they were working toward a more sustainable future. This included the Commitment to Sustainability, working on its goal of reducing packaging waste on campus (which was followed by painting on reused mail packages to be made into a collage), the Colgate Community Garden sponsoring a station to make flower-pressed notecards and the UCan Project, which is a sustainability consulting nonprofit originally created as a Colgate Thought Into Action (TIA) endeavor that has made strides in helping local Hamilton businesses implement more environmentally friendly practices.

Each day had at least one sustainability event touching upon a plethora of various issues. One was an all-natural tie-dyeing event where students could upcycle their old white clothing by tie-dying them with homemade dyes made out of indigo, turmeric, beets and spinach. Another was a clothing swap which created a closed-loop for acquiring new clothes. This was done by collecting donations from Colgate students the week prior and then making those donations available to everyone to come in and thrift for fun. Many students were impressed with the number of clothes available and walked out with multiple articles including new Colgate attire, fun shirts, dress pants, dress shirts and even some blazers. Other events included an Environmental Studies Brown Bag led by Colgate faculty members to discuss the impacts of COVID-19 on the environment and the lessons created by these impacts. Another event was a day of service where students volunteered at either the Community Garden to construct a new pavilion and de-weed the vegetables or at the Community Bikes program which reconditions donated bikes and distributes them to low-income families who would otherwise find it difficult to buy them. The Green Summit event featured the award-winning nature photographer James Balog and allowed students to ask questions about his work. Balog’s work mainly focuses on capturing changes in the environment due to anthropogenic actions and just the beauty of nature itself. Many of his pictures are published in world-renowned magazines such as National Geographic and his documentation and fieldwork on the impact of climate change on glaciers and ice sheets even became the basis for the Oscar-nominated documentary Chasing Ice.

Aside from Earth Day, the Office of Sustainability, its interns and representatives work year-round to improve sustainability on campus. This can be said about other groups on campus, too, specifically Students for Environmental Action (SEA). 

“This semester in SEA, to help the University make some headway in its plans to go zero-waste, we researched and outlined strategies for reducing the amount of trash that we as an institution and individuals produce with the hopes of implementing them throughout campus in the coming years,” sophomore SEA member Aidan Woods said. “We looked into everything from sporting events to dorms and buildings off-campus. Another big goal was to start phasing out plastic eating utensils that end up in the trash. On Saturday the 24, we held an event on the quad where students could stop by and pick up free, reusable utensils and learn about ongoing work with waste reduction and Colgate’s new hub for environmental political advocacy coming in the fall.”

Earth day or not, we all have a responsibility to protect the only planet we call home, and despite feeling like our individual actions might be meaningless in the grand scheme of things, every little choice we make to make the world a better place counts.