Oak Awards Celebrate Campus Sustainability

Amelia Fogg

Students, faculty and staff gathered in Golden Auditorium for the 17th Annual Green Summit and Oak Awards on Thursday April 13. Colgate’s Office of Sustainability sponsored the event as part of their “13 Days of Green” initiative to promote environmental awareness and sustainability on campus.

To begin the forum, Executive Chef of Colgate Dining Services, Lateef Clark, spoke about Colgate’s sustainable dining options.

“[With regard to Colgate’s local food sourcing], it is the people who put the work and ethics in that make a difference,” Clark said.

Clark then emphasized Chartwells’ commitment to the environment. Clark spoke about how Chartwells partners with local farms to maximize sustainable practices and deliver fresh meals to the student body. All dining locations at Colgate serve locally-sourced ground beef and meat substitute products. Murray Farms, a local poultry farm, provides the fresh, hormone-free chicken found in the dining halls. Clark and his colleagues monitor all produce and food upon its delivery to ensure that it is served fresh to students.

In addition to these initiatives, Chartwells collaborates with the Colgate community garden.

“We take everything we can [from the Colgate garden] and make a menu out of it,” Clark said.

Chartwells recently introduced “Project Clean Plate,” a program that encourages students to minimize food waste and heighten “dining mindfulness.” When certain waste-reduction benchmarks are reached, donations are made to local food banks in Colgate’s name.

Following Clark’s discussion, sophomore Madison Smith introduced a presentation that outlined her experiences with sustainability. As an environmental studies and economics double major and an intern at the Office of Sustainability, she is committed to a sustainable lifestyle and spreads awareness of her sustainable habits so that others can do the same.

“Sustainability is taking actions that promote the wellbeing of all people, living beings and the natural world both now and in the future,” Smith said.

Smith urged the audience to “try to be more conscious consumers,” stressing that students tend to justify their consumption through recycling. She noted that reducing and reusing are much more sustainable. In order to consume in more sustainable ways, Smith suggested buying clothing from second-hand stores or only supporting brands that engage in environmentally-sound practices.

Smith shared her worry that the “Colgate bubble” inhibits the student body’s ability to act in environmentally-conscious ways. Because Colgate seems so alienated from the outside world, Smith explained, it is easy to guiltlessly order from Amazon Prime or order clothing online. However, she argued that as consumers, we rarely think about the transportation emissions, pollution, use of non-renewable resources and potential human exploitation that go into producing and delivering products.

Smith believes that Colgate has the potential to make lasting environmental impacts. Despite this, Smith thinks that changes will only occur if students take conscious steps and address environmental issues that are pervasive in campus culture.

After Smith concluded her segment, Simon Solomon, Executive Director of the Rogers Environmental Education Center, spoke about the Rogers Center. Located in Sherburne, NY, the Rogers Center is home to over 600 acres of property and six miles of hiking trails. The center is run entirely through donations, fundraising and volunteer efforts. The mission of the Rogers Center is to protect the environment through education about, and appreciation of, the natural world. 

“The major educational goals of the Rogers Center are to raise awareness about ways to slow pollution, conserve ecosystems and protect environmental resources in sustainable ways,” Solomon said.

Following the three speakers, the Oak Awards were presented to three individuals who have shown outstanding commitment to sustainability. The student award was presented to senior Glenna Thomas, the staff award was presented to Administrative Assistant in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology Karen Austin and the faculty award was presented to Visiting Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Andy Pattison.

Sophomore Emily Berkowitz found the Green Summit thought provoking and commented on how the event has motivated her to change her sustainability habits.

“I’m definitely going to give more consideration to how, and what, I consume in the future,” Berkowitz said.

Sophomore Paige Smalley spoke to the effectiveness of including Smith in the panel.

“It was really interesting to hear Madison’s perspective. It is so important to live sustainably, and we don’t always hear that from our peers,” Smalley said.