Sustainability Column: An International Perspective

Fiona Adjei Boateng

I have only been at Colgate for one year, and yet I have already seen so many impressive initiatives instituted by the Office of Sustainability. So far they have already implemented a green bikes program, encouraged carpooling and are trying to get our buildings LEED certified. As an international student from a country where sustainability has never actually been a part of the conversation, I find it very encouraging to see so many working systems to promote Colgate’s sustainability.

Of course I had some ideas about sustainable living back home before I moved to Colgate. I turned off my lights before I left the room and carried a refillable water bottle. Additionally, my high school partly relied on biogas energy. However, I never actually realized that there were so many other ways that one could be sustainable, and that one could encourage sustainability in a society.

I remember my first few weeks on campus, and was proud to see that there seemed to be multiple bins everywhere. I could not help but feel a sense of gratification whenever I placed a bottle in the right bin. That wasn’t something I was used to; back home public bins, not to mention recycling bins, were very rare. The only way to recycle bottles is to hoard them at home, and eventually resell them to the bottle-making companies for recycling. 

In the Colgate dining hall, there is trayless dining, meatless Mondays, project clean plate and ‘Gate-to-go. Around campus there is Colgate unplugged, Recyclemania, tailgate recycling and multiple water stations. You could imagine my wonder the first time I heard that Colgate had an Office of Sustainability. My first question was, “what do they do?” and then, “is this like a full-time job for people there?” Then I learned that it wasn’t just an official department with a full-time director, but a fully functioning office, employing multiple students from all class years who actively ensure sustainability across campus.

All these novel institutions in place to address sustainability at Colgate made me think about how different things were back home. In universities back home, few, if any, of these initiatives existed. I wondered how much things could change if only we could get sustainability into the conversation, both in our personal conversations and in our administrative conversations. I understand that Colgate still has a lot to do to reach its goal of carbon neutrality by 2019. However, with all the thought and hard work that goes into getting campus residents to live sustainably and how almost all residents actually do support sustainability on campus, I must say that I am very impressed with the sustainability initiatives here at Colgate University.