The Oak Awards Honor Sustainability Efforts

The Oak Awards, an event hosted annually by the Office of Sustainability, honors individuals and groups that have made a significant impact on Colgate’s campus sustainability efforts. There is a student winner, a faculty winner, a department winner, a staff winner, a student organization winner and a research winner. The efforts of each nominee and winner vary, but are all equally important in their impact on the Colgate community.
John Pumilio, the director of sustainability at Colgate, plays an integral role in sustainability efforts on campus.
“I work day-in and day-out to promote educational opportunities, provide leadership, contribute practical solutions and mentor the next generation of student leaders to advance environmental stewardship, DEI initiatives and fiscal responsibility at Colgate University and beyond,” Pumilio explained.
Pumilio addressed the importance of the Oak Awards in its entirety.
“Organizational change is complex and takes time and patience but ultimately depends on individuals willing to make an extra effort to support a more sustainable campus. This effort does not need to be ground-breaking or monumental. It can be small actions that influence their peers and support a culture of sustainability at Colgate. It is important to recognize and acknowledge these individuals for the effort they make so they and others know how much Colgate appreciates their effort.”
Bobby Foose, a junior environmental science concentrator, received an Oak Award last year for co-founding the Sustainability Liaisons group for the athletic department. Foose, a member of the Colgate men’s soccer team, worked to make athletes and athletic faculty conscious of measures they could take within their teams to be more environmentally-conscious. He spoke to what inspired him to make a change on campus.
“I have always been passionate about sustainability because I love to hike and spend any time I can outdoors … that is my passion. Going into college, I knew that I wanted to get involved in sustainability matters on campus but I found it very tough to find something that fit my academic and athletic schedule,” Foose said. “I knew this was a shared sentiment with other student-athletes, and we make up over 20% of the undergrad population, so I decided to form the Sustainability Liaisons group.”
Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies Catherine Cardelús was the faculty winner of the 2021 Oak Awards. Cardelús was awarded for her long standing sustainability efforts on Colgate’s campus, as she was on the sustainability council for eight years and served as the chair in recent years. She contributed to the Third-Century Sustainability and Climate Action Plan, financed sustainability projects, developed opportunities to engage faculty through professional development workshops and helped to lead Colgate to carbon neutrality in 2019.
Cardelús spoke about how much she values the time she spent on the Sustainability Council.
“What distinguishes [the Sustainability council] from many other sustainable projects across other campuses and what makes us so strong is how integrated it is. It’s across staff, faculty, students and staff … the Sustainability Council has been integral since it was started in 2008 especially due to its integration across the institution. So it’s not just kind of the icing on the cake, it’s part of the batter.”
The passion that these recipients have for sustainability is especially evident as both Foose and Cardelús have continued to be sustainable in impactful ways. Foose spoke to the work he has continued to do on campus and his hopes for Colgate’s future sustainability efforts:
“We have formed a group with more than 30 members from almost all varsity sports here at Colgate and we are in the process of forming committees to tackle different areas of sustainability within the athletic community. … We are in the midst of some 13 Days of Green projects and are planning to make a big impact next year.”
While Cardelús no longer serves on the Sustainability Council, she still is involved in sustainability work.
“I work on the deer overabundance in Hamilton, New York and upstate New York … with overburdened deer, you have overgrazing in our forests, which means we’ve lost about 100 years of forest due to grazing. … So our forests are not robust. They’re not great at carbon storage the way they could be. … And so via my research, and my conservation priorities, and implementing a deer cull, I am [working] to make our forests more sustainable.”
The Oak Awards were held this past Friday, April 22 in Persson Hall to finish off Colgate’s 13 Days of Green programming. Intern Audrey Pacthod, a junior, described this years’ Oak Awards, noting the events large turnout and success.
“This year we gave out seven awards to four students, one staff, one employee and one student initiative out of 19 nominations. We hosted two guest speakers, professor Christopher Henke and John Pumilio to speak about the importance of sustainability on and beyond campus. … The event was a great opportunity for sustainability interested individuals to come together and celebrate Colgate’s sustainability efforts.”