Colgate Takes Steps to Improve Sustainability Efforts

Colgate University seems to be on track to reach its goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2019, according to Director of Sustainability John Pumilio.

Carbon neutrality is achieved through various methods of energy conservation and smart applications of resources. Colgate is trying to reach its goal of carbon neutrality through the use of systems like a solar/thermal system.  This solar/thermal system uses evacuated tubes full of glycol, which, energized by the sun, can be heated to temperatures as high as 200 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer. This system then uses this energy generated to heat water, thus replacing fuel oil, which can generate emissions that are detrimental to the atmosphere. According to Pumilio, this has significantly decreased the carbon footprint at Colgate.

Colgate has begun to achieve its goal of becoming “greener” by replacing all the lights in Sanford Field House with energy-efficient light bulbs. Looking ahead, Pumilio cites the creation of a retention pond, as well as the use of geothermal energy, as other potential green initiatives to be introduced to Colgate’s campus. 

“[A retention pond] uses rain water that could potentially be used to irrigate various fields such as Colgate University’s golf course,” Pumilio said. “[This would] lower Colgate’s bill by making it move away from local water sources.”

The Student Government Association (SGA) also has been actively involved in introducing environmentally friendly initiatives to campus. The Senate recently passed a bill titled “An Act to Mandate Green Certification,” which aims to establish a more environmentally conscious student body and promote sustainable living on campus. To pave the way for these goals, the bill requires all SGA members to successfully complete a green certification exam and maintain their certification. In completing these exams, SGA members ideally will have a better understanding of steps they can take to live sustainably. 

The test has three different sections: global definitions of sustainability, sustainability at Colgate and how to be a sustainable student at Colgate. In completing these three sections, SGA members will have an adequate understanding of the importance of promoting this movement now and in the future, and be able to extend their sustainable efforts to the entire Colgate community.

SGA Executive Board Sustainability Coordinator junior Claire Lichtenstein was a major agent in promoting this initiative among SGA members. Along with the principal author of the bill, Senator sophomore Daniel Berry, the two helped pave the way for this legislation to pass in Senate. Lichtenstein envisions a positive potential impact of this legislation.

“To be able to advocate for Colgate and our student body, members of SGA need a base understanding of sustainability,” Lichtenstein said. 

Lichtenstein elaborated on the future of sustainability at Colgate and the importance of this legislation in contributing to the success of Colgate’s plans. She believes SGA members’ advocacy for sustainable living is especially relevant in the context of the Carbon Neutrality Plan.

Student responses to green initiatives on campus thus far have been mixed. According to Office of Sustainability intern junior Ben Campbell, some students are cooperative, while others are not as convinced by ideas of sustainability.

Campbell also discussed the student-run Colgate Energy Analytics Group (CEG) led by seniors Jack Metelski and Madeline Peterson, which aims to shift Colgate’s endowment investments away from supporting companies which tend to have more environmentally detrimental practices. According to junior Mike McCluskey, a member of the CEG, the group is recognized under the Colgate Business Group, but tends to operate on its own. They seek to work with the Colgate Investment Board to shift Colgate’s investment practices away from those that are brandished as “non-environmentally friendly” in order to make the institution become even greener.

“[Sustainability is] amongst our Thirteen Goals,” Campbell said, referring to the Thirteen Goals of a Colgate Education. “[The 11th goal is to] respect nature and the diversity of life on earth.”