Green ‘Gate: Colgate Proposes Climate Action Plan

Colgate University has pledged that by 2019, its campus will be carbon neutral, mean­ing the university must now take significant steps to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide it emits. The remaining greenhouse gas emissions that cannot be reduced will be offset by carbon sequestration projects both on and off campus.

The proposed plan on carbon neutrality, entitled “Colgate University’s Sustainability and Climate Action Plan” was published on Thursday, September 15 and outlines many of the specific projects that will take place on campus.

John Pumilio, Colgate’s Sustainability Coordinator, said that it was a huge decision for President Jeffrey Herbst and the school’s administration to become carbon neutral in such a short period of time.

“The school wanted to take responsibility sooner rather than later,” said Pumilio. “In­stead of passing on the issue to future administration, President Herbst decided to take charge of it now.”

Pumilio says that even though it is a very ambitious plan, he thinks it is attainable. From 2009 to 2010, Colgate already reduced their greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent. The school’s emissions are already fairly low because 75 percent of the school’s heat and hot water comes from a sustainable wood fired boiler.

“At this point, it’s mainly about behavioral change – how we can use our resources better and cultivate a culture on campus that’s more aware of how day-to-day activity pertains to sustainability,” said Pumilio.

The 86-page report covers the 27 projects proposed for the next four years, which will hopefully reduce about 3,700 tons of carbon dioxide. Some of these projects include an expanded Green Living Program, which will hire thirteen interns to promote recycling and energy and water saving practices within the 70 percent of student body that lives on cam­pus. A similar project, the Green Office Program, will grow in the coming years to improve the sustainable office practices of Colgate’s faculty and administration.

Colgate plans to save over ten tons of food waste a year by switching to tray-less dining by 2013, as students tend to take 30-40 percent more food (and therefore waste more) when they have a tray. The school has also planned that by 2015, approximately 30 percent of the food will come from within a 250-mile radius. Other projects will include increased carpooling and biking, conversion of all of Colgate’s paper to recycled paper, composting pre-consumer food, adding biodiesel fuel and hybrids to Colgate’s fleet and using low-flow showerheads.

After these projects are completed, more reduction techniques will be developed for the four years from 2015 to 2019. One of the major components is seeing if Colgate will be able to switch their second fuel source from the polluting fuel oil #6 to the more sustain­able natural gas. However, there are many carbon emissions that Colgate will not be able to eliminate completely, and those emissions will have to be offset by either buying carbon offsets or sequestration carbon through reforestation at Colgate.

But, overall, “it’s not a static document. The plan will change as it begins to be imple­mented,” Pumilio said. “We are staring off on a certain path, but I’m sure things will unfold a little differently.”

Pumilio said that he hopes the plan will not only strengthen the school’s sustainability and ensure Colgate as an environmental leader, but that the projects will also help students learn about sustainable practices.

“It’s a fiscally sound plan that will help reduce energy costs while also adding academic value from student involvement and research,” Pumilio said.

The plan was compiled with the help of both student and faculty research and input, and is indeed, as the plan reads, “a mosaic of thought, leadership, research and opinions from the campus community on the best approach to achieve climate neutrality.”

Contact Cassidy Holahan at [email protected]