Colgate University Is Leader in Green

Colgate University is a small liberal arts school in central New York State that features big time academics in a small town setting. With a student population of about 2,800, the school is abounded on all sides by farmland, and with the Great Lakes just a few hundred miles to the northwest, lake-effect weather causes the quiet campus to be under a blanket of snow from October to April. As part of what Newsweek deemed the “New Ivy League,” the prestigious school has decided to involve itself in a huge new undertaking: Going green. Although the university has always been environmentally conscious (its location in the middle of vast tracts of farmland and forest make it difficult not to be), in the last few years, professors, administrators, and staff have converged to form the Colgate Environmental Council to facilitate the University’s widespread environmental initiatives.

Professor Ian Helfant, Chairman of the Environmental Council, has enumerated the long list of Colgate’s green achievements and goals in his newly published article “Getting Going: Colgate University’s Sustainability Path.” Helfant, a Russian professor who has been known to host dinners for students with locally grazed and grown meat and produce, is just one of the diverse body of Colgate professors who takes the University’s green policies home with them. Said Helfant, “historically, many individuals across our campus have had a personal or professional stake in sustainability” adding, “these range from faculty whose academic expertise and teaching relate to this area, to buildings and grounds and dining services personnel who have been greening campus operations, to student activists.” In his article, Professor Helfant stressed the importance of publicizing Colgate’s green efforts both to encourage other institutions to follow in the school’s footsteps, and to inspire students and alumni to join in the fight for sustainability.

Helfant also emphasized the need for large institutions to get serious about their environmental efforts by hiring outside professionals to take charge. Hence, John Pumilio, Colgate’s freshly hired Sustainability Coordinator arrived on campus in April. Pumilio, who sports a master’s degree in environmental studies and has worked as a field biologist for the National Park Service, feels that “it is critical for institutions like Colgate to focus on sustainability.” From a marketing standpoint, Colgate must “embrace sustainable thinking and planning and implement sustainable practices”, because potential students “will scrutinize how we measure up on the sustainability side of the equation.” Pumilio is adamant that, above and beyond factors that will make Colgate more attractive, “it is a moral obligation for Colgate to embrace sustainability,” pointing out that “at Colgate, we understand this challenge and are trying to do our part… We are striving to be a model for sustainability”

When asked about Colgate’s future plans, Pumilio identified four key areas that frame the University’s approach to sustainability: Creating A Culture of Sustainability in which “all Colgate employees and students accept responsibility for advancing sustainability”; Sustainability In Practice, which literally will translate sustainability rhetoric and ideas into procedure on campus; Sustainability In The Curriculum And Co-Curricular Opportunities, which will bring the science and practice of sustainability into the classroom and campus activities; and Fostering Community Partnerships, which describes the campus- wide goal to build local and regional relationships that will help Colgate become part of a larger environmental community, allow increased field experience for students, and support local business that practice green policies.

So what has Colgate actually done to be more sustainable? They have:

· Contracted a professional forester to plan a 10-year stewardship of Colgate’s 1100 acres of undeveloped open and forest lands

· Created a “campus sustainability fund”, to which the class gift of the Class of 2008 donated and was matched by trustee contributions

· Designed and currently hold an environmental studies senior seminar

· Planted 60,000 Willow tree shoots in a 10- acre “pilot plot” that will yield 900 dry tons of biomass to help fuel Colgate as part of an initiative to reduce oil use on campus

· For years, Colgate has sported a steam-generating wood-burning facility that generates 70% of the university’s heat and hot water

· Bought a fleet of “Greek Bikes” for students to utilize instead of driving cars to campus and town

· Designed a “local buying” plan for dining services

· Signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment in 2008

· Held a Green Summit, an annual event for students and locals to discuss and implement ideas for increased sustainability. (At last year’s summit, students planted 200 trees and held a vegan, locally- bought BBQ.)

· Planned and will this year start the Eco- Rep program, where students are trained to help others go green in residence halls, office areas, and in planning events.

· Signed on to participate in RecycleMania, an inter-college competition to increase recycling on campuses across the country and Canada

· Worked with the Outdoor Education program (OED) on campus to bring green speakers to campus and offer a library of outdoor- related books

· Colgate OED has held the Banff Film Festival featuring movies about environmental issues

· Students involved in OED represent a large portion of students living in the school’s environmentally friendly housing

In all, Colgate has emerged as a leader in the fight against climate change because of its growing commitment to sustainability in every aspect of campus life, from the classroom to the local community of Hamilton, where the school is located.

ENN spoke to Teddi Hofmann, a rising senior, member of Colgate’s prestigious Konosioni Honor Society, and Outdoor Education member, who spoke to her school’s environmental consciousness, saying “[Colgate] students do not only work diligently to succeed in academics, but are motivated to be leaders. The involvement of Colgate students in green initiatives shows how young men and women on campus effectively use their scholarship and social skills to organize environmental related events and programs, and then successfully execute them. Colgate students are not only concerned about local community members and issues, but look to influence populations outside of Hamilton, NY.”

To view the full interview with Colgate Sustainability Coordinator John Pumilio, check out our comments section below!

ENN Wants to hear about your school! Share below and tell us about your alma mater’s green initiatives, or comment on Colgate’s environmentalism!

by M. Molendyke

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