(Hamilton, NY – March 2013) Colgate has been working hard to reduce its carbon footprint and the progress is showing more and more all the time. From everything from switching from incandescent bulbs to cfls and leds, low flow shower heads, composting from the food service all the way to dorms and campus apartments, there has been significant movement…..in the right direction.
It shows in noticeable and tangible areas, such as the amount of recyclables that go to the county land fill and especially in the amount of the trash that goes up there too. Since each garbage truck is weighed when it delivers to the land fill, progress is tracked in lower and lower weight totals.
Another new development is going to be when the village of Hamilton is able to get their natural gas utility going. Colgate is going to replace an old, outmoded oil burning furnace with a new, very efficient gas powered one. The biomass furnace will still function, but the natural gas one will be cleaner and hopefully more cost effective. (Remember that all the wood chips are trucked in daily to the heating plant by diesel trailer trucks and when it is cold, that could be 5 or 6 trucks a day).
The amount of water and electricity consumed has lessened considerably too. The admissions department has converted to a completely paperless application, which is saving tons of paper. In the old days, when a prospective student submitted their application, it would be read by all the members of the admissions staff. Many times, these applications would be “Xeroxed” so they could be taken home to be read. Now, all the apps are “in the cloud” and are accessed, either from the office or from home, via the internet by all the members of the admissions staff. The amount of paper that this saves is astronomical. (8, 000applicants with a six-page application plus recommendations, copied multiple times and you can see what we are talking about).
The savings in paper alone is hundreds and hundreds or reams. Add to this the time saved and the cost and energy expenditure of the copying, and you can see how this is all adding up. I think that even more than the actual implementation of all these changes, it is also good to get the root of where this is all coming from. There are now a large number of student groups all over campus that are devoted to many different aspects of becoming carbon neutral. The names of all these groups are too many to mention by name, but it is evident that these students are very committed to this cause.
Even more importantly, this whole transformation has become ingrained into the very fabric of the daily lives of the students. This starts from the first day that they arrive on campus. As it is so often said up on the hill: “the education here takes place in many other locations besides the classroom.”
We are seeing evidence that not only is there being progress being made on the institutional level, but very important inroads are being made in the ability to change the behavior of individuals. Very small incremental, individual movements are now being realized on a very large scale. All these seemingly small efforts that people are making are accumulating to make a very big difference.
Jim Bona is a technician at Colgate and passionate about all things green. He can be reached at email@example.com