Colgate's Third-Century Sustainability Plan highlights several key areas to advance campus sustainability and climate action over the next few years

1. Campus Culture
Programs and strategies that foster sustainable behavior and decision-making by providing educational resources, generating excitement, and raising awareness around issues of sustainability in our living, learning, and working environment.

2. Curriculum and Learning
Initiatives that provide an exceptional liberal arts education through the lens of sustainability and climate action and preparedness.

3. Campus Operations
How we go about our day-to-day business has large ramifications for our ecological and carbon impacts. Energy and buildings, transportation, waste, and water use strategies are specified in this section.

4. Purchasing
The goods and services that Colgate purchases have lifecycle environmental and social impacts far beyond campus.

5. Food and Dining
Strategies that promote environmentally sound dining operations and procurement of local and sustainable foods while supporting our local economy.

6. Ecosystems and Land Stewardship
Respecting and protecting our natural heritage and physical resources is vital to both our academic mission and attachment to place. How is Colgate caring for its land?

7. Financing
Sustainability at Colgate is a good investment. While many projects have short paybacks, some may be capital intensive and require creative financing strategies. 

8. Climate Ready
Resilience and Adaptation. Is Colgate prepared for climate change? These strategies will help us evaluate risks and build resiliency for the future.

9. Carbon Offsets
Achieving carbon neutrality by 2019 will require investments in carbon offsets.

10. Campus Participation and Reporting
Colgate will formally update the faculty, students, and staff on our progress

1. Campus Culture

While our recent progress and achievements are exciting, Colgate’s high-level sustainability goals and aspirations need to achieve broader commitment and support at every level of decision-making at the university. Opportunities to foster a sustainable mindset exist throughout Colgate’s culture, governance structures, and overall decision-making processes. 

Student Engagement

As a leading liberal arts institution, it is critical that Colgate engage and inspire students to practice a sustainable and socially conscious lifestyle from the moment they arrive on campus until they graduate. The Office of Sustainability provides internships to interested students who, in turn, engage and educate their peers on issues of sustainability. These interns also manage the Sustainability Representatives (S-Rep) Program that provides students interested in sustainability with valuable leadership skills so that they can be change-makers during their four years on campus. Through peer-to-peer programming, sustainability-minded students have engaged fellow classmates, friends, and teammates to influence student culture on campus. While these achievements are important for the university, we must further integrate sustainability throughout the student experience at Colgate.

Commitment: Continue to integrate sustainability within new-student orientation to emphasize its importance from a student’s first day on campus by:

  • Eliminating single-use plastics at all orientation events by 2023.
  • Educating all new students on waste minimization and recycling by working within
  • the residential commons by 2023.
  • Further incorporating sustainability into Link-staff training by 2023.
  • Providing orientation materials through electronic means by 2023.


Lead responsibility: Dean of the College Division, Assistant Director of Sustainability, and Facilities

Orientation is a critical time for new students to acclimate to campus culture and an opportunity to build new lifestyle habits. New-student orientation has increased focus on peer-to-peer sustainability education since 2017. The Assistant Director annually trains Community Leaders (CL), Link Staff, and Outdoor Education leaders and provides them with tools to empower new students (and all students) they lead. The Office of Sustainability also hosts a “meet-up” each year for new students learn more about sustainability at Colgate and get to know each other. In 2020, there was a sustainability module on the new-student orientation Moodle site that provided information about waste, recycling and other sustainable living practices. Our community also provided additional recycling receptacles and waste minimization information to reduce waste during move-in and orientation. Colgate should be proud of the work so many across campus have done to integrate sustainability into orientation; however, there is still room for growth. Eliminating waste and educating the student body during this foundational experience will further sustainable behavior on campus and bolster the success of this plan.

Commitment: Institute optional graduation pledge for class of 2022 by December 31, 2021.

Lead responsibility: Assistant Director of Sustainability.

Implementing an optional graduation pledge for Colgate seniors provides students an opportunity to make a symbolic commitment before representing themselves and Colgate University in their communities, workplace, and/or any post-graduation affiliations. The Graduation Pledge Alliance has already created language for Colgate to consider: “I pledge to explore and take into account the social and environmental consequences of any job I consider and will try to improve these aspects of any organizations for which I work.” A graduation pledge like this, adapted to express Colgate’s values, would support our campus DEI and sustainability goals, and remind students to live out sentiments in the 13 Goals of a Colgate Education throughout their careers.

Commitment: Continue to link sustainability to on-campus living, learning, social, and athletic communities by:

  • Reviewing and revising the Sustainability Representatives (S-Rep) program to better align with the Residential Commons’ values and goals by July 2022.
  • Formalizing a student sustainability committee with student stakeholders across campus by July 2022.


Lead responsibility: Assistant Director of Sustainability, Dean of the College Division, Student Government Association

The student experience is enhanced when concepts taught in the classroom are combined with campus involvement and governance opportunities. Over the last few years, Colgate has prioritized student involvement in capital projects, the Sustainability Council, the carbon offset decision-making process, and various other campus initiatives such as Colgate’s annual greenhouse gas inventory. These unique opportunities enrich the student experience and improve campus and the environment and are valuable experiences for the students involved. Updating the S-Rep program and formalizing a student sustainability committee will create more opportunities for students across campus to develop important leadership skills and act as engaged scholars on Colgate’s campus. Already there are student-led sustainability groups in Athletics and Greek Life Organizations and bringing these groups together to share best practices and collaborate will lead to greater engagement and programming among the student body.

Commitment: Promote a culture of alternative transportation by expanding the Green Bike fleet by four bikes each year for the next five years.

Lead responsibility: Assistant Director of Sustainability

The Green Bikes program provides zero-emission transportation to Colgate community members for an affordable monthly rate. However, this cannot be sustained long-term without external financial support. For $15 a month, renters receive a working bike, a bike helmet, and a bike lock. Since demand for the program has been higher than we can meet with our current fleet (25), particularly in the Fall and Summer rental cycles when the weather is conducive to biking, we would like to increase our fleet size gradually over the course of the next five years.

Employee Engagement

As part of the university’s job description project, every job description now includes a set of key behavioral competencies that are expected of all employees. Sustainability was one of those behavioral competencies.  The inclusion of sustainability in job expectations will further promote employee engagement with sustainability and report on it as part of the annual review process. The language for the behavioral competency in sustainability reads as follows:

Understand the impact of decision-making and personal behavior in achieving the university’s commitment to a sustainable and carbon neutral campus; supports and advances the university’s sustainability initiatives; influences others to use sustainable practices.”

In order for staff to successfully achieve competency in sustainability, programming must be developed to facilitate staff learning and engagement opportunities. One example includes the sustainability passport program.

Commitment: Develop a Sustainability Passport Program that allows staff to succeed at fulfilling the sustainability behavioral competency that is part of every job description by September 1, 2017.

Lead responsibility: Director of Sustainability.

The Sustainability Office in collaboration with Human Resources and other key departments will create, support, and organize a suite of educational programming that advance the employee’s knowledge of sustainability at Colgate while promoting pro-environmental behaviors on campus. Through the Sustainability Passport Program, employees will register for sessions of their choice, earning “credits” for each program they participate in. Once enough credits are earned, employees will receive recognition for their competency in sustainability at Colgate and beyond.  This professional development program will create better environmental stewards and advocates for sustainability on campus further supporting our sustainability and carbon neutrality goals.

Alumni Engagement

Commitment: Leverage connections with alumni engaged in sustainability by organizing at least one annual alumni event that focuses on sustainability and climate issues by September 1, 2017.

Lead responsibility: Office of Alumni Relations.

Strengthen connections with the Common Good Network. The mission of the Common Good Network is to build a community of Colgate alumni in similar industries to create greater engagement with the university, while building professional on-ramps for undergraduates through the Center for Outreach Volunteerism and Education (COVE).

2. Curriculum and Learning

Colgate’s curriculum and co-curriculum include many offerings that relate to sustainability. These range from academic courses, to co-curricular programming, to internships, and diverse aspects of student life. Nevertheless, sustainability is often considered to fall within the domain of Environmental Studies, rather than being a shared curricular responsibility across departments and divisions. It is imperative to challenge this misconception even though our ENST program is robust, multifaceted, and interdisciplinary. A related challenge lies in extending the visibility of sustainability in the curriculum beyond those faculty and students who are directly invested in promoting it to the more general Colgate population. Currently, both our faculty and student populations consist of a substantial minority who are knowledgeable proponents of sustainability, alongside a much larger majority who are less aware of and invested in the importance of sustainability as a central component of our educational mission. We serve the needs of the first category quite well both within the curriculum and co-curriculum; therefore, our central challenges involve the second group.

Commitment: Identify and encourage courses on sustainability and climate change in the curriculum by September 1, 2017. 

Lead responsibility: Sustainability Council.

Of the approximately 1,100 courses Colgate offers, 97 focus primarily upon sustainability, while 9 include sustainability thematically. Additionally, out of approximately 50 academic departments and programs, 19 either offer courses focused on sustainability or courses that contain sustainability thematically. Most of the courses with a primary focus on sustainability are housed in Environmental Geography, Environmental Biology, Environmental Geology, Environmental Economics, Environmental Studies (ENST), Geography, Geology, Biology, and Peace and Conflict Studies (see Sustainability Courses offered).

The importance of sustainability to our curriculum was recognized in the adoption of “The Goals of a Colgate Education” approved by Colgate’s Academic Affairs Board, Faculty and Trustees in 2010. Goal 11 of the 13 Goals calls for Colgate students to, “Respect nature and the diversity of life on earth: recognize their individual and collective responsibilities for the stewardship of the Earth's resources and the natural environment.” In addition, goals 6 and 10 relate to sustainability through the perspectives of scientific inquiry and social justice. Goal 6 calls upon students to “Examine natural phenomena using the methods of science, and understand the role of science in contemporary society.” Goal 10 calls upon students to “Be engaged citizens and strive for a just society: embrace their responsibilities to local, national, and global communities; use their influence for the benefit of others.” While it is clear that our curriculum is successful in engaging those already committed to sustainability, the Goals are consistent with the need to engage the more general population of faculty and students in issues related to sustainability and climate literacy.

Colgate’s required Core Curriculum also provides a number of possible niches for increasing the presence of sustainability-related courses. As defined on the institution’s website: “Colgate’s Core program is a defining feature of its liberal arts curriculum. The Core Curriculum at Colgate takes seriously the faculty’s mission to engage students in the fullness of a liberal arts education: to learn, reflect, and live with an expanding awareness of one’s responsibility to self, community, and the larger world. As such, Colgate’s Core Curriculum aims to prepare students for rich and fulfilling lives in a context of rapid change here and around the globe.” 

Because the Core Curriculum is a required component for all Colgate students and one of the primary vehicles for achieving the Goals of a Colgate education, faculty members on the Sustainability Council and beyond have begun to work with the university professors and staff of both Core 152 (Challenges of Modernity) and Core Communities and Identities (e.g., Core Arctic, Mexico, Russia, South Africa) to develop modules and approaches that will allow for exposure to sustainability and climate change issues. To this end, one of the concurrent sessions at the Spring 2015 White Eagle Core pedagogy retreat was devoted to “Sustainability and Social Justice in the Core.” Looking forward, a sustainability module for Core 152 could revolve around an important environmental text (e.g. Silent Spring by Rachel Carson) while topics for Core Communities and Identities could be customized for the country or region studied (e.g. the 2005 Tsunami for Core India). In addition, the Core could sponsor an open lecture for all students of the Core on climate change and Colgate’s commitment to carbon neutrality each semester or academic year by a Colgate faculty member or invited speaker who has relevant expertise. In the longer term, the Core could incorporate an official sustainability component during its next revision (~2020) so that all students who graduate from Colgate will have exposure to key issues around sustainability.

Commitment: Increase faculty awareness of teaching to sustainability by September 1, 2017.

Lead responsibility: Faculty Members of Sustainability Council.

Recently, faculty have been asked to submit their yearly self-reports via an online interface. Approximately 50 percent do so, while many others continue to submit in the more traditional format. In both cases, faculty are asked to comment upon both general aspects of their teaching and specific innovations or changes to individual courses. This provides an under-utilized opportunity to garner further information about teaching that involves sustainability, which may also help in our overall assessment efforts. The Sustainability Council will work with the administration to incorporate a section into the self-reporting process to solicit information about this, for example by incorporating the following question into the faculty annual report in the section on individual courses.

Which choice below most closely represents your course as it relates to the three dimensions of sustainability: economic prosperity, social well-being, and environmental stewardship?

  1. The primary and explicit focus of this course is sustainability and/or understanding or solving one or more major sustainability challenges (e.g. the course focuses on the geopolitical effects of climate change).
  2. This course is primarily focused on a topic other than sustainability but incorporates a unit or module on sustainability, includes one or more sustainability-focused activities, or integrates sustainability issues throughout the course.
  3. This course does not cover issues of sustainability.

In addition, it may be possible to include sustainability indicators within the Banner information related to each Colgate course. If this proves feasible, it would provide another means of tracking sustainability in the curriculum and one that could update automatically.

Various opportunities exist for encouraging awareness of teaching sustainability across the curriculum, which can be leveraged more effectively. Teaching Tables represent one example. An exemplary title for such a teaching table could be: “Are You Teaching to the Past or the Future (or Both)? Sustainability across the Curriculum.” In another vein, Colgate’s Faculty Development Council may be able to encourage faculty to pursue curricular proposals focusing on sustainability. In addition to curricular innovation, specific opportunities arise that can foreground sustainability within the curriculum and co-curriculum. For example, the 2015-16 theme of our well-funded Lampert Institute for Civic and Global Affairs centered around food, which has clear sustainability-related import. The Lampert Institute could pursue additional sustainability-related themes in future years.

The AASHE STARS rating system includes a section on Sustainability Literacy Assessment. The Sustainability Council will work with Colgate’s administration and the Center for Learning, Teaching, and Research to explore incorporating this assessment into the testing that students undergo upon arrival as first-years and departure as seniors from Colgate. This will link ongoing innovation in the curriculum with our overall assessment efforts.

Commitment: Enhance co-curricular education/experiential learning that foregrounds sustainability by May 30, 2017. 

Lead responsibility: Sustainability Council.

Formal Co-Curricular Programming

The long-standing Environmental Studies Brown Bag Program brings visitors to campus to address a broad range of sustainability-oriented topics on Fridays throughout the fall and spring semesters. The program is funded sufficiently to provide appropriate honoraria for our guests, as well as “brown bag” lunches for those attending. Attendees include students, faculty, staff and occasionally local residents. Recent topics include: arctic change, local food issues, urban development, and deer population problems. The Sustainability Council will work with ENST to broaden the outreach of these Brown Bags as a way of attracting greater participation by faculty and students for whom sustainability has been a peripheral, rather than a central, concern.

Experiential Learning

The ENST junior seminar -- Environmental Studies 390: Community-based Environmental Issues -- explicitly focuses upon experiential learning. All ENST and ENST-cognate majors are required to take ENST 390. As stated in the catalog: “This project-based, interdisciplinary course examines current environmental issues in the context of community-based learning. Topics for investigation are selected by faculty, usually in conjunction with the campus sustainability coordinator, the Upstate Institute, or directly with local and regional agencies or organizations. Students get practical experience working in interdisciplinary teams to examine environmental issues with a goal of developing relevant recommendations.” The Sustainability Council will continue to explore the ways in which student projects can benefit the university’s overall sustainability efforts, as well as enhance our cooperation with the local community on sustainability-related matters.

Sustainability Interns

Colgate has 13 paid interns each year that work for the Director of Sustainability. These interns contribute to on and off campus efforts in many ways. Students are hired as part of a competitive application process through Colgate's Office of Sustainability. Colgate's Director of Sustainability ultimately hires and supervises the successful applicants. It is a year-long internship. The interns are trained by staff in the Office of Sustainability and in our Communications Department. Colgate representatives presented an overview of our sustainability internship program at the 2015 national AASHE conference and the response helped to clarify that that it represents a cutting edge example of such programming among US institutions of higher education.

Outdoor Education

The mission of Colgate's Outdoor Education program is to provide the community with experiential opportunities that emphasize safety, environmental awareness, and technical skills while promoting personal growth and group development through a rediscovery of the natural world. Wilderness Adventure (WA) is a pre-orientation program at Colgate, in which over 125 first-year students come to campus early to make friends, learn about Colgate from upper-class student leaders, and use the outdoors to acclimate to Colgate, central New York, and life as a college student. Living and traveling with a small group of other first-year students and two or three highly trained leaders, students work together to hike, paddle, climb, cave, bike, or sail through Upstate New York’s Adirondack State Park or other wilderness areas. All Wilderness Adventure students receive information about the seven Leave No Trace principles, and are instructed on how to follow the principles as they travel and camp with care. Each WA student leader participates in a Leave No Trace awareness workshop during their training year before leading a Wilderness Adventure trip. 

The Sustainability Council will facilitate Outdoor Education program partnering with ENST and Biology faculty and students to increase the emphasis upon sustainability in the context of Wilderness Adventure and staff training. Currently, principles such as “Leave No Trace” are well-incorporated, but there is additional room to foreground sustainability in this area of the co-curriculum. One possible approach would be to designate certain Sustainability Interns to serve as links to Outdoor Education to work toward these ends.

3. Campus Operations

The strategies highlighted in this section provide strategic direction for the campus community. They represent a core part of our effort to transition our sustainability program from an emergent one to an integrated one. Once implemented, these strategies will open the door for a more advanced sustainability program and facilitate the implementation of a broader set of ecological and carbon mitigation projects.

Energy and Buildings

Colgate University has 160 buildings encompassing over 2.3 million square feet of floor space. Providing electricity and heating to conditioned space on campus is responsible for 91 percent of Colgate's scope 1 and scope 2 emissions or 54 percent of all university emissions including air travel and other forms of transportation (Chart 4). In 2015, Colgate spent over $4.2 million in energy and water consumption (Table 1). For these reasons, how we manage our energy and construct, renovate, and operate our buildings has significant impacts on our energy use, budget, and ecological and carbon footprints and, therefore, must be an essential component of Colgate's sustainability and climate action planning.

Fully implementing the following actions, guidelines, and strategies will help Colgate significantly reduce energy, water, material consumption, and operating costs from buildings.

Commitment: Integrate Colgate’s Green Building Standards into the university’s Building Design and Construction Standards, and put them into practice by July 1, 2017.

Lead responsibility: Associate Vice President for Facilities and Capital Projects.

With the completion of Colgate’s Green Building Standards in 2015, the university must now ensure that the strategies highlighted in the standards are put into routine practice. One way to accomplish this is to roll the Green Building Standards into Colgate’s existing Building Design and Construction Standards. This will encourage project managers and all bidding contractors to consider sustainability, performance, and overall energy use and carbon emissions from the outset of all building projects. Together, this will fundamentally improve the way we design, construct, renovate, and operate buildings on campus.

Commitment: Complete Energy Master Plan by July 1, 2018.

Lead responsibility: Associate Vice President for Facilities and Capital Projects.

In order to effectively reduce carbon emissions, Colgate needs to develop a comprehensive plan for managing energy on campus, now and in the future. Colgate’s energy master plan will benchmark and track energy cost and use, strategically identify and prioritize energy efficiency and conservation measures, energy purchasing and financing, and analyze and evaluate future trends and alternative energy opportunities. Colgate’s Energy Master Plan will emphasize the following components essential for an effective energy management program:

  • Benchmark and track energy cost and use
  • Evaluate the Energy Use Index (EUI) for all major campus buildings
  • Establish energy reduction and performance goals
  • Conduct energy audits
  • Identify, analyze, and prioritize specific energy-saving opportunities that include:
    • Lighting and controls upgrade plan (interior and exterior lighting)
    • An evaluation and implementation of a recommissioning program for existing buildings and new construction.
    • An evaluation of continuous commissioning in existing buildings as well as implementation in new construction.  
  • Implement energy saving projects and training programs
  • Evaluate and recommend renewable energy technologies for Colgate’s energy supply
  • Monitor progress and report results
  • Establish feedback loop for continuous improvement

Commitment: Expand natural gas along Broad Street and other campus buildings to replace fuel oil #2 by July 1, 2018.

Lead responsibility: Associate Vice President for Facilities and Capital Projects.

Replacing fuel oil #2 with natural gas will reduce carbon emissions, utility costs, and improve local air quality. This process is already underway and will eventually include the remainder of Broad Street houses and the Townhouses. Once these upgrades are complete, Colgate will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a combined estimate of 500 MTeCO2.


In 2015, transportation accounted for 6,503 MTeCO2 or over 45 percent of Colgate’s carbon footprint. Emissions from transportation include:

  • air travel (4,297 MTeCO2) ;
  • faculty and staff commuting (806 MTeCO2);
  • employee business ground travel (588 MTeCO2);
  • Colgate’s vehicle fleet (570 MTeCO2);
  • varsity athletics ground transportation (132 MTeCO2); and
  • Cruiser bus service (110 MTeCO2).

Commitment: Colgate will replace its current vehicle fleet with zero-emission or low-emission vehicles on a rolling basis.

Lead responsibility: Associate Vice President for Facilities and Director of Sustainability.

Colgate’s vehicle fleet consists of approximately 95 vehicles (22 student/faculty vans, 68 Buildings and Grounds vehicles, and 5 Campus Safety vehicles) and is responsible for approximately 570 MTeCO2 emissions per year, about 4 percent of Colgate’s total emissions.

In 2015, Colgate partnered with Enterprise to lease cars and vans in our vehicle fleet. As part of this arrangement, Colgate will replace larger vans with smaller, more fuel-efficient options. Additionally, we will continue to monitor the availability of electric, hybrid, and compressed natural gas powered vehicles that will be able to meet our transportation needs.

Commitment: Continue collaborating with First Transit Inc (Cruiser and on-demand service) and Wade Tours and Hale Transportation (charter service) to emphasize low-carbon operations that reduce our environmental and carbon impacts.

Lead responsibility: Director of Purchasing and Director of Sustainability.

The Colgate Cruiser was responsible for approximately 110 tons emissions in Fiscal Year 2015 or 0.8 percent of Colgate’s total emissions. While its emissions are minimal, its cost to the university is substantial, so, independent of the Climate Action Plan, the university will want to ensure that the Cruiser is operating in the most efficient way possible. Opportunities to improve sustainability while reducing carbon emissions include:

  • switching fuel from diesel to biodiesel, propane, or compressed natural gas (CNG);
  • implementing and enforcement of a no idling policy;
  • creating efficient routes that maximize occupancy;
  • creating maintenance schedules that prioritize fuel efficiency through routine tune-ups, optimal tire pressure, and well-cared-for equipment overall;
  • accurately tracking of fuel use, miles, emissions (especially greenhouse gas emissions) and how and when they share that data with Colgate; and
  • creating an overall institutional commitment to sustainability principles, values, and practices. 

Commitment: Implement an air travel carbon footprint report card by division in order to raise awareness by September 1, 2017.

Lead responsibility: Director of Sustainability and Sustainability Council.

In 2009, Air travel was responsible for 4,647 MTeCO2 emissions, nearly 27 percent of Colgate’s total emissions. Fast forward to 2015 and air travel accounted for 4,297 MTeCO2 emissions and that includes a significant reduction in carbon intensity per air mile traveled  - a reduction in overall emissions but now over 30 percent of Colgate’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

Clearly, air travel plays a vital role in Colgate’s educational mission and many university functions, a role that is arguably exacerbated by Colgate’s rural location and our commitment to other institutional priorities. Faculty travel by air to support research and conference participation, for example, and professional staff throughout the university require air travel to pursue their work. Colgate's commitment to robust off-campus study opportunities, as well as to Division I athletics, also underscores the centrality of air travel to the university's mission.

Even though there has been a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions per mile of air travel since 2009, air travel remains a carbon-intensive form of transportation. Therefore, any reduction of the carbon emissions associated with Colgate's business-related air travel will need to stem from a reduction in air miles traveled. The vast majority of Colgate's air travel emissions will eventually have to be offset in order to achieve the overall goal of carbon neutrality by 2019.

Our commitment here is to explore ways of raising awareness for faculty, staff, students and departments about the actual cost to offset components of the carbon footprint for which they have direct influence. For example, in 2015 we implemented Concur and partnered with Christopherson Business Travel. As a result of these new processes, every employee receives information that includes greenhouse gas emissions in addition to cost when choosing itineraries. Additionally, we may extract data from the Concur system and automate sending a summary of the carbon footprint for travel (airline and mileage) to each department. While a carbon footprint report card may not directly result in fewer miles traveled, it is a first step in linking air travel decisions with our campus carbon footprint and carbon neutrality goal. We anticipate reports like these might serve as motivation to set the stage for charging back departments for the expenses related to offsetting their footprints.

Commitment: Complete user-friendly guidelines for business ground travel that include best practices for reducing costs and environmental impacts by September 1, 2017.

Lead responsibility: Director of Purchasing and Director of Sustainability.

Employee business ground travel was responsible for nearly 600 tons of emissions in Fiscal Year 2015 or 4 percent of Colgate’s total emissions. This includes emissions from car travel to conferences, workshops, teaching and research, recruiting, networking, general meetings and other work-related priorities. Employees have the option of using personal cars, rental cars, Zipcars, taxis, and Colgate-owned passenger vehicles in our fleet. Developing guidelines and preferred practices that encourage employees to use the most sustainable options could help to raise awareness and reduce emissions.

Commitment: Complete an employee commuter plan that advances sustainable transportation options for Colgate commuters by September 1, 2017.

Lead responsibility: Director of Sustainability and Sustainability Council.

Employee commuting is responsible for over 800 MTeCO2 or over 5 percent of Colgate’s annual greenhouse gas emissions. Opportunities and incentive programs to support alternative commuting include:

  • implementing preferred parking for low-emission or electric vehicles;
  • installing additional charging stations in prime locations for electric vehicles;
  • supporting carpooling through reserved parking and offering emergency rides home;
  • creating discounts or helping to arrange for overnight stays for those with long commutes;
  • creating incentives or other programs to encourage the purchase of efficient vehicles;
  • increasing racks and covered storage for bike commuters; and
  • introducing an annual competition that tracks and encourages alternative forms of commuting besides single occupancy vehicle travel.

Waste Reduction and Recycling

Since 2009, Colgate has reduced the amount of landfill waste by 64 tons, an 8 percent reduction, resulting in about $4,600 in avoided annual spending. This is the result of an improved recycling program, pre-consumer composting in Frank Dining Hall, reduced packaging from our suppliers, implementing a robust electronic waste recycling program, the upgrade of Colgate’s Surplus and Salvage program for reusing items, and overall less consumption due to increased awareness. While we are proud of this progress, we fell significantly short of our goal to reduce landfill waste by 300 tons by 2015 from our 2009 baseline. 

Regarding greenhouse gas emissions, Colgate has benefited significantly as a result of Madison County implementing a combined heat and power methane capture facility. As a result, Colgate's emissions have decreased from 2,519 MTeCO2 in 2009 to -22 MTeCO2 in 2015. Compare emission factors over time per ton of landfill waste generated:

  • Fiscal Year 2009: no methane recovery: emissions factor = 1.0842857 MTeCO2/short ton
  • Fiscal Year 2010: methane recovery and electric generation: emissions factor = 0.160634921 MTeCO2/short ton
  • Fiscal Year 2015: methane recovery with combined heat and power generation: emissions factor = -0.03 MTeCO2/short ton

A number of initiatives and programs can be implemented to reduce the overall amount of waste Colgate sends to the landfill. Focusing on source reduction, preventing unnecessary materials and packaging from entering the university in the first place, offers the first important strategy in reducing Colgate’s landfill waste. Purchasing decisions, new policies, and working with major suppliers and contractors are all important initiatives. Source reduction strategies reduce the amount of packaging and materials before they enter the campus waste stream. Focusing on source reduction is important because it reduces labor and time (through handling, storage, and separation) and reduces lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions through less waste entering, and therefore, leaving the university.

Once items, materials, and packaging make it to campus, options exist to divert them from the landfill once they are deemed no longer useful by the Colgate community. This includes reusing or donating items and materials such as office supplies, electronic equipment, furniture, and items. Strategies that focus on reuse keep items out of the landfill through salvage programs, donations, and giveaway options. “One person’s trash is another’s treasure” captures the essence of focusing on reuse as a strategy. As mentioned above, all employees should take advantage of Colgate’s Surplus and Salvage program.

Items that reach the end of their useful life may be recyclable and made into new products. Recycling strategies keep items out of the landfill through better recycling infrastructure, increased recycling rates, and changing social norms. 

Paper use and behavior change are also important areas where mitigation is possible. In Fiscal Year 2009, Colgate consumed over 12.8 million sheets of paper which is equivalent to over 130,000 lbs. or 65 tons. This contributed to over 278,000 lbs. or 139 tons of greenhouse gas emissions. In 2015, Colgate reduced its campus-wide paper consumption by nearly 8 million sheets of paper or by 62 percent. This resulted in nearly $120,000 of avoided annual spending and a reduction of 17 tons of greenhouse gas emissions. Consuming less paper, recycling more of it, and purchasing recycled or tree-free paper are all strategies that have reduced emissions. Additionally, there are many opportunities to reduce landfill waste due to behavior change or changes in social norms on campus. Colgate’s Green Raider and Green Office Programs have made an impact on landfill waste generation on campus.

Looking forward, Colgate needs to continue to improve and grow these programs so less waste is generated and more is diverted from the landfill. Opportunities such as replacing one-time use disposable containers with reusable options are necessary for reducing landfill waste on campus. And, finally, composting organic matter (yard waste and food scraps) can result in huge reductions in our landfill waste stream. Perhaps the single most important strategy Colgate could implement to reduce landfill waste would be to expand our existing composting program. By weight, food scraps make up a significant portion of our landfill waste.

Commitment: Reduce landfill waste by an additional 100 tons from about 750 tons in 2015 to 650 tons in 2019 with an aspirational goal of becoming a zero-waste campus by 2025.

Lead responsibility: Associate Vice President for Facilities, Director of Operations and Maintenance, and Director of Sustainability.

Water Conservation and Protection

Since 2011 and the implementation of our Sustainability and Climate Action Plan, Colgate has reduced the amount of water use on campus by 15.3 million gallons, a 20 percent reduction, resulting in over $150,000 in avoided annual spending. This is the result of widespread water conservation and efficiency measures highlighted by the installation of over 500 low-flow showerheads along with water-saving toilets and faucets, the switch to trayless dining in Frank Dining Hall, and the upgrade of our animal tanks in biology labs.

As a result of these and other programs, we more than doubled our 2015 goal of reducing water consumption by 6 million gallons.

Building on our past successes, Colgate needs to continue to expand and grow these water conservation programs. Reducing irrigation on our athletic fields and golf course presents a good opportunity. Raising awareness and supporting our Green Raider and Green Office Programs can go a long way in further reducing water consumption at Colgate. Perhaps the most aspirational project(s) the university could implement would be to utilize water reclamation and biofiltration technologies to recycle greywater for non-potable uses on campus.

Commitment: Reduce water consumption by an additional 10 million gallons from about 60 million gallons in 2015 to about 50 million gallons by July 1, 2019.

Lead responsibility: Associate Vice President for Facilities and Director of Sustainability

4. Purchasing

The goods and services that Colgate purchases have lifecycle environmental and social impacts far beyond campus. Colgate University budget managers and buyers are entrusted with the fiduciary responsibility to be good stewards of university funds while also supporting Colgate's longstanding commitment to environmental sustainability and carbon neutrality. Environmentally preferable purchasing guidelines help to ensure that the goods and services that we purchase balance cost and quality while exerting a positive influence on our environment, human health and well-being. Each purchasing decision presents an opportunity for Colgate community members to choose environmentally preferable products and services from vendors that support and are committed to environmental sustainability. The purchasing decisions the university makes can help support a more just and sustainable world and working environment.

Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Policy

Commitment: Complete and fully communicate Colgate's environmentally preferable purchasing guidelines by July 1, 2022.

Lead Responsibility: Director of Purchasing, Director of Sustainability

Colgate's Purchasing Department in collaboration with managers and university buyers throughout campus, can work with vendors and suppliers to use our purchasing power to support a sustainable economy. Each purchasing decision presents an opportunity for Colgate community members to choose environmentally preferable products and services from companies that support sustainability.

Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Guidelines Include:

  • Colgate University buyers should purchase Environmentally Preferable Products
    (including services) whenever they are of similar quality, cost, and perform at a
    satisfactory level always taking into account Life Cycle Cost.
  • Colgate buyers should purchase products and services that are third-party certified or
    exceed environmental standards and specifications. Ecolabels, for example, help Colgate buyers identify and procure environmentally sustainable products and services that meet or exceed the university's sustainability goals and values. Sectors that offer sustainable third-party certified (ecolabels) products and standards include food service take-out containers and dinnerware, building and construction materials, custodial cleaners and disinfectants, computers and electronic equipment, landscaping fertilizers/pesticides and deicing treatments, office supplies and furniture, just to name a few examples.
  • Colgate University’s Purchasing Department and Office of Sustainability will promote the use of Environmentally Preferable Products and services by working with office suppliers, food and dining service providers, transportation providers, contractors, and all other vendors to ensure that they offer high quality sustainable products and practices and communicate those options to all Colgate buyers in order to facilitate Environmentally Preferable Purchasing.
  • Colgate's Purchasing Department prefers to secure contracts with suppliers and vendors that are environmental leaders in their respective markets.


A few examples of opportunities to purchase environmentally preferable products and services at Colgate include:

  • Event Supplies: it is the university’s preference to purchase containers and dinnerware that are reusable and made with recyclable, compostable, and/or bio-benign (plant-based) materials. If disposable items must be used, then the material should also be recyclable, compostable, and/or made with bio-benign (plant-based) materials.
  • Drinking-Water: the university recommends the use of filtered water fountains or stations rather than purchasing bottled water.
  • Computers and Electronic Equipment: the university standard is to purchase Energy Star and/or EPEAT registered computers and other electronics.
  • Printer and Copier Paper: whenever documents or information cannot be shared online or in digital format, the university recommends the purchase and use of post-consumer content recycled paper and/or Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified paper. Printing should be avoided whenever possible and non-recycled (virgin) paper is discouraged.


Colgate University shall advance environmentally sustainable purchasing by following these guidelines and ensuring that Colgate’s supply of products and acquisition of services (including construction) are:

  • Energy-efficient (ENERGY STAR® or Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP)-designated);
  • Water-efficient;
  • Bio-based or plant-based;
  • Environmentally preferable (e.g., EPEAT®-registered, or non-toxic or less toxic
  • Non-ozone depleting; or
  • Made with post-consumer recycled materials.


Once Colgate's Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Guidelines are finalized, they need to be properly communicated to the campus community and all current and potential suppliers. As a part of this, the Purchasing website needs to be updated with the latest guidelines and then find additional ways to educate buyers across campus with these expectations.


Vendor Code of Conduct

Commitment: Complete and fully communicate Colgate’s vendor code of conduct by July 1, 2022.

Lead Responsibility: Purchasing Department

Colgate sets expectations that our vendors are to meet minimum standards of environmental and social responsibility. The goal is to influence and improve the sustainability of our supply chain. Besides our major office supply companies, shipping companies, and other retailers, this includes contractors and construction service companies who perform work on campus.

Paper Consumption and Purchasing

Commitment: Reduce paper consumption by 15 percent from FY 2020 volumes by July 1, 2025.

Lead Responsibility: ITS, Director of Purchasing, Office of Sustainability

Paper is an important component of Colgate University’s educational mission. However, simple operational adjustments and educational resources supporting digital learning for the Colgate community can effectively reduce paper waste. A few examples include:

  • Use paper wisely. Print only when necessary. It is estimated that nearly 45 percent of all printouts are disposed of before the end of the day.
  • Encourage individuals to increase paper margins from the standard 1.0 inch setting to 0.5 inch margins.
  • Print double-sided. Contact ITS (x7111) if you need assistance with getting your printer setup for duplex printing.
  • Promote digital reading and notetaking. Encourage professors to move readings online and allow students to submit assignments online whenever possible.
  • Clear print queues at print stations every 15 minutes.
  • Support technologies and communicate best practices to faculty, staff and students to
    continue to use documents digitally instead of printing them for meetings and classes.
  • Evaluate the opportunity to implement a small fee per printout after a quota is exceeded
    which may raise awareness and deter excess printing.

Commitment: All printer and copier paper purchased on campus will contain post-consumer recycled content or be from sustainably managed sources by July 1, 2022.

Lead Responsibility: Director of Purchasing, Director of Sustainability, Administrative Assistants

Printer and copier paper can have varying environmental and social impacts depending on how and where the paper is produced and manufactured. For this reason, purchasing office paper with post-consumer recycled content and/or paper that is sourced from well-managed forests or agricultural residue, is the most environmentally preferred paper.

Post-consumer recycled content paper is made from old products that previously had a useful purpose. Examples include the recycling of cardboard, cereal boxes, paper bags, and magazines that were used, recycled at the end of their life, and made into office paper. Paper with post-consumer recycled content is considered to have greater environmental benefits than products manufactured from pre-consumer recycled content. When given a choice, Colgate buyers should purchase paper and other items with at least 30 percent post-consumer recycled content is a viable alternative, although 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper is preferred.

In addition to post-consumer recycled content paper, office paper should be third-party certified for sustainably managed sources. For example, the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) are two widely recognized labels that can help ensure that the paper consumers purchase are from well-managed forests and supply chains.

5. Food and Dining

The Colgate University community recognizes the significant environmental, health, labor, animal welfare, and climate change implications of how food is produced and consumed. As a result, our university is committed to sourcing our food in a more sustainable way. 

In recent years, Colgate has made considerable strides to advance sustainability in dining services, and the effort is ongoing. During the summer of 2010, a student-led effort resulted in the establishment of a 0.5-acre organic community garden on campus and a switch to trayless dining. At the same time, there was increased demand from students and faculty for more transparency and information regarding our food procurement practices and to provide increased accessibility to local, healthy, and sustainable food options. As the “real food” movement continued to grow on college campuses across the country and especially at Colgate, the university’s President charged a Sustainable Food Systems Working Group in August 2013 to coordinate this effort.

After extensive interviews and research, the group made a set of recommendations to the senior administration in February 2014. Specific recommendations included:

  1. Form an ongoing Advisory Group to monitor long-term progress and provide cross-departmental support in advancing sustainability in dining services. 
  2. Hire a full-time manager of sustainability in dining services to evaluate, monitor, and advance sustainability in dining services.
  3. Provide a complete assessment of Colgate’s local, community-based, and third-party certified food purchases and propose an institutional goal for purchasing of sustainable foods.
  4. Make sustainability an emphasis of dining services contract renegotiations in 2015, especially as it relates to direct, local procurement from farmers and producers.

The Working Group's proposal was well received. After the report was finalized the Advisory Group was formed, a manager of sustainability in dining services was hired, Colgate contracted with a new dining services provider (Chartwells) to help us fulfill our sustainability goals, and we began the process of benchmarking and tracking our food procurement practices. 

Importantly, the working group also developed a set of criteria for defining sustainable food largely based on guidelines developed by the Associate for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education's Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Rating System (AASHE STARS) version 2.0. As a result, Colgate's definition of sustainable food includes three key components: 1) local, 2) community-based, and 3) third-party certified foods.

  1. Local (a two-tiered definition). Tier 1 includes any food purchased within a 250-mile radius of Colgate University, and Tier 2 includes any food purchased within Madison County or any of the six counties that border Madison County (i.e., Oneida, Otsego, Chenango, Cortland, Onondaga, and Oswego). Our Tier 1 metric is consistent with AASHE STARS 2.0 reporting, but our institutional consensus is that Tier 2 would have a more direct benefit to local farmers, our regional economy, and overall public relations.
  2. Community-based. In order to demonstrate Colgate’s support of small- and medium-sized locally-owned family farms, the Working Group supports purchasing food from community-based farmers. Enterprises may be considered community-based if they are cooperatively or independently-owned and the majority owner(s) are community members with full autonomy and local decision-making authority with respect to business practices.

    Community-based enterprises may include small and medium-sized businesses; family farms, ranches and fisheries; artisan shops; agricultural cooperatives; worker and consumer cooperatives; employee-owned companies; other enterprises that meet the above criteria.
  3. Third-party Certified. Recognizing how food is produced is as important (if not more important) as where it is produced. For this reason, Colgate also supports purchasing food from environmentally and socially responsible farmers. In most cases we cannot audit the farms we purchase our food from. As a result, we will depend on a select group of reputable and quality third-party certifiers to help ensure we are purchasing sustainable food products. It will be the responsibility of the Advisory Group to ensure that our list of third-party certifiers is up-to-date and comprised of reputable organizations.

Colgate's key metric for tracking sustainable food is U.S. dollars spent purchasing local, community-based, and/or third-party certified food as a percentage of our overall food purchases. This metric is consistent with AASHE STARS 2.0 and many other institutions that are advancing local and sustainable food procurement on campus.

Commitment: Complete a full assessment of our local, community-based, and third-party certified food purchases by July 1, 2017 and establish an institutional goal for increasing the purchase of sustainable foods on campus. 

Lead responsibility: Manager of Sustainability in Dining Services and Sustainable Food Systems Advisory Group.

Commitment: Complete an initial sustainability audit of dining services that includes waste production as well as water and energy consumption by September 1, 2017. 

Lead responsibility: Manager of Sustainability in Dining Services and Sustainable Food Systems Advisory Group.

Commitment: Complete an action plan for advancing overall sustainability in dining operations that emphasizes sustainable food procurement and waste, water, and energy reduction by September 1, 2017. 

Lead responsibility: Manager of Sustainability in Dining Services and Sustainable Food Systems Advisory Group

6. Ecosystems and Land Stewardship

Colgate owns more than 2,000 acres of land of which 553 acres include the campus proper, 1,059 acres are managed forests, and 389 acres are leased to local farmers. The campus proper includes Colgate’s buildings on upper, middle, and lower campus, Taylor Lake, the Seven Oaks Golf Course, and nearly 3,000 inventoried trees. The Chenango Valley provides a scenic backdrop for Colgate’s beautiful campus and historic stone buildings. According to the 2010, 2014, and 2015 editions of the Princeton Review, Colgate was ranked #1 for having the most beautiful campus in the country.

Colgate University recognizes the importance of well-managed forests (both locally and globally) in providing critical wildlife habitat, essential ecosystem services, and in addressing global climate change. As such, we manage our forests with care and environmental stewardship. Colgate's 2007 Forest and Open Lands Stewardship Plan and 2018 Forest Carbon Inventory and Projections report emphasize long-term sustainable forestry management that:

  • enhances our academic mission through research and teaching;
  • provides aesthetic value and ongoing recreational opportunities;
  • provides revenue through timber and biomass energy production;
  • provides essential ecosystem services such as clean air, water, and healthy soils;
  • protects the diversity and health of the plants and animals that inhabit our forested lands;
  • increase rates of forest carbon sequestration.

Historically, existing forests have not been given serious consideration in addressing carbon neutrality goals on college and university campuses. At Colgate University, we recognized that carbon storage and annual sequestration is among the many assets provided by Colgate's forested lands. Quite simply, sustainable forest management and protection is critically important in overcoming the climate crisis. In 2014, Colgate's 1,059 acres of forested land received American Tree Farm System certification, verifying our high-level commitment to environmental stewardship and sustainable forest management. As a result of our forest stewardship and carbon sequestration work on campus, Colgate has emerged as a national leader in this field.

Likewise, Colgate recognizes the importance of maintaining our campus proper with sustainable practices in mind. Colgate's Grounds Department consists of 19 permanent employees who are mainly responsible for the maintenance of the main campus including upper and lower campus, the residential and Greek Letter Organization houses along Broad Street, and several outlying properties. This includes miles of roads, 2,500 parking spots, hundreds of acres of mowed lawn, flowerbeds, shrub beds, mulching, and campus trees. The Grounds Department is also charged with the maintenance of numerous Division I athletic complexes and fields including numerous turf and grass playing fields, three sports complexes with gymnasiums, outdoor tennis courts, a softball field, 5K and 8K cross-country trails, 400-meter outdoor track & field area, and an indoor turf and track complex. The outlying properties consist of the university bookstore, downtown administrative offices, the Bewkes conference center and lakefront grounds, Schupf Art Studio, the Murphy site along Hamilton Street, the trap range, and Beattie Reserve. Needless to say, our Grounds Department accomplishes an incredible amount of work and are some of the most skilled and hardest working people on campus. Advancing sustainable practices in regards to grounds maintenance, must consider impacts on our Grounds Department and involve the forepersons and facilities management in all decisions.

Some sustainable practices can reduce labor and free up resources. For example, as a result of our 2011 Sustainability and Climate Action Plan, Colgate introduced approximately 30 acres of campus grounds into a “no-mow” concept. This included parts of the old golf course, portions of the cross country ski trails and the old ski hill, and an area south of the Colgate Townhouses. As our Grounds team reduced the frequency of mowing, there was a reduction in labor hours and fuel usage. The reduction in mowing time resulted in a savings of roughly 20 gallons of fuel per week and hours of labor. This practice also reduced water runoff and flooding to lower campus from heavy rain events while at the same time increasing wildflowers, pollinators, and overall wildlife value.

Over the decades, Colgate lost most of its trees on the main campus to age and disease. Most of these trees were not replaced. Historic photos in and around our academic buildings offered a stark contrast to the lack of trees in modern times. Under President Brian Casey’s leadership, the university began the process of planting 461 trees between the spring of 2018 and 2020 to restore the tree canopy and historic beauty of Colgate’s campus proper. Over the years, these trees will offer more than grandeur and aesthetic beauty. They provide social spaces and will reduce heating and cooling costs for campus buildings. The trees also soak up water during heavy rain events and provide important habitat for native and migrating bird species and other wildlife.

These are just a few of the successes we can build upon in the years to come.

Forest Carbon Storage and Sequestration

Commitment: Complete a Re-measurement of Colgate’s Forested Lands For Carbon Storage and Sequestration by July 1, 2024

Lead Responsibility: Director of Sustainability, Campus Forester

In 2013, Colgate completed its first forest carbon inventory fieldwork and measurements. Permanent sample plots were established and tree measurements were taken to establish a baseline for future work. Then, in 2018, Colgate returned to each of the 174 sample plots created in 2013 to undertake a full re-measurement. Changes in forest structure and individual tree growth were recorded. We were able to calculate stored forest carbon and the annual rate of carbon sequestration by comparing the changes over the 5-year interval.

Through this research and corresponding field measurements, we determined that our 1,059 acres of forests contained 193,755 tons of stored carbon while sequestering an additional 3,785 tons of carbon annually. The goal of re-measurement is to update the annual rates of carbon sequestration in the permanent sample plots established in 2013 and in 2018. Our next re-measurement is scheduled for 2023.

Campus Tree and Land Stewardship

Commitment: Update Colgate’s Campus Tree Inventory by July 1, 2022.

Lead Responsibility: Director of Sustainability, Landscape Project Manager, Bartlett Tree Services

It’s been over 10 years since the nearly 3,000 trees on Colgate’s main campus have been inventoried. Without this work, we lack insight into proper tree care and management. The university also loses important educational value as the tree inventory provides a database of the number, species, age, condition, and value of each tree on campus. Most importantly, the updated Campus Tree Inventory should include the 461 trees recently planted for the Bicentennial Landscape Project as well as the trees planted with the construction of Benton, Burke, and Pinchin Halls.

Commitment: Establish a Grounds Maintenance Benchmarking and Tracking Tool by July 1, 2022.

Lead Responsibility: Director of Facilities Operations, Facilities Grounds Department, Director of Sustainability

Colgate currently tracks the amount of fertilizers used on campus grounds, athletic fields, and the Seven Oaks Golf Course through our annual greenhouse gas inventory. However, other grounds maintenance practices remain largely unknown by some managers and the broader campus community. For example, the amount, timing, and types of pesticide and herbicide use, soil health testing and management, the type and application of mulch, and the maintenance of campus trees. In the winter, the application of deicing treatments can have negative impacts on our landscape, watershed, campus vehicles, and roads and building infrastructure. Establishing metrics while creating an ongoing process for benchmarking and tracking these practices is a helpful first step to maintenance that balances labor, cost, safety, aesthetics, and environmental impacts.

Commitment: Establish a Soil Testing Program and Tracking System by July 1, 2022.

Lead Responsibility: Director of Sustainability, Landscape Project Manager, Bartlett Tree Services

Monitoring and improving soil health can significantly reduce labor and ongoing maintenance costs. Routinely testing soil conditions can help determine more precise biological and nutrient requirements and can potentially avoid widespread application of various treatments. Furthermore, healthy soils create deeper root systems and more resilient and vibrant plants. Understanding that soil health creates plant health is a solid guiding principle to help manage our campus grounds with efficiency and environmental sustainability in mind.

Colgate University is a good steward of our campus trees. With the completion of the Bicentennial Landscape Project and the planting of over 200 new trees, Colgate is also well-positioned to receive the Arbor Day Foundation’s Tree Campus designation. Doing so would not only provide focused attention on our campus trees, but would also instill a greater sense of pride in our campus community.

Currently, there are roughly 30 college and university campuses that have achieved Tree Campus recognition including Morrisville State College in Madison County.

In order to achieve Tree Campus certification, Colgate would need to meet Arbor Day’s five standards:

  1. Establish a Campus Tree Advisory Committee
  2. Develop a Campus Tree Care Plan
  3. Verify dedicated annual funding to support the Campus Tree Program
  4. Involvement in Arbor Day Observance
  5. Participate in a Service Learning Project aimed at engaging the student body

Commitment: Explore Opportunities to Remove an Additional Five (5) Acres Out of a Weekly Mowing Regime by July 1, 2024.

Lead Responsibility: Director of Facilities Operations, Facilities Grounds Department, Director of Sustainability, Landscape Project Manager

Pollinator gardens, rain gardens, and/or creating more naturalized landscaping are effective and attractive ways to reduce mowed lawn and enhance the ecological value. Furthermore, the design and implementation of carefully located gardens can involve student research and community service. Any project proposal should work closely with the Grounds Department to ensure that ongoing maintenance is manageable and costs are minimized.

Commitment: Continue with Preventative Treatment and Care of Vulnerable Tree Species on Colgate’s Main Campus.

Lead Responsibility: Landscape Project Manager, Director of Sustainability, Bartlett Tree Services

The Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) has been confirmed in the Village of Hamilton. This invasive species targets and eventually kills ash trees unless intervention takes place. The same is true of Colgate’s majestic elm trees. These select species and others should be identified and preventative care should be administered to protect these magnificent campus assets.

7. Financing

Achieving carbon neutrality in 2019 was a major accomplishment and milestone. Maintaining Colgate's commitment to carbon neutrality, however, requires ongoing investment. Colgate must continue to find creative and innovative solutions to finance campus projects that will reduce energy and resource consumption while lowering operating costs over time. The ultimate goal, of course, is to invest in projects and technologies that reduce and eventually eliminate Colgate’s campus carbon footprint. While sustainability has practical value, good projects are often delayed because of annual operating pressures and high implementation costs. These barriers can halt momentum and stall progress. Therefore, expanding established financial structures and actively pursuing new ones remains an important opportunity to advance sustainability on campus.

Over the last 10 years, Colgate has made significant progress in establishing mechanisms to finance sustainability. In September 2012, for example, the university created the Sustainability and Climate Action Reserve with an initial investment of $365,500. This money was used to help finance projects approved in Colgate's inaugural 2011 Sustainability and Climate Action Plan. The university added $85,000 to the Reserve the following year. The Reserve helped to finance lighting upgrades, recycling stations, a solar thermal array, and an electric vehicle charging station among other projects. However, savings from initial investments were never recouped and the Reserve’s balance lost value over time.

In 2017, the Sustainability Council completed Colgate’s Bicentennial Plan for a Sustainable and Carbon Neutral Campus, an update to Colgate's 2011 climate action plan. One of the key recommendations in the plan was to augment the Sustainability and Climate Action Reserve by creating the new Green Revolving Loan Fund (GRLF) at Colgate University.

The GRLF was officially launched in 2018 with an additional $800,000 contribution by the university to seed the fund. Colgate's newly created Green Revolving Loan Fund (GRLF) was specifically earmarked for energy efficiency, renewable energy, and other sustainability projects that generate cost-savings over time while reducing Colgate's carbon and ecological footprints. Savings are tracked and reinvested into the fund so the next round of sustainability projects can be financed. The GRLF grows over time because each investment is repaid in full plus 20 percent.

The GRLF committee (a working group of the Sustainability Council) was formed to evaluate project proposals, determine which projects to fund, ensure that projects repay the GRLF from identified cost savings, and provide annual updates on the status of the fund and projects supported by the fund.

As the fund grows and becomes more established, the Green Revolving Loan Fund Committee may expand and change its structure.

Green Revolving Loan Fund Expenditures

Through FY 2020, after three full years of implementation, the GRLF has financed four projects with a total investment of $723,858. Projects included an upgrade to our biomass delivery and handling system, energy switching from fuel oil to natural gas in the Townhouses, and lighting upgrades in Starr Rink and Cotterell Court.

Since the inception of the GRLF, a combined total of $308,194 has been returned to the Fund from energy savings from the four projects.

FY 2020 began with a fund balance of $467,516. Adding FY 2020 inflows of $312,705 from gifts, energy savings returns, and project true-ups resulted in a year-end closing balance of $780,221.

Green Revolving Loan Fund Income

The GRLF has benefited from generous contributions from Colgate alumni and community members. Since its inception, a combined total of $218,878 has been gifted to the Fund.

Since the inception of the GRLF, a combined total of $308,194 has been returned to the Fund from energy savings from the four projects.

FY 2020 End-Of-Year Fund Balance

FY 2020 began with a fund balance of $467,516. Adding FY 2020 inflows of $312,705 from gifts, energy savings returns, and project true-ups resulted in a year-end closing balance of $780,221

Payback and Carbon Reductions

As stated above, a basic expectation of Colgate’s GRLF is to produce sufficient energy savings to repay project costs to the fund and to provide long-term relief to Colgate’s operating budget. At the same time, the Fund aims to finance projects that reduce our campus carbon footprint. To date, the average payback of those four projects is 6.0 years.

Finally, the four GRLF projects have resulted in a total reduction of 2,322 metric tons (MTeCO2) of greenhouse gases.

In addition to the GRLF, Colgate has also benefited from several opportunistic sustainability grants, rebates, and incentives available at the federal, state and local levels. For example, Colgate received rebates from the New York Municipal Power Authority (NYMPA) for lighting upgrades in Sanford Field House and Huntington Gymnasium, a grant to purchase custom-made Landmark recycling stations from the New York State Association for Reuse, Reduction, and Recycling (NYSAR3), as well as a New York State Energy, Research, and Development Authority (NYSERDA) grant that covered half the cost for the installation of the solar thermal array at 100 Broad Street and the installation of the electric vehicle charging station on Lally Lane.

Within the past year, Colgate received a grant from the Keep America Beautiful campaign to provide over 100 new recycling bins for campus events and the university received a grant from Second Nature to further develop local climate resilience and adaptation work. In total, these financing opportunities have provided us with extra incentive to implement projects and reduce our campus carbon footprint when it may not have been financially feasible otherwise.

The Path Forward

Building off these successes, the following strategies align with past efforts and will ensure future investments in sustainability are pragmatic, opportunistic, and self-sustaining.

Commitment: Continue utilizing the Green Revolving Loan Fund (GRLF) to finance campus sustainability projects.

Lead responsibility: Sustainability Council

The GRLF is at its best when the university is routinely investing in new projects while also receiving returns from savings from previous projects. This helps to ensure a healthy fund balance while also making an ongoing impact in operational efficiency and reduced carbon emissions. Additionally, the fund continues to benefit from alumni who donate to contribute to a more sustainable Colgate. Taken together, we anticipate that the GRLF will continue to grow and finance ever more projects in the years ahead.

It will be the work of the GRLF Committee in collaboration with other campus stakeholders to determine the best possible way to identify, evaluate, and invest in new projects in the years ahead. With this being said, the Sustainability Council and the GRLF Committee hope to expand the awareness of the GRLF and solicit project ideas from a broader range of campus stakeholders.

Commitment: Explore federal, state and local funding opportunities, ongoing.

Lead responsibility: Sustainability Council

Colgate’s robust and reputable sustainability program places us in a solid position to take advantage of existing and emerging grants, rebates, and incentives. In 2019, for example, New York State passed the Climate Leadership and Communities Protection Act, Plastic Bag Waste Reduction Law, and Food Donation & Food Scraps Recycling Law. These ambitious laws promise to unleash public and private financing opportunities and Colgate is well-positioned to take advantage of these. Similarly, as a result of the 2020 presidential election, the United States is recommitted and refocused on climate mitigation and adaptation. The Sustainability Council must remain vigilant to new financing opportunities that are sure to emerge, and the nation commits to climate action.

At the local level, there are potential projects in which it would make sense to partner with the Village and Town of Hamilton. For example, NYSERDA’s Climate Smart Communities Program encourages communities to create public-private partnerships and develop local sustainable growth strategies in such areas as carbon emissions control, energy efficiency, renewable energy, low-carbon transportation, and other carbon reductions. Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) programs are often targeted for municipalities and might provide opportunities for a partnership. Colgate must continue to explore carbon reductions where it makes sense to partner with our municipality.

8. Climate Ready: Resilience and Adaptation

Over the past few decades, Central New York has been hit hard by the impacts of climate change. Here in Madison County, for example, there have been 17 federally declared climate-related disasters since the year 2000.5 While averaging nearly one climate-related disaster in our county per year is staggering and certainly disruptive, there promise to be increased impacts in the years ahead. Why? Because the atmospheric greenhouse gases that cause climate change work on a time delay. In other words, the climate impacts that we are experiencing today are the result of emissions from decades ago.6 For this reason, we are locked into future and more intense impacts. Our climate of the future will be intensifying summer droughts punctuated by heavy rain events, flooding, heat waves, severe storms, and significant shifts in natural seasonal cycles. Our changing climate will impact life in Central New York and on-campus operations potentially disrupting our academic mission in profound ways. These include but are not limited to:

  • Food supply systems and costs
  • Emergency budgets and financing
  • Buildings and infrastructure maintenance
  • Energy/water supplies and power outages
  • Infectious disease and human health
  • Loss of ecosystems services, biodiversity, and impacts to our campus landscape
  • Stresses to local businesses and the well-being of our regional economy

Assessing these impacts and preparing for climate change will not only buffer the degree to which Colgate is impacted but will also create new opportunities such as strengthening campus and community relations, building community resilience, and reducing ongoing risks and expenses. Preparing for near-future disruptions and long-term trends will help ensure that Colgate continues to thrive in an era of unprecedented climate change.

Climate resilience is commonly defined as the ability of a system or community to survive climate disruption and to anticipate, adapt, and flourish in the face of change.7 The main goal of climate resilience is to enhance adaptive capacity by being flexible, open to new ideas, inclusive, and operationally efficient. Therefore, the foundation of a strong climate resilience program must follow a solid framework, produce well-informed guiding documents, and be based in principle to aid current and future decisions. This is where Colgate excels as exemplified by our progress so far.

Progress and Recent Accomplishments

Fortunately, Colgate’s efforts in climate resilience and building adaptive capacity formally started several years ago. A few examples include:

  • Reducing campus carbon emissions and climate resilience often go hand-in-hand. For example, switching to renewable energy, such as the installation of ground-source heat pumps in Chapel House, not only reduces our campus carbon footprint but also means we are less dependent on external supplies of energy. Likewise, when we use resources more efficiently, we buffer ourselves from the risk and vulnerability of resource supply chains and fluctuating prices. By advancing campus sustainability, Colgate has in effect, built up its institutional resilience to climate change.
  • Colgate and the greater Hamilton community are dependent on one another to ensure a rich and vibrant future. The university and the community are both dependent on the same infrastructure and supply systems (energy, water, food, transportation, retail businesses and services, happy and healthy social structures, etc.) that allow each to thrive. When these systems are disrupted, the entire community, including Colgate, suffers. For this reason, both the university and the Town and Village of Hamilton are stronger when we cooperate and work together to build climate resilience. Recognizing this, Colgate University in partnership with Town and Village officials launched the Hamilton Climate Preparedness Working Group in April of 2016. The Working Group researches, plans, and promotes policies and programs in response to existing and future impacts of climate change. In the spring of 2020, both the Town and Village of Hamilton were designated Climate Smart Communities by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. This designation recognizes the impressive accomplishments our community has achieved in preparing for climate change.
  • In the spring of 2019, students in Professor Ian Helfant’s ENST 390 course completed an initial vulnerability and climate resilience assessment for Colgate University. While more work needs to be done, this was a great step forward in completing a necessary and important assessment for the university’s climate resilience program.

Building community resilience takes time and is a long-term commitment. Despite these recent accomplishments, Colgate is still at the front end of being a climate resilient campus. Here we’ve identified the next steps in our journey.

Commitment: Sign Second Nature's Climate Resilience Commitment by April 22, 2021.

Lead responsibility: Office of Sustainability, Sustainability Council

Second Nature provides a solid framework, resources, and a strong network of collaborative leaders to support Colgate’s journey to climate resiliency. Besides providing structure, signing Second Nature’s Resilience Commitment will officially launch our public commitment to this work as we join dozens of other higher education leaders.

Commitment: Complete a final resilience assessment by April 22, 2023.

Lead responsibility: Office of Sustainability, Sustainability Council

Building resilience starts with assessing Colgate’s exposure and sensitivity to imminent climate change. Evaluating the degree to which our natural, social, and economic systems will be impacted and understanding our vulnerability to these changes is an essential step in evaluating our climate preparedness and overall risk. Besides identifying our current vulnerability, the resilience assessment should also establish metrics and indicators to track progress over time.

Commitment: Complete a comprehensive climate adaptation plan by April 22, 2024.

Lead responsibility: Office of Sustainability, Sustainability Council.

Once we complete our vulnerability and resilience assessments and have a better understanding of local risks associated with climate change, it is time to complete an adaptation plan. The adaptation plan should include specific actions that will help build adaptive capacity. Communities and institutions with high adaptive capacity minimize risk and are better prepared to deal with climate change impacts.

All of this work requires Colgate to work in partnership with the Town and Village of Hamilton.

9. Carbon Offsets

Carbon offsets are investments in off-campus projects that reduce, remove, or avoid greenhouse gas (MTeCO2) emissions. Offsets serve to counterbalance emissions from on-campus activities. Carbon offset projects come in many forms but generally fall into two broad categories: 1) projects that replace or avoid emissions, such as the construction of a solar or wind farm to replace a coal-fired power plant or an avoided deforestation project that prevents the release of stored tree carbon into the atmosphere, and 2) projects that sequester or remove greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere, such as reforestation that absorb atmospheric carbon as the trees grow.

While implementing on-campus projects that reduce Colgate's gross emissions remains Colgate's top priority, the university must also invest in carbon offsets to maintain the university's commitment to carbon neutrality. Significant sources of emissions such as air travel, commuting, ground transportation, and some forms of energy use are currently impossible to eliminate without extraordinary cost or disruption to our academic mission. Purchasing offsets demonstrates that the university accepts responsibility for its operational impact on global climate change. Investing in offsets also creates a financial incentive to reduce Colgate's emissions. This incentive could spur innovation and mitigation efforts on campus and reduce the need to purchase future offset on an annual and ongoing basis. By achieving carbon neutrality, Colgate acknowledges its contribution to climate change through its own operations and takes accountability for that impact by 1) reducing emissions on campus and 2) reducing emissions elsewhere, that is, investing in high-quality carbon offsets.

Even though Colgate’s campus carbon footprint has trended lower since our high of 17,821 MTeCO2 in 2009, it still fluctuates from year to year depending on campus operations, the severity of the winter, and many other factors. For example, a harsh winter coupled with a planned upgrade of our wood boiler caused an uptick of our campus carbon footprint in 2019 to 11,440 MTeCO2. Alternatively, our campus carbon footprint dropped in 2020 to 6,683 MTeCO2 due to the global pandemic and the nearly complete shutdown of campus operations. As a result, the number of carbon offsets needed annually also fluctuates.

There are hundreds of potential offset projects to invest in both domestically and across the globe. Projects vary by location, quality, type, environmental/social co-benefits, and vintage dates. Depending on these factors, offsets range in price from around $1 per ton to over $40 per ton. Either way, Colgate must remain within its annual budget for carbon offsets which is currently $80,000.

The Carbon Offsets Working Group and Recent Offset Purchases

Deciding what projects to invest in can be complex and nuanced. In order to help guide Colgate’s carbon offset purchases and remain transparent, the Sustainability Council formed the Carbon Offsets Working Group to research available options, communicate these options to the Colgate community, and solicit campus-wide feedback. Ultimately, the Working Group is charged to make a final recommendation to the Sustainability Council and Colgate's leadership based on their process and campus feedback. Over the past few years, the Working Group has been comprised of faculty, students, and staff.

In 2018 and 2019, the Carbon Offsets Working Group led an exhaustive process and outreach campaign that included, but was not limited to, campus-wide feedback surveys and open forums, small group discussions, interactive brown-bag seminars, student-led open forums, presentations at all-faculty meetings, semester-long research from students in ENST 390, feedback from offset brokers and consultants, and research from other institutions.

Based on this feedback, the Working Group recommended investing in a diversified portfolio of offset projects that include

  • local, New York State-based projects;
  • projects that include value-added co-benefits such as ecological, social, and
    community-based benefits; and
  • a mix of project types such as forestry-based, renewable energy, and methane capture.

Throughout this process, the Carbon Offsets Working Group evaluated over 100 projects from nearly 20 different suppliers. To assist the Working Group in this process, project descriptions were provided by each supplier. Additionally, we asked suppliers to identify which of the 17 United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) their projects addressed. After screening these projects for location, project type, co-benefits (social, educational, and ecological), and cost, coupled with the feedback the Working Group received from the community, Colgate is able to make an informed decision about what projects to invest in. Based on these recommendations, the university made the following carbon offset purchases in 2019 and 2020.

The average cost per carbon offset purchased in 2020 was $3.98 per ton. The Carbon Offsets Working Group prioritized lower cost offsets in 2020 while also including environmental and social co-benefits. The emphasis on cost in 2020 was to help the university overcome the financial setbacks due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. More information about Colgate’s Carbon Offset Purchases can be found here.

The Path Forward

The Carbon Offsets Working Group, or a similar group of faculty, students, and staff, should continue its work for the foreseeable future. The Working Group should remain open and responsive to best practices, an ever-evolving offsets market, emerging trends, and changing protocols. Based on the Working Group’s extensive research, analyses, and community feedback highlighted above, the Carbon Offsets Working Group, the Sustainability Council, and the Office of Sustainability recommend the following approach and commitments for purchasing carbon offsets going forward.

Commitment: Carbon offsets should be purchased on an annual basis after Colgate’s GHG inventory is finalized for the previous fiscal year.

Lead Responsibility: Sustainability Council, Carbon Offsets Working Group, Director of Sustainability

In order to accomplish this goal, a request for information to offset suppliers should be sent during the early portion of the fall semester. Once offset options and pricing are received, the Carbon Offsets Working Group should begin the process of screening options preferable for Colgate. Ideally, offset purchases will be decided and contracts signed before the end of each calendar year in order to achieve carbon neutrality for the previous fiscal year.

Commitment: Purchase renewable energy certificates (RECs) or green tags each year to offset 100 percent of Colgate’s annual electricity consumption.

Lead Responsibility: Sustainability Council, Carbon Offsets Working Group, Director of Sustainability

Renewable energy certificates (RECs) or green tags are specifically designed to mitigate (offset) scope 2 emissions from electricity generation and consumption. RECs are characterized by the creation of renewable electricity whereby clean energy production displaces or reduces demand for more traditional carbon-intensive forms of energy. More specifically, RECs represent the environmental benefits (or attributes) received by the displacement of conventional fuel use, such as coal, oil, or natural gas. One REC is representative of one megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity (1,000 kilowatt-hours) and allows the purchaser to support renewable energy production even though they themselves may not directly receive the renewable power generated. Purchasing third-party certified RECs (such as Green-e) is a best practice for institutions such as Colgate to mitigate their impacts associated with electricity consumption. They support renewable electricity generation while achieving carbon neutrality.

In 2019, for example, Colgate purchased 31,809 MWh’s of RECs through Greenlight Energy Group because they offered Green-e certified RECs at the lowest cost with the greatest carbon impact and social benefits. Greenlight was founded in 2011 as the first woman-owned renewable energy marketing company in the U.S.

Commitment: The Carbon Offsets Working Group should help lead an extensive campus-wide outreach and feedback process once every three years commencing again in the spring of 2022.

Lead Responsibility: Sustainability Council, Carbon Offsets Working Group, Director of Sustainability

Conducting campus-wide outreach and engagement every three years ensures that every student has the opportunity to provide feedback before they graduate. The frequency will diminish potential burnout in the process (e.g., survey and meeting fatigue) but frequent enough to take advantage of new and emerging opportunities in the offset market. This high level of engagement provides transparency into the process as well as an opportunity for the community to learn more about carbon offset markets and Colgate’s commitment to carbon neutrality.

In the years between broad campus outreach and engagement, the Carbon Offsets Working Group should continue to base their decisions on the feedback they received from the campus community.

Commitment: Use a portion of Colgate’s offset budget to invest in carbon offset projects here in Madison County or in the Town or Village of Hamilton before January 1, 2023.

Lead Responsibility: Sustainability Council, Carbon Offsets Working Group, Director of Sustainability

The Colgate community has expressed clear interest in investing in local carbon offsets projects, based on feedback the Working Group has received from surveys, discussion groups, and open forums. Fortunately, Second Nature’s Carbon Offset Guidance states that higher education institutions can purchase local, non-certified offsets to cover their scope 3 emissions up to 30 percent of their total campus carbon footprint. These guidelines present an opportunity for Colgate to invest in projects that benefit local residents or businesses in our own community. Organizations like the Finger Lakes Climate Fund help identify low-to-moderate income families who would benefit from renewable energy or home energy efficiency projects in our community. Families benefit from increased comfort and reduced home energy bills and Colgate would benefit by obtaining the credits for the carbon reduction. Another added benefit is improved community relationships by investing locally.

As the Carbon Offsets Working Group considers future investments in offsets, every effort should be made to find and invest in at least one local project.

Commitment: Maintain and continuously update a carbon offset website for communication and transparency.

Lead Responsibility: Assistant Director of Sustainability, Director of Sustainability

Colgate’s Office of Sustainability has already created a carbon offsets website with information on our approach and purchases of carbon offsets. This website should be updated and maintained on a regular basis.

10. Campus Participation and Reporting

As emphasized throughout this document, Colgate is working hard to transition from an emergent program to an integrated one. Accomplishing this will require commitment and participation from diverse stakeholders across the university. Because sustainability at Colgate is a true campus-wide initiative, we will only be successful if our community is engaged and invested in our overarching shared goals, this includes senior leadership as well as all members of our community.

For these reasons, each plan, including the Bicentennial Plan for a Sustainable and Carbon Neutral Campus is a beginning. As we work to accomplish each commitment and objective, we remain open to new ideas and opportunities so that everyone has a voice as we strive to advance sustainability and resilience of our campus.

Commitment: By December 31 of each year, Colgate will formally update the faculty, students, and staff on our progress through presentations at staff and faculty meetings, our annual greenhouse gas inventory, and an annual sustainability report. During these engagements, sustainability leaders will prioritize feedback and create vehicles for continued input.

Lead Responsibility: Office of Sustainability