Colgate moving towards a greener future

We had a pretty good meeting at work the other day (can there be such a thing?) that got me pretty worked up and very optimistic.

I work for Colgate and they have hired a sustainability person who will be dedicated to making things more green on campus, John Pumilio.

Pumilio was part of an all staff meeting to bring everyone on campus up to date on emerging issues. He talked for a good while about many different things and I walked away from the meeting very excited about what he had to say. I think that I was most excited about the fact that after so long, Colgate has finally put into action an idea that had been kicking around for quite a while.

While always talking about sustainability, being green and lessening the individual and institutional carbon footprint, the moment has come to try to actually do some concrete things to see if we really can make a difference. While individual actions are what ultimately add up, the institution as a whole is going to make some philosophical and attitudinal adjustments to see if we really can become a greener place.

The talk lasted about half an hour and dealt with many ways in which the people and the institution add to the carbon footprint.

In some regards, we are doing really well. For example, along with the oil burning heating plant, there has been a wood burning furnace on campus for the past 25 years that creates most of the steam for the heat on campus. This has saved millions of gallons of fuel oil and millions of dollars every year. What is exciting is that Colgate is going to try to grow their own biomass to fuel the heating plant.

A test plot of willow has been planted to create that biomass. Although it is only one field of a few acres, there is going to be an invitation to local farmers to grow biomass to fuel the wood furnace. In this way, wood chips which are trucked down from the Adirondacks will become available locally, cutting down on the fuel spent to transport the biomass for the wood furnace. This is just one small aspect of a large project which is going to take some time to get into action.

The whole talk was an attempt to get people to realize what activities generate the carbon footprint and what can realistically be targeted to lessen the footprint. When dealing with 2,700 students and another 900 faculty, administrators and staff, this may be a daunting effort.

Rather than looking at how hard it might be, we are looking at the many ways, some more simple than others, that everyone on the hill can do to participate in the task at hand. This is good news, indeed!

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