Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Ideas? ...Comments? ...Suggestions?

Colgate's journey towards a sustainable future is as exciting as it is challenging. New opportunities abound and sometimes we view old practices in a new light. Idea sharing is invaluable. Do you have ideas or suggestions on ways to advance sustainability at Colgate? Think energy use, recycling, waste minimization, transportation, food and dining services. Do you want to share your thoughts with others? Do you observe practices on campus that are not environmentally friendly? Have suggestions for a better way? Please share your thoughts here!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

The words reduce, reuse, recycle easily roll off our tongues. But when was the last time we gave these words some thought?

Consider for a moment that these three words are not equal.

Reduce instructs us to reconsider the stuff we eye and buy, but rarely need. Buying less and experiencing more is a good moto for a healthier planet and a happier you. The average product we consume contains only about 5 percent of the resources and energy that went into manufacturing and transporting it. The other 95 percent is waste. We can do a lot to reduce the waste we produce by reducing unnecessary material possessions. Click here to watch the Story of Stuff: a short video on our consumption behaviors and the impact this has on our environment.

Reuse challenges us to consider creative and sensible options for our unwanted goods besides throwing them in the trash. No matter how unique your unwanted items are, you can usually find them a new home. Use Craig's List or E-Bay. Better yet, donate your items to a local organization such as Heritage Farm in Bouckville, Hope House and the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees in Utica, Worn Again clothing shop in Hamilton, and the Community Action Partnership in Morrisville. Additionally, at the end of every academic year, the COVE will pickup your unwanted items through their Salvage program to donate to local charities. Read more about Salvage and watch this video!

One of the simplest and most important things we can do to protect our environment is to recycle. Recycling preserves precious resources, avoids building new landfills, conserves energy, and reduces water pollution, air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. At Colgate, take a moment to place your recyclable items (i.e. glass, plastic containers and bottles, metal cans, paper products, cardboard, and electronic waste) in the correct bin. Do you have a recycle bin at home, in your residence hall, or in your office? Does everyone know where it is? Is it properly labeled and frequently used? If not, then it is time to take action! Be a sustainability champion and spearhead your very own recycling campaign. Not sure where or how to begin? Check out these resources:
Have ideas on how Colgate can save resources? ...reduce landfill waste? ...or increase recycling rates? Please share!

The Colgate Recycling Challenge

Do you know where our trash goes? Hint: it never goes away (as in "throw away"). At Colgate, our trash goes to the county landfill in the Town of Lincoln (less than 20 miles from campus). Last year, as a community, Colgate produced about 2,000,000 lbs of landfill trash. This was responsible for over 880 tons of greenhouse gas emissions and cost us nearly $60,000 in tipping fees. Unfortunately, by a conservative estimate, at least 50 percent of our "trash" is actually recyclable. We are optimistic that we can do a lot better this year! A good place to start is with clearly labeled recycling areas and well-placed bins. So, we need standarized, campus-wide recycling signs that are consistent around campus.

A highly visible recycling program will not only save money and protect our environment, it would also leave a positive impression on visitors and other guests who frequently come to our home.

Please download these signs and use at your next event or in your living area, classroom, or office:
*It is recommended that you print these signs using 11 X 17 recycled paper and laminate them for longevity.

Before you label your recycling stations and trash areas, it is important to know how recycling works. It is easy. Every area needs three recycle bins:
  1. plastic/glass/metal cans (including all plastics #1-7, all bottles and cans, plastic milk and water jugs, yogurt containers, laundry soap and detergent bottles, plastic cups, and plastic grocery bags)
  2. paper products (including print and copier paper, newspaper, notebook paper, envelopes, magazines, and catalogues)
  3. cardboard (including pizza boxes, cereal boxes, corrugated cardboard, paper bags, and dry food boxes).
See Colgate's Recycling Flyer for more detailed information.
See Madison County's Recycling Guide for comprehensive recycling information in our county.

Notice that it is not necessary to separate glass from plastic from metal cans. This is accomplished at the recycling station. Paper products do need to be separated from plastic/glass/cans. No one will separate paper from bottles and cans and when they are thrown together they all end up in the landfill - a terrible waste of money, energy and precious resources! The same is true if recyclables end up in the trash bin: no one will reach in and pull them out - again, they will end up in the landfill. Therefore, the take home message is to reduce or eliminate contamination (the mixing of recyclables with trash) in our bins all over campus. This is everybody's responsibility!

What do you think? What ideas do you have for improving our recycling rates on campus?