Thursday, December 20, 2012

Electric Cars on Campus


We would like to thank you all for participating in the Office of Sustainability’s annual transportation survey.  Once again we had a huge response rate with over 330 respondents. Congratulations to Dan Sloan, winner of 4 movie tickets, and Ainslie Ellis, winner of a $20 gift card to the Colgate Bookstore.

Faculty and staff commuter emissions make up roughly 10 percent of our campus carbon footprint.  Carpooling, walking, biking, and telecommuting are a few options that can reduce emissions while helping us achieve our goal of carbon neutrality by 2019.

If you are interested in carpooling we encourage you to sign up for Purpool (, a ride share program for the Colgate community.  Carpooling will save you gas money, reduce wear and tear on your vehicle, lower maintenance costs, and allow you to better connect with your colleagues. However, we understand that schedules do not always match up. So, what then?

Switching to fuel-efficient vehicles can also save you money while reducing emissions.  Electric cars, for example, have come a long way in the past few years and have finally started to make their way onto the Colgate campus. Clara and David Lantz[1] and Catherine Cardelús and James “Eddie” Watkins[2] have recently become the proud drivers of a Chevy Volt and Prius V Plug-In respectively.

The Lantz family has had their Volt since April 2012 and are really enjoying it. The Volt has an advertised battery range of 38 miles per gallon gasoline equivalent (mpge) on a full charge and then seamlessly switches to a gas engine. The Volt is meant to be a high performance electric car and can reach 100mph when running on electric power alone. The car takes about 10 hours to charge and costs the family about $18 a month in electricity to run. The Lantz family primarily uses their Volt for short trips around town and because of this they still have the original tank of gas in their car.  Incredible! However, they have discovered the fine print about the battery life. The advertised 38mpge is an average of what customers experience.  The actual range of the battery is 25-55mpge and varies based on terrain, outside temperature, and driver technique.  The Lantz family was getting about 46 mpge in the summer, but that number has drastically dropped to about 27mpge in the cooler fall months.

The Cardelús -Watkins family traded in their Jeep for a Prius V plug-in about a month ago and their only regret is not doing it sooner.  The Prius has a 12 mile range on battery power alone and then switches to hybrid mode, allowing the driver to get around 100mpge and 50 miles to the gallon in hybrid mode. The Prius battery takes about 3 hours to charge and can be timed so it only charges during off peak hours, which means cheaper electric prices. The Cardelús-Watkins family has only spent about $65 fueling their Prius for one month of both short and longer range driving.

These cars also have other innovative features. The Prius and Volt can both sense where the key is. As long as you have it on your person you can push a button to start ignition and lock or unlock the doors of the Prius with a wave of your hand. Both cars are incredibly quiet and feature LCD screen displays and integrated technology meaning you can talk on your phone or play MP3s directly through the car. Clara Lantz described the Volt as being “like you’re driving a computer, but it isn’t complicated at all and still feels and drives like a gas-engine car.”  The 2013 Volt will allow drivers the option of manually shifting from gas to electric so they can save battery life for a city destination. The Prius also helps you alter your driving habits to be as efficient as possible by showing you what your current MPG is and can even display your fuel efficiency history in a graph for all the data lovers out there. Other incentives include preferred parking at places like Trudy Fitness Center and Price Chopper and tax credits.

When buying an electric car it is important to do your research and select the car that is right for you. Other models to consider are the Nissan Leaf, the Ford C-Max Energi, and the luxury BMW I-8.

The Sustainability Office will continue to highlight individuals on campus who are advancing sustainability in their own way. If you know of someone who is putting sustainability into practice, please let us know (!

[1] Clara is an administrative assistant at the Chapel House and David is a professor of mathematics.

[2] Catherine and Eddie are both assistant professors of biology.

Library Recycling Efforts in the Spotlight

This month we would like to focus on the extra effort put in by the professional and student staff members in the library for recycling ~15,000 volumes of 499 journal and 715 rolls of micro film.

Many journals and other forms of print information have been digitized and made readily available online through databases like JSTOR.  This renders the need for paper copies and microfilm records obsolete. So, what do Universities and other institutions do with all those copies? Well, thanks to the efforts of Karen Johnston, Ian Woodward, Emily Hutton Hughes, Darlene Virgil, Lisa Wynn, and several other members of our fantastic library staff all of our waste was handled properly.

Karen Johnston (Administrative Coordinator to the University Librarian) spearheaded this recycling effort.  Karen is pictured here with her grandchildren.

This project began last summer when digitized, infrequently used, non-image intensive journals began to be identified.  A program called ITHAKA was used to help identify journals that could potentially be removed.  A list of journals was then circulated to departments to ask if anyone wanted to keep the physical copies of any journals on the list.  Some of the journals were donated to departments. Others were offered to print depositories like the Center for Research Depositories.  However, many of the journals were still left to dispose of.

Our library staff looked for a recycling company that would assist with the disposal and they found Syracuse Haulers.  Syracuse Haulers brought a 15 yard dumpster, complete with cover and lock to protect from weather and the unknowing trash depositor, to campus which the library filled within 2 weeks. They then proceeded to partially fill a second 15 dumpster. This process was much more labor intensive than it seems at first glance. Most library journals had been bound with a non-recyclable cover that had to be cut off by hand with X-Acto knives (NOTE: no injuries occur in the process of this recycling). The entire journal recycling effort took less than 4 weeks including the collection of the volumes from LASR, stripping of covers, and disposal for all 15,000 volumes.

The second phase of the library’s recycling efforts involved the proper disposal of microfilm. Our microfilm was determined to not possess silver halide, which you can actually sell for it’s silver content.  However, Empire Resource Recycling Inc has just agreed to pick up the microfilm and even offered to supply us with a certificate of proper destruction.

Overall, Karen Johnston said, “It was a whole lot easier than I thought!” That just goes to show a little extra effort can make a big difference. Thank you again to the Library staff for all the work you did!

OMEGA Institute Design by Nature Conference

In October members of the Sustainability Office along with a student attended the Design by Nature Conference. It was an inspirational weekend that gave everyone a new, more realistic fervor for the sustainability movement.  The conference featured leaders in the field like Jeremy Rifken, Janine Benyes, and Van Jones.  The topics included what the green movement can do for the American economy, the future of food production, and the lessons we can learn from nature.  It touched on economic, social, architectural, and design solutions to many of tour country’s problems.  To summarize the weekend, there is a future for green energy, running a green economy, and humans living in a healthy sustainable world.  This kind of system is currently being put into action in Europe and it is working.

The OMEGA Institute has embodied this dedication to sustainability by building the first LEED Platinum Certified Living Building. The building serves as both a wastewater treatment center and a Yoga studio. Surprised about the combination? The system uses natural processes to break down the waste.  The process includes anaerobic bacteria, outdoor wetland plants and indoor vegetation, fish, and water circulation to remove all contaminants, including pharmaceuticals and hormones, from the water.  The process is odorless and can be done with less energy than the building collects on its solar panels meaning that the building makes more energy than the process uses.  Wastewater can be processed like this almost anywhere. It is with innovation and inspiration from nature that we should continue into the future.


We should all know the three R’s of being green: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.  There is a strong emphasis on how to reduce and recycle on campus by doing things like printing double sided, limiting energy use, and using the blue recycling bins around campus, but many people are unaware of the programs available to help you reuse.

The Office Swap program allows faculty and staff to connect and help turn one office’s trash into another’s treasure.  It encourages people to post office supplies that they may have in surplus or are just getting rid of and also to post things that they are looking for.  Goods are simply transferred to where they are needed instead of being thrown out, which saves your department time and money!  All posted goods are meant to be free for other offices to claim, but salvage credit is available.  The best part about the Office Swap program is that it is as easy as using a Google document!  Please email the Sustainability Office at if you would like more information about how to get access or use the Office Swap program.

If you are looking to buy or sell something that is not office related, there is also a program for that, the Gate Swap program.  Gate Swap is a website that allows people to post anything that they wish to get rid of from textbooks to cellphones to shoes.  You can also post wanted items and list an asking price for your goods.  Check it out at for more information.

Nextdoor Hamilton is an Internet resource for buying, selling, giving away, and communicating with only Hamilton residents.  Nextdoor Hamilton is a private social network just for Hamilton.  Already, nearly 800 Hamilton households have joined.  It's free. To access Nextdoor Hamilton go to, wait for your address to be verified, and start connecting!

Some other places to buy and sell used goods are Craigslist if you need to access a slightly broader location, Worn Again for clothing (now located in Parry’s and open Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays 10am-4pm), and the university Salvage warehouse for furniture and electronics.

With so many options available the need to buy new is greatly reduced.  By reusing previously made good it cuts back on all associated emissions of production.  It takes 400 gallons of water to make one new cotton t-shirt and zero for a shirt from a thrift store.  So, before you throw it out see if you can find a way to reuse or better yet resell it! 

'Tis the Season for Home Heating!

November in the Northeast means that the weather is beginning to get colder and more people will stay inside to keep warm, however, heating your home uses more energy and drains more energy dollars than any other system in your home. Typically, 43% of your utility bill goes for heating and cooling. What's more, heating and cooling systems in the United States together emit 150 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year, adding to global climate change. They also generate about 12% of the nation's sulfur dioxide and 4% of the nitrogen oxides, the chief ingredients in acid rain.

Colgate is currently sub-metering all of the residential and academic buildings to track and assess all buildings’ energy performances over time and is looking into cost-effective retrofitting options that will improve building energy efficiency such as installing user-friendly heating controls in residence halls to minimize temperature fluctuation.
Also, in the Fall of 2010, Colgate will implement a Green Living program that provides building-specific education programs for new occupants so that they can learn to efficiently regulate the heating and cooling of their living spaces. By increasing student awareness and understanding of heating controls, the university can mitigate significant building energy inefficiencies caused by wasteful occupant behavior.

Set your thermostat to 68 degrees F in winter and 76 degrees F in summer. By decreasing your heat by even just one degree you will be saving a lot of energy.

Close the curtains when it’s cold in the winter and you could reduce your energy needs by up to 25 percent. If every house in America kept the curtain closed for additional insulation, the total energy saved annually would be as much as the entire nation of Japan uses in a year.

If you have a home install a programmable thermostat.  Also, keep your fireplace damper closed unless a fire is going. An open damper can let 8 percent of the heat in your home escape. That can add up to about $100 a year to a heating bill.