Wednesday, July 29, 2009

John Robinson - Green Saves Green ($)

John Robinson - Electronics Shop, Lead Electronics Technician

Sustainability Office: When did you first become interested in sustainability and how did it happen?

John: When I was a kid, I got my first Solar Cell; I was amazed, it was magic! When I bought my first home, I realized just how much building materials cost and how often great used stuff hits the landfill.

Sustainability Office: In what way do you practice or advocate sustainability?

John: Recycle, mulch leaves and grass, shut off unneeded devices, use CFL lights almost everywhere, combine trips and park my Pickup Truck (when the beds empty) and drive my Geo to limit gas use, 75% of our heat comes from burning wood pellets, put metal out front of house for road warrior recyclers to take for resale. Watch Craigs list and Ebay daily for my next great deal!

Sustainability Office: How has your life improved or been influenced by sustainability?

John: Save lots of money so that I can do more work on my old house, also makes me feel good about my own impact on my planet

Sustainability Office: Why is sustainability important to you?

John: You don't have to go broke to go green. It's easy, inexpensive and it would be criminal not to incorporate these simple practices into your every day life.

Sustainability Office: What advice would you like to offer others as they strive to incorporate sustainability into their lives?

John: Green saves Green ($), unless your flush with extra cash, do it and save! Old growth lumber and other old materials are highly desireable and beautiful. Be prepared to dive in dumpsters, monitor loading docks, go to garage sales and keep your eye on the side of the road for freebies.

Sustainability Office: Anything else you want people to know about your efforts in sustainability or about the "green" movement in general?

John: Green saves Green! I am proud to be a Times Two Green Rebuilder. I have a 150 plus year old Greek Revival that’s in need of serious revival! Over the last four years 90% of my many substantial renovations contained reclaimed or used materials. From my beautiful old growth “Library Oak" Kitchen, to my solid “Football Bleacher” addition and raised garden bed, EBay Windows, Copper Roofing Kitchen Backsplash, Cull lumber piles, Local Milled Fallen Tree Lumber, Auctions… Don’t get me wrong, its lots of work! The old growth White Oak I used in my kitchen started out as piles of broken up former built in library bookcases from Case Library. I virtually re-milled (by hand) all of the lumber from 3 truckloads of dumpster grade material as well as a hundred or so oak shelves (complete with gum and witty rimes) I bought from our very own Fred Sanford, Colgate Salvage Green Meister Craig Blanchard. Warning, Kitchen cabinets are not for the faint of heart! They came out fantastic, that said I will never do that again! Even the old beams and boards I ripped out of the house have gotten re-purposed when possible. The rest of the real s-crap made for a few fabulous bonfires (the piles growing for the next one).

Being Green Times Two means, the obvious “Let's all Save the Environment!” with the added bonus, “Let's all Save Some Big Green-backs”. I have saved well over $20,000 in the last four years with few regrets; the use of Green materials has only enhanced the beauty of our historic home. I am currenty collecting materials to build a grid-tie Wind Turbine, (I have most of the 90' tower, free). Last but very important, my wife likes it!

Click here to share your personal sustainability story!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Diane English – On Recycling

Diane English – Administrative assistant, History, Alumni Hall
Interview by Gergana Mouteva ’09, Colgate Sustainability Intern (SI)

Diane English is particularly interested in recycling. She not only practices recycling at all possible levels in her personal life, but also goes beyond her own space and tries to collect every plastic that she sees – on the street, in the gym, at the grocery store – everywhere. She is passionate and dedicated to this cause and she tries to make recycling at Colgate more efficient.

When I met her for this interview, she was coming back after her noon swim in the Lineberry Natatorium and she was carrying two bags – one full of plastic bottles, and one full of plastic bags. “This is what I found on the way to the gym and I just couldn’t leave it there” is what she told me before she introduced herself.

SI: Why is recycling important to you?

Diane: There are just so many reasons. For me, recycling is part of caring about our world and making sure that there is something left for the people who will come after us. I just hate seeing waste when people can make use of it. Recycling is so beneficial.

SI: How did you first get interested?

Diane: My interest evolved with time. As I learned what I could do, I got more and more involved – at home, at work, everywhere. I like reusing things that are in good condition.
I also walk a lot – I have a dog and we go for long walks every day, where I would pick up all the trash that I see. I started taking different roads each time, thus collecting more and more trash and stuff to recycle. In that way, I get to clean different areas, and the area around where I live, I keep absolutely spotless. It is surprising and rather horrifying how littered the country roads actually are.

SI: In what other ways do you incorporate sustainability in our life?

Diane: My main source of heat is wood-heat. I have a permit for few areas where I can go and pick up tree waste. In that way, I stay warm and I clean at the same time, and I also save money, by not using fuel. It does take a bit of work, but physical activity is good for people’s health.
I do a lot of thrift shopping too.

SI: Does sustainability change your lifestyle and is it hard to practice it?

Diane: Trying to live sustainably makes me feel more natural. It is a little time consuming, but it is definitely worthwhile. Doing little things that are good makes you feel good about life and about yourself – it makes you a better person.
What bothers me is that when I pick the plastic bottles and bags, which are lying on the ground, littering the streets, I get the oddest looks from people. They look at me like I am weird, and I can’t help but wonder - why does doing something good have to make one look weird?!

SI: What advice would you give to people who would like to do more about recycling and sustainability?

Diane: Looking at what others are doing is the easiest way to see what you can do yourself. If at the end of the day you take a moment to reflect what you have seen – both good and bad, I think this can make a difference.

Don’t be ignorant!

There is so much that people don’t care about, simply because they don’t know about it. Documentaries about waste, oceans, landfills, and wildlife had a huge impact on me. It made me incredibly sad to see how the plastic bags that we so irresponsibly throw everywhere are killing magnificent and endangered species as turtles for example.

We need to do the best we can, because it is up to us what we will leave behind us.
I personally carry with me two empty bags all the time. In that way, I can always pick up something on the way and make sure I don’t leave any plastic behind.

Click here to share your personal sustainability story!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Professor Beth Parks – On Energy Efficiency

Beth Parks – Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy
Interview by Gergana Mouteva '09, Colgate Sustainability Intern (SI)

SI: What does sustainability mean to you and how does it change the way you live?

Beth: For me, sustainability is making sure that the people after us have as good a chance at happiness as we do now. We may not leave them exactly the same resources we have now, but the combination of resources and technology should be enough to satisfy their needs.

I think that the biggest steps toward sustainability will come through legislation – carbon taxes, alternative energy development, etc. But that doesn’t exempt us from trying to do our share now. I try to bike instead of driving. I biked up to campus today. My home is energy efficient – well-insulated, air-sealed, and with efficient appliances. And since it is summer now, I enjoy lots of local foods, saving transportation fuel. Practicing sustainability definitely changes my lifestyle –in a good way!

SI: What project are you involved with right now?

Beth: I teach a CORE class on Energy and Sustainability. I work with students on energy efficiency and also learning about alternative energy. We solve real problems such as determining heat leakage in Colgate dormitories or calculating the payback time for a wind turbine on campus. We also get hands-on experience in retrofitting a home for energy efficiency. It is much better when students can work directly on such problems. It makes it much easier to understand energy usage and efficiency when it refers to things on a personal level.

In my lab, I’m working to develop a tool that will allow homeowners to measure the insulation in their homes. Several students, including most recently Clayton Brown ’09, have worked on this project. Colgate supported the cost of applying for a preliminary patent, and I’ve applied for a grant that would support the rest of the patent costs. I hope that this can develop into an inexpensive tool that will help homeowners learn whether they need more insulation.

SI: What are the reactions that you see in students when you teach the Energy and Sustainability class?

Beth: Many Colgate students have strong interest in sustainability — they want to do something to help! I try to convince students that it’s important to actually look at the numbers in order to make sure that our actions do indeed save energy, and put our biggest efforts where the biggest gains can be made. I hope to channel students’ interest in productive ways.

SI: What advice would you give to Colgate students and community members?

Beth: Look beyond the small steps. Small steps are wonderful – carrying your own water bottle, switching off the light, etc. – but we have to look at the bigger things. When you graduate, choose where to live based on walkability or access to public transportation, and make sure your house is energy efficient. Choose the smallest house and the smallest car you can live with. It is these big changes that make a big difference.

  • Click here to learn how Beth's students get first hand practice experience in sustainability.
  • Read Beth's profile.
  • Click here to share your personal sustainability story!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Kate Reynolds – On Personal Behavior Change

Kate Reynolds – Colgate Staff, Bookstore
Interview by Gergana Mouteva '09, Colgate Sustainability Intern (SI)

Sustainability Intern (SI): When did you first become interested in sustainability and what drives your personal commitment to sustainability?

Kate: I was always interested in nature. I studied at a marine lab, which was on an island and so everything we got came and went on a boat. You had to be as self-sufficient as possible, and recycle everything that you could. We had to import and export as little as was feasible. Now, I pay attention to these things.

Practicing sustainability is hard - some parts come easier than others. The key thing for me is that we live in a beautiful part of the world and I want to continue living here and keep it the way it is now. I also want to make sure that I leave it for other people to appreciate too.

So I guess what sustainability means for me personally is keeping my piece of the planet clean and happy. This is not always easy to do, but you do the best you can.

SI: In what ways do you get involved?

Kate: I go to the Campus Ecology Group meetings, because I am interested in what is going on. At the bookstore we try to carry products that support sustainability. I also volunteer at Rogers Environmental Education Center in Sherburne, which is part of the environmental education program sponsored by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation.

SI: What do you think Colgate does well in terms of sustainability and what do you think we need to work harder at?

Kate: We have a lot of enthusiasm. People are very excited about sustainability. The problem is that we go in many different directions: the campus doesn’t work together on one single thing.

Everyone picks their own different project; focusing only on it, one by one people run out of energy and are unable to complete the projects by themselves. I think we need more collaboration.

SI: Other things you’d like the Colgate community to know?

Kate: Small things are easy to do. My latest kick is that it is really easy to carry a reusable shopping bag all the time. I want people to know that this is an option and that there are many others like this, which don’t take much effort and at the same time matter.

SI: Future ideas about sustainability?

Kate: I would really like to see people getting into better habits. It is not the one-time actions, but rather the tiny little things and the everyday habits that we need to change in order to get where we need to go.

Click here to share your personal sustainability story!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Ben Taylor '10 – On Colgate’s Carbon Footprint

Ben Taylor – Colgate Student, Class of 2010
Interview by Gergana Mouteva '09, Colgate Sustainability Intern (SI)

Sustainability Intern (SI): How and when did you first get interested in Environmental Science and Sustainability?

Ben: Ever since I was a kid, I was interested in the environment. I always hated wasting stuff. As part of the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, my final year in high school, I worked on a paper about “Ocean Wave Power”, and I guess that was when I decided that I wanted to continue with environmental sciences in college. I am now studying Environmental geography at Colgate, and I am really enjoying it.

SI: What does it take to calculate Colgate’s Carbon Footprint?

Ben: I gather a great amount of data from various sources around campus. The data is then entered into the Clean Air-Cool Planet carbon calculator. The CA-CP campus carbon calculator is a leading tool for assessing campus greenhouse gas emissions, and it supports institutions in finding and demonstrating energy and global warming solutions.

The data collection was quite a challenging task. We needed to know the total square-footage of all the buildings on our campus, our energy budget, our transportation habits, population, oil usage, co2 emissions by fuel type and much more, and it was very surprising to find how little some of these things are accounted for. In order to get information, I had to go and talk to people and it took weeks of thorough detective work to get the data.

What I found very interesting, was the mix of responses that I would get from people: some would be really excited and happy to help us, whereas others were too busy or did not seem that interested in helping. It’s a lot to ask of people to give you their time and I’m very grateful to all those who helped the project come together.

SI: What do you expect from your project?

Ben: This is the first comprehensive carbon footprint calculation for Colgate, and from now on, it will be calculated every year. It is a starting point for people to build off. I think that the time spent chasing people in order to collect data is paying off, because people are starting to take notes about things, and hopefully this will make it much easier for the future.

SI: What other ways do you practice sustainability in your personal life?

Ben: I try to do as much as I can - I ride my bike, I don’t drink bottled water at all, I recycle pretty much everything. I buy energy efficient light bulbs and eat local foods whenever possible. If you haven’t taken the sustainability pledge on the Colgate website – go ahead and take it – I try to do all the things that are there. I even tried to be vegetarian, but it didn’t last long.

SI: What are your plans from now on?

Ben: I am not completely sure yet. Maybe I will continue with renewable energy, or maybe local foods – I don’t really know. In any case, whatever I decide to do will definitely involve sustainability.

SI: What advice would you give other Colgate students? How can people get involved?

Ben: Talk to John Pumilio! He is a priceless resource!

Be a leader – go out and do something that you care about. Be focused - find a project and work on it! Take advantage of the time you have. I’ve been very lucky to have this whole summer to really narrow my focus on one thing and accomplish something that I think will help Colgate move forward on its path toward sustainability.

Click here to share your own sustainability story!