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!

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