Colgate committed to carbon neutrality in 2008 as a signatory to the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) since rebranded as the Carbon Commitment. In 2019, Colgate’s Bicentennial year, the University became the first higher education institution in New York State to achieve carbon neutrality.
Since our baseline carbon inventory in 2009, Colgate has reduced its campus carbon footprint by over 50 percent through on-campus projects and initiatives.
To achieve carbon neutrality, the University balanced its remaining on-campus carbon emissions by investing in off-campus carbon reduction projects (carbon offsets) so that its net carbon footprint is zero. Reducing on-campus carbon emissions remains a top priority for Colgate University.
In 2011, Colgate published its first Sustainability and Climate Action Plan, setting a goal to be carbon neutral by 2019 and detailing prescriptive measures to help us get there. After several updates to Colgate's 2011 Sustainability and Climate Action Plan, Colgate published the 2022 Sustainability Plan to further the goal of integrating sustainability and climate action throughout our institution. Colgate's 2022 Sustainability Plan is one of two key sub-plans supporting Colgate's overarching Third-Century Plan.
The first step in taking ownership of and countering the University’s contributions to climate change is to take stock of Colgate’s carbon footprint. Every year since 2009, Colgate has completed an inventory of greenhouse gas emissions which includes emissions from energy and power consumption, ground transportation, fertilizer application, air travel, and landfill waste, among many other components.
Colgate's baseline 2009 campus carbon footprint was 17,393 metric tons of CO2 equivalent (MTeCO2). Since then, Colgate has reduced its footprint by over 50% and has remained under 8,000 tons annually since 2020. Colgate publicly reports the inventory of its annual emissions to SIMAP (Sustainability Indicators Management & Analysis Platform) along with hundreds of other colleges and universities.
Although the University has made remarkable progress in reducing its campus carbon emissions, that number is not yet zero. The University continues its efforts to reduce its carbon footprint with strategies like reducing transportation emissions, but in the immediate term in order to achieve carbon neutrality, the University invests in carbon offsets. Carbon offsets are investments in off-campus projects that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or prevent emissions from happening in the first place. The carbon offset project decisions are determined by student, staff, and faculty representatives after receiving feedback from groups and individuals on campus about the most important carbon offset factors to the Colgate community. The committee strives to balance the values most important to the community with the quality of the projects and the overall costs of investing in such initiatives.
Emission Reduction and Continuing Efforts
While Colgate has met an important goal of achieving carbon neutrality, this was just a milestone. Entering its third century, the University will continue its hard work to further reduce on-campus emissions and minimize reliance on offsets, serving as a model for other higher education institutions.
The Green Revolving Loan Fund is an initiative geared toward reducing the University’s carbon footprint by funding projects at the University that reduce emissions while also providing a financial return on the initial investment. Savings from each funded project are reinvested in the fund to support its future projects.
Support the Effort
The contributions and efforts of the Colgate community are vital in making progress toward Colgate’s sustainability. Consider supporting sustainable projects in the following ways:
Colgate’s steady improvements in sustainability over time are only possible with leadership and involvement of members of the Colgate community.
Make a Gift
Financial contributions to campus sustainability support projects and initiatives spearheaded by Colgate students, faculty, and staff.
Where to direct your gift:
- Sustainability Fund
- Green Revolving Loan Fund