2021 Oak Award Winners

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2021 Oak Award Winners

Each year, the Office of Sustainability honors individuals and groups on campus that have gone above and beyond to make an impact on Colgate’s campus sustainability efforts. This year, we had a great group of nominees who model sustainability across campus and beyond. The selected winners are incredibly motivated individuals/organizations, and it is apparent that they are passionate change-makers, who have undoubtedly enriched our campus community. We congratulate all winners and nominees, and it is our wish that the Colgate community can take inspiration from their efforts.

Student Winner

Bobby Foose ’23 Environmental Economics Major, Spanish Minor

Bobby Foose ’23 is an Environmental Economics Major and Division I Men’s Soccer Athlete at Colgate University. This year, Bobby has taken great efforts to combine his passions and involve Colgate Athletics in campus sustainability initiatives. As a player on the Colgate Men’s Soccer team, Foose saw that there were opportunities for improvement for players to behave in a more environmentally conscious way within athletics. He got in contact with the Office of Sustainability and has since coordinated efforts with the Office to not only make practices within the department sustainable, but has implemented education programs for athletes to become aware of their actions and their impact on the environment. Representatives from each team now serve as part of a larger council within athletics to promote sustainable behavior change on an individual and team-wide scale. Foose hopes to expand into areas such as fundraising, advertising, and advocacy for the removal of all single-use plastics in athletics. Bobby has also worked with other schools to help them further their own Athletics department sustainability initiatives. This summer, Bobby plans to continue his sustainability work in Iceland. While being occupied as an environmental economics major, Spanish minor, and athlete, he has made the time to commit to sustainability on campus and beyond. 

Faculty Winner

Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies Catherine Cardelús

In 2014, Professor Catherine (Cat) Cardelús joined the Sustainability Council, a presidentially appointed committee charged with making recommendations to senior administration. During the past few years, Professor Cardelús has stepped up to chair the council. Under Professor Cardelús’ leadership, the council has successfully completed the Third-Century Sustainability and Climate Action Plan, financed sustainability projects on campus through our Sustainability Fund, increased opportunities to engage faculty through professional development workshops including at White Eagle, and helped to lead the council and the University to carbon neutrality in 2019 — the first college or university in New York State to achieve that goal.

In her role as chair of the Sustainability Council, Professor Cardelús set high expectations and took her responsibility seriously. The council is not a formal governance committee with elected faculty. The faculty and staff who serve on this committee do so out of interest and a sense of responsibility and less so for reasons of career advancement or institutional recognition. It takes a special leader to keep the council organized and engaged when other campus priorities take over. Professor Cardelús has been effective at doing this over the years. Under Professor Cardelús’ leadership, we have established clear goals and working groups and provided senior administration summary reports of the council’s accomplishments.

Above all, Professor Cardelús is a tireless champion for sustainability on campus. She pours her heart and soul and expertise to move the campus toward a more sustainable future. It’s important to note that Professor Cardelús adds sustainability work and the work of the council to her many other teaching, research, and administrative responsibilities, which did not diminish in recent years. In many instances, Professor Cardelús prioritized sustainability work along with other pressing professional and personal responsibilities. This speaks volumes to Professor Cardelús’ dedication to Colgate University and our sustainability program.

Professor Cardelús has presented at Second Nature’s Climate Leadership Summit and helped to raise awareness of the University’s sustainability program far beyond campus. 

After more than eight years on the council, she is stepping aside. We are proud to acknowledge her many contributions to campus sustainability.

Office/Department Winner

Shaw Wellness Institute 

The Shaw Wellness Institute has made significant contributions toward Colgate’s sustainability culture this year. Shaw has taken the initiative to provide the Colgate community with workshops, events, and talks that emphasize sustainability as a core component of on-campus wellness during COVID-19. Through utilizing the framework of the eight dimensions of wellness, Shaw has helped students understand how to pursue sustainable behaviors as part of the larger aspiration of living a well-balanced life . 

Furthermore, Shaw worked to bring Environmental Wellness Month (April) into the Colgate consciousness, through the use of widespread programming and education efforts. During the month of April, they hosted events like “Steps to a Zero Waste Kitchen,” which promoted the environmental and mental benefits of creating a sustainable kitchen. 

Additionally, Shaw Wellness has exemplified what it means to be a growth-oriented and community-focused campus department, taking effort not only to grow their own programming, but also to strengthen their integration with other campus departments. They have supported and promoted the Office of Sustainability’s endeavors throughout the semester, and they worked with the Office of Sustainability to coordinate their April Environmental Wellness Month as part of broader 13 Days of Green programming.

Staff Winner

Custodial Supervisor Michelle Butzgy

As a custodial supervisor for the buildings and grounds department and member of the Sustainability Council, Michelle has contributed greatly to Colgate’s sustainability program and sustainability planning process. Throughout the 2020–2021 academic year, Michelle, led the operations subcommittee of the Sustainability Council and its work on the Third-Century Sustainability and Climate Action Plan. Additionally, this year, she worked extensively with the Office of Sustainability to help reduce the amount of package-related waste on Colgate’s campus. Michelle’s coordination, hard work, and communication has helped further student and staff awareness of the importance of waste reduction.

Student Organization/Initiative Winner

The UCan Project 

The UCan Project is a student-run sustainability consulting 501(c)(3) nonprofit that provides free sustainability consulting services to small businesses. They research and share best practices to help businesses reduce waste, increase energy efficiency, and cut overhead costs. 

The UCan Project was started in 2018 through Colgate’s Thought Into Action (TIA) entrepreneurship program by then first–year student Christina Weiler ’21. UCan began as a beverage-container recycling initiative that donated its proceeds to different local hunger and homeless outreach programs. The project’s goal was not just to help the environment but also to bring awareness to different social causes. At the end of 2018, the UCan team was awarded $4,000 in funding and first place in Colgate’s eWeekend Shark Tank Entrepreneurship Competition. 

During the past four years, the program has evolved and grown into its current form through the guidance of the TIA program and the hard work of Christina Weiler and the rest of the UCan team. In just a few years, UCan has accomplished so much. They have utilized creative education and marketing strategies to reduce Colgate’s recycling contamination rate by 50% during the span of 4 months. They have raised $1,000 for renewable energy grants for low-income families in Madison County. They designed and implemented a sustainability consulting program for small businesses in Hamilton, N.Y. This program involved researching and authoring a proposal for waste-reduction strategies that reduce overall operation costs. 

Most recently, Christina and her UCan team (Kelly Glenn ’21, Erica Friedman ’22, Jen Trujillo ’22, and Charlotte Carey ’22) have been working to expand small-business access to sustainable packaging by coordinating cooperative ordering between businesses to lower per-unit costs from major U.S. food and equipment distributors. 

Given all that they have accomplished, it is evident that these students are both truly passionate about enriching their community in multi-faceted ways and striving constantly to better their business model, growing as innovative problem solvers and sustainability professionals. We can all learn something from their dedication, and we are lucky to share this Colgate community with them.

Research Winner

Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies and Physics Linda Tseng 

Professor Linda Tseng’s recent research focuses on extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) and their interaction with bacteria and the ambient environment. 

Professor Tseng was trained as an engineer, and her interest in water began when she was living in California. During her academic career, she studied chlorofluorocarbons and their concentration in ocean layers, eventually narrowing her focus to wastewater and water quality. She has conducted research on the heightened pollution of water after storms and the presence of nanoparticles and microplastics in the environment. She has also studied water in rural areas, focusing on the presence of prescribed, illicit, abused, and recreational drugs in water. 

Her incredible research is not the only reason why she is beloved by the Colgate community. She strongly believes that the pursuit of scientific research should be for the purpose of solving important problems. Additionally, she does her best to make her research and class materials accessible to all students. A student stated, “I take an ENST class with her, and she does a great job at making sustainability accessible and easy to understand for everyone. She breaks down topics and actions and directly links them to both personal and corporate sustainability. She often also talks about how she chooses to live a sustainable personal life.”