Table of Contents

Executive Summary

  • Mission Statement
  • Vision Statement

Sustainability at Colgate and Carbon Neutrality by 2019

Guiding Principles and Decision-Making Criteria

Action Plan for a Sustainable Campus

  • Campus Culture
  • Curriculum and Learning
  • Campus Operations
  • Ecosystems and Land Stewardship
  • Food and Dining
  • Financing
  • Climate Ready: Resilience and Adaptation
  • Offsets
  • Campus Participation and Reporting

Sustainability Plan Status Updates

Executive Summary

In 2009, Colgate University publicly committed to the teaching and practice of sustainability when it became a signatory of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC). With the final approval of our 2011-2015 Sustainability and Climate Action Plan, Colgate pledged to achieve carbon neutrality by 2019, our bicentennial, and to make carbon neutrality and sustainability a part of the curriculum and other educational experiences for all students. Through the successful implementation of the 2011-2015 Sustainability and Climate Action Plan, as well as ad-hoc projects and institutional commitments, we reduced our net campus carbon footprint by 8,822 MTeCO2, a 53 percent reduction. This reduction led to annual avoided spending of nearly $385,000 and national recognition for our successes.

Colgate’s sustainability program has profoundly impacted the lives of hundreds of Colgate students. Dozens of students have studied and researched issues of sustainability through our formal curriculum. Their contributions through research and class projects have directly advanced our campus sustainability program. Additionally, over 70 students have worked in the Office of Sustainability as student interns since 2009. A growing and impressive group of students have gone on to continue studies or pursue careers in the field of sustainability. 

Today, Colgate has achieved a national reputation for its commitment to sustainability and climate action. In 2011 Colgate received a Climate Leadership Award from Second Nature. In 2015 Colgate was listed on the Princeton Review’s Green Honor Roll (one of only 24 institutions out of 861 schools that were rated), earned an AASHE STARS Gold Rating, and was ranked in Sierra Magazine's “Coolest Schools” issue as one of the greenest institutions in the country. Colgate can justly take pride in its rapid emergence as a leader in sustainability among American institutions of higher education. 

While our recent progress and achievements are exciting, our work is ongoing and our priorities have broadened. The Sustainability Council, President Casey, and the Board of Trustees are committed not only to reaching carbon neutrality through various mitigation strategies, but also to integrating sustainability into our curriculum, co-curricular educational experiences, and habits and decision-making across the university. As an institution, we must engage our students, faculty, and staff in order to become fully committed and effective in embracing our responsibilities to climate action and sustainability. In the Bicentennial Plan for a Sustainable and Carbon Neutral Campus, we continue to lay the groundwork for achieving carbon neutrality and integrating sustainability throughout the university with mechanisms to:

  • Broaden understanding, engagement and commitment to sustainability across the university in both operations and culture
  • Deepen our collective teaching and learning of sustainability within both the curriculum and the co-curriculum
  • Create an energy master plan and develop effective mechanisms to monitor and track energy costs and usage across campus
  • Establish financing mechanisms and models to support the ongoing implementation of sustainability on campus
  • Increase local purchasing and sustainability within campus dining services
  • Increase awareness of the carbon impacts of campus transportation, commuting, and university-sponsored travel
  • Effectively steward our lands on and beyond campus
  • Mitigate our carbon emissions and realize our commitment to carbon neutrality by 2019
  • Explore the best local and global options for carbon offsets in preparation for 2019
  • Develop an adaptation and resiliency plan that recognizes the long-term climate change impacts that are already inevitable

Meeting Colgate’s ambitious target date of 2019 for carbon neutrality will require the purchase of carbon offsets. As a result, our climate action planning efforts will continue well beyond our carbon neutrality date as we continue to implement projects and policies that will reduce our campus's gross emissions and, therefore, our dependency on carbon offsets. In light of this, in 2011, the university established a complementary goal to reduce our campus-wide greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent below our 2009 baseline by 2020, including growth in campus infrastructure.

In pursuit of these goals, Colgate's Bicentennial Plan for a Sustainable and Carbon Neutral Campus provides more than strategic direction. It challenges all members of our community to consider what actions they can take, big or small, to help our university achieve the common goals of a more sustainable campus and carbon neutrality by 2019.

Mission Statement

To promote educational opportunities, foster partnerships, provide leadership, and contribute practical solutions to advance environmental stewardship, social justice, and fiscal responsibility at Colgate University.

Vision Statement

Colgate's sustainability program strives to:
1.    Enhance Colgate's liberal arts education by working with faculty and staff to integrate the concept and practice of sustainability into our curriculum
2.    Promote a learning and working environment that is environmentally and socially conscious
3.    Integrate sustainability into our operations, day-to-day practices, and into our built environment
4.    Advance sustainability in the Central New York region through collaboration with local institutions, agencies, and individuals