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Colgate, Patagonia Sur approve pact on carbon offsets

By Barbara Brooks on August 23, 2011

patagonia sur image.jpgAs part of its aggressive push to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and advance sustainability, Colgate has signed a 15-year commitment with Patagonia Sur to purchase forestry-based carbon offsets. Under the agreement, a total of 225,000 native-species trees will be planted on 430 acres of land in Chile’s Aysén Region of Patagonia.

The Colgate University Forest, as the land will be known, will meet or exceed global verified carbon standard requirements. Annually, the forest will offset approximately 5,000 tons, or about one-third of Colgate’s present carbon footprint.

The partnership makes Colgate the first of 12 universities that will ultimately comprise Patagonia Sur’s University Conservation Circle (UC2).

In addition to carbon offsets, the arrangement also provides Colgate with a research site for  students and faculty, and a place to collaborate with member universities on research as well as the development of sustainability initiatives.

“As a university with a global reach and mission located in rural central New York, we have emissions that we simply cannot avoid. We should take responsibility for that impact by investing in off-campus projects that sequester or reduce atmospheric CO2 on our behalf,” said Colgate President Jeffrey Herbst.

“The addition of a research component for our faculty and students differentiates this initiative from simply planting trees,” he added.

Support for sustainability from faculty, students, and the administration has increased dramatically at Colgate, most notably since 2009 when then-president Rebecca Chopp signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC).

Since then, Colgate hired a sustainability coordinator, completed an emissions inventory, and, during 2010-2011, reduced its carbon footprint by 17 percent.

These efforts and others saved Colgate $300,000 in operating costs between 2009 and 2010, and earned the university a Second Nature Climate Leadership Award in the baccalaureate category from ACUPCC.

The next aggressive aim, supported by Herbst, is an additional 35 percent footprint reduction by 2015.

Day-to-day behavior change has been critical to Colgate’s progress. Sustainability coordinator John Pumilio co-teaches a senior seminar in environmental studies each year, while also overseeing programs that draw attention to recycling, composting, energy use, water waste, community gardening, and more. Yet he also looks after the big picture.

“Since climate change is a global problem, it doesn’t matter where on earth emissions are generated or sequestered,” he said. “The benefits are the same.”


Patagonia Sur’s founder and CEO is entrepreneur Warren Adams (right), a 1988 Colgate graduate who created PlanetAll, the Internet’s first social-networking website, which was acquired by Amazon in 1998.

After traveling to Patagonia, Adams was motivated by the region’s incredible natural beauty to apply his business acumen toward acquiring, conserving, and protecting large tracts of pristine land there, culminating in the 2007 establishment of Patagonia Sur.

“I am very proud of Colgate for taking a leadership role in sustainability and look forward to welcoming Colgate students, faculty, and alumni to Patagonia,” said Adams.


  • Susan Hughes Smith said:

    Exciting to see Colgate taking some leadership in the area of sustainability. Hope others are aware of the coming hydrofracking industry. This has the potential to effect us greatly here in NY by changing the character of our state, and contaminating air and water quality. Please check it out and get involved!

  • John Pumilio said:

    Hello Steve,
    Balmaceda is about an 8 hour drive from Palena, which is the nearest town to Valle California (the site of the Colgate Forest).  Feel free to contact me if you are interested in visiting Valle California. You would probably have to book a few days at the reserve but there are some open dates in February. John

  • Steve La Falce '64 said:

    I’m going to the Aysen District of Patagonia in February for some fly fishing out of the Coyhaique River Lodge, not far from Balmaceda. Is the area of the proposed planting near there?

  • John Pumilio said:

    Hi Jim, Colgate is paying $10 per ton of carbon sequestered by the Colgate University Forest. We did look into U.S. based carbon offset projects; however, we were particularly interested in combining a high-quality offset project (with clear and measurable co-benefits for people and the environment) while also participating in a project that created robust research opportunities. Patagonia Sur stood out as an exceptional option. That said, we are especially interested in local offset projects. Presently, local options are generally small scale, more expensive, and could take years to develop and implement. Nevertheless, local offset projects remain an exciting option that we will actively explore in the coming months and years. John Pumilio, sustainability coordinator, Colgate University

  • Dan Wilson said:

    Great to see someone showing leadership on this subject. Hope to see more universities and private companies taking their emissions seriously and offsetting them soon… and the kids will have a fantastic time in Patagonia!

  • Jim Stanich said:

    The Patagonia Sur program is intiguing. What is Colgate’s cost to participate in the program? Were there carbon offset alternatives here in the US? Thanks. Jim Stanich