As 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.