Monday, April 29, 2013

Octopus's Garden Help!

Great progress was made setting up the garden last week and this Saturday, May 4th, is a big planting day! Before Springfest begins at 1pm, head over to the Garden at 10am to help plant and get the garden growing! Never been to the garden before? Now is the perfect time to join, all you have to do is show up and we'll put you to work. It's going to be a great day! For more information email or  

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Ban Bottled Water Day at Union!

Today at Union College there is no bottled water being sold on campus in an effort to raise awareness for the need to ban bottled water. You may be thinking, "I'm confused? Water is a natural product from the earth, why are these crazy environmentalists telling me that I shouldn't be drinking it?" While yes, water is a natural and comes from the earth, the packaging of bottled water is just a way for the bottled water industry to get you to pay for something you can have essentially for FREE! Some people are skeptical about drinking tap water but the truth is that 47.8% of bottled water is actually filtered tap water!

And what about Schenectady drinking water? How safe is that? It's extremely safe and tastes great! Here are a few excerpts from the City Of Schenectady: Annual Drinking Water Quality Report

"In order to ensure that tap water is safe to drink, the State and the EPA prescribe regulations which limit the amount of certain contaminants in water provided by Public Water Systems. The State Health Department’s and the FDA’s regulations establish limits for contaminant’s in bottled water which must provide the same protection for public health. Our water source is a clean and plentiful groundwater aquifer called the Great Flats Aquifer. The water from the aquifer is pumped into the system through a series of twelve 70 foot drilled wells located at the treatment plant on Rice Road in the Town of Rotterdam. The water produced by the wells is of excellent quality prior to treatment. Chlorination, fluoridation and inorganic phosphates provide the only treatment required. During 2012, our system did not experience any restriction of our water source." 

"We test your drinking water for inorganic contaminants, radiological contaminants, lead and copper, nitrate, volatile organic contaminants, and synthetic organic contaminants. In addition, we test seventy samples for coliform bacteria each month." 

Many water bottled companies want to convince you that the water that you're drinking is unsafe and tastes bad, but in taste tests across the country, people actually preferred the taste of tap water to bottled water! 

And whats the problem with the plastic bottles?
~Studies by the Natural Resources Defense Council explained that "....there is no assurance that bottled water is any safer than tap water." 
~The production of water bottles uses 17 million barrels of oil a year, this is enough to fuel 1.3 million cars for a year!  
~In terms of water usage, it takes three times the water to make a water bottle as it does to fill it! 
~Of the 50 billion plastic water bottles that were used last year, only 23% were recycled! This left over 38 billion water bottles to go strait to the landfill. 
~Water bottles can take between 400 and 1000 years to decompose
~Due to the vast amount of trash poured in, the Schenectady County Landfill is one of the highest points in the city
~The energy we waste making bottled water would be enough energy to power 190,000 homes
~The NRDC conducted a comprehensive four-year scientific study of 1,000 brands of bottled water. The results showed that one third of the bottled waters violated their own industry standards for water quality

Sign the pledge in front of Reamer Today!

So join us today and just SAY NO! to  plastic water bottles! Reusable bottles are sold at many retail stores and are also sold in the Union College Bookstore! While yes a reusable water bottle may be a little more expensive then a $2 water bottle, in about 5 refills you will get the payback that you deserve and start enjoying free water! This will save you hundreds of dollars every year and also save the environment from unnecessary waste! 

Information collected from , City Of Schenectady: Annual Drinking Water Quality Report, and The Story of Stuff: The Story of Bottled Water 

Monday, April 22, 2013

What Is Your Earth Week Pledge?

Happy Earth Week! This week we are celebrating the earth and we are taking this week to appreciate everything the environment has given us. This Earth Week, we are challenging students, faculty, and staff at Union College to make a pledge for earth week! This is the week to think, what small changes can we make to our lifestyles that will mean BIG changes in protecting our planet? 

For those of you who don't do much now but want to do more, here are 10 Earth Week pledges to get you started! 

1) I will buy a reusable drinking container and start filling it with water from the many water refill stations around campus. 

2) I will only take what I need in the dining halls. If I am still hungry I can always get up and take a little bit more. 

3) I will recycle my one-time use containers and be more aware of what I can recycle around campus. 

4) I will carpool and encourage my friends to carpool when traveling. 

5) I will walk short distances instead of driving there. 

6) I will take shorter showers. 

7) I will bring reusable bags to the grocery store and not take plastic bags. 

8) I will recycle my plastic bags in the bin located outside of the Union College Bookstore. 

9) I will do my laundry only when I have a full load to do. 

10) I will make an effort to buy more local foods (Start today! the Schenectady Greenmarket is outside of Reamer Campus Center from 11-2pm!)

For those of you who feel that you incorporate a lot of environmentally friendly practices into your everyday life, here are some more challenging pledges to take on! 

1) I will encourage 10 friends to make an Earth Week pledge. 

2) I will walk/bike to work or class. I will only use the car if it is in a carpool, otherwise I will travel by foot. 

3) I will not eat meat for the duration of Earth Week. 

4) I will not use any single use containers for all of Earth Week. 

5) I will not use the dishwasher. I will only hand wash all of my dishes this week. 

6) I will not purchase water bottles. 

7) I will start composting my organic waste in my home. 

8) If I see someone not disposing of their waste properly, I will make an effort to say something in order to educate my peers on proper recycling practices. 

9) I will bring my old electronics to facilities and recycle them. 

10) I will use empty glass containers to store food instead of using aluminum foil or plastic wrap. 

Make a commitment today! Write your commitment on an item that can be recycled and take a picture with your pledge! Send your pictures to or We will be posting all of our pledges to many of Union's social media sites including Garnet Goes Green! You can also write down your commitment and take a picture in front of Reamer Campus Center tomorrow from 11-2pm! 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

RecycleMania Results!

This past winter term, Union College competed in the annual RecycleMania Tournament. The tournament is an eight-week long competition between hundreds of colleges that are competing to recycle the most waste and reduce their consumption. This years RecycleMania final results are now in! So how did Union do compared to the rest of the country and to previous years?
Union College’s rankings in each category are below!

Grand Champion!
113 out of 274
Per Capita Classic
21 out of 361
Gorilla Waste
169 out of 365
Waste Minimization
159 out of 167
80 out of 164
Corrugated Cardboard
34 out of 162
Bottles and Cans
34 out of 163
Food Service Organics
29 out of 156

How does this compare to previous years? Union College was the winner of per Capita Classic and Carrogated Cardboard in 2011 and 2012! This years slight drop may mean that we were a little over confident this year. Time to step it up Union! Even though the competition is now over this doesn’t mean that we should stop trying to improve for next year! It is time to increase our recycling efforts to instill good practices on campus so that we can regain our winning title next year! 

So what can we do around campus to improve our recycling efforts? 
~Encourage your peers to properly dispose of all waste around campus! Whether it is composting properly in upper class dining or making sure that a friend puts their soda bottle in the recycling bin, we must work together!

~Check out the signs above every bin! Each paper and plastics, metals and glass bin is properly labeled with what waste should go in it? If you’re not sure, check the list, ask a friend or email us!

~Remember that cardboard can be folded up and placed next to a bin and it will be recycled!

~Also remember that you are allowed to LIFT THE LID! There are many recyclable containers that may not fit in the hole of the plastic, metals, and glass recycling lid but that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t go in the bin! Always remember to LIFT THE LID if the item is labeled with a 1-7 recycling number.

Special thanks to Kyle Lanzit and Jamie McNulty! 

Friday, April 12, 2013

Earth Week Calendars!

Earth Week is coming up! Union College and Schenectady County have awesome events planned for the week of April 20th! Check out these awesome two calendars to see all the awesome activities and demonstrations going on around campus and the community that you can get involved in!

Union's Earth Week Calendar

Schenectady County's Earth Day Celebrations

Congratulations to the Winning House of Do It In the Dark!

At the U-Sustain meeting this past Wednesday, Ozone House was recognized for their efforts in having the largest energy reduction on campus during the Do it in the Dark competition that took place Winter Term. The house was awarded this awesome plaque that will now hang forever in Ozone House!

Congratulations Ozone! 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Check Out the New Wold Display Case!

Have you walked through the Peter Irving Wold Center yet? If not, head over there to check out the new spring term display case! For this term, U-Sustain chose to recognize two Union College efforts that are contributing to making our campus a more environmentally friendly place. 

The left side of the display case brings to our attention the efforts of the facilities department to reduce pesticide use on campus in the spring. For over 10 years, facilities has been ordering beneficial insects that will do the work of pesticides to keep the plants on campus healthy and pest free. This works by releasing bugs including ladybugs and praying mantises that feed on most of the pests that eat our plants on campus. Some of the plants on campus that benefit from these beneficial insects are Holly, Barberry, Euonymus, and Spirea. This year, a Green Grant is expanding this program and funded additional purchasing of these beneficial insects so that we can protect more plants. 

The right side of the display case highlights our new composting program in upper class dining. Since the program started in September 2012, we have diverted over 91,020 lbs of waste from the landfill! That is equal to 30 mid-sized sedans! Composting is the decomposition of organic matter that is recycled into useable fertilizer and in Upper, organic matter includes all food waste, napkins, cups, teabags and more. The composting company that takes our waste is called Empire Zero and comes to Union three times a week to pick up the organic waste to bring to their composting facility. Anyone can then go to this facility and purchase some compost to use for their own gardening or landscaping needs! 

Special thanks to Facilities, Dining Services, Laura Macmanus-Spencer and Meghan Haley Quigley!