Campus News

The College Gets Greener: Keisha Payson Appointed Coordinator for a Sustainable Bowdoin

Story posted July 11, 2001

The brown recycling bins found in all campus buildings are constant reminders of the ongoing recycling effort at Bowdoin. But the actual depth and breadth of the College’s commitment to overall environmental awareness may not be as obvious.

And Bowdoin’s commitment just got even deeper with the hiring of an environmental coordinator. Keisha Payson has been appointed the first Coordinator for a Sustainable Bowdoin.

Within the next few months you will be hearing a lot from Keisha. Formerly Program Assistant in Environmental Studies at Bowdoin and a graduate of the University of Southern Maine, she will be working with students, faculty and staff on a continuing basis to develop and maintain the program and implement initiatives toward reducing the impact College operations and practices have on the environment.

For years Bowdoin has implemented greening procedures. But with concerns escalating about global warming, depleting natural resources, and skyrocketing energy bills, it was clear the College could do more. Keisha will take the leadership role in this initiative, work to educate the community about campus greening, and ensure the implementation of additional and better procedures.

“More and more, colleges and universities are organizing on this issue,” Keisha says. Representatives from Bowdoin, Bates, and U-Maine recently met with staff at the University of New Hampshire to discuss sustainability efforts. Middlebury College has also implemented a successful program.

In April, the 21st Century Campus Conference was held in Bar Harbor. The meetings--planned and sponsored by area schools, including Bowdoin, along with Central Maine Power, the Chewonki Foundation, Interface Inc. and other organizations--addressed how campuses in the 21st century can operate in a sustainable manner in order to meet the goals of their institutions and achieve long-term financial benefits. The conference provided information on environmentally sustainable practices and educational opportunities that are pertinent to all campus constituencies and the surrounding communities.

In 1999, with senior staff contemplating this very issue, a group of Bowdoin students approached then-President Edwards to both speak up about their environmental concerns and present a draft job description for a campus leader in the area of sustainability. Within a week Edwards and senior staff formed the Committee for a Sustainable Bowdoin, comprising representatives from all different parts of the campus. The consulting firm of Woodard & Curran was hired to do an environmental audit, and the recommendation was made to hire a campus environmental coordinator. (A copy of Woodard & Curran’s Environmental Impact Audit is available on reserve at Hawthorne-Longfellow Library.)

Keisha, who served on the committee, was immediately intrigued with the job. Two main features of the position piqued her interest: sustainability and thriftiness, which she maintains in her own life, would become a professional pursuit as well; and she would have the opportunity to work closely with the entire Bowdoin population.

“Sustainability is often defined as ‘meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs’,” she explains. “I try as best I can to act sustainably in my own life
.To be able to turn this lifestyle into a job is going to be a challenge
.[And] it will require working with literally everyone on campus. I have always enjoyed working with other people and the people at Bowdoin are exceptionally great. I am also really excited to be a part of Facilities Management
and being part of the team that [keeps] the College running.”

Armed with the results of Woodard & Curran’s audit, Keisha will work to ensure Bowdoin’s current greening efforts continue and expand successfully, and new methods will be researched and implemented. Among the ongoing and developing efforts:

Retrofitting lights, motors, and other equipment (as older, less efficient units burn out, they are replaced with more efficient units).

The Bowdoin grounds crew does an excellent job in minimizing pesticide use, and very little is ever employed. In the event pesticides are needed, Tim Carr, grounds coordinator, is certified in pesticide application.

Older buildings have been made more efficient, and new buildings are designed to be efficient (double-pane windows and motion-sensitive lighting are just two improvements implemented). Energy conservation projects have been written into the College budget.

Keisha will meet with the already existing environmental dining service committee to find additional ways to minimize waste. Some ideas they are working on include composting, which diverts a huge volume from the landfill, and using recycled water in the dish machine.

Retired computers will continue to be “recycled”--donated to local schools and other in-need groups. Recently a Bowdoin donation allowed SAD 75 to replace 10-year-old computers with much newer machines. Not only did the schools benefit, but Bowdoin diverted some 221 items, 5091 pounds of equipment, from the local landfill.

Education and outreach are among Keisha’s priorities. By teaching the ins and outs of recycling, making recycling easier, and showing what recycling accomplishes, Keisha hopes to greatly increase the recycling efforts of the community. Part of that effort will be in making clear a simple message about what happens when you carelessly throw something in the wastebasket. “Throwing something away simply means pushing it to a different place,” she points out.

Keisha will organize sub-committees to include energy, purchasing, source reduction and recycling, and grounds as well as following the work of the already existing environmental dining committee. Committee members will be called upon to research better ways to reduce Bowdoin’s environmental impact, make recommendations on more environmentally friendly methods and products, and get more people interested and involved. Watch the faculty/staff and student digests for more information on these committees.

Keisha welcomes ideas and suggestions. Contact her at ext. 3086 (725-3086), or by email at

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