Campus News

Bowdoin Community Continues Sustainability Efforts with New Projects

Story posted October 05, 2004

Throughout the 2003-2004 academic year, the Bowdoin community made many impressive steps toward reducing Bowdoin's environmental impact, and the College looks forward to exciting opportunities for continued improvements in the coming year.

From operational projects that have reduced energy and solid waste output to orientation programming aimed at increasing environmental awareness among new faculty, staff and students, the College continues to make sustainability a driving force for action.

Facilities Management and Dining Service have joined forces to make two significant improvements in greenhouse gas reductions. One simple but important project is the recent installation of VendingMisers. The VendingMiser monitors room temperature and compressor current, powering vending machines only as needed to maintain product temperature. It also powers down when the room is unoccupied; when the unit is approached by a user, the machine lights turn back on. Until now, only four of Bowdoin College's vending machines were equipped with the VendingMiser. However, this year the device will be installed on all vending machines - reducing greenhouse gas emissions by a total of 41,800 lbs. of CO2 each year. By powering down when unused, the Miser generates financial savings as well. Each VendingMiser costs $180, but pays for itself in a little over a year. Once each Miser is paid for, Bowdoin will save approximately $2,850 annually in electricity costs associated with running the vending machines.

Another project aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and saving energy is the installation of a system that uses outside air to assist in cooling the dining hall refrigeration units. Installed in both Moulton and Thorne Dining halls, as well as the Smith Union Grill, the units are projected to save 68,386 kilowatt hours per year for a 91,505 pound reduction in CO2 -- equivalent to taking 8 cars off the road annually.

In addition, all of Bowdoin's convenience copiers were replaced over the summer with new, more energy-efficient Energy Star models. The new model is crafted of recycled plastics and can handle recycled paper. It also utilizes parts designed to emit fewer harmful substances, such as ozone, lead, and heavy metals. This is an added improvement upon this past year's effort to reduce unnecessary printing with the installation of "Green" Print Release stations in the basement of Hawthorne-Longfellow Library, an effort that proved extremely successful. Although we can't specifically measure paper use in the library compared to past years as a result of a change in paper vendors, the Copy Center reports greatly reduced amounts of wasted paper needing to be recycled into Green Pads. Paper use campus wide saw a 15% decline in consumption from the previous year (02/03). The Copy Center has also switched from 30% recycled paper to 50% recycled for the majority of copy center print jobs.

Making its debut in the dining halls is fresh, organic produce grown right here in Brunswick at the new Bowdoin Organic Garden. Located on Pleasant Hill Road next to Crystal Springs Farm, the farm is the brainchild of Joel Cartwright '06, Elliott Wright '04, Lauren Withey '06, and Gillian Stevens '04, who used their Maine Civic Fellows grant to jumpstart the program. The Organic Garden provides produce to the dining halls, local homeless shelters, and for sale at the local farmer's market. The farm is intended to also serve an educational purpose, and may be utilized by environmental studies and biology classes as well.

A future addition to the Bowdoin community will be a LEED certified dorm. The new first-year dorms being designed for the corner of South St. and Coffin St. will strive for LEED certification. LEED certification is a third party green building rating system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). LEED, which stands for "Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design," aims to increase awareness and recognition to those "developing high performance, sustainable buildings." While sometimes LEED-certified buildings have added up-front costs, studies have shown that LEED buildings result in increased worker productivity and decreased utility costs, which end up saving money in the long run.

In order to become certified by the USGBC, a developer must obtain a certain number of credits in the rating system. Credits include everything from site placement, using local and recycled materials for construction, and maintaining a comfortable and healthy indoor air quality. The Coffin Street dorms will use recycled content in the concrete floors, consisting of 15% fly ash, a byproduct of coal production. The reinforcing and structural steel is specified to use 95% recycled material. Toilets will be flushed with gray water collected from the roof. Wood products are to be certified by the Forest Stewardship Council - which means the wood comes from a forest that is managed with an ethic of responsibility to the environment, society, and sustainable economics. The building will be heated/cooled by a geothermal system, which utilizes groundwater to keep the building comfortable. (For more information visit

The Toxic Use Reduction Act (TURA) requires institutions to track their hazardous wastes and set goals for their reduction in the form of a Pollution Prevention (P2) Plan. This plan, which conforms to guidelines set by the Maine DEP, serves to identify waste streams and assess options for their overall reduction. Bowdoin just filed its biennial report, and achieved excellent results. Based on a comparison to baseline data from 1990, Bowdoin has reduced its waste by 91%. Mark Fisher, Bowdoin's Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) Manager, credits this large reduction to long-term changes in lab and shop practices, increasing control over the amount of chemicals used, and a greatly improved inventory system. Since 95% of hazardous wastes currently produced at Bowdoin come from the academic programs - namely the sciences and arts - many of these changes can be seen around campus right in the classrooms. Housekeeping and Facilities have also recently eliminated many toxic products, switching to citric-based solvents and green cleaning products.

Learn more about Sustainable Bowdoin here.

(Story posted 10/1/04.)

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