Campus News

Every Day is Earth Day as Bowdoin Works Toward Carbon Neutrality

Story posted April 19, 2012

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Earth Day, now in its 42nd year and celebrated in more than 175 countries around the globe, is April 22; it began as a way to increase awareness and appreciation of the Earth’s natural environment.

Five years ago, the College deepened its commitment to sustainability by taking the proactive step of pledging to become carbon-neutral by 2020 and building new academic pathways for addressing sustainability issues.

Video by Maggie Williams '12

From residence hall energy-reduction competitions and locavore dinners to climate change lectures, students have immersed themselves in various aspects of environmental awareness and stewardship, while the College has implemented significant and concrete initiatives toward effecting significant and measurable environmental change in a variety of areas.

Bowdoin's Carbon Neutrality Commitment
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President Barry Mills signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment in 2007, pledging that the College would achieve its carbon neutrality goal by 2020.

Read about the 2020 Carbon Challenge

Climate and Energy:

  • Signatory to the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment with the goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2020
  • Became EPA Green Power Partner member
  • Purchased renewable energy credits (RECs) from wind and low-impact certified hydro facilities
  • Installed solar hot water array on Thorne Dining Hall
  • Installed back-pressure steam turbine to produce roughly 10% of campus electricity demand
  • Installed geothermal wells to heat and cool the recital hall and two residence halls
  • Added pickup truck to campus Zipcar fleet

Buildings and Grounds:

Building Dashboard Gauges Real-Time Energy Use


Bowdoin's Building Dashboard provides electricity consumption data on 34 campus buildings in real time — and help tracks progress during campus energy conservation contests.

  • Constructed new LEED-certified buildings, including the first LEED-certified collegiate ice arena
  • Organically treated 60% of central campus grounds
  • Used local contractor to compost organic waste in exchange for loam
  • Chipped wood debris used on campus trails
  • Changed 173 outdoor light poles from metal halide to CFLs
  • Launched interactive campus energy dashboard


  • Installed first green roof on central heating plant in the fall of 2011
  • Other low-impact development techniques: rainwater capture system on the roof of two residence halls, storm water retentions ponds, vegetative swales and infiltration galleries

Dining Sustainably


Dining Service is a committed and enthusiastic partner in the College's sustainability mission.

Read more about the Bowdoin Organic Garden, buying local and minimizing waste.


  • Sold used dining hall cooking oil to company that turns it into heating fuel
  • Managed organic garden that produces 70% of the organic produce used in dining halls annually
  • Sourced approximately 27% of dining hall food purchases from local vendors
  • Delivered excess food from dining halls to local food banks and diverted pre- and post-consumer food scraps to local farm for animal feed
  • Used dioxin-free unbleached coffee filters and napkins in all dining units
  • Provided recyclable carry-out containers
  • Substantially reduced use of bottled water
  • Offered zero-sort recycling campus-wide

Bowdoin students have participated in the following sustainability activities:

  • ECO-reps named in each first-year residence hall and college house to raise awareness of environmental issues
  • Food waste audits, trash audits, composting and waste reduction programs
  • Annual residence hall energy-conservation competitions
  • Eco-Service Day and Earth Day projects
  • Yellow Bikes — shared bicycle fleet, which students use on campus and in the community
  • Give-and-Go — annual event at which unwanted student belongings are donated to a yard sale that raises thousands of dollars for local charities and diverts waste from the local landfill

For more information, go to Bowdoin's Sustainability website.

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