Story posted November 21, 2011
“Baxter is an Eco-palace!” – Cole Duncan
No one can dispute the truth—Baxter is indeed the reigning Eco-Champion on campus. In the Energy-Saving Dorm Competition that ran through the entire month of October, Baxter won the overall competition, the best house-first year dorm combo (with West), AND the most improved (within the month) award. Dorms who have won the award in the past were left wondering how Baxter made such a huge trophy sweep of the annual Energy-Saving Dorm Competition—they really blew away the competition.
While not a favorite to win in the beginning, Baxter started off the month in the front half of the pack for energy savings. By the time the mid-point struck, Baxter was consistently in first or second place. Resident Sophia Cornew says, “We were all really committed from the beginning. We decided we were going to win the energy competition.” House EcoRep Eric Chien says that at a house meeting mid-month, he informed the house members of their success. Many members were unaware of how well they’d been doing, but Chien says the success really inspired them to commit even more. “People were talking about stumbling around in the dark to conserve energy—they sounded pretty committed to me.” Their success fueled their drive to conserve energy for the rest of the month, giving them a competitive edge on all the other houses.
Matt Savard commented on the strategy of the house: “We did a good job of collectively managing the commons (keeping the hallway lights off, bathroom lights off, etc.) We also were conscientious of our own rooms lights, fans, etc.” Savard’s mention of the Commons really hammers home what the competition is all about – being aware of how little decisions (like flicking off the lights in the hallway) can have big communal impacts. Baxter went so far as to turn off two of their house refrigerators (which are actually big energy users) which contributed to their success. The question now is, are these practices sustainable? How can we incorporate this month-long competition into our everyday life?
The answer may lie in the enthusiasm of students like those in Baxter. Word on the street is, they are “pretty pumped” about their new reputation as the most Eco-Friendly house on campus. It seems simple: turn off a few lights, consolidate your resources, save the world. Indeed, for Baxter, the formula was easy. But can every month seem like such a breeze? Savard commented further on factors that helped with their success “We were on social probation and didn't have any major parties. This cut out blasting music all night in the basement through those huge speakers. Mostly a lack of party-goers using the house (more lights/bathrooms etc.)” Savard is right to point out that minimizing campus-wide events can save energy. Mac House, another former winner, was disappointed with their results in the competition this year, but have pointed to the 3 campus-wide events they held as potential contributors to increased energy use.
So what do we do, forget about throwing campus-wide events? Not at all. Sustainable Bowdoin and the EcoReps are encouraging students to think about energy-using events in terms of reduction, not elimination. Want some mood lighting? Get energy-efficient LED string lights! Want to reduce party waste? Encourage your friends and house affiliates to bring their own, reusable drinking vessels. It’s not unreasonable to imagine a Bowdoin Campus where people at every event attempt to minimize energy use. Houses especially, with their annual budgets, have the opportunity to utilize their resources and reduce energy consumption.
A special shout-out goes to Moore Hall, the best freshman dorm. Dorm EcoRep Matt Goodrich discussed the tactics of Moore, similar to Baxter. People were turning off lights, unplugging mini-fridges and only using fans when they needed them. Small habits make big changes! Congratulations to Moore and Baxter/West for their great success, but a huge THANK YOU to everyone on campus who took a few seconds to turn off an extra light, close a window, and turn off that x-box before leaving the room. Bowdoin College’s “Carbon Neutral by 2020” is coming our way, and that includes behavioral changes starting with the students. We can work together to make all of Bowdoin an “Eco-palace!”
Baxter House reduced their energy use by a staggering 39.7% in the month of October, earning them the top spot in Bowdoin's Dormwide Energy Savings Competition.