Energy Savings Competitions

banister winners 

Pictured above: 2011 Polar Bear Energy Challenge Winners - Banister Hall

Bowdoin celebrates two energy savings competitions. The student dorm energy competition, started in 2001, occurs annually in October.  In 2011 the first energy competition for academic and administrative buildings began, known as the Polar Bear Challenge.  In 2012 Sustainable Bowdoin expanded the Polar Bear Challenge to include faculty, staff & students in all campus buildings.  

Throughout the competitions, competitors can use the building dashboard to monitor energy consumption in their dorms or department buildings and continue to develop habits that conserve electricity. 


The competition has three major goals:
* Raise awareness among faculty, staff and students about how to monitor their electricity consumption using the building dashboard.
* Share energy conservation tips with co-workers and dorm mates during the “Challenge” that they can maintain throughout the year.
* Provide a shared experience among building occupants around conservation, encouraging dialogue among occupants about how they can address specific issues in their building that may be wasting electricity.


Buildings will be competing against their baseline electricity consumption which was the three weeks before the competition started (January 23rd - February 12th, 2012)**.  Results are displayed as a percentage change over the two time periods. To see how your building is doing, visit the dashboard and click on the "competitions" tab.  Results will be displayed from largest percent reduction to smallest. 


Academic/Administrative Buildings: Office EcoReps from the following buildings have joined the challenge: Adams Hall, Banister Hall, Buck Fitness Center, Children’s Center, Cram Alumni, Farley Field House, Hatch Science Library, H & L Library, Hubbard Hall, Kanbar Hall, Jewett Hall, McLellan Building, Moulton Union, Museum of Art, Rhodes Hall, Sills Hall, Smith Union, and Thorne Hall.

Dorms/College Houses: Baxter House, Burnett House, Ladd House, Helmreich House, Howell House, MacMillan House, Quinby House, Reed House, Appleton Hall, Coleman Hall, Coles Tower, Chamberlain Hall, Hyde Hall, Howard Hall, Maine Hall, Moore Hall, Osher Hall, Stowe Hall, West Hall, and Winthrop Hall. 


To help your building win, visit our energy conservation tips page for ideas! 


Put up a few well placed posters announcing the competion, send out a weekly update with a link to the dashboard, and most importantly, talk to your co-workers or dorm mates about how energy is consumed in the building - are there areas for improvement?  Check out these great ideas from last year's participants:

  • Banister Hall: we used a combination of techniques – turning off student workstations, total buy-in from our Housekeeper, unplugging the microwave and teapot unless they were in use, unplugging our extra printer unless it was in use, turning off the computer and lights in the classroom.
  • Cram Alumni House: Worked by natural light, unplugged all the printers but one, unplugged unused freezer, turned off power strips at nights and on weekends, turned down heat, and turned off the lights in all common areas.
  • HR- McLellan: Turned off all kiosk computers/scanners/printers- on demand only, decreased light usage, turned off the lights and the computer in the multipurpose room.
  • Rhodes Hall: Tea water burner shut off 3 hours earlier each day. Lights shut off on sunny days
  • Adams Hall: Put in work order for restroom lights on 3rd floor which never shut off due to motion sensor malfunction – Now the lights shut off when room is unoccupied! Plus more people took the stairs over the elevator. And some faculty members deliberately left lights off in classrooms on sunny days
  • Burton-Little: Concerted effort department-wide to turn off lights, computers and monitors. They had fun checking everyone’s progress!
  • VAC: A team effort, with housekeepers doing a great job with early morning light shut-off and student employees keeping lights off in Stacks when empty
  • Museum of Art: Moved curtains to take advantage of solar heat, shut down computers, cut down on lights and kept the coffee machine unplugged when not in use
  • McLellan Controller’s Office: 11 student work stations run by Alumni Relations now shut off at the end of shift (used to be on 24/7) and requested motion sensor lights for filing room


Academic/Administrative Buildings: This year we have a special prize for the winning academic/administrative building.  All employees who participate in the winning building will have their names entered in a hat - one lucky winner will be drawn with the prize being a free home energy audit!  

Student Residence Halls:  For the annual Do it in the Dark competition that runs each fall, the prize is all about $$$ - which always gets students motivated.  But for the spring Polar Bear Energy Challenge everyone is a winner!  How?  We will take a portion of the money saved from the competition (up to $500) and put it towards efforts to make the spring Ivies concert more green!  We will also award an awesome banner to each category winner to place on their dorm announcing their great feat to the world!  The banners will also be displayed at the Ivies concert.  Categories are: best first year brick, best college house, and best upperclassmen dorm.  

**Competition baseline was changed on 2/14/12 .  The original baseline was February 14th – March 10th of 2011.  The change was made because some buildings had experienced renovations, building use changes, or population fluctuations since last year and we felt that the new baseline would better reflect the current building occupant's efforts to conserve energy.