"Sustainability at Bowdoin is an ever-evolving process. The ideas, energy, and effort from the students really help push Bowdoin in new directions and ensure we 'walk the talk' regarding the important issues they learn about in class."
—Keisha Payson, Assistant Director of Sustainability
Each October since 2001, twenty-two of the residence halls are challenged to reduce their energy usage from the 1st through the 31st. They are divided into three brackets: first-year dorms, college houses, and upper dorms, and work within those brackets to reduce energy more than any of their peers. Overall, the focus is on collective energy reduction, but many students get much more excited about trying to be the most energy efficient first-year dorm, college house, or upper dorm. Prizes are awarded to the residences that reduce their energy by the highest percentage.
At this time, Bowdoin's metering system allows for Chamberlain, Coles Tower, Howard Hall, Stowe Hall, Stowe House Inn, and 52 Harpswell to compete as the Upper Dorms. All other Upper Dorms and Apartments are metered through CMP and are not yet able to compete with their peers.
In 2017, the October Energy Challenge had a minor assist with a giant windstorm and power outage at the end of the month, bringing us to a grand total reduction of 14%. For 2019, we pulled off a 8.9% reduction, with Osher Hall winning overall with a 27.8% reduction, followed closely by Coles Tower with 21.2%, and Baxter House with 17.6%. Maine Hall, although knocked out of the First Year bracket by Osher, had a strong showing with a 21.2% reduction. The complete results are available here.
Overall, student efforts resulted in a reduction of over 6 million pounds of carbon emission. For reference, that's the equivalent emissions of a passenger vehicle driving overland from Oslo, Norway to Cape Town, South Africa and back. Twice.
The biggest things students can do to help their dorm win--in October and beyond--are:
- Flip off the lights when not in use
- Unplug chargers once devices are fully charged
- Use drying racks rather than clothes dryers
- Keep windows closed when the heat is on to maximize thermal efficiency of the dorm.
Thanks to everyone for a wonderful October Energy Challenge!