Sierra Magazine awarded Bowdoin an honorable mention this week on its first-ever list of America's "coolest" colleges. Though this descriptor may seem quaintly juvenile, the meaning Sierra has ascribed to it is substantially weightier: The magazine?published by one of the country's foremost environmental groups?regards Bowdoin as one of the 18 most environmentally conscientious colleges in the country.
Also this week, the Sustainable Endowments Institute released its annual college sustainability report card. Although the institute gave Bowdoin a "C" and two "Fs" (in investment priorities, endowment transparency, and shareholder engagement, respectively), the College earned four "As" and a "B" in the categories relating to sustainability in campus management.
These two independent assessments give us a chance to acknowledge Bowdoin's commitment to reducing its negative impact on the environment. Six years ago, the College created Sustainable Bowdoin, a division of facilities management designed to serve as a sort of environmental conscience. Since then, Bowdoin had taken a number of significant steps toward sustainability.
It has pledged that all new campus buildings be certified by the Leadership for Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and that all renovations of existing buildings be done in accordance with in-house environmental standards, which are based on LEED principles. Last year, it adopted a single-stream recycling system to reduce campus waste, and over the summer, President Barry Mills signed a pledge that requires that the College set a target date for complete carbon neutrality within two years.
Certainly, these initiatives go beyond mere lip service to an important but oft-exploited cause. Institutions of higher learning have long been harbingers of progress, but rarely does a college's idealism match that of its students. We commend the College for what appears to be an earnest commitment to sustainability, as well as the students who involve themselves enthusiastically in Sustainable Bowdoin projects.
Of course, these distinctions are no reason for Bowdoin officials and students to rest on their green laurels. One of the advantages of a study such as Sierra magazine's is that it offers a glimpse into what other colleges are doing to monitor and mitigate their carbon footprints?real-time energy monitoring systems, organically tended playing fields, student-tended wastewater recycling centers, and extensive use of solar panels, to name a few examples.
We hope both school officials and students will continue to seek out innovative ways for Bowdoin to inform its environmental conscience and exercise dutiful eco-stewardship. A passionate few will probably always lead the charge on these matters. But we hope that all students and employees recognize how easy it is to be environmentally responsible at Bowdoin, and we urge them to do their part?even if that just means utilizing the campus's ubiquitous single-stream recycling bins or turning off the lights when they leave an empty room.
The editorial represents the majority view of The Bowdoin Orient's editorial board, which comprises Steve Kolowich, Anne Riley, Anna Karass, Adam Kommel, Mary Helen Miller, and Joshua Miller.