In a finding that testifies to Bowdoin's commitment to sustainability, the College announced that at the end of the 2010 fiscal year (FY) it remains on track for its goal of being carbon neutral by 2020.

According to the College's Annual Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions Inventory update, the College has made a 7 percent reduction in its emissions since the baseline total was determined in FY 2008. According to Bowdoin's 2009 Climate Blueprint Report, the College used enough electricity in 2008 to power 3,329 homes.

The College categorizes its emissions into three scopes. Scope 1 consists of emissions pertaining to onsite fuel combustion, college vehicle use and fugitive refrigerants; emissions related to purchased electricity constitute Scope 2; Scope 3 covers transmissions losses, waste, employee commute and faculty-staff travel. Emissions are measured in CO2e, a common unit which presents the combined global warming potentials of each of the six greenhouse gases.

The College has the most control over Scope 1 emissions, according to the inventory update, and has made the greatest progress in this area.

Decreased fuel consumption at the central heating plant was the greatest factor in the Scope 1 reduction, with the College using close to 11 percent less natural gas in FY 2010 than in FY 2008. According to Coordinator for a Sustainable Bowdoin Keisha Payson, Bowdoin also continued to convert satellite buildings—such as college houses—from heating oil to lower-carbon natural gas, resulting in a total of 11 converted buildings since 2008.

Payson serves on the Climate Action Plan Implementation Committee (CAPIC) which, alongside the Faculty Working Group on Sustainability, replaced the 2009 Climate Commitment Advisory Committee (CCAC). The CAPIC, chaired by Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration and Treasurer Katy Longley, is responsible for identifying, funding and tracking GHG-reducing initiatives, compiling annual GHG emissions reports for the College, and updating the Carbon Neutrality Implementation Plan—as laid out by the CCAC—every two years.

Beyond Scope 1, Payson, Longley and Director of Finance and Campus Services Del Wilson, another CAPIC committee member, are pleased with the 6 percent reduction in Scope 2 emissions. With the increase of the College's square footage and amount of technology, this is the first time since 1995 that the College has seen such a reversal in the trend toward increased emissions. The number includes a 2 percent drop in electricity usage, reflecting the impact of continued light upgrades and initiatives such as the dorm energy-saving competition.

Looking forward to next year, various projects include the continued installation of solar panels atop Thorne Dining Hall, which "when not covered with snow and ice" will provide 50 percent of the energy for Thorne's hot water, according to Longley. Thorne is the College's second largest user of hot water after Greason Pool.

The CAPIC is also looking to install a new steam turbine in the heating plant next summer and fall, which will help to generate electricity from waste heat, according to Wilson.

The shorter-term Faculty Working Group on Sustainability (FWGS), comprised of representatives from different departments and campus bodies such as Residential Life and Career Planning, will work on what FWGS member Sheela Turbek '13 deemed "behavioral changes," as the College attempts to align the lives of students, faculty and staff with Bowdoin's environmental mission statement.

"Bowdoin has taken a fairly ambitious approach [with regard to] emissions," said Chair of the FWGS Phil Camill, also a professor of environmental science at the College. He added that the FWGS looks to "translate [these initiatives] to the broader campus culture."

"All Bowdoin students will be affected by climate change at some point in the future," said Camill. "Big environmental [and] social issues rise to the forefront of things we should talk about, even if we don't all agree on what to do or how quickly we want to go about it."

Turbek and Camill emphasized the focus of the FWGS on visibility. Among potential projects are a highly noticeable carbon thermometer, conservation-related green, yellow and red light systems in the dorms, easy action lists for students and greater implementation of the online Dashboard system, used to display the results of the inter-dorm energy competition.

"[It is easy to think,] what can I do as just one student on campus, living in dorms controlled by other people, eating food cooked by other people?" said Camill. Yet, he maintained, individual actions constitute just another "piece of the portfolio."

Despite the initiatives of both groups, Bowdoin's carbon emissions will not reach zero by 2020. The remaining balance, or percentage of overall CO2e reduction, is projected to be 23 percent in 2020, according to the 2009 Climate Blueprint Report.

"We're not going to be able to make it; we can't reduce our emissions by that much," said Senior Lecturer in Environmental Studies and Government DeWitt John, an original member of the CCAC, noting certain inevitabilities of college life, among them the need to heat buildings.

According to the Climate Report, the gap "will be addressed through the adoption of new technologies and the purchase of additional renewable energy credits [RECs] or appropriate carbon offsets."

"Here in New England, we're always going to be using carbon... we have to heat our buildings," said Longley. "Even in 2020, we expect that there will be reliance on fossil fuels. We can offset that use with RECs, which technically achieves carbon neutrality."

"It isn't the way you want to achieve carbon neutrality, but it's a reality," she added.

RECs constitute the purchase of the renewable part of one's total energy consumption, financing the costs associated with green energy generation. Carbon offsets allow purchasers to support greenhouse gas reduction projects elsewhere. RECs and carbon offsets are used to counter emissions that one cannot entirely reduce or eliminate.

The focus of the CAPIC over the next decade, according to John, is to make as many on-site improvements as possible.

John also outlined possible projects for Bowdoin that would increase its energy independence, such as becoming a solar power provider and offering a recharge system for electric cars.

The Climate Report states that the growth and involvement of the campus, new technologies and the future cost of energy will influence steps taken in 2020.

"Even in 2020 we're going to...continue to make reductions to the amount of RECs we need to purchase, but we wanted to pick a date—2020—that was more meaningful [than 2030 or 2040]," said Payson.

"2010-2020 is a one decade window that we have," said Camill. "There's still a lot of work."