Seven years ago, Bowdoin announced its intention to become carbon neutral by 2020. That ambition—which once seemed like a faraway goal—is on track to come to fruition by the time current first-year students graduate. 

Keisha Payson, sustainability coordinator for the College, works with the Sustainability Implementation Committee to ensure Bowdoin meets its goal.

“There’s still room for discussion about how we want to approach being carbon neutral in 2020,” said Payson. “We will want to get people’s feedback and decide what is a meaningful way for Bowdoin College to become carbon neutral. There [are] so many different options on renewable energy credits that you can purchase on the open market, and we haven’t made a decision yet what that’s going to look like.”

Purchasing carbon offsets will likely become one aspect of the College’s ongoing plan. 

According to the College’s 2015 Annual Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory Update, Bowdoin committed to “reducing ‘own-source’ emissions by at least 28 percent over the 12 years between 2008 and 2020, with the understanding that the College would need to purchase carbon offsets in 2020 to achieve the ultimate goal of carbon neutrality.”

As of the end of 2015, the College’s own-source emissions had been reduced by 17 percent compared to 2008, according to the 2015 Inventory Update.

The College continues to take other steps to reduce its carbon footprint. In the past year, LED lights were installed in Studzinski Recital Hall, Pickard Theater and the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, and steam lines responsible for heating buildings were insulated in more than a dozen mechanical rooms across campus. Buildings not connected to the main steam plant transitioned to natural gas, which is a lower carbon fuel than heating oil. Several college properties were weatherized.

The Roux Center for the Environment, which is slated to open on the corner of Harpswell Road and College Street in the fall of 2018, will be Bowdoin’s first building to conform to the highest Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) standards established by the U.S. Green Building Council, known as LEED Platinum.

“We’ve got multiple LEED Silvers [and] the renovation of 52 Harpswell was our first LEED Gold, so shooting for LEED Platinum is a big deal for us,” said Payson. “It’s going to be a standout for Bowdoin College in terms of how little energy it uses relative to other buildings of its type.”

In addition to sustainable construction, the Office of Sustainability hopes to reduce carbon emissions by encouraging students to change their behavior. The office holds an annual energy conservation dorm competition, which will last through the month of October. An online program allows students to monitor electricity use for each building in real time.

“We look at the energy competition as a real opportunity for us to engage people on the topic of behavior change and how they can use less energy,” said Payson.

She recommended that students make small changes to their daily routines, such as turning off lights before leaving for class.