On Wednesday night, Bowdoin Student Government (BSG) welcomed Coordinator for a Sustainable Bowdoin Keisha Payson to update members on the College’s progress and goals in its sustainability efforts, specifically Bowdoin’s goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2020.

At the meeting, Payson explained that the College is seeking to reduce its own emissions from electricity, fuel combustion and other onsite sources by 28 percent by 2020, and account for the rest of its emissions through renewable energy credits. The initiative began in 2008. 

Payson reported that as of 2016, the College had reduced its emissions by 19 percent. This figure represents a smaller reduction from 2008 levels than Bowdoin has reached in the past. It reached 22 percent in 2012. 

Despite this setback, Payson and the Office of Sustainability are continuing efforts to reduce carbon emissions, with ongoing projects such as increasing solar energy usage and a new water turbine that generates six percent of the College’s electricity. Payson also outlined possible future actions to achieve Bowdoin’s original goal including insulating old buildings on campus and incorporating more hybrid cars in the College’s fleet.

Payson said another significant aspect of the College’s climate action initiative is reducing waste. Bowdoin has been successful in this area: in 2016, it diverted 50 percent of its waste from landfills and incinerators, the highest waste diversion ratio ever achieved by the College. This waste was recycled (42 percent) or composted (8 percent).

Nevertheless, the College produced over one million pounds of trash last year. Projects to further reduce trash include increasing composting opportunities and offering reusable containers for to-go food. 

Overall, Payson cited behavior changes as a critical factor in reaching the goal of carbon neutrality. Two projects recently initiated by the Office of Sustainability—the Green Living Commitment, in which individuals pledge to change their habits, and an eight-week competition between residence halls to reduce energy use—aim to encourage students to make simple changes that reduce their carbon footprint.

“This is just another opportunity for students to engage in thinking about how to conserve energy,” said Payson. “When you leave Bowdoin, once you have your first apartment, when you’re paying that electric bill, or you’re paying that heat bill, you’ll be like, ‘Oh yeah, I remember those things that I learned at Bowdoin that I can implement now.’”

In an interview with the Orient, Payson said that while she didn’t have a specific agenda for BSG involvement, she is open to fostering a relationship with the assembly, perhaps through funding and publicity.

“I would love [BSG’s] support in helping to promote both our carbon neutrality goal and our dorm energy competition, our Green Living Commitment—any of those projects that we’re working on that engage with students,” Payson said. “Or if they’re working on something and they see an opportunity to connect with what we’re doing, I welcome that.”

The BSG meeting continued with an overview and discussion of BSG’s upcoming events and proposals.

One proposal is a campus-wide party that addresses the perception that Bowdoin’s social life has been moving more toward off-campus residences, raising concerns about security and inclusivity. 

The event, a competition of parties between Baxter, Ladd and Quinby—each of which will team up with various other campus groups such as a cappella groups, varsity sports teams and cultural student groups—aims to bring different parts of campus together and demonstrate how “College Houses can be a fun, all-inclusive place to party,” according to Vice President for Student Affairs Ben Painter ’19, who introduced the idea to the committee and lives in Quinby House.

Other future plans for BSG include hosting a panel of professors to discuss class at Bowdoin, a Social Hour for faculty, staff and students in Jack Magee’s Pub from 5 to 7 p.m. this evening and Winter Weekend festivities, including horse-drawn carriage rides, this weekend.