As an environmental studies major, swimmer Alex Tougas ’14 spends a great deal of time thinking about sustainability. A dedicated swimmer, he works hard to divide his time between his environmental and athletic passions. Since founding Bowdoin Green Athletes (BGA) last spring, Tougas is now contributing to both areas simultaneously.
“Last year Kristin Hanczor [’12] and I wanted to form an organization that merged athletics with sustainability, which both of us were interested in,” said Tougas. “I swim and she played volleyball. We thought that it would be a really valuable thing to do. I found the idea from Middlebury. I should give them credit because I worked closely with their athletic director for help on this stuff, and then it sort of blossomed from there.”
Hanczor and Tougas cast a wide net across the Bowdoin campus in search of representation from every sports team.
“Last year when Alex started the club he sent emails to coaches asking them to nominate two players to attend the first meeting. I’ve stuck with it since,” said Emma Chow ’15, a member of the women’s tennis team who is on the BGA’s executive committee. 
“I’ve always been interested in environmental causes, but I’d never actually been part of a group that implements any change,” said Chow. “I thought this would be a good way to start.”
For Tougas, BGA represented not only an opportunity to merge his interests, but also a chance to use the influence of athletics on campus for positive change. 
“I think athletes by their very nature are leaders on this campus,” said Tougas. “We try to tap into club sports, too, so I think that may get us into 50 or 60 percent of the Bowdoin population. Bowdoin students are committed to environmental protection in general—certainly more than the country at large unfortunately. We have to do something, and this is my small part. Other people have latched onto it and are proud to be a part of it.”
BGA took its first big step this past homecoming weekend, with its first major event. Twenty BGA members participated in the Environmental Protection Agency’s Game Day Challenge. According to the EPA’s website, the Game Day Challenge is “a friendly competition for colleges and universities to promote waste reduction at their football games.”
For Tougas it was a no-brainer. 
“I spent part of the summer working with Keisha Payson, who’s the coordinator for Sustainable Bowdoin. I was looking around a little bit and saw that some schools were involved with this,” said Tougas. “We thought it would be a perfect thing to do as the first big Green Athletes event. We started our program at the end of last year, so we said ‘Okay, this will be our big fall thing.’”
The EPA reports that 76 colleges have participated in the 2012  Game Day Challenge. In 2011, the event diverted nearly 500,000 pounds of waste from football games, preventing the release of more than 810 metric tons of carbon dioxide, according to the EPA website.
 Challenge winners are named in five categories: Waste minimization, diversion rate, greenhouse gas reduction, organics reduction, and recycling.
Tougas recruited volunteers for the event, while Chow publicized it. Joining them in leading the Game Day Challenge was Tricia Thibodeau ’13, who worked with Payson on the logistics of the event.
“I play softball and we do concessions at the games, so that was one reason I wanted to head this up,” explained Thibodeau. “Concessions is one of the primary waste generators because they’re giving out all the food and drinks to everyone at the game. I already knew what food was being sold and of the facility, so it made it easier for me to help [Tougas] coordinate.”
BGA volunteers dressed up as trash cans and provided signs to instruct fans of proper recycling methods in order to make the event a success.
“We were able to recycle 81.8 percent of all our waste as well as reduce our greenhouse gas equivalent by about half a metric ton,” said Tougas.
“We’re the first to do it in the NESCAC and we hope that other schools follow suit,” added Chow. “We ended up recovering 300 pounds of recyclables and we composted food, which we sent to a pig farm.”
After the success of the Game Day Challenge,  the BGA hopes to organize more events.
“This weekend we’re going to monitor the home football game, although it won’t be as extensive as last time,” said Chow. “We’re also working on a shoe recycling project, which we started looking into last year. The track team is going to be heading that up, and I’ll also be involved. We’ll be setting up a bin in Farley where students and community members can recycle their shoes.”
While Tougas stressed that the BGA tries not to burden its delegates with extensive responsibilities, its member athletes report making significant positive impacts on their respective teams.
“The softball team, we’re a pretty small team. I think that makes it easier to look over and call people out,” said Thibodeau. “Myself and maybe two others are a little more green-conscious than our other teammates.” 
Thibodeau says the BGA’s mission is not to be overbearing but simply remind athletes to be green conscious. 
“It’s just not on their radar, it’s not that they don’t care,” she said. 
“I had a teammate tell me the other day ‘Emma, your voice is always inside my head telling me to recycle,’” said Chow. “I was like ‘Okay, good. I’m doing my job.’”