If students at Bowdoin pledge to commit to 20 eco-friendly precepts in their residence hall and elsewhere on campus, they receive a small sign for their dorm room door marking their space as “green room certified.”
The green certification checklist covers day-to-day college life. In total it offers 25 possible actions, including recycling; using a reusable water bottle and mug in the dining halls; running a washing machine on cold water; using a drying rack; studying in public spaces; reducing shower times; and reducing meat consumption. Two of the options fall under the “Get Involved” category: to attend at least one talk on an environmental issue each semester, and to volunteer for eco-service day or to participate in another environmental event.
Last year, 158 students living in 86 rooms received the certification. This year, Omar Sohail ’15, an assistant for Bowdoin’s Sustainability office, wants to increase those numbers. His supervisor, Sustainability Coordinator Keisha Payson, jokingly calls Sohail “the czar of dorm room certification,” highlighting Sohail’s dedication to the program.
Sohail has been expanding the program beyond first-year residence halls and college houses, where it began three years ago, into upperclass living areas. “It’s a way for people to have a more personal commitment to [being green],” he said.
While the certification program contributes in a small way to Bowdoin’s goal to be carbon neutral by 2020, Sohail says what is more important is that it shows students they can make small adjustments that benefit the planet. “It’s about behavioral changes and awareness,” he said. “If we can get students [to adopt these behaviors] their first year, and we emphasize how these small changes don’t require too much discomfort, they can continue doing them after they graduate.”
Eric Chien ’14 launched the program in 2012. Chien said his motives were to recognize the students who were committed to a sustainable life. “With a physical certification seal on their door, students can be reminded of their commitments daily, as well as see which of their peers are making similar commitments,” he said.