In his role as AmeriCorps volunteer, Bridger Tomlin ’17 is continuing the kind of college-focused environmental work he did as a student, but he is now also expanding his efforts to reach the broader Brunswick community.
Tomlin is one of six AmeriCorps Energy Efficiency Coordinators stationed at different colleges across Maine this year. He is based at Bowdoin, creating programs for the College. But in the weeks and months ahead, he’ll also be organizing community events, including helping low-income homeowners weatherize their houses to reduce their electricity bills.
One of the reasons Tomlin said he accepted the one- to two-year service position — which only pays $12,000 a year — was for the chance to work with the community. “As a student, I didn’t get to focus on the town,” he noted. Instead, he did a lot for Bowdoin. In his role as assistant for the Sustainability office, he managed Eco-Reps, planned environmental events, and created educational materials. Tomlin majored in environmental studies and history.
Now, as he transitions from “student to community member,” as he puts it, Tomlin is appreciating the job’s “community focus and engagement.” He added, “I enjoy working with a tight-knit community to improve their knowledge [about energy efficiency].” This knowledge, he added, ties directly into improving people’s quality of life, because weatherizing buildings can save them money and make for warmer homes.
It is not often that Bowdoin has an AmeriCorps volunteer, and Tomlin is the Sustainability office’s first. Keisha Payson, who oversees sustainability at Bowdoin, said she wanted to hire Tomlin because he’ll not only augment the work the College is doing to increase its energy efficiency, but also expand on this mission. “He is breaking new ground in trying to promote energy efficiency in the community,” she said.
AmeriCorps is a civil society program supported by the U.S. federal government, foundations, corporations, and other donors. Volunteers are paid a small stipend to do community service work for a year or two in neighborhoods across the country. At the end of their service, they also receive a $5,500 education grant.
The AmeriCorps energy efficiency coordinator position in Maine is new this year. Maine Campus Compact, a statewide coalition of colleges and universities, initiated the program, laying out goals for Tomlin and the five other volunteers.
So Tomlin’s tasks this year are to organize several energy education events for both the college and the community. He will also complete green building audits for low-income homeowners, including helping them obtain window inserts to reduce heat loss during the winter. To accomplish this, he’s been partnering with Habitat for Humanity and the nonprofit organization Window Dressers.
He’s also been asked to put on green job fairs. He’s been thinking about inviting to Bowdoin a panel of entrepreneurs working in the green sector to inspire entrepreneurial minded students. He’d also like to organize a forum at the College, perhaps in conjunction with the opening of the Roux Center for the Environment next fall. The symposium, he said, would examine Bowdoin’s future, asking what the College can do next. “What is the moral obligation for a powerful education institution to set an example for clean power and environmental stewardship?” he asked.
While he is really just getting going in his new AmeriCorps position, Tomlin said he sees the year ahead as a chance to grow personally and build professional networks. It is also a chance for him to try out different roles. “I get to dabble in a lot of things,” he said, from volunteer management (he put together a team of Bowdoin students to help him with programming) to community organization and event planning. “And it all falls under the purview of environmental ideas that are interesting to me,” he said.