Bowdoin College this week joined colleges and universities in Maine and throughout the nation that have launched plans to fight climate change.

Bowdoin officials said “Sustainable Bowdoin 2042” will cement the Brunswick-based liberal arts school as a national leader in campus sustainability, taking on the challenge of making its campus – which has some of the oldest college buildings in America – fossil fuel-free in two decades.

Its plan hinges on investing a minimum of $100 million in campus infrastructure improvements between now and 2037.

“It’s a significant investment, but we absolutely believe it is achievable,” Bowdoin College President Clayton Rose said of the money to be spent making the college buildings more energy efficient. Bowdoin’s oldest building dates back to 1802.

Other universities and colleges in Maine have also made commitments to the fight against climate change.

Bates College in Lewiston has set a goal of becoming climate positive by 2030, which means the college will sequester more carbon dioxide emissions than it emits. The University of New England, with campuses in Biddeford and Portland, has identified 2040 as its goal for achieving carbon neutrality. And the University of Maine System has a long standing goal of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2040.

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“Climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our lifetime,” Rose said. “Sustainable Bowdoin 2042 is about securing the future for our students, and for the world beyond our campus, through living our commitment to sustainability and in the education we provide.

“It is the result of a comprehensive, multiyear planning effort that involved all facets of our community. Though it is anchored in planning for a decarbonized future at Bowdoin, the classroom, research and hands-on learning opportunities taking place today will continue to grow and evolve,” Rose added.

Bowdoin is close to achieving some of its clean energy goals. Rose said that by the end of 2023, one hundred percent of its electricity will be solar-power generated.

New campus structures under construction are being built to the latest standards of environmental efficiency. The new John and Lile Gibbons Center for Arctic Studies, which will house the Peary MacMillan Arctic Museum, will be built with mass timber instead of steel, Rose said.

Another feature of the Sustainable Bowdoin 2042 plan will be creating tighter building envelopes and rebuilding the college’s heating infrastructure to reduce carbon emissions over the next 15 years. This will allow Bowdoin to switch from a steam heating system to a low temperature hot water heating system.

The second phase of producing clean heat during Maine winters will involve replacing the college’s gas-fired central heating plant in 2038 with a new energy station powered by 100 percent renewable energy.

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Bowdoin is also committed to converting its fleet of campus vehicles to 100 percent electric by 2027 and to having electric-powered maintenance equipment by 2030.

Sustainable Bowdoin 2042 represents the views and input from faculty, staff, students and alumni, Rose said in a telephone interview Tuesday evening.

“It fits very well with our obligation to be a leader in environmental change,” he said.

A copy of the Sustainable Bowdoin 2042 report can be viewed at bowdoin.edu/climate-action-plan.


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