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Bowdoin College Growing Their Green Athletes Program with NRDC

Alice Henly

Posted March 5, 2013

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Bowdoin College has long worked to incorporate sustainability efforts into its sports operations, including building the first hockey arena in the U.S. to be awarded LEED certification for New Construction. Now, Bowdoin’s student-athletes are championing sustainability throughout their teams and sports facilities to help further improve their campus’s environmental performance, while also helping protect the fate of their mascot—the Polar Bear.  

Bowdoin 1.jpgBowdoin Green Athletes (BGA), established May 2012, is made up of representatives from each varsity team. The athletes work with their teammates, the Athletics Director, and the Sustainable Bowdoin Coordinator, as well as staff and student Eco-Reps, to develop new sustainability projects within Bowdoin’s athletics and recreation facilities. Their goal is to use sports to bring the campus together in order to reduce the campus’s ecological footprint while raising awareness about the importance of environmental stewardship.

So far the BGA has worked on a variety of projects, including:

  • Bowdoin 3.jpgPosting signs about resource savings in all campus locker rooms (such as: “This locker room has low-flow showers, faucets, toilets, and urinals, which result in a 38% reduction in water use from that of normal fixtures.”)
  • Implementing a shoe recycling program throughout sports facilities
  • Ramping up composting and recycling at games in an effort to be the first NESCAC School to win the EPA Game Day Challenge (which measures how much waste can be recycled and composted at a football game).

Bowdoin rink.jpgThe College has also taken several measures to incorporate sustainability into Bowdoin’s sports buildings and opertions. Notably, two of the campus’s three LEED-certified buildings are sports facilities—the Buck Fitness Recreation Center and the Watson Hockey Arena.

The College’s two basketball courts, the track and the tennis courts all feature energy-efficient lighting (upgraded in the last four years). Bowdoin also uses organic fertilizer treatments almost exclusively on its fields.

The Watson Arena stands out as the first hockey arena in the United States to receive LEED certification for New Construction. Some of the green features of the arena include:

  • Bowdoin LEED Sign.jpg82% of all construction waste was diverted from landfill.
  • 30% of building products include pre- and/or post-consumer recycled content.
  • 40% of new building materials came from within 500 miles of the construction site.
  • Low-flow water fixtures reduce water use by 22%.
  • Low-volatile organic compound adhesives, sealants, paints, and carpets were used to improve indoor air quality.
  • A reflective roof was installed to minimize the heat island effect.
  • Landscaping incorporated indigenous plants that do not require irrigation to conserve water.

In the future, BGA aims to expand recycling and minimize waste during athletic contests, compile pledges from all teams, and ultimately implement clothing recycling.  If you’re part of the Bowdoin community and would like to get involved, please contact Alex Tougas,

With their successes to date, Bowdoin is helping the NESCAC athletics conference expand their sports greening work and join athletics conferences like the Ivy League, PAC 12 and SEC, all embracing the sports greening movement. Thanks to the resources and support from the NRDC Sports project, the Green Sports Alliance and U.S EPA, these burgeoning green sports efforts are advancing sustainability on campuses nationwide.

To learn more, look out for NRDC’s next Game Changer report, which will be devoted to the leading case studies in collegiate sports greening and is slated to be released this summer. Find out more about NRDC’s sports greening resources at  

Keep up the good work Bowdoin Polar Bears!

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit

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