We are a living lab

Explore the 2018 Harvard Sustainability Report detailing our transformation to a healthier, fossil fuel-free community.

Climate action

In Progress

30% net emissions reduction as of FY17

Our Goal

Fossil Fuel-Free by 2050

Waste Per Capita

Our Progress

44% Reduction as of FY17

Our Goal

50% Reduction by 2020

Water Use

Our Progress

26% Reduction as of FY17

Our Goal

30% Reduction by 2020


Our Progress

60% Organic as of FY17

Our Goal

75% Organic by 2020

Explore our sustainability data hub

Transparency is a key ingredient for accountability and continual improvement, helping us to uncover new insights and make smarter decisions. An online dashboard featuring interactive graphs allows our community to track progress toward meeting the University's sustainability goals and commitments.

Our complementary Data Hub webpage aggregates data sets that are available to our community to use for research and benchmarking.

We're moving toward a fossil fuel-free future

Harvard's Climate Action Plan sets an ambitious path forward to shift campus operations away from fossil fuels. The plan includes two bold, new, science-based targets—fossil fuel-free by 2050 and fossil fuel-neutral by 2026.

Emissions and Energy

The challenge of climate change demands a bold response and clear action from organizations and individuals. Harvard is committed to transitioning away from fossil fuel use by accelerating solutions that enhance public health, improve building efficiency, and promote renewable energy.

Residential spaces account for nearly 31% of campus square footage and 16% of total energy use, while labs account for 22% of total building area but consume nearly 46% of energy use.


96% of Harvard's emissions are from building electricity use, heating, and cooling. Vehicle fleet and refrigerant losses account for the remaining 4%.


In 2018, Harvard set a bold, second-generation, science-based climate goal to be fossil fuel-free by 2050 and fossil fuel-neutral by 2026. This goal was recognized with a Climate Leadership Award for Excellence in Greenhouse Gas Management (Goal-Setting Certificate) at the 2019 Climate Leadership Conference.

With these new goals, the University continues to track greenhouse gas emissions against the original 2006 baseline and maintain the 30% reduction achieved in its first-generation goal. Harvard's emissions inventory was one of the first in higher education to be third-party verified by The Climate Registry, and it is undergoing review to receive Climate Registered status for 2018.

Reflects Scope 1 and 2 Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions for North American properties by Fiscal Year.

MTCDE = Metric Tons of Carbon Dioxide Equivalent

The 2018 numbers presented here are preliminary draft numbers which are being prepared for third-party review.

More than 1.5 MW of on-site solar PV, combined with solar thermal, biomass, and geothermal installations play an important role in diversifying Harvard's energy supply and serving as a test ground to inform future action.

Growth in campus solar pv projects at Harvard

The highly efficient energy system that will power Harvard's Allston campus prioritizes climate resiliency and includes the largest thermal storage tank in Massachusetts. It has been designed to be as flexible as possible so emerging technologies can be incorporated over time as the University works towards its ambitious climate action goals.

Net energy use is down 2% from our 2006 baseline (excluding growth, energy use dropped 18%). Reductions in building energy use from energy efficiency measures offset the impact of growth in square footage. 

Energy data is not normalized for weather, which is the primary driver of the change from 2017 to 2018.

Harvard has implemented more than 1,000 net present value positive energy conservation projects in our buildings, including many with long payback periods. The most common, shown by share of total upfront implementation costs, are HVAC (heating and cooling) and lighting upgrades

A ground-breaking report conducted by Harvard and the Boston Green Ribbon Commission with the Rocky Mountain Institute’s WattTime and Meister Consultants Group details methods for quantifying the actual emissions impacts of institutional renewable energy purchases, which could create new opportunities for renewable energy buyers to begin reducing emissions even faster, more cheaply, more reliably, and more credibly.

Harvard, as Chair of the Boston Green Ribbon Commission's Higher Education Working Group and Vice-Chair of the Cambridge Compact, presented the keynote at the International Institute of Sustainable Labs conference and led a national Lab Energy Use Benchmarking Study

Girguis Lab, Harvard

Researchers across Harvard are focused on preparing the world for a future where climate is the number-one threat to public health.



ON-SITE SOLAR PHOTOVOLTAIC (PV), combined with SOLAR THERMAL AND GEOTHERMAL INSTALLATIONS, serve as an important test ground to inform future action.

In 2018, Harvard began installation of an innovative 450 KW solar project at the Arnold Arboretum - one of the first of its kind in higher education. It includes solar arrays, a solar awning, and a high-capacity battery array. 

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) completed the installation of a new 100 KW SOLAR ARRAY on the conjoined roofs of Vanserg and Shannon Hall. 

Harvard University Housing (HUH) kicked off their 425 KW installation of on-site renewables in Allston.


Harvard's new District Energy Facility (DEF) in Allston uses a more efficient low-temperature hot-water distribution system, and it was built to be flexible for emerging technologies such as different fuel sources or other technological advancements like electrification. The DEF also includes the largest thermal storage tank in Massachusetts – the tank is analogous to an enormous battery because the chilled water will be produced and stored during off-peak hours when electricity is cheaper and is often less-polluting (since the most-polluting plants are often used during peak electricity times). The stored chilled water can then be used during the daytime when needed, lowering the burden on the power grid during peak times and potentially reducing fossil fuel emissions and saving money.

A house that produces energy

The HouseZero team at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) renovated a pre-1940s house into a first-of-its-kind test case to demonstrate unprecedented levels of building efficiency by producing more energy than it consumes. House Zero rendering

Now the headquarters of the Harvard Graduate School of Design's Center for Green Buildings and Cities, House Zero aims to prove that ultra-efficient retrofits can, indeed, be achieved and replicated. 

Campus Operations

We pilot and then institutionalize best practices in sustainable operations that conserve resources, reduce pollution, and enhance personal well-being.

Harvard has more LEED certified buildings (134) than any other higher education institution, including the first LEED Commercial Interiors (CI) v4 in Massachusetts.  “The fact that the institution pursues and embraces LEED demonstrates their commitment to sustainability in all of their endeavors," said Rick Fredrizzi, founder of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).

HARVARD KENNEDY SCHOOL (HKS) students and the facilities team worked with Environmental Health and Safety to develop the innovative HKS Food Network pilot, a voluntary program that aims to REDUCE LEFTOVER FOOD after catered events by offering it to the HKS community in a safe, coordinated way. The pilot has already SAVED HUNDREDS OF POUNDS OF FOOD.


Harvard University IT (HUIT) Information Security worked with others to host several free SECURE AND SUSTAINABLE ELECTRONICS RECYCLING events, collecting over 9,000 POUNDS of personal and institutional electronics. Securely and sustainably recycling and/or disposing of electronic waste is a major priority in the Harvard SUSTAINABLE IT STANDARDS


85% of Cambridge/Allston commuters and 81% of Longwood commuters use SUSTAINABLE TRANSPORTATION options to get to work.

Harvard employees have access to a bicycle commuter benefit or subsidy for transit passes, and the University provides all affiliates with discounted Blue Bikes bike share or Zipcar car sharing memberships. Harvard also supports 13 Blue Bikes stations with 250+ bikes.

Of the 327 vehicles in Harvard's fleet, 93 are fueled with biofuel, 18 are hybrids, and two are 100% electric vehicles. Last year, two five-year-old transit shuttles were retrofitted to include a unique hybrid drive that upgraded the miles per gallon (mpg) from 6.5 mpg to 8.1 mpg, an almost 25% increase in efficiency.

Integrating Bikes in
University Operations

Harvard Parking Services offered parking monitors the opportunity to ride a fleet of bikes instead of driving during their shifts. This voluntary program replaces car trips, while promoting wellness, sustainability and connectivity within the Harvard Community.


Since 2006, Harvard has been working hard to reduce trash pounds-per-capita.

Harvard University Dining Services (HUDS) and Restaurants Associates (at Harvard Business School, Harvard Law School, and Harvard Medical School) donate surplus food to families in need via the local non-profit Food for Free.

we're working on it

The Office for Sustainability is collaborating with researchers to develop Sustainable Cleaning Standards which will apply to internal and external cleaning service providers. The focus will be on health and environment.

in progress

Together with Harvard Strategic Procurement, the Office for Sustainability developed a set of sustainability-related questions for vendors, which have a focus on commitments to climate and health. These are being added to requests for proposals for major contracts. 



WATER USE is down 24% from FY06, or 170,000,000 gallons—enough to fill BLODGETT POOL (capacity=750,000 gallons) 227 TIMES.

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS), focusing on enhancing health in their buildings, completed a pilot installation and analysis of enVerid. The system cleaned CO2 and other contaminants from the ventilation system air and reduced heating and cooling needs by 13% in the pilot building.

Protecting cyclists and pedestrians

Harvard became the first university on the east coast, and the second in the country, to install side guards on all of its large trucks in an effort to improve pedestrian and cyclist safety. This was coordinated closely with the Volpe National Transportation Center. In 2018, Harvard University received the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce Visionary Award for this work.

The truck-safety initiative applies not only to vehicles owned by the University, but extends to trucks operated by major vendors as well. 

Nature and Ecosystems

Harvard is committed to protecting and enhancing the ecosystems and landscapes our University owns, manages, or impacts, in order to enhance regional biodiversity and personal well-being.

14 vegetated green roofs across campus help to promote biodiversity, prevent stormwater runoff, and reduce building energy consumption. They are located at Harvard Business School (HBS), Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), Harvard Medical School (HMS), Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD), Harvard Law School (HLS), and Harvard University Housing (HUH) properties.


Research on the bionic leaf is helping prepare the planet to meet increasing food demands of a rising population. Harvard scientists are looking at how to increase crop yields through enriching the soil with fertilizer made with sustainably grown microbes instead of petroleum, and the Campus Sustainability Innovation Fund (CSIF) provided the opportunity for these scientists to work directly with Harvard’s Landscape Maintenance team.

Hemlock Hospice, a year-long exhibit in the Harvard Forest, blends science, art, and design to examine the dying eastern hemlock and its role as a foundational forest species. Artist-in-residence David Buckley Borden is collaborating with Harvard scientists to engage students and visitors alike in conversations about climate change and our forests.  

Hemlock Hospice, Harvard Forest

As part of the Arnold Arboretum’s Campaign for the Living Collections, staff members went on a trip to Arkansas and Oklahoma to collect the seeds of important native species. This expedition was one of four Arnold Arboretum seed collecting expeditions in the US in 2018.

Harvard Business School (HBS) implemented a tree inventory and maintenance program called Arborscope.  The program is used to track general tree health and all tree care (including pruning and introducing beneficial insects to treat pests). Tracking tree health alongside the work history allows for a more proactive approach to tree care and provides useful benchmarking.

Increased access to daylight and nature are a feature of the newly renovated Richard A. and Susan F. Smith Campus Center. The center includes an open-air vitrine garden and green walls with 12,000 plants that are watered by rain collected from the roof.

Tackling climate change in the classroom and beyond

The Climate Solutions Living Lab is a multi-disciplinary course launched in 2017 that immerses teams of graduate students in semester-long, hands-on research to design feasible, practical, scalable projects that help orgainzations achieve zero fossil fuel use

One of the student project teams visited Alaska and developed a plan to reduce emissions, improve economic stability, and preserve 150,000 acres of forest owned by a native village.

Health and Well-Being

The vitality of our University depends on the health of our people. We're working to enhance the health, productivity, and quality of life of our students, faculty, and staff through the design and maintenance of the built environment and the creation of cutting-edge well-being programs.

living lab

Healthier Building
Materials Academy

Harvard is translating research into practice to transform the marketplace for healthier buildings and materials.  Since 2016, the Office for Sustainability, in partnership with public health, medical, and engineering faculty, has transformed over 30 major capital projects, representing 3 million square feet on campus. 

Harvard’s innovative approach, grounded in the latest science, has driven change by partnering with hundreds of manufacturers to provide ingredients (what chemicals are in the products we are buying?) and then removing chemical classes of concern—not just for Harvard, but for the benefit of other buyers.

The Richard A. and Susan F. Smith Campus Center, opened in Fall 2018, is a model for how the design of indoor spaces can strengthen community well-being. It showcases green walls, glass facades to maximize natural light, and food vendors that offer healthier options and plant-based menus.

As the Harvard Healthier Building Materials Academy flagship pilot project, 3,000 pieces of furniture as well as the carpet, paint, and other finishes avoided specific chemical classes of concern. For 75% of furniture manufacturers, it was the first time achieving this criteria.


multi-disciplinary faculty committee, together with the Office for Sustainability, the Council of Student Sustainability Leaders, and experts in the field, developed and launched Harvard's innovative Sustainable and Healthful Food Standards. Grounded in science, the standards were informed by Menus of Change, the Good Food Purchasing Program, and the EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, and Health. They are designed to measurably increase access for students, faculty, staff, and visitors to sustainable and healthful food offerings. In addition, they aim to reduce wasted food, enhance food literacy, and to optimize the impacts of food choices on people, animals, and the planet.



Inspired by the newly launched Sustainable Healthful Food Standards, Harvard Business School (HBS), in partnership with Restaurant Associates, has committed to switch from conventional eggs to higher welfare eggs, at no increased cost to diners or to the institution. As a result, HBS has qualified for Farm Forward’s Leadership Circle. Members of the Leadership Circle leverage their buying power to promote higher welfare farming practices and to support farmers who are third-party certified for animal-welfare standards.

Learn more

The Office for Sustainability teamed up with students, faculty, and staff to develop resources to improve how we eat and plan meetings/events on-campus – all aligned with the Sustainable and Healthful Food Standards. Some of these resources include a Plant-based Eating Guide for undergraduate students and a Sustainable Meeting and Event Guide that provides tips and curated menus. 


Nine out of twelve Schools at Harvard—plus Harvard Yard, North Yard, and the entire Harvard University Housing portfolio—are smoke- or tobacco-free.



Learn more

Harvard Business School’s Klarman Hall was the second Healthier Building Materials Academy pilot project at the University. The Office for Sustainability engaged with manufacturers and worked with Harvard Business School to ensure the furniture, carpet, and many other building materials—including those used within the 1,000 seat auditoriumdo not contain specific chemical classes of concern. Klarman also achieved LEED Materials-related credits, including those for ingredient transparency, health product declarations, and low-emitting VOC materials.

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) Office of Physical Resources & Planning and Harvard Environmental Health & Safety developed the Lab Inhalation Risk Assessment (LIRA) pilot program to quantify inhalation exposure in labs. The result is improved safety and energy savings through reduced ventilation needs.


Our students are finding solutions

Seven research projects in the sciences, social sciences, and humanities will share about $1 million in the fifth round of grants awarded by the Climate Change Solutions Fund (CCSF), an initiative encouraging multidisciplinary research projects that seek creative solutions to climate change.

To date, 40+ CCSF projects have received more than $5 million. They have ranged across a wide range of topics, including the creation of a new electrochemical method of capturing carbon dioxide to reduce overall levels in the atmosphere, technological advances to lower the cost of solar energy, partnering with local government agencies to address air pollution in India, modeling local economic impacts of extreme weather events, and targeting the emissions associated with food waste.

Culture and Learning

We are using our campus as a living lab to translate research into practice to solve global sustainability challenges. We're working to strengthen a "One Harvard" culture across our Schools and departments that embraces sustainability as an integral part of our academic work, our institutional practices, and our daily lives. 

living lab

A donor-funded $700,000 Campus Sustainability Innovation Fund was established in 2016 to encourage teams of students, faculty, and staff to test new technologies and ideas on campus to solve global sustainability challenges. To date, twelve projects, spanning six Schools, are funded and underway, and more projects will be announced in 2019. 

Read more

Seven multidisciplinary projects received support in the fifth round of grants awarded by the Climate Change Solutions Fund. In total, 40+ projects have received $5 million since 2014.

Seeded with funding from the Office for Sustainability Student Grant ProgramHarvard launched a Climate Leaders Program for Professional Students to help interested students engage across the University around the topic of climate change. This student-led, faculty-advised program was developed in partnership with the Harvard University Center for the Environment.

Learn more.

In 2018, several new sustainability groups formed on campus, including the Harvard Undergraduates for Environmental Justice (HUEJ) and the Safe Technologies, Environments, And Processes (STEP) Taskforce at the Graduate School of Design (GSD).



partnering for change

Harvard has chaired the Boston Green Ribbon Commission Higher Education Working Group for the past 10 years, and led the development of reports on lab energy use benchmarking and renewable energy impacts and claims guidance.

Learn more about the group's accomplishments over the past few years here.

Partnering for change

Harvard is the Vice-Chair of the Executive Committee for the Cambridge Compact for a Sustainable Future and leads the Net Zero Lab Working Group, which is determining best practices on energy management for labs. Explore the annual report.

A collection of art and poetry titled “Weathering Change” was put together to answer the question “What am I supposed to do now?” The anthology comprises original work from students, faculty, staff, and alumni - including original works by Writer-in-Residence Terry Tempest Williams and Harvard College undergrad Amanda Gorman,  the first-ever U.S. Youth Poet Laurete.

“Warming Warning,” a collaborative public art project, was put on display in Harvard’s Science Center Plaza in 2018. The project communicated global climate data and prompted conversation about climate change action.

A smaller version is on display as part of the Cambridge Arts Council’s climate change art exhibit, “Untold Possibilities at the Last Minute” through October 2019.

Students from the Climate Solutions Living Lab course are working on a project to improve Puerto Rico’s damaged electricity grid. After winning funding from the Puerto Rico Big Ideas Challenge, a community group will be implementing the plan from Harvard students that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 115,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually in Puerto Rico.

A new concentration in environmental science and engineering was established for students in the fall of 2018.

This concentration will leave students with knowledge of the Earth’s systems and how to tackle an engineering design project.


The Harvard College Women’s Center made a commitment to environmental justice aligned with the Harvard Sustainability Plan since environmental changes and climate events have an impact on gender equality. They are making important changes to their own office, sharing their commitment with others, and holding institutions accountable in their efforts to advocate for equitable protection and participation of vulnerable populations.


Gina McCarthy, former U.S. EPA Administrator, launched the Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment (C-CHANGE) at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. 

By making climate change personal, highlighting solutions, and emphasizing the important role we all play in driving change, Harvard C-CHANGE puts health outcomes at the center of climate actions.

Read More

Harvard Medical School and all affiliated hospitals and clinical institutes signed a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This is part of the Decarbonizing Healthcare, an initiative led by Harvard Global Health Institute (HGHI) to help hospitals commit to reducing their carbon footprint.

Read More

“This is an important and very concrete outcome of our work on climate change and health,” says Ashish Jha, HGHI’s faculty director. “Harvard University has made enormous gains in reducing our carbon footprint. Our hospitals are now doing the same. We are hoping that similar commitments will be made nationwide and to do so we must lead by example. The gravest impact of climate change will be on human health, so there is no better place to begin than our hospitals and clinics.”

"Climate change poses an immediate and concrete test of whether we, as members of a university and responsible inhabitants of our planet, will fulfill a sacred obligation: to enable future generations to enjoy, as we are privileged to enjoy, the wonders of life on Earth.”

Lawrence S. Bacow, President, Harvard University

Annual Snapshots

The 2018 Harvard Sustainability Report was produced by the Harvard Office for Sustainability to update our community on the University's progress toward meeting the goals, standards, and commitments as described in the University's Sustainability Plan. Data is collected from individual Schools and departments, and aggregated and analyzed by OFS. 

This report is not intended to be an integrated sustainability report covering the full range of Harvard's socio-economic data as collecting such data across our decentralized organization would be cost and resource prohibitive. The Harvard Management Company reports on the University's endowment. Harvard Financial Administration posts the Annual Financial Report. The Chief Diversity Officer reports on institutional diversity and equity. The Harvard Fact Book presents a wide range of data regarding the University's organization, people, and resources.

Harvard students help in food donation

Since 2014 Harvard University has been teaming up with local non-profit, Food for Free on a food recovery and donation program. This past summer Harvard took it one step further, and launched the Family Meals initiative, where students package individual meals, which Food for Free is then able to donate to families in need.


Our Journey