Acting on science

Explore the 2016 Harvard Sustainability Report detailing how we’re creating a healthier, low-carbon community.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions


30% Reduction, including growth

Our Goal

30% Reduction by 2016

Waste Per Capita

Our Progress

43% Reduction as of FY16

Our Goal

50% Reduction by 2020

Water Use

Our Progress

24% Reduction as of FY16

Our Goal

30% Reduction by 2020


Our Progress

60% Organic as of FY16

Our Goal

75% Organic by 2020

Emissions and Energy

The challenge of climate change demands a bold response and clear action from organizations and individuals. Harvard is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by the maximum practicable rate with solutions that improve building efficiency, clean our energy supply, and promote renewable energy.

In 2016, Harvard met the ambitious goal it set in 2008 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 30% from a 2006 baseline. The target was science-based, stemming from what climate scientists said was necessary to avoid two degrees Celsius of warming, instead of what was achievable through on-campus reductions alone.

Students, staff, and faculty at every level of the University embraced the challenge of meeting the climate goal. 

97% of Harvard's emissions are from building electricity use, heating, and cooling. Vehicle fleet and refrigerant losses account for the remaining 3%.


Residential spaces account for nearly 32% 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.


Changes to energy supply and demand, including the decarbonization of the regional electric grid, resulted in a 24% absolute reduction in emissions.

This progress was achieved despite the addition of more than three million square feet of space. Purchased electricity from local renewable energy sources fulfilled the remaining 6% reduction needed to meet the goal.

In total, 85,244 MTCDE was reduced, equal to taking 18,006 cars off the road.

Baseline = FY2006 buildings (excludes growth); Growth = All buildings (includes growth)
Reflects Scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions for North American properties by Fiscal Year. MTCDE = Metric Tons of Carbon Dioxide Equivalent.
Hover over points to see totals.

Projects undertaken to improve the efficiency and performance of the on-site steam and chilled water facilities account for the largest portion of on-site emissions reduction, equal to 20,500 MTCDE or taking 4,300 cars off the road.

More than 1.2 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.

Net energy use across campus was reduced by 10% from 2006–2016. Excluding growth, energy use dropped 23%. Energy use is highly variable from year-to-year depending on weather conditions (hot summers increase demand for cooling while cold winters increase heating demand).

Baseline = FY2006 buildings (excludes growth); Growth = All buildings (includes growth)
bBTU = Billion British Thermal Units
Hover over points to see totals.

1,600 energy conservation measures were implemented as part of an energy-efficiency-first strategy. $48 million spent on projects FY06-16, with estimated $17 million in annual savings. 

Excluding the impacts of growth, the top four highest overall energy using space types saw significant reduction in energy use of between 15 to 20% from FY06-FY16.

Using criteria provided by a faculty-led advisory group, Harvard identified a mix of off-site emissions reduction options that could be pursued as a short-term strategy for meeting the University's climate goal. Ultimately, RECs from the Stetson II wind project in Maine were retired and existing hydro was purchased in order to complement energy supply and demand reductions.

A PILOT PROGRAM is underway to track and make preliminary estimates for the MOST RELEVANT AND IMPACTFUL SCOPE 3 areas, including air travel and commuting. The relative scope of these categories is shown next to Scope 1 and 2 for context.

In Progress

A faculty, student, and staff Climate Change Task Force is expected to issue a report to President Faust later this year detailing their recommendations on Harvard’s future climate goals and commitments.

A campus-wide renewable energy analysis and energy use by building space type study were performed to inform the development of future emissions reduction goals.

Partnering for Change

In 2016, Harvard's emissions inventory was third-party verified and received Climate Registered™ status. The University also joined the Business Renewables Center to work with industry leaders in acting on innovative emissions reduction strategy.

Campus Operations

Can a campus be regenerative? We think so. We pilot and then institutionalize best practices in sustainable operations that conserve resources, reduce pollution, and enhance personal well-being.

Harvard has 115 LEED certified building projects, more than any other higher education institution in the world according to the U.S. Green Building Council.

“The fact that the institution pursues and embraces LEED demonstrates their commitment to sustainability in all of their endeavors." - Rick Fredrizzi, CEO and founder of USGBC

LEED Case Studies


Water use is down 24% from FY06, or 171,000,000 gallons—enough to fill Blodgett Pool (capacity=750,000 gallons) 228 times.


Since 2006, overall trash per capita was reduced by 43%. All discards (trash, compost, recycle) dropped by 35%. HUDS and HBS donate surplus food to families in need via the local non-profit Food for Free.

we're working on it

Climate resiliency planning has been integrated into several major capital projects on campus, mostly notably in Allston. Climate Resiliency and Preparedness Standards have not been finalized as they require close coordination with local and regional studies which were completed in 2016.


Certified green cleaning is implemented on 14 million square feet of campus, equal to 32
Widener Libraries.

86% of Cambridge/Allston commuters, and 82% of Longwood commuters use Harvard-subsidized 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 Hubway bike share and Zipcar car sharing memberships. Harvard also supports 12 Hubway stations.


Check and uncheck boxes to explore percentage of commuters by type in Cambridge/Allston.

Learn More

Harvard was named a Gold-level Bicycle Friendly University in 2014, and remains committed to making the campus safer for cyclists. There are 6,300+ bike parking spaces on campus and 9 bike repair stations. In late fall 2016, Cambridge installed a pilot protected bike lane on Mass Ave adjacent to the HLS campus.

we're working on it

Harvard has joined NAFA and applied for Sustainable Fleet Accreditation. The Harvard fleet includes 15 hybrid electric vehicles, two 100% electric vehicles, and 97 shuttle buses fueled with B20 or higher biofuel. A policy has been developed to ensure future vehicle purchases and leases are hybrid, electric, or otherwise the least GHG-intensive option available, subject to continued cost/benefit and environmental analysis.

In progress

Green IT Standards are being developed by the Green-IT Working Group, and will be finalized by the end of 2017. A University-wide contract was signed with RICOH, including sustainable attributes for equipment and a managed print strategy to reduce resource consumption. Harvard has deepened its commitment to sustainably and securely disposing and recycling its electronic waste.


we're working on it

Together with Harvard Strategic Procurement, the Office for Sustainability is developing a corporate reporting framework for our major vendors, which will include third-party certifications and a focus on commitments related to climate and health.


Nature and Ecosystems

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

10 vegetated green roofs across campus—on HBS, HLS, and Harvard University Housing properties—help to promote biodiversity, prevent stormwater runoff, and reduce building energy consumption.

400 pounds of daikon radishes were harvested from the green roof atop HBS's McCollum Center and McArthur Hall.

living lab

The Re(Design) Innovation Challenge, funded by the Office for Sustainability's Campus Sustainability Innovation Fund, asked the Harvard student community to reimagine the Countway Community Garden at the Longwood Medical Campus and create a space that fosters health, sustainability, and knowledge generation.


Read student perspective piece

in progress

Landscape services launched a pilot program to replace fuel-powered landscaping equipment with battery-powered leaf blowers, grass trimmers, and tree pruners to reduce noise and air pollution.


The Harvard Forest Summer Research Program funds independent student research focusing on the effects of natural and human disturbances on forest ecosystems, including global climate change, hurricanes, forest harvest, wildlife dynamics, and species diversity.

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.

in progress

The Office for Sustainability is collaborating with faculty and students to create SUSTAINABLE AND HEALTHFUL FOOD STANDARDS using the latest research on nutrition, climate, and well-being. The Standards, which are expected to be released in the coming year, will apply to internal and external food service providers.

Learn more

Supported by an inaugural grant from the President’s Administrative Innovation Fund, the Office for Sustainability has launched a Healthier Building Materials Academy to educate the project management community and spur action.

Partnering for change

Harvard joined the non-profit group Healthy Buildings Network and Google as a founding partner of Portico, a new tool to help simplify the analysis, selection, and specification of building products that meet health and transparency objectives.


living lab

In collaboration with public health and engineering faculty and facilities teams, the Office for Sustainability has partnered with eight capital projects and many smaller projects across four Schools and departments to identify, purchase, and pilot healthier materials as transparency related to chemicals of concern increases.


The Office for Sustainability teamed up with Health Services, the Office of Work/Life, Recreation and Athletics, Common Spaces, and CommuterChoice to begin tracking participation and access to programs focused on enhancing well-being.


Eight Schools—plus Harvard Yard, North Yard, and the entire Harvard University Housing portfolio—are smoke- or tobacco-free.

Learn more

Culture and Learning

We are using our campus as a living lab to develop the next generation of sustainability solutions. 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 $700,000 Campus Sustainability Innovation Fund was established to encourage teams of students, faculty, and staff to test new technologies and strategies on campus to solve global sustainability challenges. To date, five projects are funded and underway.

Read more

Seven multidisciplinary projects received support in the third round of grants from President Faust's $20 million Climate Change Solutions Fund. In total, 24 projects have received funding since 2014.


living lab

Education with an impact: A three-year, multi-disciplinary Climate Solutions Living Lab Course and Research Project kicked off to engage teams of graduate students across Harvard's Schools in studying and designing practical solutions for reducing greenhouse gas emissions locally and globally.

Learn more

The Harvard Global Health Institute welcomed Secretary of State John Kerry to launch a new initiative on global health and climate change, and a Planetary Health Undergraduate Scholars Program was created with support from the Henry David Thoreau Foundation.

Currently, Harvard has 204 recognized Green Offices with more than 3,900 staff members engaged. Green Office certification is valid for two years. 


Check and uncheck boxes to explore offices and people by leaf level.   

Learn More

partnering for change

As Chair of the Boston Green Ribbon Commission Higher Education Working Group, Harvard led the development of reports on lab energy use benchmarking and renewable energy impacts and claims guidance.

Partnering for change

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

30 undergraduate and graduate students meet regularly as part of the Council of Student Sustainability Leaders to provide feedback and recommendations on Harvard's climate, health, and sustainability initiatives. This year they are contributing to the Sustainable and Healthful Food Standards

The Sustainability and Energy Management Council (SEMC), managed by the Office for Sustainability and comprised of senior facility and energy leaders from across Harvard, informs University-wide alignment and implementation of our sustainability goals.

"Universities have a uniquely important role to play in the battle against climate change, and Harvard must continue to be at the forefront of efforts to bring disciplines together, deepen awareness of the issue, and speed progress."

Drew Faust, President, Harvard University

Annual Snapshots

The 2016 Harvard University Sustainability Report was announced via a community-wide letter from Heather Henriksen, Director of the Harvard Office for Sustainability (OFS). The online annual report was designed to update the community on progress toward meeting the goals, standards, and commitments as described in the University's Sustainability Plan. In addition, Harvard participates in the Sierra Club's Cool Schools ranking and Princeton Review's Green College Guide. Data is collected from individual Schools and departments, and aggregated by OFS.

This Report is not intended to be an integrated report covering the full range of Harvard's socio-economic data. 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 Speaks on Climate Change

The Harvard Center for the Environment created this video series to feature faculty working on and discussing the many dimensions of climate change ranging from law, business, public policy, public health, design, science and engineering, and the humanities, and to offer insights to different pathways for the future. LEARN MORE


Our Journey