We are a living lab

Explore the 2019 Harvard Sustainability Report detailing our transformation to a healthier, fossil fuel-free community.

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 for 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, 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.

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 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.

MTCDE = Metric Tons of Carbon Dioxide Equivalent

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

2019 complete data is not available yet.

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. 

2019 complete data is not available yet.

ON-SITE SOLAR PHOTOVOLTAIC (PV), combined with SOLAR THERMAL AND GEOTHERMAL INSTALLATIONS, serve as an important test ground to inform future action. Harvard has installed 2.08 MW of on-site solar on our campus. We sell the environmental benefit to our local utility to increase the amount of renewable energy in the regional electric grid, which allows the state to meet its renewable energy target.

The Arnold Arboretum completed the 1.2-acre Weld Hill Solar Project, adding 1,152 ground-mounted solar panels and a 145-panel awning to the 148 year old living museum. The facility can generate up to more than 500,000 kWh annually, or 30% of the energy needed to support teaching and learning at the Weld Hill Research Building. 

The Harvard University Housing solar array at Soldiers Field Park and One Western Avenue expanded by 100 kW in 2019, with plans to grow to more than 400 kWs. The panels produced over 57,000 kWh of energy last year, reducing 10% of energy use.

Harvard signed on to the World Resources Institute/United Nations Cool Food Pledge, committing to do our part to slash food-related greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2030 and to study with other organizations and cities how to rapidly decrease emissions from food waste.

People across the Harvard community, from vendors to students, to faculty and staff, have been finding innovative ways to pilot solutions to meet the goal which aligns with Harvard’s Sustainable and Healthful Food Standards.

Read about how Harvard cut food-related greenhouse gas emissions.

Members of the Harvard community doubled the number of Bluebikes trips they took in 2019 compared to 2018. 1,037 Harvard Bluebikes members travelled 122,559 miles using the bikes last year - equivalent to 4.9 trips around the globe

Harvard affiliates are eligible for a discounted Bluebikes membership through our CommuterChoice Program.

Learn more about the Bluebikes Share Program.

 

A two-year renovation to Lowell House preserved historical character and added 21st-century upgrades including a Dynamic Energy Suite designed by faculty and students - six bedrooms that use technology, and encourage behavior change, to monitor real-time power consumption and adjust lighting use for energy efficiency. Lowell House was a flagship Harvard's Healthier Building Materials Academy project targeting healthier interior materials like furniture and flooring without chemicals of concern like chemical flame retardants and PFAS (stain and water repellants). The pilot program is designed to encourage more sustainable living habits and improve well-being.

Read Harvard Pilots Space-Age Technology and Healthier Materials in New Lowell Suite.

Photo by Crimson Staff Writer Shera S. Avi-Yonah

We are working to improve safety and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in labs across campus.

Labs continue to be the largest drivers of greenhouse gas emissions at Harvard, making up 50% of the campus’ energy use while occupying on 23% of the square footage. Together, Harvard Faculty of Arts and SciencesEnvironmental Health & Safety, and Energy & Facilities created the Lab Inhalation Risk Assessment (LIRA), to right-size laboratory ventilation using equipment that measures and analyzes chemical exposure. 

With this information, Harvard developed the Laboratory Ventilation Management Plan (LVMP), which saves energy through optimizing air change rates and keeping researchers safe during hazardous experiments. Despite already being a LEED Platinum building, Faculty of Arts and Sciences Sherman Fairchild Laboratory saw a significant reduction in energy consumption in 2019.

A house that produces energy

The HouseZero team at the Harvard Graduate School of Design 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 consumesand acting as a living lab for data collection and analysis with millions of data points.

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

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. We are also focused on the health and well-being of the communities upstream where building materials and products are created.

Living Lab Healthier Building 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 40 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 building material ingredients, the chemicals that 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 and for communities upstream where materials are created.

Harvard University Housing has adopted healthier materials requirements into their turn season purchasing with paint, carpet, window treatment, and furniture compliant products.

Harvard Business School and Harvard Kennedy School have operational material standards to address chemicals of concern in frequently purchased interior products.

The Harvard Medical School Countway Medical Library renovations became the first Longwood-based pilot project in the Harvard Healthier Building Academy. The Office for Sustainability worked with Harvard Medical School, architects, and the construction team and engaged with manufacturers to ensure the furniture, carpet, and many other building materials do not contain specific chemical classes of concern.

The Office for Sustainability continues to share and promote resources to improve how we eat and plan events on-campus - all created in partnership with students, faculty, and staff.

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. 

Learn more about how Harvard is committed to a just food system that enhances well-being and contributes to the long-term health of the planet.

  

Harvard Business School committed to buy 100% of their eggs from a higher-welfare source with help from the Farm Forward Leadership Circle. Farm Forward is a non-profit that helps organizations evaluate their supply chain and switch to suppliers that have higher animal welfare standards.

Learn more about Harvard Business School leverages food buying power to promote higher-welfare farms.

 

Harvard Kennedy School partnered with Brookford Farm, a local, woman-owned, 600-acre diversified farm, to bring organic vegetables to campus. Since summer 2019, more than 100 farm share members have benefited from these fresh and in-season veggies

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 about how the vitality of our University depends on the health of our people. 

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.

Campus Operations

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

Harvard has more LEED certified buildings (136) 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.

The Harvard Graduate School of Education Gutman Conference Center achieved LEED Gold certification. Renovations to the interior focused on building material health transparency and selections to address toxic chemicals added to everday materials and products, reduced water consumption by over 40%, and reduced lighting power by 55%. Over 75% of the waste from construction was diverted from landfills. Read more about the Gutman Conference Center Renovations.

Harvard University Information Technology made the transition to Zoom in the fall of 2019, a virtual meeting tool that has reduced GHG emissions from local, national, and international travel.

In 2019, the service connected 260,000 people in 60,000 meetings across 172 different countries around the world, no plane tickets needed. 

Harvard University Information Technology rolled out Crimson Print across the University. The service has reduced CO2 emmisions by 4,558 kg, reduced paper and ink waste, and is a secure and convenient way to print across campus. 

Want to reduce your paper use? Learn how with detailed instructions from the Office for Sustainability.

In 2019, 85% of Harvard Cambridge/Allston commuters and 81% of Harvard Longwood commuters use sustainable transportation options to get to work. Of those that commute, 38% take public transit, 24% walk, 15% bike, 5% telecommute, and 3% carpool.

Learn more about how students, faculty, and staff are setting examples for health and wellness and taking steps toward meeting our fossil fuel goals by commuting sustainably. 

The Harvard Shuttle helped alleviate car traffic by making over 657,000 trips across routes in Cambridge and Allston.

In 2019, passengers were able to take advantage of real-time tracking and other information via the TransLoc mobile app.

The Harvard Evening Van, an on-demand service that runs from 7:30 pm to 2:00 am, saw ridership grow 67% in 2019, alleviating traffic from rideshare services.

 

The University has continued to expand cycling infrastructure and services.

There were 8 biking events held in 2019 that focused on supporting, educating, and celebrating our community. The University also sold over 600 discounted helmets and nearly 500 sets of bike lights, aimed at keeping commuters safe. Cyclists have access to over 7,000 bike parking spaces across Harvard's campus, an increase of 10% in 5 years.

Harvard also offered faculty and staff up to $360 in reimbursements for biking expenses last year, a 50% increase from 2018.

Harvard expanded resources for electric vehicles, with 54 charging stations spread across 12 locations in Cambridge and Allston, servicing 98 electric vehicle parking permits across campus.

These mark a 20% increase in the amount of stations and permits from 2018. 

Learn how to charge your electric vehicle on campus.

 

 

Employees who ride together receive a 50%-75% discount on their annual parking and 4 free parking permits per month when they drive separately. 5% of Harvard employees carpool to work every day. There are 444 employees in 218 pools.

Harvard also offers discounted Zipcar memberships, and for $15 for students and $25 for staff, the community can access 43 Zipcars on the Harvard campus and hundreds throughout Greater Boston. 

You can find carpools with other Harvard affiliates here.

Harvard continues to transition to hybrid vehicles and cleaner fuel sources.

Harvard Transit was awarded a Clean Vehicle Program grant in August of 2019 to retrofit two transit vans with Hybrid XL drive systems. Governor Charlie Baker thanked Harvard for our "commitment to improving access to clean and efficient fuel transportation necessary for the Commonwealth’s emissions reduction goals." In 2019 Harvard Transit upgraded two additional vans with Hybrid XL drive systems.

30% of Harvard Mail & Delivery Services vehicles are equipped with XL Hybrid technology that provides a 25% MPG improvement on average and a 20% CO2 reduction. 

Harvard Transportation & Parking Services employed their first Hyundia Kona Electric Vehicle in September 2019. This 100% electric vehicle will be used by parking monitors throughout the campus garages and lots. 

Fleet Management has supplied Harvard’s 80 + diesel fleet vehicles with over 1.2 million gallons of B20 Biodiesel since 2004. In September 2019, Harvard's 15-year-old dispenser was upgraded with improved user interface, faster gallons per minute, and improved reporting on fuel usage.

Since 2006, Harvard has been working to reduce trash pounds-per-capita. Measured in pounds-per-capita, the amount of trash produced was down 32% from baseline with total discards down 22% from baseline in 2020.

we're working on it

The Office for Sustainability collaborated with researchers and our cleaning suppliers to develop Sustainable Cleaning Standards, which will apply to internal and external cleaning service providers. The focus is on health and environment and will be released after being reviewed against new COVID-19 guidance.

Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences received a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources in January 2019 to further pilot EnVerid technology. EnVerid saves energy by filtering the air inside of buildings instead of bringing in outside air, which reduces heating and cooling needs.

Harvard’s piloted this technology in the Center for Government and International Studies. After an intensive study of operations, EnVerid has been shown to reduce HVAC related energy use by 13%. The grant will allow Harvard to install this system in 3-5 buildings on campus, with DOER covering 50% of the installation costs.

WATER USE IS DOWN 11% from 2006, or 76,000,000 gallons—enough to fill BLODGETT POOL (capacity = 750,000 gallons) 101 TIMES.

1,500 units of Harvard University Housing received full water retrofits - new low-flow fixtures in bathrooms and kitchens that will reduce water usage by 40-60% in each unit

2019 shows an increase in Harvard’s water usage. This is not a systemic trend, but rather an anomaly due to a known infrastructure break that has been addressed. We expect to see a return to more normal levels in 2020.

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, Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard Medical School, Harvard Graduate School of Design, Harvard Law School, and Harvard University Housing properties.

 

 

 

Research on the bionic leaf is helping prepare the planet to meet increasing food demands of a rising population. Professor Dan Nocera's is looking at how to increase crop yields through enriching the soil with fertilizer made with sustainably grown microbes instead of petroleum.

The Office for Sustainability Campus Sustainability Innovation Fund in 2017-2019 and the Presidents Administative Innovation Fund in 2019 provided the opportunity for these scientists to work directly with Harvard Landscape Maintenance.

Our Sustainability Grant Program funds creative student projects that use the campus as a living lab to solve challenges and create a more sustainable community. Thirteen grants were awarded to student projects in 2019. 

The Harvard NATURE Program created environmental science curricula and facilitated hands-on lessons for K-8 students.

The student-led conference, Designing the Green New Deal, advanced the growing conversation surrounding the Green New Deal with students, leading activists, academics, and practitioners.

Launched on Earth Day, Narratives of the Climate Crisis collected and shared stories from people at Harvard whose lives have been impacted by climate change.

The Harvard Undergraduate Clean Energy Group educated students about problems and possibilities of a global transition to renewable energy sources through a variety of guest speaker events and online newsletters to highlight emerging energy technologies.

The Harvard Graduate School of Design beekeeping club, GSBees, expanded their work beyond the apiaries to host innovative workshops educating the community and promoting cross-school connections.

Trayless Tuesdays raised awareness within the undergraduate student body about food waste in the dining halls.

The Mather House Community Garden was created to foster a community conversation about how our food choices can impact both our bodies and the planet.

Read about all of our 2019 student sustainability grantees here.

Harvard has grown its indoor nature program by increasing plants and trees, adding organic elements like wood and stone, and constructing living walls in buildings across on campus. These indoor landscapes help to purify the air while improving the emotional well-being of visitors. Research has demonstrated a link between access to nature and cognitive, psychological, and physiological improvements on health, including alertness, attention and concentration; stress and anxiety management; greater energy, productivity, and creativity; and enhanced mood.

Harvard Kennedy School installed 5 pieces of nature-inspired art and has given away more than 450 plants in the past three years.

This year, Harvard Graduate School of Education distributed more than 320 plants to brighten the homes and offices of students, faculty, and staff.

Students bring rain gardens to campus as a beautiful, sustainable way to improve water quality and prevent flooding of walkways. Rain gardens not only alleviate stress on storm drains, but also promote native flora, contribute to water conservation, and absorb harmful chemicals on pathways in an inexpensive and low maintenance way.

The rain gardens were designed and built with funding from the Office for Sustainability and the Harvard Council on Business and the Environment. Students worked in partnership with the Office of Physical Resources & Planning, the First-Year Experience Office, and Harvard Landscaping Services as part of the Green Think Initiative. The gardens were installed in the Leverett House and Mather House courtyards as part of a pilot in June 2019.

 

Tackling climate change in the classroom and beyond

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

Students from the Climate Solutions Living Lab Course worked on projects this year to create an innovative, university-based investment initiative for accelerating climate and health projects, a pilot program to assist farmers in reducing emissions while improving soil health and water quality, and a comprehensive climate action plan for Harvard University Athletics tailored to their unique impacts.

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, seventeen projects, spanning seven Schools, are funded and underway.

Read more about how Harvard student projects are turning our campus into living lab.

The Harvard College Women’s Center made a commitment to environmental justice aligned with the Harvard University Sustainability Plan since environmental changes and climate events have a significant 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.

Students from the Office for Sustainability Resource Efficiency Program created a sustainability-themed escape room to teach their fellow students simple steps they can take to mitigate climate change.

In the game, participants were “trapped” inside a room from which they could only “escape” by completing a series of challenges. Participants had 25 minutes to solve puzzles embedded with sustainability lessons on topics such as recycling, waste management, fridge defrosting, and phantom energy waste.

Read more about the green escape.

Harvard Green Teams work together to improve our campus, our community, and our planet.

The Harvard Longwood Campus reopened a Reuse Room, managed and staffed by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health Green Team, EcoOpportunity. The room is open weekly and accepts a variety of item from laboratories, offices, and even home goods that can be reused by students, faculty, and staff on and off campus.

Harvard School of Dental Medicine established its first green team this year with the energetic leadership of several students, faculty, and staff.

Interested in starting your own Green Team at Harvard? Get started here.

Local artists explored the state of climate change in an exhibition, “Untold Possibilities at the Last Minute,” at the Gallery 344 in Cambridge from May 20 to October 4, 2019. 

“Untold Possibilities at the Last Minute” presented local artists working to spread the message of what is coming, adaptions we can make now to reduce climate change, and how we can prepare for a warmer future.

The exhibition is a collaboration of Cambridge Arts, Cambridge Community Development Department, and the Harvard Office for Sustainability.

Learn more at untoldpossibilities.org.

Harvard Business School hosted the first-ever Food and Agriculture Conference, on November 3, 2019. The day assembled experts from academia and agriculture to discuss food access issues facing the US and solutions that could help the industry acclimate to a growing population in need of access to a healthy diet. 

What will the global food system look like in 2050? Find out here.

 

 

 

Currently, Harvard has 213 RECOGNIZED GREEN OFFICES.

In 2019, the Harvard Center for Hellenic Studies in Greece became the first international office to participate in the Harvard Green Office Program. 

Learn more about the Green Office program here.

 

Partnering for Change

Harvard has chaired the Boston Green Ribbon Commission Higher Education Working Group for nearly a decade. In 2019, Harvard recommended and helped lead a stakeholder process to develop a Higher Education Working Group Strategic Plan, the first of any GRC Working Group.

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.

 

 

The Harvard Advanced Leadership Initiative hosted the 2019 Climate Change Deep Dive, a two-day event that brought together experts from across the University for an in-depth discussion on the complexities and opportunities surrounding global climate change.

Fellows learned from scholars in the natural sciences, social sciences, humanities, and law. They also analyzed case studies of particular organizations whose strategies are affected by climate change and whose behaviors can affect the climate.

Read the full 2019 Climate Change Deep Dive Report to learn more.

To give editors and reporters tools to identify new stories, use health as a frame, and focus on solutions, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health created strategic partnerships with media organizations to build original programming and participate in events.

The School provided customized trainings for Report for America, the Association of Healthcare Journalists, the Kavli Science Editing Workshop, the MIT Knight Science Journalism, and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and hosted a 3-day intensive Covering Climate Change workshop with support from the MacArthur and Nieman Foundations.

Watch sessions from the Covering Climate Change workshop.

The Harvard C-CHANGE partnered with the Environmental Media Association to integrate climate themes into movies, TV series, shareable content, and other media so that climate challenges and solutions become part of everyday conversations. The collaboration is working to educate the Hollywood community and help show runners, producers, writers, and influencers integrate action-oriented climate imagery and messaging into productions. 

Read about how the T.H. Chan School of Public Health is working with the Entertainment Industry.

This year, Harvard C-CHANGE launched Climate MD, a resource to prepare current and future medical professionals for how climate change alters diseases, affects the risk profile of the medications, disrupts the availability of essential supplies and medicines, and impacts the medical community's ability to deliver care to patients around the world.

Learn more about how climate change matters to doctors.

"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 2019 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 Dining Services and Restaurants Associates (at Harvard Business School, Harvard Law School, and Harvard Medical School) have 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