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Explore the 2021 Harvard Sustainability Report detailing progress toward creating a healthier, fossil fuel-free community.
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Explore the 2021 Harvard Sustainability Report detailing progress toward creating a healthier, fossil fuel-free community.
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.
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.
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 new renewable energy.
IN 2018, HARVARD WAS ONE OF THE FIRST ORGANIZATIONS TO SET A SCIENCE-BASED GOAL to eliminate the use of fossil fuels to heat, cool, and power buildings and vehicles on its campus by 2050. At the same time, the University established a short-term goal to be fossil fuel-neutral by 2026. With this CLIMATE ACTION PLAN, Harvard will UNIQUELY ADDRESS BOTH GREENHOUSE GAS (GHG) EMISSIONS AND HEALTH IMPACTS FROM AIR POLLUTION CAUSED BY FOSSIL FUELS.
Today, the University continues to track GHG emissions against the original 2006 baseline and maintain the 30% REDUCTION ACHIEVED IN ITS FIRST-GENERATION GOAL even while the University square footage has grown 14%. In the graph below, the total height of the green bars represents Harvard’s GHG emissions (281,000 MTCDE in 2006 and down to 196,614 MTCDE in 2021). The yellow bars show emissions that have been neutralized through offsite renewable energy and offset purchases.
Harvard has been focused on energy efficiency in buildings for more than a decade. The University is now focused on monitoring-based commissioning to optimize building performance. The next step is to stop using fossil fuels and make sure that our electricity comes from renewable sources.
Harvard's emissions inventory was one of the first in higher education to be third-party verified by The Climate Registry.
Metric Tons of Carbon Dioxide Equivalent (MTCDE)
Harvard follows The Climate Registry’s General Reporting Protocol for the Voluntary GHG Reporting Program. Harvard’s GHG inventory consists of direct emissions from onsite combustion (Scope 1) and indirect emissions from purchased electricity (Scope 2) sources for North American properties by Fiscal Year. Preparing the GHG inventory is typically a two-year process that begins with compiling University-wide energy use data, reviewing data with Schools and units, and assigning emission factors from electricity suppliers that become available 12-18 months after the close of the year. The 2021 data included is still estimated, subject to change after the final electricity emission factors become available.
In 2021, NET ENERGY USE is down 5% from a 2006 baseline (excluding growth, energy use dropped 20%). Reductions in building energy use from energy efficiency measures offset the impact of growth in square footage.
Reported energy data is not normalized for weather.
The COVID-19 pandemic led to significant operational changes in 2020 and 2021 that impacted the University’s energy use and emissions. De-densification of Harvard’s Campus in March 2020 decreased energy use in some buildings. However, lab buildings, which account for 50% of energy use, were re-opened in June 2020. Additionally, some safety-driven changes in building operations resulted in increased energy use, such as higher building ventilation rates per recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state and local guidance and standards pertinent to COVID-19. These changes impacted the University’s GHG emissions and energy use, altering trends compared to previous years.
The Harvard Presidential Committee on Sustainability (PCS), with its subcommittee advising on Harvard’s strategy to become fossil fuel-neutral by 2026, DEVELOPED A SET OF RECOMMENDATIONS published in September 2021 THAT FORM A ROADMAP TO REACH THIS GOAL.
Harvard tracks and seeks to reduce emissions associated with its supply chain for construction, air travel, commuting, food, and purchased goods and services, also known as Scope 3 emissions.
Harvard was an inaugural signatory of the COOL FOOD PLEDGE in 2019, complementing several initiatives aimed to be fossil fuel-free by 2050. Organizations that sign the Pledge commit, as a group, to slash food-related GHG emissions by 25% by 2030.
SEE WHAT THis INITATIVE IS ACHIEVING.
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 2.992 MW OF ON-SITE SOLAR ON ITS CAMPUS. Harvard sells the environmental benefit to local utility providers to increase the amount of renewable energy in the regional electric grid. This allows Massachusetts to meet its renewable energy target.
The renovations of Harvard University Housing Soldiers Field Park apartment buildings included the installation of 225kW OF SOLAR PV ARRAYS.
The Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, a 238-acre preserve located in Boston, MA, is partly powered by solar power, which SAVES ABOUT 460 MTCDE EVERY YEAR.
The Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) Center for Astrophysics completed an energy efficiency project focused on LED lighting and pipe insulation. The project, led by the Center for Astrophysics Green Team and facilities personnel, REDUCED EMISSIONS BY AN ESTIMATED 243 MTCDE, which is equivalent to the energy it would take to make 30 HOMES NET ZERO EMISSIONS.
The Office for Sustainability (OFS) held a virtual lighting fair to provide the Harvard community with the chance to purchase discounted LED lightbulbs and switch to more sustainable lighting at home.
Over 1,800 LED lightbulbs were sold to more than 100 people. If all these bulbs are installed, this is a combined energy savings of more than $23,000, which is the equivalent of REMOVING roughly 17 CARS FROM THE ROAD.
Harvard Management Company (HMC) announced that it plans to MAKE ITS FACILITIES AND OPERATIONS NET-ZERO OF GHG EMISSIONS in 2021, a first among higher education endowments.
This effort builds on the commitment HMC made in 2020 to MAKE HARVARD’S ENDOWMENT PORTFOLIO NET-ZERO BY 2050.
Read the Harvard Gazette interview with Michael Cappucci, managing director for compliance and sustainable investing at HMC, about their work and how the first year has refined HMC’s outlook on the path to 2050.
HARVARD IMPROVES SAFETY AND REDUCES ENERGY USE IN LABS ACROSS CAMPUS.
While Harvard students engage in world-class research across all disciplines and make groundbreaking contributions to solving global challenges, labs continue to be the largest drivers of GHG emissions at Harvard, making up 50% of the campus’s energy use while occupying 23% of the square footage.
Together, FAS, OFS, Environmental 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. Harvard also developed a LAB VENTILATION MANAGEMENT PLAN (LVMP), which saves energy through optimizing air change rates and keeping researchers safe during experiments.
In a lab environment, fume hoods are a leading type of energy-intensive equipment. As part of an overarching sustainable lab program, FAS and OFS created the SHUT THE SASH COMPETITION in 2005 to encourage researchers to keep fume hoods closed when not in use, saving the University over THREE MILLION DOLLARS in the past 16 years.
The Harvard Science and Engineering Complex (SEC), a Living Building Challenge Materials, Equity, and Beauty Petal-certified and LEED Platinum-certified building operates on an LVMP, which allows the building to adjust the airflow to different spaces based on usage and activities - a strategy that saves energy while creating heathier, safer working conditions. Utilizing infrared technology and a new risk assessment method, experts can now quantify and analyze emissions and potential inhalation hazards.
By implementing an LVMP, THE HARVARD SEC SAVES ENERGY, USING 30% LESS THAN A TYPICAL LAB IN NEW ENGLAND, AND CREATES SAFER CONDITIONS FOR RESEARCHERS.
FAS Sherman Fairchild Laboratory, a LEED Platinum certified building, IS SAVING APPROXIMATELY 413,000 KWH AND 130 MTCDE PER YEAR WITH LIRA, which reduces costs by an estimated $60,000 annually.
FAS encourages labs to switch ULTRA-LOW TEMPERATURE (ULT) FREEZERS FROM -80º C TO -70º C. This change could eliminate about 1,476.35 MTCDE per year at Harvard, while maintaining performance and extending freezer lifetimes.
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 consumes, and acting as a living lab for data collection and analysis with millions of data points.
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.
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 and throughout the supply chain where building materials and products are created.
Harvard's Healthier Building Academy
Harvard is translating research into practice to transform the marketplace for healthier buildings and materials. Since 2016, the Office for Sustainability (OFS), in partnership with faculty from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Harvard Medical School (HMS), and the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS), has transformed OVER 3 MILLION SQUARE FEET on campus, including iconic spaces such as the Smith Campus Center, the Harvard Business School (HBS) Klarman Hall, and the Harvard SEC.
Harvard’s innovative approach, grounded in the latest science, has driven change by creating partnerships with thousands of manufacturers to provide transparency around ingredients found in building materials. With this transparency, the University can advocate for manufacturers to REMOVE CHEMICAL CLASSES OF CONCERN — not just for Harvard, but for the benefit of all buyers and for communities where materials are created.
Harvard has had SUSTAINABLE BUILDING STANDARDS since 2009. The most recent update, made in 2017, includes HEALTHIER MATERIALS REQUIREMENTS that address CHEMICALS OF CONCERN in furniture, carpet, shades, flooring, and interior products. The updates positioned Harvard as a LEADER IN DESIGNING AND BUILDING SPACES TO OPTIMIZE FOR HEALTH.
The University leveraged lessons learned through the design and construction of the Harvard SEC to provide EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES in sustainable development. Students, staff, and partners learn how RESEACH IS TRANSLATED INTO PRACTICE at the Harvard SEC through events, tours, and classes on sustainability.
At the Harvard SEC, a multi-panel exhibit outlines its sustainability story. Throughout the building, 23 signs highlight its sustainability features including healthier materials, efficient heating and cooling, natural ventilation, resiliency, and green spaces.
HEALTHIER INDOOR SPACES throughout the campus
The Laboratory for Innovation Science at Harvard (LISH) renovation in 2021 had the LARGEST PERCENTAGE OF HEALTHIER PRODUCTS used in an HBS project.
The team worked with 156 PRODUCTS that are Harvard Healthier Building Academy, as well as Living Building Challenge Red List compliant, including carpet, paint, lighting, and plumbing fixtures.
HBS hosted a screening of the film Dark Waters followed by a DISCUSSION EXAMINING THE IMPACTS OF CHEMICALS OF CONCERN IN OUR DRINKING WATER ON PUBLIC HEALTH and how organizations can move away from the use of toxic, forever chemicals.
The panel, moderated by Natalie Jackson (MBA 2021), featured Dr. Elsie Sunderland (Gordon McKay Professor of Environmental Chemistry at SEAS and Professor of Environmental Science and Engineering in the Department of Environmental Health at Harvard Chan School), Harvard Chief Sustainability Officer Heather Henriksen, and Dr. Joseph Allen (Associate Professor at Harvard Chan School).
OFS continues to share and promote resources to IMPROVE HOW THE HARVARD COMMUNITY EATS AND PLANS 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.
Learn more about how Harvard is COMMITTED TO A JUST FOOD SYSTEM THAT ENHANCES WELL-BEING AND CONTRIBUTES TO THE LONG-TERM HEALTH OF PEOPLE AND THE PLANET.
Why does Harvard aim to be fossil fuel-free, as opposed to carbon-free? HARVARD IS FOCUSING ON CLIMATE, HEALTH, AND EQUITY.
Fossil fuels are the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions and Harvard faculty advised a focus on only carbon leaves out the additional impacts on public health and ecosystems from other pollutants and waste associated with the sourcing, production, and burning of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are the largest source of air pollution emissions globally. According to the Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health report, air pollution, much of which can be attributed to fossil fuel use, remains a leading cause of death resulting in 6.5 million premature deaths per year.
Air pollutant emissions do not impact all locations or all communities equally. Black, Indigenous, People of Color, and low-income communities are more vulnerable to damage and disease from these pollutants due to other social determinants of health and historical inequities. Understanding who fossil fuel pollution is harming most is necessary in understanding the full impact of fossil fuels on public health today.
In 2021, nine research teams shared $1 million in the seventh round of grants awarded by the Climate Change Solutions Fund (CCSF), an initiative encouraging multidisciplinary research projects that seek creative solutions to climate change. This year’s projects range from studying the implications of geographic and administrative boundaries on groundwater extraction in India, to identifying sources of methane in China, to examining natural structures with useful properties at Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology.
Nearly 60 CCSF projects have received more than $7 million as of 2021. The fund is supported by the President’s office and donations from alumni and others.
We pilot and then institutionalize best practices in sustainable operations that conserve resources, reduce pollution, and enhance personal health and well-being.
Harvard has 144 LEED-CERTIFIED BUILDINGS, more than any other higher education institution, including the FIRST LEED COMMERCIAL INTERIORS (CI) V4 IN MASSACHUSETTS and the FIRST BUILDING IN NEW ENGLAND TO RECEIVE A SECOND PLATINUM CERTIFICATION.
The HARVARD SEC WAS CERTIFIED AS ONE OF THE HEALTHIEST, MOST SUSTAINABLE, AND ENERGY-EFFICIENT LABORATORIES IN THE WORLD. It is certified LEED Platinum and is the largest building and first research laboratory to achieve Living Building Challenge Materials, Beauty, and Equity Petal Certification.
The HARVARD SEC WAS NAMED BUILT ENVIRONMENT PLUS GREEN BUILDING OF THE YEAR; SEFA LAB OF THE YEAR; and received the WAN AWARD for Best Overall Sustainable Project, Gold; the ABB LEAF Award Best Façade Design & Engineering Project; the AIA NEW ENGLAND Award for Design Excellence; the AN Best of Design Award, Green Building Category; and the Prix Versailles University Campuses, World Special Prize Exterior.
HARVARD UNIVERSITY HOUSING RENOVATED ALL FOUR SOLDIERS FIELD PARK (SFP) APARTMENT BUILDINGS, HOME TO MORE THAN 900 HARVARD COMMUNITY MEMBERS.
This multi-year, multi-phased project ACHIEVED LEED GOLD. Harvard University Housing utilized healthier materials including paints and coatings, adhesives, and carpets; prioritized Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified wood products; equipped apartments with Energy Star certified appliances; used LED lighting as well as optimized lighting controls; installed low-flow fixtures throughout the buildings; added insulation at exterior walls; and installed new, double-glazed insulated windows. During building and construction, Harvard University Housing diverted 95% of construction waste away from landfills.
Harvard University Housing also PRIORITIZED RESIDENTS’ WELL-BEING AND COMMUNITY CONNECTION. Working in conjunction with the project design team, Harvard University Housing commissioned Artists for Humanity to design, create, and install mixed media 3-dimensional art pieces for each of the three SFP buildings. The Graduate Commons Program offers SFP residents Service, Sustainability, and Wellness programming that includes events such as Bike & Brunch with Harvard University Police Department, Cambridge School Volunteers Information Session, and Family Clothing Swaps, among others.
HARVARD COMMUTES SUSTAINABLY
44% OF HARVARD EMPLOYEES IN CAMBRIDGE AND ALLSTON WORKED REMOTELY. 18% WALKED, 12% TOOK TRANSIT, 12% BIKED, 2% CARPOOLED, AND 12% DROVE ALONE to work on campus in Cambridge and Allston. The historically low drive-alone rate was achieved through extensive campus planning and transportation initiatives. This rate decreased further from 2020-2021 due to the number of staff working remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As part of its goal to be fossil fuel-free by 2050, Harvard continues to TRANSITION TO VEHICLES THAT OPERATE WITHOUT FOSSIL FUELS.
The University took a major step toward that goal purchasing FOUR 100% ELECTRIC BUSES AND ELECTRIC INFRASTRUCTURE. The new buses replaced four, similarly sized biodiesel powered vehicles REPRESENTING MORE THAN 30 PERCENT OF HARVARD'S FLEET.
The shuttles transport approximately 600,000 COMMUNITY MEMBERS each year. The transition to electric power is expected to LOWER GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS BY MORE THAN 220,000 POUNDS ANNUALLY WHILE REDUCING AIR AND NOISE POLLUTION.
In 2021, the Harvard community came together with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the City of Cambridge, and bus manufacturer Proterra Inc. to celebrate the introduction of the electric buses into the University's fleet.
The project was supported with a MassDEP grant program, which is funding nearly 100 projects across the Commonwealth to help electrify the transportation sector. In addition, a loan from the HARVARD GREEN REVOLVING FUND enabled investment in the charging infrastructure necessary to support the new vehicles.
Harvard has also expanded resources for electric vehicles owned by Harvard students, faculty staff, with MORE THAN 50 CHARGING STATIONS ON CAMPUS. Harvard affiliates can access these charging stations for free by purchasing a permit.
Learn how to CHARGE YOUR ELECTRIC VEHICLE ON CAMPUS.
Harvard offers DISCOUNTED ZIPCAR MEMBERSHIPS for students and staff. The car-sharing network enables the community to access a car in the area without the need to own one or drive to campus. In 2021, over 5,000 Harvard members took nearly 27,000 Zip Car trips. There are more than 40 ZIPCARS ON THE HARVARD CAMPUS.
Harvard offers a discounted, annual bike share membership through Bluebikes. Publicly-shared bikes can be borrowed and returned to any of the hundreds of stations across Arlington, Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, Chelsea, Everett, Newton, Revere, Salem, Somerville, and Watertown, including 14 STATIONS SUPPORTED BY HARVARD.
This year, more than 1,500 students and staff utilized the discounted Harvard annual membership, taking over 100,000 trips totaling 436,279 miles.
The Campus Service Center sold more than 150 discounted bike helmets and over 120 discounted bike lights in 2021.
The Arnold Aboretum of Harvard University made the switch from diesel trucks to electric cargo bikes.
This switch helps the Arboretum reduce their impact on the environment, SAVING ABOUT 400 GALLONS OF GAS PER BIKE IN ONE YEAR, EQUIVALENT TO THE CARBON SEQUESTERED BY NEAR 5 ACRES OF U.S. FORESTS.
The bikes also help the Arboretum save energy, costing about 6 cents or less per charge for every 68 miles driven.
CommuterChoice developed FLEXIBLE COMMUTE TOOLS to help support employees working in a variety of arrangements from on-campus to hybrid to remote. To communicate these new resources, CommuterChoice staff delivered presentations to over 1,000 members of the Harvard community. CommuterChoice staff also supported 156 Harvard employees with customized commute assistance plans to help participants develop safe, efficient, and cost-effective commutes.
CommmuterChoice launched a pre-tax flexible debit card to support hybrid schedules allowing for both parking and transit utilization.
Harvard’s extensive waste reduction initiatives focus FIRST ON REUSE AND NEXT ON RECYCLING AND COMPOSTING.
Harvard Schools and units have invested in waste reduction programs, better signage and training, adapting to changes in global recycling-industry changes and standards, and expanding composting across campus.
From July 2020 to June 2021, ALL FORMS OF WASTE PRODUCED ON CAMPUS WERE REDUCED, but much of this was due to de-densification of Harvard’s campus during the COVID-19 pandemic. COMPOST DECREASED 65%, RECYCLING DECREASED 45%, and TRASH DECREASED 50%. These numbers are not reflective of a trend.
The Harvard Art Museums have INCREASED REUSE IN ARTWORK SHIPPING. The rate of reused crates, which are typically built for a single round trip, utilized by the Museums jumped from 12% in 2016 to 56% in 2021. Though the COVID-19 pandemic has greatly reduced the number of loans that have gone out, the percentage of reused crates drastically increased.
HARVARD LABS ARE DIVERTING PLASTIC WASTE
Any clean #1 and #5 plastic, with a special focus on pipette tip boxes used in the life science laboratories, can now be RECYCLED IN Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) LABORATORIES through a partnership with a local company.
Harvard Medical School (HMS) collected approximately 10.5 METRIC TONS OF PLASTIC in 2021 with this lab plastic recycling program.
In 2021, Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) partnered with Harvard Recycling and Waste Management to launch a PLASTIC BAG AND FILM RECYCLING PROGRAM that has collected more than 2,000 pounds of plastic from the Harvard waste stream.
The plastic bag pilot project has also been explored by Harvard Business School (HBS), Harvard University Information Technology, Harvard Art Museums, and Harvard University Mail Services.
HARVARD’S COMPOST IS USED TO PRODUCE ENERGY
The University's compost is sent to an innovative facility at Save that Stuff to be processed into a high-energy product that is shipped to a local wastewater treatment plant to PRODUCE ENERGY.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Food Recovery Hierarchy, putting food waste to industrial uses like anaerobic digestion is preferred to composting.
LEARN MORE ABOUT HOW HARVARD’S COMPOST IS USED TO PRODUCE ENERGY.
HKS worked with several departments to make the School’s 2022 Commencement, celebrating the classes of 2020, 2021, and 2022, more sustainable.
HKS Commencement initiatives included REDUCING PLASTIC AND ELIMINATING PLASTIC WATER BOTTLES and offering MORE PLANT-BASED AND SUSTAINABLE FOOD OPTIONS in partnership with Harvard University Dining Services.
HKS was the first Harvard campus to offer a VOLUNTARY OFFSET OPTION for community members flying to celebrate graduation events. The School also purchased offsets for their Commencement speaker and team.
WATER USE IS DOWN 35% from 2006, or 218 MILLION GALLONS—enough to fill BLODGETT POOL (capacity = 750,000 gallons) 291 TIMES.
Harvard Schools and units have invested significantly in water saving fixtures and technologies to reduce consumption. Harvard has also improved building and landscaping water use and reduced water consumption in the University's energy plants.
In 2021, HBS completed a campus-wide water audit which identified ANNUAL SAVINGS OF MORE THAN 5,000,000 GALLONS. Examples of potential projects found include domestic plumbing retrofits, pre-rinse sprayer replacements, Ozone Laundry support systems.
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.
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.
Harvard Landscaping is EXPANDING THE USE OF ELECTRIC EQUIPMENT ON CAMPUS, aiming at reducing noise and emissions. Currently, there are nearly 30 battery-powered tools, including stander mowers, backpack leaf-blowers, and hedge trimmers, being used in Harvard Yard and other selected areas of campus.
ORGANIC LANDSCAPING IS THE DEFAULT FOR THE MAJORITY OF HARVARD’S CAMPUS.
Harvard’s skilled horticulturists and property maintenance workers provide comprehensive maintenance of campus landscapes and hardscapes, including organic fertilization and treatment programs, historic elm preservation, conventional turf and tree care, landscape and hardscape installations and renovations, snow removal, and emergency response.
Harvard University has 18 vegetated green roofs across campus that help to promote biodiversity, prevent stormwater runoff, and reduce building energy consumption.
Green roofs are located at HBS, HKS, the Harvard SEC, Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD), Harvard Law School (HLS), HMS, Harvard Smith Campus Center, and Harvard University Housing properties.
Harvard has grown its indoor nature program by increasing plants and trees, adding organic elements like wood and stone, and constructing living walls across campus. 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.
HGSE Gutman Library has installed a new living wall on its patio.
THE HARVARD COMMUNITY TAKES ACTION
The Harvard University Planning and Design, HGSE, and HKS partnered with the local nonprofit Charles River Conservancy to host a Charles River Clean-up in October 2021.
Staff volunteers helped with tree mulching, weeding, and painting of park benches.
Harvard graduate students can develop innovative and creative, yet practical, climate solutions in Harvard's Climate Solutions Living Lab course. Led by Emmet Environmental Law & Policy Clinic at Harvard Law School, this multi-disciplinary, project-oriented course brings together students from across Harvard's graduate schools to work in teams to design real-world, practical tools for advancing climate goals.
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.
Harvard is committed to facilitating STRONG GOVERNANCE AND LEADERSHIP STRUCTURES to ensure integration of sustainability into business practices at all levels of the University.
Harvard established a PRESIDENTIAL COMMITTEE ON SUSTAINABILITY in 2019 to advise President Larry Bacow and the University’s leadership on sustainability vision, goals, strategy, and partnerships. The Committee is co-chaired by Jody Freeman, the Archibald Cox Professor of Law; Michael Toffel, the Senator John Heinz Professor of Environmental Management; and Katie Lapp, Executive Vice President, and it includes students, faculty, and staff from across the campus.
With the Office for Sustainability (OFS), the Presidential Committee on Sustainability and its dedicated Subcommittees lead the work to support reaching Harvard's climate goals (to be fossil fuel-neutral by 2026 and fossil fuel-free by 2050), to draft the next University-wide Sustainability Plan, and to reduce Scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions.
Senior operations, facilities, and administrative leaders from across the campus meet regularly as part of the SUSTAINABILITY MANAGEMENT COUNCIL (SMC).
The group aims to facilitate best practice sharing to enable the cost-effective achievement of the University’s sustainability and energy management goals.
Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) established Harvard's first SUSTAINABILITY LEADERSHIP COUNCIL (SLC) in 2016. The Council, made up of senior leaders, faculty, and student representatives, makes strategic recommendations to Dean Douglas Elmendorf to drive the sustainability agenda forward on the HKS campus. One of the SLC’s main focuses is to reduce Scope 3 GHG emissions throughout campus operations.
In 2021, Harvard named JAMES H. STOCK THE UNIVERSITY’S INAUGURAL VICE PROVOST FOR CLIMATE AND SUSTAINABILITY.
Stock works closely with faculty, students, staff, and academic leadership from across the University to guide and further develop Harvard’s strategies for advancing climate research and its global impact. He also supports the achievement of the University’s sustainability goals in partnership with OFS and the Presidential Committee on Sustainability.
Learn more about James Stock’s vision for the challenge ahead and how his new office can help.
An update to Harvard’s sustainability plan is being led by the Harvard Presidential Committee on Sustainability and OFS.
This group is consulting broadly and taking into consideration the views of the University’s many stakeholders, including Harvard students, faculty, staff, alumni, and experts in sustainability.
Harvard continues to make progress on the goals, standards, and commitments set in its sustainability plan and is on track to achieve its climate goals - to be FOSSIL FUEL-NEUTRAL BY 2026 AND FOSSIL FUEL-FREE BY 2050 – which were set in February 2018.
A donor-funded $700,000 CAMPUS SUSTAINABILITY INNOVATION FUND (CSIF) 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, 17 PROJECTS, SPANNING 7 SCHOOLS HAVE BEEN FUNDED, leading to peer-reviewed publications, dissertations, start-ups, and new impactful knowledge that will influence decision-making at Harvard and beyond.
With insect populations appearing to be undergoing poorly documented global declines, a group of CSIF awardees has measured the impact of elevated CO2 on plant growth and developed a new technology that harnesses artificial intelligence to automatically monitor pollinator populations.
THEY USED HARVARD’S ARBORETUM AS A LIVING LABORATORY to demonstrate this technology’s potential for supporting pollinators and designing landscapes that can robustly support them in a changing climate. The group intends to further develop this initiative with private and governmental funding.
The OFS STUDENT GRANT PROGRAM FUNDS CREATIVE STUDENT PROJECTS THAT USE THE CAMPUS AS A LIVING LAB to solve challenges and create a more sustainable community. More than 100 projects have been awarded since the beginning of the program.
In 2020-21 academic year, twelve projects were awarded. A few projects are spotlighted below; additional descriptions are available on the Student Grant program page.
The REWILDING HARVARD team replanted an area in front of the Harvard Museum of Natural History using native plants that sustain insect pollinators and soil fungi.
GOO worked to improve the sustainability of 3D printing by developing a biodegradable filament, a sustainable and reusable spool, and a program that “upcycles” existing filament to enhance its quality and biodegradability.
Students analyzed the ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS OF THE X. AUTOTROPHICUS BIOFERTILIZER, developed in the Nocera Lab, as an alternative to chemical fertilizers.
The OFS team partners with Harvard’s faculty to lead presentations on the University’s sustainability efforts and advise student projects.
In 2021, a team of students from Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) took up a challenge from OFS to visualize and address sustainability challenges within the complex food system, which inspired them to DESIGN AND CREATE INNOVATIVE SOLUTIONS TO FOOD WASTE.
READ ABOUT SOME OF THEIR PROTOTYPES.
Harvard Divinity School (HDS) online conversation series Weather Reports - The Climate of Now brought together poets, writers, public servants, theologians, biologists, scholars, and activists who are engaged in the spiritual reckoning and awakening surrounding climate crisis.
HDS Writer-in-Residence Terry Tempest Williams led the conversations including a discussion with New Yorker staff writer and Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Kolbert.
The Undergraduate Resource Efficiency Program (REP) completed 20 years.
REP was the second peer-to-peer program of its kind being featured on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's webpage. Around 300 INTERNS HAVE COMPLETED THE PROGRAM.
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the program, former REPs have shared their favorite memories on a social media campaign.
OFS intern Emilly Fan and Council of Student Sustainability Leaders (CSSL) member Angela Zhong ATTENDED THE UNITED NATIONS CLIMATE CHANGE CONFERENCE, COP26.
The students shared with the Harvard community their experience at this global event for climate negotiations.
See Emilly’s dispatch from COP26 and Angela’s Instagram takeover.
This year, the Harvard College Dean of Students Office and the OFS presented the inaugural OUTSTANDING COMMITMENT TO SUSTAINABILITY AWARD as part of the Student Leadership Awards 2021.
This award recognizes an undergraduate student who has made positive contributions to the sustainable future of Harvard College. Congratulations to Shayna Grossman ’23, who was the first recipient of this award.
OFS STUDENT TEAM MEMBERS PARTICIPATED IN THE PRODUCTION PROCESS of American Repertory Theater’s WILD: A Musical Becoming.
CSSL member Navin Durbhakula ’25, now ART’s Student Activist Coordinator (for Climate Engagement), shared his experience in the climate-themed musical:
“During the show's production, a few youth climate activists, myself included (because of my involvement with OFS’s Council of Student Sustainability Leaders), were asked to attend an in-person reading of the show and offer suggestions. Upon seeing the show for the first time, I was instantly moved by the passionate dialogue, powerful message, and of course, the spectacular soundtrack! I found myself very invested in the process, providing feedback on the script and offering suggestions on how to engage the broader community in climate activism. A few months later, I was able to see the show come to life on stage. It was truly a remarkable experience, one I will never forget!”
The Harvard University Planning and Design Green Team together with members from across the University, DONATED NEARLY 1,000 BOOKS TO MORE THAN WORDS DURING THEIR 2021 BOOK DRIVE.
Since its inception five years ago, this initiative has collected more than 2,000 books.
Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) Office of Student Affairs, Associate Director for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Dr. Ivonne Garcia, and the Operations and Sustainability teams held in 2021 the School’s FIRST WINTER CLOTHING DRIVE to benefit community members in need of warm clothes. The group collected donations of gently used, clean warm clothing. Over a two-week period, over 70 people stopped by to choose from these items.
The Harvard Green Office Program guides staff through the process of creating a more sustainable workspace.
Currently, Harvard has OVER 200 RECOGNIZED GREEN OFFICES.
Partnering for Change
Harvard was a founding leader of the BOSTON GREEN RIBBON COMMISSION HIGHER EDUCATION WORKING GROUP for over a decade.
EXPLORE THE GROUP'S 2020-2025 STRATEGIC PLAN.
Partnering for change
Harvard is the Vice-Chair of the Executive Committee for the Cambridge Compact for a Sustainable Future.
LEARN MORE ABOUT THIS GROUP ACCOMPLISHMENTS.
"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.”
The 2021 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.
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.