Measuring our impact to build a better future

November 16, 2012 at 8:00 am

Climate change and environmental sustainability are widely recognized as two of the most pressing problems facing our world. How has Harvard responded these global challenges?

A new Harvard Sustainability Impact Report released this month provides, for the first time ever, a university-wide snapshot of the progress that has been made by students, staff and faculty to reduce the environmental footprint of Harvard’s campus. It shows that sustainability has supported Harvard’s research/teaching mission by improving health, reducing operational costs, increasing efficiency and conserving resources.

The online resource was developed by the Office for Sustainability and provides interactive graphs, stories and infographics displaying sustainability data such as greenhouse gas emissions, water and waste covering all Harvard’s Schools and administrative units. The Report was also designed as a learning tool to provide visitors with solutions, case studies and lessons learned that can be applied to create change. A timeline allows visitors to explore videos and pictures of the milestones and creative ideas that have been developed by teams throughout the University. Messages from prominent faculty and student leaders, along with the motto “Don’t Just Learn It, Live It,” challenge the community to continue making progress.

“We are focused on pushing ourselves to dig deeper and broader to develop replicable models for change that are cost-effective and provide environmental benefit.” said Heather Henriksen, Director of the Office for Sustainability. “Sustainability at Harvard is about shifting the culture of an institution and inspiring the next generation of environmental leaders.”

Sustainability initiatives across campus seek to align individuals and policies at every level of the University – and in all our Schools – with a clear and aggressive sustainability vision and goals. One of Harvard’s flagship sustainability commitments is its goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 30% by 2016, including growth.

The report also shows that the University’s commitment to sustainability goes well beyond climate concerns. From certified green cleaning in over 10 million square feet of building space and organic landscaping on over 90 acres (that resulted in a 30% reduction in water use during the first year of operation on Harvard Yard) to the three on-campus community gardens and a drive alone rate for commuters that has dropped from 50% since 1999, efforts to reduce the environmental impact of campus operations have become commonplace.

- Harvard has reduced greenhouse gas emissions 16% since FY2006, including 3 million square feet of growth.

- 23% of our electricity is generated from renewable or alternative energy sources. We have installed over 1MW of solar power on-campus, and a solar thermal and steam heat recovery project on Canaday Hall provides 60% of hot water needs for buildings in Harvard Yard.

- Harvard University has more LEED green building project certifications than any other higher education institution in the world. The implementation of over 1,000 energy efficiency measures has resulted in $9 million in annual savings.

- From 1999, 2012 the drive alone rate for commuters in Cambridge/Allston dropped from 25% to 13%. 79% commuters bike, walk or take transit.

- The amount of trash created every day per person has dropped 60% since FY96 to .84 lbs a person/day. In Fiscal Year 2011 alone, Harvard’s surplus recycling program donated over 2.5 million dollars worth of products to over 200 charities.

- Certified green cleaning covers 10 million square feet of space on campus and an organic landscaping program is in place on over 90 acres including Harvard Yard.

- Over 2400 employees are engaged in making their workplace more sustainable through the Green Office Program. Peer-to-peer outreach programs in the Houses have resulted in a 63% recycling rate and 4.3% reduction in energy use over a three year average.