Harvard University believes universities have an accountability to the future – a special role and a special responsibility to address global challenges as large as climate change and environmental sustainability. Harvard is dedicated to confronting these challenges both through academic research and by translating research into action on campus. Across Harvard’s 12 plus Schools and departments, students, faculty and staff are collaborating to reduce the environmental footprint of campus operations.
In 2008, Harvard University adopted a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 30% below a 2006 baseline by 2016, including growth. As part of this goal, Harvard is committed to using its campus as a living laboratory, turning research and teaching into action to develop innovative and cost-effective solutions that reduce energy and curb greenhouse gas emissions.
UPDATE ON PROGRESS: From Fiscal Year 2006 to Fiscal Year 2012 Harvard experienced a 16% decline in the University's overall greenhouse gas emissions, including growth of approximately 3 million square feet, with a 24% decline in emissions if growth is excluded.
As the result of over 800 energy conservation measures implemented to-date, 57% of our base buildings use heatings more efficiently and 65% use cooling more efficiently. As a result of efficiency measures put in place to-date, Harvard's Blackstone Steam Plant is 31% less GHG-intensive than in FY06 and the Chilled Water Plants are 19% less GHG intensive.
- Click here to read more about how the GHG reduction goal was established.
- Click here to read a detailed overview of the FY06-FY11 greenhouse gas reduction update (PDF)
Task Force Report
- President's speech: Statement on the Report of the Harvard Greenhouse Gas Task Force
- Final GHG Task Force Report
- Gazette article on Task Force Report, July 8, 2008
Tools & Resources
Collaboration and Culture Change - Our Path Forward
The GHG Reduction Goal has aligned key decision-makers across Harvard’s twelve Schools and many units in the pursuit of concrete GHG emissions reductions. Across Harvard, faculty, students and staff are working to create and implement innovative and economically-viable solutions that build a healthier, more sustainable campus. The Office for Sustainability oversees the implementation of Harvard’s sustainability goals, bringing University partners together to share best practices, create new policies and initiatives and develop strategies for reducing energy and conserving resources.
Supporting Sustainability Policies and Encouraging Operational Innovations
With comprehensive Green Building Standards and more LEED buildings than any other higher education institution in the world Harvard is a leader in green building. Facilities teams throughout the university are performing energy audits on 100% of the campus and in the process are identifying and implementing energy conservation measures that will cut energy use and save money. Energy audits have been performed on approximately 60% of the campus and over 800 cost-effective energy conservation measures have been implemented or are underway. An additional 1500 cost-effective energy conservation measures have been identified as a result of the University’s energy audits.
Harvard has also been working hard to increase the efficiency of energy supply. The university generates much of the steam and chilled water consumed on the main Cambridge/Boston campus. The steam plant is 31% more efficient in MTCDE per unit of steam produced as a result of efficiency improvements implemented by Campus Services’ Energy and Utilities group. These improvements included a new boiler, a 5 MW back pressure turbine and fuel conversion to natural gas. The two main chilled water plants are approximately 19% more efficient in MTCDE per unit of chilled water produced due to the replacement of two chillers, the optimization of the Northwest Plant and the use of free cooling heat exchangers in the winter.
Creating a Green Culture Focused on Reducing Waste, Cutting Energy and Conserving Resources
Harvard uses a cutting-edge combination of peer-to-peer behavior change programs and initiatives, university-wide trainings and workshops, green teams and Green Office Program, and competition and recognition events to engage thousands of students, faculty and staff in sustainability projects. Together, we are creating a culture of sustainability at Harvard.
We need help from every individual on campus to achieve this goal! Whether you are a Harvard student, faculty member, staff member or building manager, your efforts count and are critical to our success.
A Model for Institutional Change
Harvard is focused on creating a replicable model for how large institutions can combat climate change. Since 2008, the strategic planning and implementation process has already resulted in a wide variety of achievements that helped to engage thousands of students, staff and faculty in achieving the University’s sustainability goals.
- A GHG Reduction Executive Committee was created and led by Executive Vice President Katie Lapp and two faculty chairs, Jeremy Bloxham, Dean of Science at FAS, and Robert S. Kaplan, Professor of Management Practice at HBS. The Committee meets on an ongoing basis to review progress towards GHG reduction implementation and make key strategic decisions.
- A centralized Office for Sustainability, reporting to the Executive Vice President, was established to oversee progress on the University’s sustainability goals by facilitating teams of individuals across Harvard’s 12 plus Schools and departments, creating new policies and initiatives and sharing best practices. Heather Henriksen was appointed director of the Office for Sustainability and led the effort to bring staff, faculty and students together from across the University in a two-year implementation planning process to formulate a comprehensive GHG Reduction Strategy.
- GHG Reduction Plans: Every Harvard School has written a GHG Reduction Plan covering all of their efficiency efforts, from administrative policies, occupant engagement strategies and communications efforts to specific energy efficiency projects in their buildings. GHG Reduction Plans are updated and submitted annually as part of Harvard’s capital planning process.
- GHG Inventory Framework: The Office for Sustainability partnered with Environmental Health and Safety to develop a GHG Inventory Framework and Reporting process to track and report on the university’s progress in meeting its GHG Reduction Goal.
- GHG Working Groups: As part of a two-year strategic planning process, GHG Working Groups served as a highly effective best-practice sharing venue for the facilities managers, financial analysts, energy utility managers, sustainability staff, students and others who have served on them. The Office for Sustainability will continue this best-practice sharing through the Sustainability and Energy Management Council and regular events for Harvard’s facilities, operations and construction communities.
- A Harvard-Wide Temperature Policy has been adopted to align the University community for common-sense energy savings and GHG reductions while maintaining comfort. This policy provides a framework to assist building managers and occupants in achieving a healthy, productive, and safe working environment while reducing energy costs and GHG emissions to the lowest practicable level.
- Comprehensive Green Building Standards for capital projects, renovations and building system upgrades that require a smart design process incorporating life cycle costing, integrated design, energy modeling when applicable and other elements that ensure all sustainable design and operations opportunities are vetted and that performance requirements are achieved in a cost-effective manner (Adopted 2009, building on the 2007 Green Building Guidelines). Case studies of every LEED project are shared to assist Schools and departments in implementing the Green Building Standards
- Life Cycle Costing Tool: The Office for Sustainability and Green Building Services team created a Life Cycle Costing tool to prioritize the implementation energy efficiency projects. The Life Cycle Costing tool incorporates the full cost of building ownership, including the costs of operation and maintenance, to calculate energy, GHG and dollar savings of an energy efficiency project over the long-term.
- An annual university-wide sustainability celebration and recognition event, the Green Carpet Awards was launched in 2010. For more information visit green.harvard.edu/greencarpet.
The GHG Reduction Goal – How Was It Established?
On July 8, 2008, President Faust and the Deans of Harvard’s 12 Schools set a University-wide goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 30% by 2016 based on a 2006 baseline, inclusive of growth.
The GHG Reduction Goal was set based on the recommendations of the Harvard University Task Force on Greenhouse Gas Emissions, a group of faculty, students, and senior administrators convened by President Faust in the spring of 2008 to recommend a GHG reduction goal for the University. After more than three months of intensive research and analysis, the GHG Task Force issued its final report recommending an initial short-term goal of reducing GHG emissions, including those associated with prospective growth, by 30% below the University’s 2006 baseline by 2016. The GHG Task Force emphasized that this short-term goal would ensure that immediate and aggressive action to reduce the University’s emissions was taken. The Task Force also stressed that this should be a comprehensive program to reduce Harvard’s GHG emissions, adopting a long-term strategy led by a new University-wide Office for Sustainability and intended to achieve continuous improvement in reducing Harvard’s GHG emissions at the maximum practicable rate.
In order to engage the entire University’s efforts towards the GHG reduction goal, the President’s Office envisioned the first annual Sustainability Celebration. The University marked the first Green is the New Crimson Sustainability Celebration on October 22, 2008 when 15,000 people gathered in Tercentenary Theater hear a keynote address from Vice President and Nobel Laureate Al Gore and alumnus of the class of 1965. Since that time and building on over a decade of education, research and action, thousands of students, staff and faculty have shown that Harvard can strengthen our community and change the culture of how we work and live to effectively confront the challenge of environmental sustainability and climate change.
Strategic Planning and Implementation Process
After the GHG Reduction Goal was established in 2008, the Office for Sustainability partnered with Schools and the Central Administration to lead the effort to bring staff, faculty and students together from across the University in a two-year implementation planning process to formulate a comprehensive GHG Reduction Strategy. The agreed upon framework was comprised of an Executive Committee of faculty and top administrators and five working groups for driving the implementation planning process forward.
The GHG Reduction Executive Committee is led by the Executive Vice President and two faculty chairs, Jeremy Bloxham, Dean of Science at FAS, and Robert S. Kaplan, Professor of Management Practice at HBS, and provides strategic leadership and guidance during the ongoing implementation of Harvard’s greenhouse gas reduction goal. The Committee's mission is to:
- Oversee all institutional framework elements of the GHG Reduction Goal implementation planning, ensuring progress and development of specific deliverables.
- Develop and approve policy recommendations and decisions for successful GHG reduction implementatio.
- Clear roadblocks allowing for effective implementation of the GHG Reduction Goal.
- Advise OFS and the University on the GHG Reduction Goal implementation.
Hundreds of Harvard’s faculty, staff and students were involved in the comprehensive GHG reduction planning process. OFS coordinated five subject-specific GHG Working Groups comprised of staff and students and which sought out the expert advice and guidance of Harvard faculty. The five working groups have developed recommendations for the core elements of the implementation strategy. Their findings and recommendations were reported to the executive committee on an on-going basis. To generate recommendations, the working groups researched best-practices and assessed Harvard’s current operations. The working groups provided a space for staff from across the University to share-knowledge gained working on energy and sustainability in their individual schools and units and to collaborate to generate innovate ideas to help Harvard reduce both its greenhouse gas footprint and utility and building costs.
Finally, a Student Advisory Group of over 40 undergraduate and graduate students reviews the implementation decisions and is currently crafting a Student GHG Reduction Plan.
In the fall of 2009, all of Harvard’s Schools crafted draft GHG Reduction Plans, based on the tools and frameworks created in the GHG Working Groups. The plans are updated on an annual basis as part of Harvard’s capital planning process.
The Office for Sustainability would like to thank all of our partners in the Schools and Units, who have been so crucial to our success to date.
Chairs: Jeremy Bloxham (FAS), Rob Kaplan (HBS) & Katie Lapp (EVP)
Committee Lead: Chris Gordon (ADG)
- Provides strategic vision for the GHG reduction implementation effort.
- Advises on individual initiatives and policy questions.
GHG Inventory & Measurement
Chair: Jim Gray (HRES)
Committee Lead: Gordon Reynolds (UOS)
- Established GHG accounting methodology and defined Harvard’s organizational boundary.
- Created standard reporting chart for the GHG inventory (see chart).
Building Efficiency & Demand Management
Chairs: Jim Gray (HRES) and Jay Phillips (FAS)
- Established standard units for reporting of energy and utility use across campus.
- Set strategy for building energy audits to identify opportunities to reduce energy consumption in existing facilities.
- Crafted Green Building Standards to build on the existing Green Building Guidelines and apply building efficiency best practices to all capital projects at Harvard.
- Developed an Energy Management Strategy to gudie ongoing best-practice development around energy efficiency on campus.
- Created a University-Wide Temperature Policy that has been adopted by the Schools and endorsed by President Faust.
- Currently developing best practices for demand response and peak shifting.
- Currently developing Green IT guidelines for the University.
- Operations and Maintenance Best Practice Principles
Chairs: Danny Beaudoin (HSPH) & Jeffrey Smith (FMO)
- Green Building Standards
Chairs: Nathan Gauthier (OFS) & Jackie Henke (ADG)
- Demand Management
Chairs: Ken Johnson (ADG) & Mary Smith (E+U)
- Green IT
Chairs: James Cuff (FAS), Eric D’Souza (UCIO) & Doug Scatterday (HBS)
Chairs: Jason Carlson (HGSE), Negeen Darani (FAD) & Geoff Swift (HLS)
- Built a Life Cycle Costing Tool to provide common financial metrics for evaluating energy conservation measures on campus.
Chairs: John Audi (ADG) & Russ Porter (FAS)
Committee Leads: Doug Garron (UOS), Bob Manning (UOS), Mary Smith (UOS) & Peter Stroup (HMS)
- Assessed opportunities for additional efficiency measures in district energy plants.
- Recommended utility metering and pricing guidelines that increase granularity and provide incentives for energy efficiency.
- Formalized the process for meeting the Massachusetts Renewable Portfolio Standard through purchases of renewable energy. (Note: these purchases are required by law and do not contribute directly to Harvard’s GHG inventory.)
- Developed a framework for assessing voluntary renewable energy purchases, if they are needed to mitigate our GHG reduction gap.
Marketing, Communications & Engagement
Chairs: Heather Henriksen (OFS), Melodie Jackson (HKS), Brian Kenny (HBS) & Mary Ann O’Brien (CADM)
- Developed a Harvard Sustainability Communications Plan to guide outreach efforts at Harvard (80%) and externally (20%).
- Created a Sustainability Communications Tool-Kit to help Harvard’s Schools and units incorporate sustainability messaging into their regular communications.
Renewable Energy & Carbon Offsets
Chairs: Andy O'Brien (HBS) & Professor Henry Lee (HKS)
(Note: This working group is currently forming.)
Mission: Ensure the responsible and cost-effective achievement of Harvard’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Goal by analyzing options for mitigating the “gap” between our emissions reductions and our goal.
Student Advisory Group
Chairs: Evelyn Chow (College), Carly Smith (HBS) and Kailin Yang (HMS/GSAS)
- Review the progress of the GHG implementation planning and provide student input.
- Create and implement a Student GHG Reduction Plan, based on concrete actions students can take to reduce emissions at their campuses.
- Advise the Office for Sustainability on outreach and communications to students.
Learn more about Harvard's efforts
Harvard’s GHG reduction efforts build on numerous long-standing efforts across the University. Below are just some of the most recent stories on Harvard’s energy efficiency and greenhouse gas reduction efforts: