The Green Think Initiative is a think tank comprised of Harvard College first-year students that work on improving sustainability on campus.  

This program gives students the opportunity to incorporate sustainability into their school experience and develop project management, communication, and negotiation skills by building and implementing sustainable solutions at Harvard. 

Each semester, Green Think members develop a project together with a sophomore coordinator to the group advised by the Office for Sustainability Undergraduate Education & Outreach Coordinator. Initiatives from past years range from installing bioretention gardens to getting dual flush handles on campus.

“What’s so great about Green Think is that the students get to decide the project. With the support of the Harvard Office of Sustainability, they can embark on bringing awareness of sustainability needs of their community and can learn leadership, communication, and project management skills that are invaluable for whatever they decide to do in the future.”  

Alida Monaco, Green Think ’22 Coordinator. 

Every academic year, the First-Years' graduation date replaces the # in Green Think '#. 

 

 

History of Green Think 

Since 2009, Green Think has been taking a projects-based approach to improving sustainability at Harvard. Learn more about some of the student initiatives. 

The Beginning - green'13

Kurt Tsuo ’11 started the Green Think Initiative, originally called Green#, the # representing the first-years' class year. Tsuo created Green’13, with a vision of constructing a way for first-year students to be able to shape the campus and work on projects of their choosing. Green’13 did a variety of things - from a class on efficient laundry, to promoting bringing your own mug to brain break, to implementing weekly trayless breakfasts in Annenberg, First-Year’s dining hall. The final project of the group was to design the Green Brain Break at the beginning of the year, where we would tell the First-Year students all about sustainability at Harvard and give everyone a reusable mug. The project was thought of and proposed by Annie Baldwin '13 who led the setting up and implementation of the first one the next year. Green Brain Break has been recurrent every year since. 

Hand-dryers - green'14

Green’14, led by Annie Baldwing ’13, took on multiple projects. The two big initiatives were the following: they set up a vermiculture bin in the basement of Thayer, with students in Green’14 taking care of the worms, and they installed efficient hand dryers in the Science Center. The Vermiculture project was largely the work of Pin-Wen Wang ’14, and Gary Gerbrandt ’14. With the hand dryers, the group did the research to see what the resource and cost savings would be for implementing hand dryers, that help reduce hundreds of paper towels that are used in the restrooms each year, in the Science Center (as one of the most heavily used spaces on campus). This project was led by Kristen Wraith ’14, who also did the drawing to go with it. The Xcelerator company even agreed to print her image and stats on their hand dryer, which you can see in the bathroom. 

Composting – Green’17 

Green’17 achieved the installation of a composting program in the first-year students’ dorms. Co-headed by Cliff Goertemiller and Abba Parker, the group ran a pilot composting project in Mower in the fall, and then expanded it to Hurlbut in the spring. The students personally moved the compost, from the dorms to the dining halls, and sorted out other waste materials mistakenly placed into the bins three times a week. The group wrote a proposal and got it funded to expand to the whole Harvard Yard for the next year.  

Lighting - Green'18

Green’18 was led by Abba Parker ‘17, and focused on retrofitting the lighting in Canaday Hall with energy-efficient light bulbs. The team personally assessed lighting fixtures in the dormitory to develop a project that replaced 200 standard light bulbs with LED light bulbs, saving 8,395 kilowatts annually. In this initiative, the students partnered with the Office of Physical Resources and Planning, the Freshman Dean’s Office, Yard Operations, and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Green Program. 

Tap Water - Green'20

Green’20 did a Safe, Clean Tap water campaign. After a survey of First-Years, the group led by Theodora T. Mautz '19 found that fewer students consumed tap water on campus compared to at home. Green’20 took action and partnered with other peers, faculty, and staff to promote tap water drinking at Harvard. They designed posters, created videos, and compiled educational materials. Additionally, Green’20 got Boston’s Chief Resilience Officer to give a talk in Grays.  

Bioretention Gardens - green'22

Green'22, led by Alida Monaco '21, installed two bioretention gardens, "rain gardens", to help offset strain on drains from increased rainfall in Cambridge due to climate change. The students had to break down costs as well as identify and evaluate potential locations. The Leverett House and Mather House courtyards were chosen as part of a pilot initiative. Educational signs were displayed at each location explaining how the rain gardens work.  

Student-led efforts to implement rain gardens on campus continued in 2020. Alida Monaco received a United Nations Millennium Fellowship to expand the Harvard Rain Garden Initiative. This year, the team also joined forces with the Harvard Micro-Prairie Project to extend the imitative to more spaces on campus with funding from the Office for Sustainability Student Grants Program.  

Photo by Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer

Reducing Single Plastic Use - Green'23

Led by Taisa Kulyk '22, Green'23 worked on reducing single-use plastic on Harvard's campus. Green ‘23 lobbied, wrote up and passed a law through Harvard Undergraduate Council replacing funding given to student organizations for single-use plastic foodware products, like water bottles, cutlery and plates, in favor of more sustainable alternatives. Green'23 also pitched various alternatives to Harvard University Dining Services for limiting plastic at FlyBy dining.  

Water Filters - Green'24

Green Think’24 promoted the use of reusable water bottles by Harvard students and advocated for wider access to filtered water on campus during the COVID-19 pandemic. Led by Yana Lazarova-Weng ’23, the group developed a project to distribute 350 charcoal-based filters to students.