Each semester, members of the Resource Efficiency Program (REP) encourage students in their Houses to initiate new, innovative environmental projects to reduce waste and conserve resources.  These “eco-projects” are a chance for students to put their ideas into practice, while engaging their peers in something meaningful and environmentally impactful.  Students are given the chance to submit their eco-projects to REP for the chance to win a cash prize, as well as House bragging rights.

This fall, REP received 11 creative and unique submissions.  The REP steering committee interviewed the leaders of the four most promising projects, each of which had a different goal.  The first implemented an electronic waste collection campaign in Mather House, which diverted dangerous as well as valuable materials from Harvard trash.  The second project, also originated by a Matherite, encouraged recycling at parties by distributing “fling” recycling bins, the collapsible type often seen at football pre-games, to students when they registered their parties.  Almost all waste at parties is recyclable, and increasing student recycling at parties would greatly increase Harvard’s overall recycling rate.  The third project instituted plastic bag recycling, which doesn’t currently exist in Harvard houses.

The winning project was an inventive program in Pforzheimer House (Pfoho) that catalogued and categorized every book in the Pfoho library and built a website to keep track of the records. Because most of the books in the library are course packs and textbooks for popular courses, many students can now turn to the library for course books instead of buying new ones.  The Pfoho project has much potential to be replicated in other houses, providing the infrastructure for a large network of student sharing and reusing of course books.  This will both divert many textbooks from the waste stream and minimize the purchase of new books.  REP hopes that the Pfoho eco-project will inspire other houses to adopt similar projects that encourage reuse through the increased use of the library.