Every September, a new group of Harvard freshman form a Green Team for their class aimed at integrating sustainability into their first year experience. They also focus on setting and accomplishing a variety of sustainability goals identified through group brainstorming. It is a program conceived of and launched by undergraduate students and this year, Green ’17, the latest green freshman group, has garnered attention for setting some impressive precedents.

Their Office for Sustainability advisor Samantha Houston explains that the team’s residential compost pilot is “the longest-running project of any Green ‘teen to date.” Green ’17 co-head Cliff Goertemiller, who was recently honored with a student leadership award at the Harvard Green Carpet Awards, explained that the compost idea was generated entirely within their group. Compost bins were placed in the Mower dormitory at the beginning of the spring semester and in April were added to Greenough.

Abba Parker, the other Green ‘17 head, noted that the group’s hope for the future is to add composting to all the dorms. Over the summer, Harvard is switching waste service providers, and their hope is that compost will get taken out with the regular trash.

This year, the members of Green ’17 had to personally transport the compost from the dorms to the dining halls three times a week. The task includes sorting out the plastic and other waste materials that students mistakenly place into the compost.

The group has also been brainstorming ways to install hand dryers, reduce disposable service ware, and mount shower timers.

Goertemiller and Parker discussed some of the biggest challenges of their mission, including the possibility of a dedicated funding source. So much of their time, they say, is spent trying to secure funding for their ideas and in an ideal world they would like to have a permanent group attached to a budget, which they say would engage more members and allow them to implement more initiatives. The university would be “investing in allowing students to play around with ideas” on sustainability, Goertemiller says.

The group has also been brainstorming ways to install hand dryers, reduce disposable service ware, and mount shower timers.

The team sees themselves as filling a niche on campus that other sustainability groups do not. Goertemiller explained that the larger undergraduate green groups on campus are more focused on activism, while the freshman green teams take on a lot of smaller, but very campus-relevant, initiatives.

Green ’17 has certainly set a new standard for incoming Green ‘teen groups with their resourceful idea generation and dedicated execution. Team members have discussed creating a new club once they lose their status as a freshman Green team. Whatever they do, they will “definitely continue doing something environmental,” Parker promises.