Harvard Kennedy School Sustainability

The Kennedy School’s commitment to sustainability began with an active grassroots effort and is now institutionalized with a School-specific Sustainability Plan that was adapted from the University’s Sustainability Plan. 

The goal of the HKS Plan is to positively contribute to the University-wide sustainability goals, as well as provide leadership and support to other campuses, internally at Harvard and externally among our higher education peers. A key component of this effort is to broaden the definition of sustainability from its focus on “greening” the HKS campus to a more inclusive focus on inter-generational well-being. Current research in sustainable development is focused primarily at the global and national level. As a leader in the global community, HKS has the opportunity to join a small group of major corporations and institutions in furthering this research at the scale of local communities.

​This report proposes the adoption of a set of nine strategic recommendations for advancing the well-being of the HKS community over the next five years. This five-year plan is a first step in an iterative process. Integration into research, teaching, governance, and culture at HKS is critical to the long-term success of the proposed strategies.

Campus Transformation Project

The exciting renovation and unification of the HKS campus focused on enhancing well-being, tackling climate, and building a more resilient campus.

A healthier place to learn and work

The community will have access to a variety of health and well-being initiatives and features thanks to the Campus Transformation Project.

  • Access to green space year-round via the courtyard and Winter Garden
  • Increased biophilic design in work and common spaces
  • Selected healthier furniture and carpeting in renovated spaces
  • Certified green cleaning program
  • Prioritized access to daylight for most existing buildings
  • Increased vegetarian and vegan options offered in larger cafeteria, with many food items from locally sourced farms
  • New community spaces in Littauer hallway coming in January 2018 include:
    • A meditation room will provide space to reflect and relax
    • A new shower will encourage activity and provide a space to refresh during the day
    • New lactation rooms will provide a space that will support working mothers

Tackling Climate Change

Reducing energy consumption and transitioning to a low-carbon campus were priorities for the project teams.

  • 150+ solar panels will be installed on the roofs of West, South, and Gateway totaling 61.2 kilowatts
  • Energy cost savings in the Pavilions buildings are predicted to be more than one-third compared to the industry standard baseline
  • No CFC-based refrigerants, potent greenhouse gases which contribute to climate change, will be used to serve new buildings

A resilient, restorative campus

  • The Pavilions Project was designed to make the buildings more resilient to future impacts from climate change.
  • 66,000 gallon rainwater collection tank reduces irrigation water usage by half, providing overflow protection during severe flooding 
  • The new buildings are designed to reduce HKS' exterior light pollution footprint
  • The courtyard acts a green roof for the lower level, including the underground service entry, the kitchen, and a new Executive Education classroom, as well as the rainwater irrigation tanks
  • The majority of HVAC equipment was moved above ground level to avoid complications from flooding
  • The main electrical room is on the first floor above the flood line
  • West’s mechanical room is in a bathtub, with flood-proof doors ensuring chillers will stay operational during a severe flooding event

HKS Sustainability Leadership Council

The Harvard Kennedy School Sustainability Leadership Council was created to oversee the process of comprehensively integrating the HKS Sustainability Plan’s recommendations into all aspects of campus life, including new and existing research, teaching, governance, operations, and culture. The expertise and guidance provided by the Council is critical to the long-term success of the proposed strategies and to achieving the vision of becoming a truly sustainable campus.

2021-2022 Members of the Sustainability Leadership Council:

  • Adriana Conconi, Director of Strategic Engagement and Development at the Center for International Development (CID)
  • Arthi Kasetty, Chief of Campus Operations; SLC Co-Chair
  • Bill Clark, Harvey Brooks Professor of International Science, Public Policy and Human Development; SLC Co-Chair
  • Emily Flynn Pesquera, Sustainability Manager
  • Grace Lam, Student, MPP
  • Jane Finn-Foley, Assistant Director of Student Services
  • Kathryn Sikkink, Ryan Family Professor of Human Rights Policy
  • Linda Bilmes, Daniel Patrick Moynihan Senior Lecturer in Public Policy
  • Pamela Cozza, Chief Human Resources Officer
  • Meghan O'Sullivan, Kirkpatrick Professor of the Practice of International Affairs
  • Nandita Nair, Student, MPP
  • Rym Baouendi, Student, MPA-MC
  • Siddarth Shrikanth, Student, MPP
  • Svenja Kirsch, Student, MPP

HKS Green Team

The Harvard Kennedy School Green Team is comprised of volunteer representatives from staff, students, and faculty from multiple departments and centers across the School. The team is coordinated by the Office of Facilities Management. Membership is open to all interested HKS affiliates. 

The group’s main objective is spreading the sustainability message to the HKS community. The Green Team focuses on encouraging individual behavior change and engagement through a variety of activities throughout the year, including:

  • HKS Sustainability Fair in September 
  • Freecycle events throughout year (Fall, Winter, and Spring)
  • An annual waste audit in the Fall to track HKS's yearly improvement
  • Rooftop Community Garden
  • Special events and lectures during Earth Month
  • Monthly team meetings

Waste Reduction

In 2014, the Harvard Kennedy School in partnership with Harvard University Dining Services, kicked off a composting program in the HKS kitchen and Café to collect and properly dispose of organic waste. The Café's compostable containers are made from renewable materials such as corn-based plastics, sugarcane, and other natural fibers that will bio-degrade under the proper conditions. 

Please separate waste into one of the three marked bins in the Café.

Compost All food waste, tea bags, coffee grounds, and food containers that the Café has in place (compostable cutlery, plates, covered containers, soup cups and lids, straws, napkins, coffee cups and lids).
Recycling Glass, metal, and plastic containers (plastic labeled #1-7, yellow and blue sweeteners, etc.)
Trash Any material that is not recyclable or compostable (ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise packets, chip bags)

Academic Programs and initiatives

HKS Sustainability Science Program

Harvard Environmental Economics Program

Harvard Project on Climate Agreements

Environment and Natural Resources Program at the Belfer Center

Find more

Harvard Kennedy School Professor and Co-Director of the Sustainability Science Program, Bill Clark, on the 'Dimensions of Sustainability.'