Healthy Sustainable Living in Harvard University Housing

The residential real estate portfolio and its community play a critical role in the University’s effort to confront the challenges of climate change and create a healthier, more sustainable campus community. 

Making Harvard Home: The Basics

Blueprint for a sustainable apartment

  1. Install LEDs in floor, table, and desk lamps
  2. Utilize power strips and install outlet timers
  3. Use blinds and curtains to control daylighting, heat gain, and drafts
  4. Keep air vents clear of furniture and rugs
  5. Hang items in your home with removable mounting materials
  6. Create recycling stations (one trash bin and one recycling bin) in the kitchen and bathroom—remember, no plastic bags
  7. Keep reusable bags, bottles, and mugs by front door
  8. Install a shower timer
  9. Furnish home with pre-owned furniture or new furniture made with healthy materials
  10. Do less laundry, hang it up before placing in the hamper
  11. Shop local, seasonal, and organic
  12. Keep houseplants for natural air filtration

Green and clean laundry

  • Not really dirty? Hang your clothes before tossing them in the hamper
  • Wash your clothes on cold (it's just as effective)
  • Use non-toxic detergent
  • Clean lint trap for shorter dry time

Temperature control and comfort

We adhere to the Harvard Temperature Policy with standards for optimal human comfort, productivity, health, and safety.

Ideal settings for winter months:

Home setting: 68–71º F, 64º F at night

Away setting: 60º F and fan set to off

Minimizing waste and waste guidelines

Minimize waste by following the 5 Rs:

  • Refuse: One-time use items
  • Reduce: What you buy
  • Reuse: And repair
  • Recycle: In single stream recycling bins
  • Rot: Compost, where available​

Waste Guidelines: What Goes Where


Single stream recycling is implemented across Harvard Housingall recyclable materials, including paper, boxes, bottles, cans, and containers, can be mixed together in the same receptacle. No sorting is required. 

View a full list of items

Download recycling poster

Translated recycling guides:







  • Food waste (where compost unavailable)
  • Plastic bags
  • Films & wrappers
  • Styrofoam
  • Used napkins
  • Used paper towels
  • Plastic utensils

E-waste, hazardous materials, bulk items:

  • E-waste (electronic waste) bins are located in the Property Management Offices and/or laundry rooms
  • Call the Property Management Office regarding the safe disposal of hazardous materials
  • Bring bulk items (electronics, furniture, mattresses, mirrors) to Freecycles or the Harvard Surplus Center

Before you go checklist

Before you leave for the weekend, vacation, or break complete these easy actions:

  • Take out trash and recycling
  • Unplug small appliances and devices
  • Close windows, shades, blinds, and curtains
  • Check to make sure kitchen and bathroom vents are off
  • Set thermostat to 60º F and shut off fan setting
  • Turn off lights

Moving out sustainably

Moving out? Minimize your impact

Donate your unwanted books, furniture, and other materials before you move out. Help benefit charities like Harvard Habitat for Humanity (which resells the items in the fall) and reduce waste on campus.

Download the moving guide





More tips for Healthy, Sustainable Living:

Go Car-Free

Instead of driving and parking try:

Fall in love with tap water

Massachusetts public water supplies are among the best in the country and are subject to the most stringent government standards in the world (more than bottled water).

  • Cambridge source: Hobbs and Stony Brook Reservoirs
  • Boston and Somerville source: Quabbin Reservoir—Award-winning water quality!

Be active and mindful

Incorporate meditation, yoga, and other wellness activities throughout your day

  • Check out the Harvard Center for Wellness for offerings
  • Stand, stretch, walk to boost mental and physical health
  • Bike, instead of ride
  • Take the stairs to increase endorphins, burn calories faster, and save electricity

Connect with community and nature

Get outside!

Healthy cleaning

Switch to non-toxic cleaning supplies which are just as effective and better for your health

  • Make your own household cleaners (see recipes below)
  • De-clutter by donating and freecycling unwanted items

Healthy household cleaner recipes:

Household cleaner:

  • 2 cups baking soda
  • 1 cup liquid castille soap
  • 4 tsp vegetable glycerin

Mix in bowl and store in jar. Apply with damp sponge. 

Glass and surface cleaner

  • 2 cups distilled vinegar
  • 2 cups water

Mix. Apply with soft cloth. 

Drain cleaner

  • 1 cup baking soda
  • 1 cup vinegar

Pour baking soda down drain and follow with vinegar. Cover drain and let sit for at least 30 minutes. Flush with kettle of boiling water. 

Commit to better food choices

Shop the Harvard Farmers' Market

Tuesdays, 12–6 pm
Science Center Plaza

Harvard Farmers' Market

Grocery shopping list:

  • Less red meat
  • More fresh, quality (less overly-engineered) food
  • Buy local and seasonal

Freshen the air with houseplants

Increase oxygen and filter dust and pollutants with houseplants.

Top indoor purifiers—NASA approved:

  • Aloe Vera
  • Chinese Evergreen
  • Boston Fern
  • English Ivy
  • Spider Plant
  • Peace Lily
  • Bamboo Palm


Green building at Harvard University Housing

LEED Properties

The Harvard University Housing portfolio includes five LEED certified properties and two renewable energy projects.  Sustainable operation and maintenance practices are applied portfolio-wide, innovative solutions are piloted through the Sustainable Community Initiative, and staff are highly knowledgeable and committed to ongoing resource conservation and high performance building management.