Harvard’s extensive waste reduction initiatives focus first on reuse, and next on recycling and composting.

Where possible we focus on prioritizing the reduction of waste most harmful to people and the environment.

Harvard has a goal to reduce waste per capita 50% by 2020, from a 2006 baseline. We are also focused on minimizing, or the responsible and ethical recycling and disposing of, hazardous and electronic materials. VIEW OUR PLAN


Across Harvard departments and Schools are focused on minimizing the amount of waste they produce by reusing equipment and materials that are no longer needed. Freecycle events for labs and offices are held throughout the year. Harvard University Dining Services has launched a reusable container program at several locations, and provides reusable mugs and reusable mug discounts at its retail locations.


Composting is an essential part of Harvard’s commitment to waste reduction. By composting food scraps, coffee grounds, landscape waste, and compostable products, the Harvard community helps to divert organic waste from landfills and generate energy in the form of methane gas.


Single stream recycling is deployed University-wide. Harvard Athletics has partnered with the undergraduate Resource Efficiency Program to set up extensive recycling and waste reduction infrastructure during football games.  


Harvard's Schools and departments also run programs for recycling e-waste and ink and toner cartridges. Find locations near you. 

What Goes Where?

Beyond the Bottle

Students and staff are leading efforts to reduce bottled water usage as part of our commitment to sustainability and creating less waste.  These initiatives range from the installation of refill stations in our buildings to educational campaigns to persuade our community to eliminate bottled water use and waste.

Efforts and initiatives

  • The Harvard Kennedy School has eliminated plastic bottles in its regular cafeteria and catering operations and at Commencement, which draws more than 2,000 people every year.
  • Harvard Law School’s Wasserstein Hall, Caspersen Student Center, Clinical Wing was designed to discourage bottled water use by including refill stations throughout the building to refill water bottles and mugs. Many other Schools have installed water refill stations to discourage bottled water use including the Harvard Medical School, Smith Campus Center, Harvard Graduate School of Education, and Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
  • The Harvard Faculty Club eliminated use of bottle water in there restaurant and for events (resulting in eliminating the use of over 15,000 plastic and glass bottles annually). The Dining Halls have filtered water dispenser for students.
  • Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health has banned the sale of bottled water in Sebastians Café.
  • Some Schools, including the Graduate School of Education have created maps to show their community where they can refill their reusable mugs and water bottles
  • At Commencement, instead of water bottles we use 5 gallon bottles of water to discourage waste.