Dear Members of the Harvard Community,

Harvard has an important role to play in environmental stewardship. Through research, education, and the planning and development of our campus, Harvard contributes every day to the sustainability of our planet. I am proud to say that almost all of Harvard’s Schools and departments have made a substantial commitment to reducing our environmental footprint, which this special section of the Gazette now celebrates.

I want to take this opportunity to extend my deepest appreciation to all of you in the Harvard community who are working day in and day out to reduce our environmental impact. As a result of your collective effort, Harvard is well on the way to becoming an informed and engaged campus community, committed to environmental sustainability, including the specific challenge of climate change. Harvard is considered to have one of the most comprehensive green campus programs in the country.

Almost a decade ago, President Neil Rudenstine supported the establishment of the Harvard Green Campus Initiative, which, with the support of leadership and dedicated staff throughout our Schools and departments, has grown from a small office with a lone director to a central unit consisting of 20 professionals who work to educate the community about environmentally friendly practices and to support projects aimed at implementing those practices across a range of departments and disciplines. Harvard currently has the most LEED- (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) registered buildings of any university in the United States. We also purchase significant amounts of renewable energy and are aggressively seeking new clean and renewable energy alternatives.

The University has also established a $12 million revolving, interest-free loan fund to support projects at the Schools that reduce the consumption of energy and other resources. This fund, the only one of its kind and magnitude at a university, has provided assistance to more than 150 conservation projects, achieving significant environmental and financial benefits. Moreover, in 2004, Harvard adopted a set of campus-wide sustainability principles and has since translated these principles into a set of comprehensive sustainability guidelines for the development of the Allston campus.

I am proud to inherit this institutional commitment to sustainability as well as Harvard’s record of effective action. I hope that we can build on this base to develop a stronger environmental reporting process that will engage all of our Schools and departments in measuring their environmental impacts and efforts to reduce them; to work with our Schools in developing a feasible greenhouse gas reduction framework; to establish performance standards for new and renovated buildings that will ensure continual improvement in the way we design and operate our campus; to continue to bolster the capacities of Harvard’s faculty, students, and staff in implementing environmentally friendly practices; to partner with other universities in areas of research and training to effect change on a broader scale; and to strengthen the connection between our research findings and our administrative practices.

Over 40 years ago, Rachel Carson wrote: “Only within the moment of time represented by the present century has one species — man — acquired significant power to alter the nature of his world.” As we begin a new century, our impact has intensified. As I begin my term as president of Harvard, I hope that you will join me in this crucial effort to make Harvard a model of sustainability.

The biggest challenge of sustainability: Changing minds