Science & Tech

Environmental report card grades Harvard A-

3 min read

Sustainable Endowments Institute reviews, assesses green campuses

Harvard received the highest ranking in a recent “College Sustainability Report Card” that graded the green credentials of 300 colleges and universities.

Harvard received high ranks for an array of activities, including recycling, green buildings, energy supply, transportation, and student involvement. Overall, the University was among 15 nationwide that received the top A- grade, earning Harvard the title of Overall College Sustainability Leader.

Harvard Executive Vice President Ed Forst said that though the grade is a validation of Harvard’s current efforts, the University is focused on how it can continue to lessen its impact on the environment and forge new ways for universities and other institutions to operate sustainably.

“This is a critical time to transform institutions like Harvard and continue decreasing our impact on the environment as we seek to lessen the damage our society does to the planet,” Forst said. “We are poised to build on the impressive start made by active and committed members of the University community. Our goal is to continue improving Harvard’s efforts and embedding sustainability into the culture of our institution.”

The Report Card was released Sept. 24 by the Cambridge-based Sustainable Endowments Institute. Other schools earning top marks were Brown, Columbia, Dartmouth, Penn, Stanford, Carleton, Dickinson, Middlebury, Oberlin, the University of Colorado, the University of New Hampshire, the University of Vermont, the University of Washington, and the University of British Columbia in Canada.

“The College Sustainability Report Card is the only independent evaluation of sustainability in campus operations and endowment investments and it has the highest response rate of any college sustainability ranking or rating,” Mark Orlowski, executive director of the Sustainable Endowments Institute, said in a statement.

The honor is just the latest recognition Harvard has received for its efforts to make the University as environmentally friendly as possible. While changes in University operations have been led by the Harvard Green Campus Initiative, which has a suite of programs aimed at everything from energy conservation to recycling to education, individual Schools and departments have also recognized the growing imperative that the University make its operations increasingly sustainable. The University’s faculty have also long been involved in green efforts in their teaching and research, educating generations of students about the challenges and opportunities involving the environment and crafting innovative solutions in a host of fields, from building design to government programming to business operations to technological know-how.

Harvard’s Associate Vice President for Facilities and Environmental Services Thomas Vautin said that Harvard’s commitment to sustainability has increased every year since 1999, when the Harvard Green Campus Initiative was launched.

In the past year alone, Vautin said, Harvard has established new green building guidelines for construction and renovation projects and has set significant new goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through 2016.

“We have made a substantial commitment through the engagement of a large number of faculty, staff, students, and administrative departments, all of whom are dedicated to advancing sustainability across the University,” Vautin said. “I anticipate that all corners of the University — students, faculty, and staff — will continue to help the University advance its record in this arena.”