Last year, Harvard pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 30 percent by 2016. That means a citylike University with hundreds of buildings and thousands of people will have to reduce the energy it uses on the grand scale of heating systems, chiller operations, and vehicle fleets.

The same Harvard pledge will also require changes on a personal scale, like the ones under way at Harvard’s Department of Romance Languages and Literatures. About 40 faculty in Boylston Hall — after planning meetings in the spring — now collectively apply a scholarly rigor to saving energy and materials.

Starting this past summer, the department leased one copy machine instead of three. Each professor was given a quota for copies, based on the number of courses and students. Two new scanners — less energy-intensive than copiers, and paper-free — are used to turn documents into PDFs. “So far, people are fine with it,” said department Chair Virginie Greene.

The department also has monthly meetings, where agendas, new policies, and other materials were once copied and distributed. Now presentations are paperless — a trend that Greene sees in the classroom too, where more and more teachers use PowerPoint and upload readings to Web sites.