One year ago, former Vice President Al Gore ’69 addressed a rainy-day crowd of 15,000 in Harvard Yard. Greenhouse gases pumping into Earth’s finite atmosphere threaten a climate catastrophe, he said, and big steps are needed to prevent global disaster.

A few months earlier, Harvard had taken its own big step: a pledge to reduce University greenhouse gases 30 percent by 2016. (School-by-School draft plans for energy conservation and reduction will be finished this fall.) Officials also called on Harvard students, faculty, and staff to use less, reuse more, and reduce waste in energy and materials.

Changing the culture of personal behavior is one of the goals of Green ’13. Freshmen in monthly brainstorming sessions address sustainability on the scale of the dorm room and the dining hall. One workshop got down to the very personal scale: how to do laundry, sustainably. (Hint: Cold or warm water, not hot. And just enough detergent.)

Harvard offers classes in ancient Greek, astrophysics, and computational biology. Laundry 101 might not be a bad idea either. One freshman walked into a laundry room recently with a basket of dirty clothes. He looked around, confused, and walked out. His last words, “I have to Google this.”