FAS Green Program student rep Dewahar Senthoor ’13 scoops ice cream into a freshman’s reusable mug.

Photo courtesy of Office for Sustainability

Campus & Community

Starting out green

3 min read

With tour and fair, freshmen learn about living sustainably

Harvard freshman Ashleigh Cote says she heard about the University’s commitment to sustainability before she arrived on campus last month. She wanted to know more, so she took a green tour of Harvard Yard to find out how the College is reducing its environmental footprint.

“I’m excited to learn my own habits, to build my own environmental habits on campus,” Cote said at the end of the 30-minute tour led by Brandon Geller ’08, Green Program senior coordinator for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS).

Cote and her classmates have been learning how they can help Harvard build a greener, healthier campus, aided by returning students and administrative staff at FAS who have partnered with the Office for Sustainability (OFS) to integrate environmental awareness into the student experience.

The “Green Tour” — which includes the Canaday Hall solar thermal and steam heat recovery project, as well as organic landscaping — was just one way Harvard is working across all its Schools to integrate sustainability into student life.

At Harvard Business School, more than a third of the incoming class attended green-specific welcome events, and 28 students stepped forward to engage their peers to take environmentally helpful actions. More than 1,000 reusable mugs were distributed to incoming graduate students at Harvard Law School and Harvard School of Public Health. At Harvard Divinity School, students and staff collaborated to produce a 20-minute sustainability video for incoming students that included a welcome message from Dean William A. Graham.

Jonas Clark, the resident dean of freshmen of Oak Yard, of the Freshman Dean’s Office, said his team tries to make sustainability an important part of orientation.

“We’re working with students to put their creative sustainability ideas into action to benefit the entire Harvard community,” Clark said. “Not only is it a great way for them to get involved in something important right at the beginning of their time here, but we’re also seeing a growing number of incoming students who are especially enthusiastic about environmental and sustainability issues. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

The outreach to new students also extends into the academic year. For instance, 1,400 freshmen packed into Annenberg Dining Hall on Sept. 7 for the late evening Green Brain Break, hosted by the Resource Efficiency Program and the FAS Green Program, a partnership between OFS and FAS Physical Resources. The event, now in its second year, is part of the student-created Green ’15 program designed to engage freshmen in sustainable practices and get them involved in Harvard’s environmental efforts. For instance, before first-year students could claim their reusable travel mugs, they had to sign a pledge and promise to use the mugs instead of disposable cups at future brain breaks.

Aya Darwazeh ’15, who is from Jordan, said she was impressed by all the information about recycling and green living. “Back home in Jordan, we’re not really that green,” she said. “I definitely want to integrate sustainability into my daily life.”

The Annenberg event also featured a Green Fair with information booths for students curious about environmental sustainability as an area of study at Harvard. At one booth, Environmental Science and Public Policy (ESPP) concentrators fielded questions and gave out information about the Harvard University Center for the Environment.

Brian Mendel ’15 visited the booth. As he looked around the hall at students eagerly slurping fast-melting ice cream from their new red, orange, pink, or teal mugs, he said, “I was told that green is the new Crimson.”