Campus & Community

Greening starts at home

5 min read

In myriad ways, Harvard works to reduce energy use, curb climate change

The impact of climate change and sustainability touches almost every part of life. Universities such as Harvard are well positioned to act on some of these environmental challenges, not only on Earth Day but every day, both through multidisciplinary research and teaching and by translating the findings of that research into practice.

Harvard students, faculty, and staff are exploring the ideas and discoveries that will help to move the world away from fossil fuels and build a healthier, more sustainable future. The solutions generated across the University’s Schools and departments not only reduce pollution, save money, and increase energy efficiency, but they also give students the tools to address these global challenges wherever their lives may lead.

“Living green and learning about the impact we have in our environment has been an essential part of my education at Harvard,” said Matheus Fernandes ’15, a doctoral student at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. “I believe the challenge of sustainable living is different than any other challenges we face in modern society. It requires a joint community effort and brings together people from many different backgrounds to achieve a common goal of unquestionable importance.”

Standing on the roof of Batten Hall, Julia Musso, the energy and sustainability coordinator for Harvard Business School, shows an array of 113kW solar panels that provide energy for the HBS campus. The University has installed more than 1MW of solar panels on rooftops across its Cambridge and Boston campuses.
William Veguilla (left), a research assistant, and Li Qiong Chan (right), operation director of the DNA Resource Core at Harvard Medical School, work with TetraScience equipment connected to ultra-low-temperature freezers at HMS. The devices, developed by a team that included Harvard students and supported by a student sustainability grant, were developed to help researchers monitor and reduce energy using wireless technology. In the background is research assistant Alexander Reynolds.
Susan Andrade uses the electric car charging stations in the new parking garage on the HMS campus. There are more than 25 electric vehicle charging stations located across Harvard’s Cambridge and Boston campuses.
A Hubway bike station provides green transportation on the Harvard Medical School campus. It is one of 12 Harvard-sponsored stations in Cambridge and Boston. The University provides a Hubway membership discount to students and staff, and offers a bike expense reimbursement to employees who commute by bicycle.
Memorial Church’s property operations assistant, Jim Barbas, maintains historic chandeliers that were recently outfitted with long-lasting, energy-efficient LED light bulbs in the narthex entrance in Harvard Yard.
Inside the great staircase in the Barker Center, Bradley Craig, a student in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, marvels at the antler chandelier that was donated by President Theodore Roosevelt and recently upgraded with LED bulbs. The energy-efficient bulbs are being installed throughout the University’s buildings, including the Harvard Art Museums and Widener Library, as part of Harvard’s focus on improving energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Alex Hem ’16, who works with the Undergraduate Resource Efficiency Program, talks with Jose “Memo” Guillermo Cedeño Laurent, a researcher at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, outside the newly renovated McKinlock Hall at Leverett House. Hem participated in a “living laboratory” study led by Laurent, who won two Climate Change Solutions Fund grants at Harvard. This study monitors students’ wellness, sleep, and fitness habits. “We want to understand how buildings can enable our students not only to be the most accomplished, but also to be as healthy and happy as they can be,” says Laurent.
A natural gas-fired turbine in Harvard’s Blackstone Steam Plant is part of an expanded combined heat and power system that efficiently generates 7.5 megawatts of electricity. The heat created in the process is reused to provide steam heat to the campus, significantly reducing the plant’s greenhouse gas emissions.
John Carroll, horticulturist, and Kieran Clyne, operations supervisor for landscape and recycling, analyze soil samples in the organic landscaping indoor “lab” at 156 Western Ave., Allston. The new lab will be used to test and optimize the “compost teas” that are part of the University’s internationally recognized organic landscaping program.
Matheus Fernandes ’15 tests out green chairs and furniture inside Peabody Terrace. These chairs, used by Harvard University Housing, feature chemical flame retardant-free materials. In 2015, Harvard became the first university to sign a national pledge stating a preference for purchasing furniture manufactured without the use of toxic flame retardants. Peabody Terrace was the first project of its size to implement the new pledge on campus.
Kieran Clyne, operations supervisor for landscape and recycling, and Franco Camporesi, volunteer and Allston resident, repair a donated table at the Harvard Recycling and Surplus Center at 156 Western Ave., Allston. The University prioritizes the reuse of furniture and other materials through donations to more than 200 local organizations, “freecycle” events, and by distributing surplus furniture and equipment to the community at the Recycling and Surplus Center.
Tom Tribble, senior facilities manager at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, explains how a device he designed helps reduce airflow in the Northwest Laboratory building, dramatically curbing energy use. The metal disk, which is manufactured at a campus machine shop, allows Tribble’s team to reduce airflow without replacing the building’s air conditioning system. Harvard’s facilities leaders and building managers are working behind the scenes to optimize building energy systems and performance to improve efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.