A New University Office
In the summer of 2008 the Report of the Harvard University Task Force on Greenhouse Gas Emissions was released, and the University declared an ambitious goal: a 30 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions below 2006 levels by 2016. With this commitment came the increased need for a central office working with schools and units to meet the goal. The Harvard Office for Sustainability was established in the fall of 2008, and reports to Executive Vice President Katie Lapp. Under the leadership of Director Heather Henriksen, the office provides vision and oversight for implementation of the greenhouse gas reduction goal. As reported in the Harvard Gazette, "the office will also help realize other sustainability goals for the University: changing behavior and improving efficiency measures in buildings, as well as better procurement practices, improved waste reduction, and more." See full article
Before OFS: Harvard Green Campus Initiative
The Office for Sustainability was formed from an existing organization called the Harvard Green Campus Initiative (HGCI). Here is a summary of the growth and evolution of HGCI.
In 1999 an interfaculty group of faculty, staff, and students met on a number of occasions to discuss campus sustainability at Harvard University. While the group had numerous ideas, the ongoing lack of dedicated staff and time meant nothing was getting done.
Towards the end of the year this group received a presentation of campus sustainability efforts in Australia from Leith Sharp. This presentation provided an overview of the campus environmental management program that Sharp had established at the University of New South Wales. The underlying success of the program was the result of successful fundraising efforts, wide-ranging engagement of faculty, staff, and students and the establishment of a well-staffed organization (10 staff) dedicated to greening the campus.
At the conclusion of this presentation, the co-chairs of the group, Tom Vautin and Jack Spengler, along with Joe Griffin, Director of Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S), decided to recruit Sharp to work with them in establishing a campus sustainability program at Harvard University. Immediate efforts were undertaken to secure a one-year grant of $70,000 to employ Sharp for 12 months.
From March 2000 to June 2001, Sharp worked with Vautin and Spengler to create a well-supported strategic plan for Harvard University to green the campus. Along the way the Harvard Green Campus Initiative was named and effectively birthed. In late 2001 they met with the President and Provost to request five years of funding at $150,000 a year to further establish the Harvard Green Campus Initiative along with the establishment of a $3 million Green Campus Loan Fund. The proposal was approved.
With this new financial support in place, Sharp was able to focus all energies on building an organization capable of providing green campus programs and services to multiple schools and departments across Harvard University. It is worth noting that preserving the Director’s function as program development (figuring out funding, project definition, staff training, and management) rather than project management (staffing the actual project implementation itself), is essential for creating a wide-reaching green campus effort.
Archive of HGCI Information
HGCI documented much of its growth and story, and this information has been useful to others who are working to build their own campus sustainability organizations. Below is a selection of documents, including the archive of newsletters, which provide a great history of HGCI through stories, graphics, and numbers.
- Greening Universities: The Road from Little Victories to Systemic Transformation (376 KB pdf)
- HGCI Overview for 2007/2008
- Explaining Harvard's Greenhouse Gas Inventory 2007 (189 KB pdf)
- High Performance Building Operations 2007 (3.46 MB pdf)
- An Approach to Campus Ecology 2007 (5.15 MB pdf)
- USGBC and Green Building at Harvard 2007 (6.58 MB pdf)
- What 16 LEED Projects have taught the Harvard Green Campus Initiative, Greenbuild Conference 2006 (5.4 MB pdf)
- FAS Green House Gas Reduction Program 2007 (377 KB pdf)