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Harvard Sustainability Report

Explore how we are accelerating action toward a sustainable, fossil fuel-free future.

A message from Harvard’s Chief Sustainability Officer:

We are excited to share our 2022-2023 Annual Report in which you will see progress on Harvard’s sustainable development and climate goals as well as the university-wide mission to accelerate action on climate, equity, and health. In addition, this report highlights our updated Sustainability Action Plan which reimagines How We Power, How We Build, How We Operate, and How We Lead. The Office for Sustainability is proud to collaborate with faculty, students, staff, and alumni across Harvard, using our campus as a testbed as we pilot, prove, and scale the latest research and innovations. Through this essential work, we remain deeply committed to modeling a sustainable future for the Harvard community and beyond.

Heather Henriksen, Chief Sustainability Officer


Sustainability Action Plan

Harvard’s updated Sustainability Action Plan, launched in May 2023, offers a holistic approach that addresses climate, equity and health in an integrated, interconnected way, rather than as separate issues.

Read our updated Sustainability Action Plan

Screenshot of the cover of Harvard's Sustainability Action Plan against a background of solar panels.

Table of Contents:

  1. How We Power – Climate/Fossil Fuel Goals, Scopes 1 and 2 Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions, Net Energy Use, Solar Photovoltaics (PV) Capacity
  2. How We Build – Sustainable Building Certifications, Healthier Buildings and Supply Chain/Materials
  3. How We Operate – Scope 3 (Supply/Value Chain) Emissions, Employee Commuting, Food, Waste, Water, Landscaping
  4. How We Lead – University Sustainability Leadership, Research, Student Initiatives, Events


Fossil Fuel Goals


Fossil Fuel-Free by 2050

Harvard set a goal to be fossil fuel-free by 2050. Goal Zero is focused on eliminating the use of fossil fuels—to the point where offsets are no longer needed. By recognizing the full set of damages caused by our use of fossil fuels, rather than only carbon emissions, Harvard is seeking to reduce the negative health impacts of fossil fuel use and production. Fossil fuels are also a main ingredient in many plastics and toxic chemicals, which is why we also aim to reduce those as a part of our mission to reduce waste and create a healthier value chain.


Photo: Harvard’s District Energy Facility. Image by Brad Feinknopf of Feinknopf Photography.

Learn More About Our Fossil Fuel Goals

Photo of Harvard’s District Energy Facility. Image by Brad Feinknopf of Feinknopf Photography.

Fossil Fuel-Neutral by 2026

As a bridge to reach Goal Zero, Harvard has a short-term objective to be fossil fuel-neutral by 2026. This means Harvard will zero out campus emissions (Scope 1 and Scope 2). It also means funding new renewable electricity and other projects that zero out both greenhouse gas emissions and the health impacts from our use of fossil fuels, such as those caused by air pollution, to create positive benefits for human health, social equity, and ecosystems.  

Harvard Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions

Harvard’s four emissions sources include: District energy systems, electricity use, fossil fuels in buildings, and the University’s vehicle fleet. The University is actively planning to achieve Goal Zero and will continue to share our progress with you.

Graphic that displays Harvard's "Goal Zero" as the sum of four elements: district energy systems, electricity use, fossil fuels in buildings, and the university vehicle fleet.

University-wide Scopes 1 and 2 GHG Emissions

Graph that shows the decline in Harvard's University-wide GHG emissions from 2006 to 2022
Graph showing the decline in Harvard’s University-wide GHG emissions from 2006-2022.
  • This graph shows University-wide emissions by year since the baseline year of 2006.  The dark green line shows total gross emissions, while the magenta line indicates net emissions, including RECs and carbon credits.  The yellow arrow indicates the University’s 2016 first-generation goal of a 30% reduction in emissions compared to baseline.
  • Net emissions remain in line with the 2016 goal.
  • Harvard is evaluating solutions to reduce fossil fuels in our district energy systems, remove fossil fuels from our buildings, and create a roadmap for our long-term 2050 goal with interim targets.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic led to significant operational changes from 2020 to the end of 2022 that impacted the University’s energy use and emissions.  

Carbon use intensity: emissions in the context of campus growth

Graph showing carbon use intensity through emissions in the context of campus growth.
Graph showing Harvard’s University-wide emissions, total square footage, carbon use intensity, and the annual percent change in carbon use intensity from 2006-2022.
  • This graph shows total square footage (dark green), University-wide emissions (magenta), carbon use intensity (yellow), and the annual percent change in carbon use intensity (purple) for the time period 2006-2022.
  • During this 16-year time period, emissions fell by about 27% while the total square footage of emitting buildings grew by roughly 19%.
  • This results in a declining trend for carbon use intensity with an approximate 39% decline in 2022 compared to 2006.

Did you know…

  • Harvard’s emissions inventory was among the first in higher education to be third-party verified by The Climate Registry. Harvard follows The Climate Registry’s General Reporting Protocol for the Voluntary GHG Reporting Program.
  • Harvard’s GHG inventory consists of direct emissions from onsite combustion (Scope 1) and indirect emissions from purchased electricity (Scope 2) sources for North American properties by Fiscal Year.
  • Preparing the GHG inventory is typically a two-year process that begins with compiling University-wide energy use data, reviewing data with Schools and Units, and assigning emission factors from electricity suppliers that become available 12-18 months after the close of the year. The 2022 data included is still estimated, subject to change after the final electricity emission factors become available.

Net Energy Use

In 2022, net energy use was down 5% from a 2006 baseline (excluding growth, energy use dropped 22% due to energy efficiency measures). Reductions in building energy use from energy efficiency measures offset the impact of growth in square footage. 

The COVID-19 pandemic led to significant operational changes in 2020 and 2021 that impacted the University’s energy use and emissions. De-densification of Harvard’s Campus in March 2020 decreased energy use in some buildings. However, lab buildings, which account for 50% of energy use, were re-opened in June 2020. Additionally, some safety-driven changes in building operations resulted in increased energy use, such as higher building ventilation rates per recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state and local guidance and standards pertinent to COVID-19. These changes impacted the University’s GHG emissions and energy use, altering trends compared to previous years. 

Installed Solar PV Capacity

Solar panels on top of Travis building at Harvard Business School.

Harvard has installed 3 MW of on-site solar photovoltaic (PV) on its campus – the equivalent of 600 home installations – as well as 0.5 MW of installed storage. The University sells the environmental benefit to local utility providers to increase the amount of renewable energy in the regional electric grid, which helps Massachusetts meet its renewable energy target.  On-site solar, combined with solar thermal and geothermal installations, serve as important test grounds to inform future action.

The green line in the graph above shows the total cumulative capacity for installed solar PV since 2003. The blue bars indicate the annual total capacity of newly installed solar PV for a given year, with tooltips specifying the location and capacity of each installation.


Harvard continues to develop its Sustainable Building Standards (first developed in 2009) and is building operational best practices that address climate, health, and equity in the built environment.

Graphic illustration of a green building and leaf

148 LEED-Certified Buildings

Harvard has 148 LEED-certified buildings, more than any other higher education institution, including the first LEED Commercials Interiors (CI) V4 in Massachusetts, and the first building in New England to receive a second platinum certification.
Graphic icon that shows buildings next to a plant, with recycling arrows around the outside to show circularity.

3.6M sq. feet

Harvard has implemented the Harvard Healthier Building Academy (HHBA) to use healthier materials across the University, removing harmful chemicals of concern across 3.6 million square feet of campus, including iconic spaces such as the Smith Campus Center (SCC), the Harvard Business School (HBS) Klarman Hall, and the Harvard Science and Engineering Complex (SEC).
Graphic icons of a chair and lamp. Both the couch and lamp have a smaller icon of a leaf with recycling circular arrows layered over them.

6K+ materials

During construction of Harvard’s Science and Engineering Complex (SEC), the University evaluated over 6,000 materials, testing many—from pipes to furniture and flooring to lighting fixtures—to identify and address classes of chemicals of concern; 1,700 were ultimately installed in the building.
Graphic icon of an air conditioner. On it is a smaller icon of a sustainable leaf with recycle arrows.

30% energy reduction for cooling needs

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) installed state-of-the-art air cleaning technology in five new academic buildings, reducing 30% energy use for cooling needs and 14% for heating needs.
Icon of a steam trap with steam coming out of it.

4.2% reduction in steam emissions

The repair of steam traps across campus led to a 4.2% reduction in steam emissions.
Graphic icon of a home with plumbing in the middle of it. All is set against a green circle background.

4M gallons saved annually

Harvard University Housing (HUH) completed the fourth and final phase of its multi-phase water fixture retrofit. The last two properties, One Western Ave and Trilogy, will produce the highest water savings to date, a projected 4 million gallons annually.

Harvard LEED-Certified Projects

Harvard has 148 Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified projects, more than any other higher education institution, including the first LEED commercial interiors (CI) V4 in Massachusetts, and the first building in New England to receive a second platinum certification.

Harvard LEED-certified projects:

The graph above shows the cumulative number of LEED-certified projects per year since 2005. The number of projects with a certified rating is shown in green, those with a silver-level rating are shown in purple, those with a gold-level rating are shown in yellow, and those with platinum-level LEED rating are shown in blue. The annual number of projects with each type of rating is indicated in the tooltips.

Since 2021, Harvard has received five new LEED certifications:

  1. Andover Hall, now known as Swartz Hall at the Harvard Divinity School (HDS), received LEED-CI Platinum certification.
  2. Cumnock Hall at Harvard Business School (HBS) received LEED-CI Silver for its upper floor.
  3. Claverly Hall, the first part of the Adams House renovation, received LEED-CI Gold certification.
  4. Klarman Hall at the Harvard Business School (HBS) received LEED-NC Gold certification.
  5. Science and Engineering Complex (SEC)known as one of the healthiest, most sustainable, and energy-efficient laboratories in the world — received LEED Platinum certification.


Science and Engineering Complex

The Greenway/Yard along the back of the new Science and Engineering Complex building in Allston at Harvard University.

The Harvard Science and Engineering Complex (SEC), a Living Building Challenge (LBC) Materials, Equity, and Beauty Petal-certified and LEED Platinum-certified building, is operating below its predicted energy use intensity (pEUI) target. Retro-commissioning activities have helped fine-tune building operations to achieve an EUI below its design target.


Swartz Hall at Harvard Divinity School

Swartz Hall on the HDS campus is the School's main campus building. Photo by Kristie Welsh/HDS

The renewal of Swartz Hall was the first major upgrade to the building since it was constructed more than a century ago and the project achieved LEED-CI Platinum certification, the highest level of certification. Learn more.


Scope 3 Emissions

Prioritizing action

Reducing Scope 3 Emissions

Harvard is prioritizing action to reduce Scope 3 (value chain) emissions to maximize and scale impact.

The University tracks and seeks to reduce emissions from its value chain, in areas including construction, food, air travel, commuting, and purchased goods and services.

More on how Harvard is reducing Scope 3 Emissions

Graphic of an isometric plane that displays an aerial view of life at Harvard, highlighting which activities produce Scope 3 emissions (flights, construction, cloud storage, commuting, dining), as well as Scope 1 and 2 emissions (power sources on and off campus).

Value Chain Emissions Goals & Priorities

Graphic icon of an apple.

25% reduction in food-related emissions by 2030

As part of the Coolfood Pledge coalition, Harvard is working to reduce campus food-related emissions by 25% (or per-plate emissions by 38%) by 2030.
Graphic icon that represents construction of a building. An icon with a cloud that has "CO2" written in it with an arrow pointing down toward the ground hovers above the construction icon.

20% lower embodied carbon in new construction

Harvard plans to reduce embodied carbon in the primary materials used in new construction projects by a minimum of 20%, compared to conventional buildings.
Graphic icon showing Scope 3 priority areas for Harvard: construction, food, plane/flights, purchasing (demonstrated by a clipboard and shopping cart), and an electric bus to represent commuting.

5 priority areas

Harvard is prioritizing action on five priority Scope 3 categories: construction, food, air travel, commuting, and purchased goods/services.

To date, Harvard has set two specific Scope 3 greenhouse gas reduction targets:  

  • As part of the Coolfood Pledge coalition, Harvard is working to reduce campus food-related emissions by 25% (or per-plate emissions by 38%) by 2030.  
  • As part of the updated Sustainability Action Plan, Harvard set a goal to lower embodied carbon in capital projects (new buildings and large-scale renovations) by 20%, compared to conventional buildings. 

SCOPE 3 SPOTLIGHT: Harvard Kennedy School

High-Quality Carbon Offsets

In 2023, the Harvard Kennedy School has purchased its first portfolio of high-quality carbon offsets to compensate for the climate and health damages of Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) travel taken during the year and its global emissions impact.


This investment comes as a part of HKS’s broader strategy for pursuing its sustainability goals and campaign to help community members “Fly Less, Fly Better” and take responsibility for damages associated with travel that needs to occur as a part of its core mission. The strategy is led by the HKS Sustainability Leadership Council (SLC), made up of faculty, students, and staff appointed by the Dean to guide HKS’s sustainability priorities and focus on innovative ways to reduce GHG emissions on campus throughout our operations and practices. The Kennedy School has committed to tracking its air travel impacts and offsetting the associated climate damages as part of its core sustainability strategy. 

Inside the Wexner Commons space with people at tables under the space's glass roof and next to indoor trees/greenery.


Coolfood Pledge:

Harvard was an inaugural signatory of the Coolfood Pledge in 2019. Organizations that sign the Pledge commit, as a group, to slash absolute food-related GHG emissions by 25% by 2030 (or 38% reduction “per plate”), relative to a baseline (Harvard’s baseline year is 2019). This level of ambition is in line with achieving the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.

Re-examining our food systems is a pivotal step in helping New York City reach its climate goals. That’s why in 2021 the City became a signatory of the Coolfood Pledge. Harvard’s leadership as a founding signatory on the Pledge was a strong vote of confidence that inspired us to incorporate it into the City’s climate playbook.”

Breaking down Harvard’s “per-plate” food-related emissions

Below is an analysis of “per-plate” emissions (i.e. emissions per 1,000 kilocalories), which indicates a decline since 2019 and that Harvard is on track toward its 2030 goal:

Between 2019 and 2022, “per-plate” emissions decreased by 14.3%. In 2022, total food-related GHG emissions only increased by 16%, even as food purchasing increased by 28% post-pandemic.

The “per-plate” decline during this time period is due to decreases in red meat and dairy purchases and increases in plant-based food purchasing.

The graph with the title "Benchmarking Harvard food-related carbon impacts compared to all Coolfood members and the 2030 regional target." The graph shows that Harvard’s “per-plate” emissions, in comparison to all Coolfood members and the University sector, are well below peer groups and also well below the average North American diet.

The graph above shows that Harvard’s “per-plate” emissions (solid magenta line) are well below the emissions from peer Coolfood member organizations (solid blue line) and the average North American diet (dashed dark green line).

Emissions from an average North American diet were calculated by Coolfood using FAOSTAT data for 2015. The 2030 Coolfood regional target (dashed yellow line) represents a 38% per-plate reduction from the standard North American diet. Thanks to increasing food-related sustainability efforts over the past decade, Harvard’s per-plate emissions are already close to the 2030 Coolfood regional target for North America.

More on the Coolfood Pledge:

Plant-based foods that are good sources of plant based protein are laid on a table. Image includes avocados, lentils, broccolini, chickpeas, carrots, mushrooms and more.
  • Nearly 60 organizations, corporations and cities have joined the Coolfood Pledge. Members include the Cities of New York, Toronto, Copenhagen, and Milan; large corporations like Bank of America, Bloomberg, and IKEA; prominent medical institutions, like Boston Medical Center, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center; and several universities, including Harvard.
  • Pledge members confidentially report food purchase amounts by weight each year, including data on all animal-based foods, as well as plant proteins, which collectively tend to make up 80-90 percent of an organization’s food-related GHG emissions.

Harvard’s Sustainable and Healthful Food Standards address:

  • Climate and ecosystems
  • Consumer wellbeing
  • Education and food literacy
  • Food waste reduction
  • Animal welfare
  • Wellbeing of workers and communities along the value chain

SPOTLIGHT: Harvard Business School

Sustainable Food at HBS

  • Animal welfare:  A focus area of HBS’ Standards is animal welfare. In addition to the benefit to the animal, there are human health benefits for humane certified animal products. Seventy percent of antibiotics sold in the United States are used i farmed animals to reduce the potential for illness caused by cramped and dirty conditions. This can lead to antibiotic-resistant diseases that could infect humans. HBS has switched to certified humane pasture-raised eggs – a higher certification level recommended by Farm Forward (a non-profit that HBS collaborates with on this topic) and is now evaluating chicken.
  • Plant-based foods: Harvard Business School has increased plant-based options on campus for a number of years. Recent changes include making the buffet at the Grille completely vegetarian with many items being vegan, adding tempeh bacon, plant-based chicken, and Just Egg substitute, along with increasing plant-based catering options as well. The oat-based frozen yogurt is a favorite.

Sign of eggs that says "We serve certified humane cage-free eggs."

SPOTLIGHT: Harvard Kennedy School

Food Waste Reduction at HKS

Harvard Kennedy School re-launched its popular food waste reduction program, the HKS Food Chain, to reduce food waste footprint and reduce food insecurity on campus. Over the past year, more than 100 HKS events have participated in the program, with 350 community members involved. The Food Chain diverted more than 400 pounds of food from our compost waste stream and shared it safely with HKS community members at events of all sizes.


Employee Commuting

Data provided by Harvard Transportation & Parking’s CommuterChoice:

Fast Stats from CommuterChoice:

  • 36.9% of Harvard employees worked remotely, with substantial increases on Mondays and Fridays
  • 20.5% walked
  • 18.3% took public transit
  • 10.8% biked
  • 11.2% drove alone
  • The pandemic drastically altered commuting patterns but commute choices seem to be normalizing. Remote work continues to be a dominant trend, while walking, biking and transit continue to increase in overall mode share.

Waste Reduction

Harvard’s extensive waste reduction initiatives focus first on reduction, then reusing, and next on recycling and composting.

Harvard Schools and Units have invested in improved signage, trainings, and waste reduction programs. Across the University, students, faculty and staff are adapting to changes in global recycling-industry standards while also expanding composting availability. 

There was a reduction in all forms of waste produced on campus between July 2020 and June 2021, when Harvard de-densified its campus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In that period, compost decreased 63%, recycling decreased 45%, and trash decreased 30% (all compared to a 2006 baseline). The flattening of recycling and compost levels and increase in trash during the 2021-2022 period could signify the beginning of a return to pre-pandemic levels. Factors could include the increase in cleaning and use of disposable products as the campus population returned to normal. 

Yellow icon of a person throwing away trash with a magnifying glass next to it to demonstrate waste auditing.

4+ waste audits

Four waste audits were conducted across campus to understand common contamination problems and opportunities for more waste diversion. Findings from the audits can be used to inform education efforts and improvements to signage and bin placements.
Blue icon of a gear with a wrench and screw in the middle.

3 fix-it clinics

Harvard Libraries and Harvard Recycling held three Fixit Clinics this year, including one at the Science and Engineering Complex (SEC). Local fixers partnered with community members to troubleshoot their broken items, helping to prevent landfill waste and promote a culture of repair.
Green recycling arrows with items in the middle such as a lamp, table, backpack, jacket, bike, toaster, charging plug - all to demonstrate "freecycling".

4+ freecycles

Harvard Campus Services' Recycling and Waste Management team hosted four community-wide Freecycles this year, where hundreds of items were exchanged to find a new life. Several other Freecycles and swap events were organized across campus through the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS), Graduate School of Education (GSE), and Harvard Business School (HBS).
Recycle icon with lab icons in the middle like a pipette and lab bottle.

Nearly 11,000 lbs. of lab plastics recycled

In its first full year of the lab-plastics “tip box” recycling initiative, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) increased its plastic recycling rate by 10,953 pounds. The plastic recycled from this initiative is being made into new laboratory products locally in Cambridge, and those new products are already making their way back into the labs at Harvard.
Pink icon of a recycling symbol with furniture in the middle to demonstrate furniture recycling.

80-90 truckloads of furniture

During the start of move-in season, Harvard University Housing’s (HUH) 16-week reuse station program generated 80-90 truckloads of furniture, as well as more than 2,000 pink bags of home goods, clothing, and food donations.
ICON Landfill Reduction

5K lbs. of material

Nearly 5,000 lbs. of material are avoiding landfills annually, thanks to the 16-week reuse station program hosted by Harvard University Housing (HUH), in collaboration with Facilities Maintenance Operations’ (FMO) Recycling Program. Weekly pickups ensure items reach their donation destination to one of several partnering charities: Harvard Habitat for Humanity, Allston-Brighton Food Pantry, Cambridge Family Shelter of the YWCA, Furnishing Hope, as well as those in need on/near our campus.

Water Usage

As of 2022, Harvard’s water use is down 24% from 2006 levels. Harvard Schools and Units have invested significantly in water-saving fixtures and technologies to reduce consumption.

Harvard has also improved building and landscaping water use and reduced water consumption in the University’s energy plants. ​


Harvard’s Landscape Maintenance team, within Campus Services’ Energy & Facilities (E&F), works each year to create more sustainable operations. In 2022, the Landscape Maintenance team implemented more battery-operated equipment, continued the practice of organic landscaping, and designed rewilding pilots to support pollinators and provide habitat for a variety of organisms. 

Graphic icon of a green lawnmower with an electric battery symbol on it.

Nearly 40 pieces of electric equipment

The expansion of battery-operated/electric equipment reduces noise and emissions. Harvard's Landscape Maintenance team is replacing aging equipment — like push mowers, gas blowers, and weed whackers — with updated, more efficient battery-operated equipment.
Graphic, green icon of trees and shrubbery.

Organic Landscaping

Organic landscaping is the default for the majority of Harvard's campus. Harvard’s skilled horticulturists and property maintenance workers provide comprehensive maintenance of campus landscapes and hardscapes, including organic fertilization and treatment programs, historic elm preservation, conventional turf and tree care, landscape and hardscape installations and renovations, snow removal, and emergency response.
Green graphic icon of a building surrounded by plants and sun.

Rewilding Pilots

Harvard's Landscape team worked with students from an FAS History course called “Re-Wilding Harvard” to design a pilot rewilding project by Batten Hall. Rewilding restores a habitat to an earlier form to support pollinators, provides habitat for different organisms and helps manage stormwater. The newly landscaped area includes drought tolerant trees and shrubs with berries and flowers for birds and pollinators along with native flower and grass species.


Sustainability Action Plan Reception

The updated Sustainability Action Plan was released in May 2023 with a reception hosted by the Office for Sustainability (OFS) that invited President Larry Bacow, members of the Presidential Committee on Sustainability (PCS), and members of the Council of Student Sustainability Leaders (CSSL) to speak about the University’s sustainability goals and vision.

Collage of images from the Sustainability Action Plan Reception on May 12, 2023. Photos show Harvard sustainability leaders posing for a photo, Harvard President Larry Bacow speaking, and an audience hearing President Bacow speak.

Steeple on Harvard's campus.

Presidential Committee on Sustainability (PCS)

The Presidential Committee on Sustainability – led by two faculty, the Executive Vice President, and managed by the Harvard Office for Sustainability – continues to advise the President and the University’s leadership on sustainability vision, goals, strategy, and partnerships.

Salata Institute for Climate and Sustainability 

The centerpiece of Harvard’s climate- and sustainability-focused research, teaching, and engagement is the Salata Institute for Climate and Sustainability.   

Launched in fall 2022 with a $200 million gift from Melanie and Jean Salata, the Institute serves as a fulcrum for collaboration across Harvard’s many areas of expertise, pursuing practical, real-world solutions that address all aspects of the climate crisis.   

In February 2023, the Salata Institute awarded its first grants to five research clusters that will provide more than $8.1 million over three years to more than 30 faculty members across disciplines at Harvard. Read more about the five research clusters. 

A Salata Institute panel in fall 2022.

Sustainability Management Council (SMC)

Senior operations, facilities, and administrative leaders across the campus meet regularly as part of the Sustainability Management Council. The group aims to facilitate best practice sharing to enable the cost-effective achievement of the University’s sustainability and energy management goals. 

Photo of Harvard’s District Energy Facility. Image by Brad Feinknopf of Feinknopf Photography.
Photo of Harvard’s District Energy Facility. Image by Brad Feinknopf of Feinknopf Photography.

Council of Student Sustainability Leaders (CSSL)

Managed by the Harvard Office for Sustainability, the Council of Student Sustainability Leaders (CSSL) comprises Harvard graduate and undergraduate students who lead and are involved in sustainability-related student groups on campus.  

CSSL provides an opportunity for Harvard students to work together with other students from across the University’s Schools on sustainability projects, to connect and network with sustainability leaders (including students, faculty, and administration), and to provide feedback and recommendations on Harvard’s climate, health, equity, and sustainability initiatives.

Students from different sustainability groups at Harvard gather for a photo.

Students from Office for Sustainability (OFS) programs, including the Council of Student Sustainability Leaders (CSSL), the Resource Efficiency Program (REP), and Harvard Business School (HBS) and Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) Student Sustainability Fellows, gathered for the second annual networking event to share ideas and find synergies. 

Members of the Council of Student Sustainability Leaders (CSSL) attended the Earthshot Prize Awards, hosted by Prince William of England, where they met several important sustainability leaders, including Mayor of Boston Michelle Wu. 

Climate Solutions Living Lab 

The Climate Solutions Living Lab combines pedagogy and applied research to advance the climate goals of Harvard and other institutions, governments and companies. Students from graduate schools across Harvard University work in interdisciplinary teams to advance new, replicable and innovative steps to redress climate change.

Students scrutinize the feasibility, scalability, and social justice impacts of climate change measures from multiple perspectives, including economic, technological, legal, and health. Students’ final projects include analyses and tools that can be tested and further refined by on- and off-campus partners of the Living Lab. 

Climate Solutions Living Lab Projects in 2022-2023:

Track I: Building Sector – Working Towards Fossil Fuel-Free 

  1. Designing fossil fuel-free laws for new construction and major renovations while supporting affordable housing and equity. 
  2. Structuring third-party access to shared net-zero energy systems. 

Track II: Energy Sector – Greening the Grid 

  1. Integrating smaller buyers into large consortium purchases of renewable energy. 
  2. Expediting an equitable build out of transmission systems for renewable energy.  

Harvard Green Office Program 

The Harvard Green Office Program guides staff through the process of creating a more sustainable workspace.  

Charles River Clean-Up

The Harvard Kennedy School hosted a Charles River Clean-Up for Earth Day, in collaboration with the Charles River Conservancy. The group of Harvard students, faculty, and staff collected more than 20 full bags of trash and micro-plastics, reducing waste in the local riverway.

Collage of photos from the 2023 Charles River Clean-Up event in May.

Resource Efficiency Program (REPs)

Founded in 2002, the Resource Efficiency Program (REP) is a peer-driven educational initiative at Harvard University dedicated to promoting sustainability within undergraduate houses and dormitories. 

REP students at a kitchen for the REP Food Literacy Project.
REP students participated in Heat’n’Eats & Food Literacy Networking.
REP student group members wear hazmat suits while conducting a waste audit. They smile and pose for a photo.
REPs conducted a waste audit.

Student Grant Projects

The OFS Student Grant Program funds creative student projects that use the campus as a living lab to solve challenges and create a more sustainable community. More than 100 projects have been awarded since the beginning of the program.  

In the 2022-2023 academic year, 8 projects were awarded. Two of these projects are highlighted below.

Yimei Hu and Niko Tian, Harvard GSD 


See-food is an initiative that integrates ecological learning through visual communication and an explorative food event to demonstrate the urgency of securing viable food futures. Building on the collective research on New England’s fishery and seafood market conditions in the Greater Boston areas, the project aims to design and distribute a mobile publication introducing Massachusetts’s local and under-appreciated seafood species, as well as creative recipes for Harvard students to cook at home easily.


Grant recipients Yimei and Niko also worked closely with Eating with the Ecosystem, a local NGO with a mission to promote a place-based approach to sustaining New England’s wild seafood, to host a pilot pop-up “Eat + Learn” event on campus. Students hope the project serves as a fun, interactive way to raise the Harvard community’s awareness of the disconnection between our ecosystem’s production and seafood demand as a first step to developing more adaptive, resilient diets to face the drastically changing climate. 

PowerPoint slide of photos of various fish with text identifying them.

Everett Sapp, College

Establishing a Community Bike Shop

For many Harvard community members, bikes are an essential mode of transportation around campus and greater Cambridge and Allston. This project serves to further support the existing biking community as well as advocate and help new bikers get started. Grant recipient Everett Sapp established a student-run bike repair shop with the goal of serving as a central point to support the safety and longevity of campus bikes for the Harvard community. Sapp aimed to cultivate a community-wide passion for the bicycle as a tool for a healthy lifestyle, a vehicle of empowerment, and a sustainable transportation method. The project not only provided direct and tangible benefits to students and faculty but also fostered a positive biking community for the University for the foreseeable future. 

A member of the Quad Bikes student grant project helps fix a student's bike during an Earth Day celebration.

External Partnerships

Harvard is continuing to engage with local, regional, national, and international partnerships to amplify and scale solutions, learn from others, and collectively share knowledge.

  • CITIES OF CAMBRIDGE AND BOSTON: Harvard works closely with the City of Cambridge and the City of Boston to align voluntary and regulatory goals and share knowledge. Explore Harvard’s submission to the City of Cambridge’s 2022 Town Gown report.
  • BOSTON GREEN RIBBON COMMISSION: Harvard was a founding leader of the Boston Green Ribbon Commission’s Higher Education Working Group for more than a decade. Explore the group’s 2021-2025 strategic plan.
  • INTERNATIONAL SUSTAINABLE CAMPUS NETWORK: Harvard is a charter signatory to the International Sustainable Campus Network (ISCN). In June of 2023, Office for Sustainability members attended the ISCN Conference at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) in Mexico City.
  • IVY PLUS SUSTAINABILITY CONSORTIUM: Harvard actively participates in the Ivy+ Sustainability Collaborative, whose mission is to mobilize the collective voice, experience, and resources of its 30+ member institutions. The Harvard Office for Sustainability hosted the Ivy+ Sustainability Consortium Annual Summit in 2022.

SPOTLIGHT: ISCN 2023 Conference

Harvard & the International Sustainable Campus Network

Harvard Office for Sustainability staff led a workshop on Harvard’s new Climate-Equity-Health lens at the 16th annual conference of the International Sustainable Campus Network (ISCN) at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) in Mexico City in June 2023.

Collage of photos from an ISCN conference in Mexico City. Photos show a large group photo of attendees, the University entrance, people congregating outside, and a PowerPoint presentation.

About the Harvard Sustainability Report

The 2022-2023 Harvard Sustainability Report was produced by the Harvard Office for Sustainability to update our community on the University’s progress toward meeting the goals, standards, and commitments as described in the University’s Sustainability Action Plan. Data is collected from individual Schools, Units and aggregated and analyzed by OFS. 

This report is not intended to be an integrated sustainability report covering the full range of Harvard’s socio-economic data, as collecting such data across our decentralized organization would be cost and resource prohibitive.

The Harvard Management Company reports on the University’s endowment. Harvard Financial Administration posts the Annual Financial Report. The Chief Diversity Officer reports on institutional diversity and equity. The Harvard Fact Book presents a wide range of data regarding the University’s organization, people, and resources.

View snapshots of past Annual Sustainability Reports:


Heather Henriksen

Heather Henriksen is Harvard’s Chief Sustainability Officer and has led the Office for Sustainability since its inception in 2008. OFS works across the University to ensure Harvard achieves its sustainability priorities and goals including producing the holistic Sustainability Action Plan, and the University’s Climate Action Plan. Heather holds a Master’s in Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School.

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Headshot of Heather Henriksen