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Sustainable Labs

Lab sustainability aims to foster health safety, resource efficiency and waste reduction strategies to minimize the environmental footprint while promoting scientific advancement. Labs account for nearly 44% of energy use at Harvard but take up only around 20% of the space. The Office for Sustainability works with researchers, staff, faculty, and building managers to implement sustainable practices and technologies in lab buildings.

Shut the Sash

  • The “Shut the Sash” chemical fume hood competition started in 2005 within Harvard’s Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology.
  • The “Shut the Sash” competition promotes keeping fume hoods closed when not in use to reduce high energy consumption.
  • The initiative expanded to include 19 labs and over 350 researchers, resulting in substantial energy savings and improved lab safety. This makes the “Shut the Sash” competition Harvard’s most impactful behavioral change program for energy conservation.
Labs in the the Shut the Sash Competition are provided feedback in real-time on their fume hood energy use via digital displays reporting cubic-feet-of-air-per-minute (CFM) flow, with signage indicating how that number connects with the lab group's customized goal.

White Papers

These white papers provide detailed insights into how Harvard leads the charge toward healthier, more sustainable labs.

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External Partnerships & Collaborations

Quentin Gilly, Assistant Director, FAS Energy and Sustainability with the Office for Sustainability, and President of the I2SL New England Chapter, (right), leads a tour of I2SL members through the Science and Engineering Complex in the fall of 2022.
Quentin Gilly, Assistant Director, FAS Energy and Sustainability with the Office for Sustainability, and President of the I2SL New England Chapter, (right), leads a tour of I2SL members through the Science and Engineering Complex in the fall of 2022.

Partnerships and collaborations on lab sustainability topics are important both internally and externally.

  • The Office for Sustainability partnered with the City of Cambridge on a multi-year city-wide laboratory benchmarking exercise, which was the largest and most consistent benchmarking dataset of its type ever to be collected from a local area. OFS has also partnered with the City of Cambridge Compact and the Boston Green Ribbon Commission.
  • We partner with the International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories (I2SL) on the sharing of best practices and through planning events and lab tours with the New England Chapter.
  • We collaborate with non-profits such as Seeding Labs, My Green Lab, and The Lab Project to lead in making lab sustainability a reality, and with vendors such as Eversource Energy and Green Labs Recycling to pilot innovative technologies aimed at decarbonizing the built environment and reducing waste on campus.

Upcoming Events

Sustainability Events at Harvard

April

18

Thursday
12:00 pm-1:45 pm GMT+0000

Open to the Public

See-food @ Harvard Earth Day Event

Earth Day
Food
seafood

Join us on Thu Apr 18 2024 at 12:00 PM at the Harvard Science Center Plaza for a fun-filled seafood event celebrating Earth Day. Take bites of delicious seafood samples prepared by Harvard chefs while learning how to be climate-adaptive sea-foodies, guided by New England’s leading seafood sustainability organizations. Experience the fun of blind-tasting games and win surprise prizes! This event is open to everyone, and we encourage you to stay through the whole event. However, tasting samples are limited, so be sure to reserve your spot now!

April

19

Friday
9:45 am-12:00 pm GMT+0000

Open to the Public

Charles River Clean-Up

Charles River
Earth Day
Pollution
April

22

Monday
12:00 pm-2:00 pm GMT+0000

Open to Harvard Community

Earth Day Festival at HU Longwood

Earth Day
Longwood

Harvard community members are invited to stop by the Countway Community Garden at Longwood on Monday, April 22, from noon to 2 pm for information on sustainability, garden activities, snacks, and giveaways! Meet with Harvard Recycling, C-CHANGE, Restaurant Associates, Harvard University Dining Services, Longwood Consortium, and the event sponsors Countway Library, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Harvard Medical School, and Harvard School of Dental Medicine.

April

15

Multi-day Event

Celebrating Birds: A Papier Mâché Workshop

In this workshop, you will use museum specimens to inspire your own avian creation. Over five half days, artist Gail Boyajian will guide you from start to finish as you build and paint a papier mâché bird from scratch, using everyday materials.

We will complement the art-making process with visits to the museum galleries as well as the ornithology research collections.

April

24

Wednesday
8:00 am-5:00 pm GMT+0000

Open to the Public

BisNow: Building a Sustainable Boston: Carbon Footprint, BERDO 2.0 & Emerging Green Technology

BisNow
Chief Sustainability Officer
Heather Henriksen
Sustainable Building

Hear from Harvard Chief Sustainability Officer Heather Henriksen as she speaks on a panel about partnerships and sustainable building at Bisnow’s “Building a Sustainable Boston: Carbon Footprint, BERDO 2.0 & Emerging Green Technology.”