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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.


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



9:30 am-11:30 am GMT+0000

Landscape Sketching

Landscapes are an appealing subject for drawings, but it can be difficult to know where to start. In this program we will learn how to select a landscape, create a sense of depth and volume, and use a variety of marks to capture a dynamic variety of textures.



9:30 am-11:30 pm GMT+0000

Open to the Public

Drawing Plants and Flowers in Colored Pencil

Explore the beauty and variety of plants using colored pencils. This course will focus on a diverse range of techniques for using colored pencils to capture flowers, leaves, fruits, and vegetables, from quick monochrome sketching to richly layered, full-color images.



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

Open to the Public

Rising Tides: Integrating Situated Visualization, Augmented Reality, and Public-Participation Technology to Create an Accessible Platform for Localized Climate Change Visualization and Discourse

climate change

Narges Mahyar is an assistant professor at the Manning College of Information and Computer Sciences, University of Massachusetts Amherst, whose research is situated at the intersection of human-computer interaction, information visualization, social computing, applied machine learning, human-centered artificial intelligence, and design. She applies a community-centered design approach to build novel social computing and visualization tools to empower the general public to engage in real-world sociotechnical issues, such as urban planning and climate change, by enabling them to share their ideas and comments for shaping future policies.

In this lecture, Mahyar will speak about her project to discover innovative techniques to integrate situated visualization, augmented reality, and civic technology to design and build a mobile platform that simulates the localized impact of climate change, thereby providing Boston residents with an immersive experience of climate change visualizations and empowering them to contribute comments and ideas on climate change issues. The platform will benefit the movement towards more equitable resilience by creating new opportunities for the public, especially the underserved communities, to raise their voices and join the discourse.

Her recognition in the field has been repeatedly confirmed through many accolades for her research, including seven best or honorable mention paper awards from top conferences in her field. She holds a PhD in computer science from the University of Victoria. She was a postdoctoral fellow in the Computer Science department at the University of British Columbia from 2014 to 2016 and in the Design Lab at the UC San Diego from 2016 to 2018.



9:30 am-11:30 am GMT+0000

Open to the Public

Inspired by Nature: Drawing from Your Imagination

Looking closely at nature can inspire a broad range of imaginative artwork, from abstraction and decorative work to illustration and cartooning. In this workshop, we will use a variety of examples from nature as inspiration, and then explore techniques for unleashing our creativity through the drawing process.

Class size will be limited to twelve, allowing ample time for individual feedback. All skill levels are welcome.

Taught by artist and illustrator, Erica Beade.



6:30 pm-8:30 pm GMT+0000

Open to the Public

The Fascinating Feathers of the Sandgrouse

Arnold Arboretum

The birds that populate the Arnold Arboretum rarely have to go far to find water. In the deserts of Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa, it’s a different story, and the sandgrouse that lives in these arid environments has developed a fascinating adaptation to stay hydrated: these birds have a unique ability to absorb and hold water inside of their feathers. But how do their feathers hold water so efficiently? Dr. Lorna Gibson, Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at MIT, has found the answer. Join Dr. Gibson for a lecture to learn about these fascinating birds and the science behind them.