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Sustainability Spotlight: Sneha Harsh

Sustainability Spotlight

Sneha Harsh graduates from Harvard in 2023 with a Master’s in Education, Learning Design, Innovation and Technology. Here, she speaks about her experience in sustainability at Harvard and what is next.

What is your best memory working with the Office for Sustainability?

An unforgettable experience at the Earthshot Prize Event, celebrating global climate leaders, including the Royal Prince and Princess of Wales, Shailene Woodley, Ellie Goulding, Chloe x Halle, David Beckham, and Rami Malek. I am grateful to have walked on the “green” carpet and witness the grand ceremony recognizing remarkable climate action. What a year it has been at Harvard!

What were the most inspiring sustainability topics you learned about at Harvard?

As a passionate advocate for sustainable menstrual hygiene, I worked on the ‘Cupvert’ project to address the issues of menstrual waste in landfills and school dropouts among millions of girls globally, lacking access to affordable period products.

Collaborating with various groups and exploring eco-friendly practices, I’m grateful for Anne Sargent, Sustainability Manager and Professor Tina Grotzer’s phenomenal guidance, an inspiring educator at Harvard Graduate School of Education. In addition, I delved into studying indigenous methods for mitigating climate change, realizing there is still much to learn and do!

What are your plans for next year or the future more generally?

After my transformative experience at Harvard, I’m determined to share my learnings with the global community and advocate for sustainable lifestyle changes. My goal is to ‘cup-vert’ millions of women by promoting sustainable menstrual hygiene practices and educating them about menstrual cups as an eco-friendly alternative to sanitary napkins and tampons. It’s a shame that many people are too embarrassed to discuss menstrual cycles, and the fact that millions cannot afford menstrual products like tampons and pads is often overlooked. I aim to keep working towards this cause and bring more sustainable joy to this world.

What advice would you give to incoming students related to sustainability and climate (e.g., classes to take, groups to join, etc.)?

As someone who has served as the Sustainability Fellow at Harvard Graduate School of Education and the Emerging Climate Leader at the Salata Institute of Climate and Sustainability, I would advise incoming students to actively engage with sustainability and climate initiatives on campus. For example, applying for the Climate Leaders program at Harvard Radcliffe Institute or taking part in the learning opportunities offered by the Salata Institute can provide invaluable experiences. Getting involved with Harvard Forest is another practical and meaningful way to engage with sustainability issues.

Participating in events like the Climate Action Symposium and workshops such as the climate change simulation at Harvard Business School or the J-term course by Professor Tina Grotzer can also be valuable experiences. I recommend subscribing to relevant newsletters and considering proposing your own sustainability initiative to the Office of Sustainability, as they can provide support in making it a reality. I encourage incoming students to actively seek out opportunities to engage with sustainability and climate issues on campus.

Anything else you want to add?

As a child growing up in Jharkhand, I spent my days surrounded by the natural beauty of the tribal land. I witnessed the majesty of the forest, the splendour of the waterfalls, and the unwavering devotion of a community that worshipped nature as a deity. Festivals like Sarhul were a central part of our lives, and I would eagerly anticipate the spring season when Saal trees would bloom with new flowers, marking a time for reverence and celebration. We would sing and dance joyously as we paid homage to the village deity who was believed to be the community’s protector. In India, we also celebrate ‘Chhath Puja’ where we pray to Sun during sunrise and sunset.

The values instilled in me during my upbringing continue to shape my perspective on the world today. I am committed to addressing the pressing issue of climate change, driven by my deep appreciation for the nature and the role it plays in sustaining life. Every day, I make time to catch the sunrise and express gratitude to nature for all it provides.

It is my hope that others will join me in this cause, working together to protect the planet for generations to come.