Harvard Climate Collaborative releases first student-led sustainability report

May 08, 2009 |

CAMBRIDGE, MA (April 27, 2009)—“Approach sustainability as an evolving and truly interdisciplinary effort.” “Encourage big ideas to tap existing student innovation, intellect, and ambition.” “Imagine culture- and behavior-changing programmatic shifts.”

These are just a few of the charges advocated in the newly released 2008-2009 Harvard Climate Collaborative Annual Report—a benchmark assessment to which student leaders contributed from all schools at Harvard.  Aron Chang, Master of Architecture candidate and past Green Design team co-chair from the Harvard Graduate School of Design, led the Harvard Climate Collaborative and was a lead author of the report.

The report is the first independent, student-led analysis of the relative effectiveness of the University-wide, sustainability program since Harvard President Drew Faust issued the Greenhouse Gas Emissions initiative last February, calling for a 30 percent cut in 2006 baseline emissions by 2016.

Specific recommendations include:

• Improved Communications:  Students are requesting more information from the Harvard Office of Sustainability and their schools about what changes are being made and initiatives undertaken to move Harvard towards its sustainability goals. 

• Cultural Change:  Students believe that there are currently few incentives for the significant behavioral changes that the Office of Sustainability is asking for.  Students who don’t directly bear the costs of leaving on light bulbs are much more likely to continue to leave their lights on, for example. Students urge the faculty and administration to approach sustainability as an evolving and truly interdisciplinary effort and to engender cultural change by tapping into the intellects and ambitions of Harvard students to come up with and implement the “big ideas” and innovations that speak to academic and professional interests rather simply asking students to change their habits. 

In identifying positive student contributions to the greenhouse gas reduction effort, and providing criticism of the program’s first steps, student leaders hope the report will improve student participation and shape the administration’s strategies in the future.

“The report is also intended as a resource for university administrators and faculty who are working towards emissions reductions at other colleges and universities,” says David Lewis, MUP candidate and the GSD’s HCC representative along with Green Design team co-chair Shannon Simms, MLA candidate. “In addition, the report will be useful for those in the community at large who can cull lessons from our collective process of working towards emissions reductions at Harvard,” he said.

When student environmental leaders from around the University first gathered to form the Harvard Climate Collaborative, they hoped the organization would serve as:

• A channel of communication between administrators and students,

• A vehicle of communication between student leaders at different schools,

• A means to ensure accountability and transparency in the ongoing reduction process,

• A focus for Harvard’s human assets on the challenge of emissions reduction, and

• A way to promote continuity and institutional memory in the face of continual student body turnover.

Since then the Collaborative has met monthly and has brought in key Harvard University administrators such as Executive Vice President Ed Forst and Office for Sustainability director Heather Henriksen to address student leaders.

Through the HCC, Harvard student leaders have been able to share with each other the successes and challenges specific to their schools, and have also made connections across school boundaries, leading to a number of collaborative events that have brought together students from various schools together in productive ways that might not have otherwise occurred.

A full version of the report is available online at the following url: https://harvardclimatecollaborative.wordpress.com/2009/04/27/the-2009-hcc-annual-report/  Hard copies are available upon request by emailing climatecollaborative@gmail.com.  For more information about the HCC, please contact either Aron Chang or Spring Greeney at the same address. 

For further information, contact Deborah Johansen

Director of Communications

Harvard University Graduate School of Design

(617) 496-0823

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