group of summer interns helped show the way to a more environmentally
friendly Harvard, featuring cars that run on soybeans, energy
efficient buildings, and organically nurtured lawns. The 11 interns
worked on seven projects across the university from June through
August 2001. Their goal was to confront concrete problems and
come up with workable solutions. The internships were coordinated
by the Harvard Green Campus Initiative, in collaboration with
several different administrative units at Harvard that hosted
Sharp, director of the Green Campus Initiative, said she thought
the internships were very successful. [The internships]
are about producing a product that can be implemented within the
departments, Sharp said. Thats the success of
the program, that every project has produced or will produce a
change at the University.
Harvard Green Campus Initiative (HGCI) is in the business of catalyzing
change at many different levels within Harvard University, seeking
operational change as much as deeper institutional change. At
the institutional level the HGCI is working to legitimize the
campus as a living laboratory for teaching and research around
environmental sustainability. Our first step must be to
address a pervasive institutional assumption that places campus
sustainability efforts in conflict with the core mission of teaching
and research, says Sharp. The basis of this assumption
is a false perception that campus sustainability efforts divert
financial and human resources from the core mission of teaching
and research, weakening the ability of the university to achieve
broad reaching impact and market security.
Harvard summer internship program has provided a new vision of
how addressing campus environmental sustainability can occur in
alignment with the universitys core mission, conserving
financial resources and enhancing human resources while also contributing
to teaching and research outcomes. Sharp believes that beyond
the immediate operational value of the work done over the summer,
we have in our hands precious evidence of a higher road for the
university a road that transcends perceived mission conflicts
and capitalizes on new synergies to the benefit of all.
A greenhouse gas inventory: The university wide inventory
found that over the last 10 years, Harvards production of
carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas, was up almost 52 percent.
Much of that is due to increased power consumption from new construction
and the rapid increase in computer use. The project included recommendations
that the university reduce its energy consumption by implementing
conservation programs, utilizing energy-efficient building designs,
and shifting to renewable energy sources where possible.
project will be ongoing as the HGCI and others are grappling with
many complexities around metering, data collection and data quality
assurance. The ultimate goal is for the greenhouse gas inventory
to become an institutionalized reporting protocol that informs
future planning decisions. Harvard is at least two years away
from reaching this goal.
efficiency opportunities: This project, managed within University
Operations Services (UOS), identified opportunities to save energy
at a variety of university buildings. The project emerged within
UOS after all UOS Directors attended a half-day seminar on the
Natural Step. The HGCI had co-organized this event in the hope
that it would effectively make the case for environmental
sustainability. The case was made and all UOS Directors became
engaged in planning for longer-term sustainability efforts within
the Department. One of the first projects UOS agreed to was to
partner with the HGCI in employing and managing a number of students
over the summer to help define and implement environmental projects.
The energy efficiency project assessed how UOS could position
itself as an energy efficient service provider within Harvard
University. The project reviewed internal operations, researched
Energy Star programs and identified training programs and communication
efforts to expand the knowledge of on-site managers and maintenance
personnel as to where savings can occur.
program could see over one hundred staff directly involved with
the work of identifying and implementing a range of energy efficiency
projects throughout the university something that would
provide Harvard University with unprecedented access to energy
efficiency opportunities. At the conclusion of the student internship,
UOS agreed to implement this project in full over the coming years.
procurement: This internship looked at several goods purchased
by University Operations Services to see if cost-effective, environmentally
friendly alternatives exist. The internship involved assessing
internal procurement practices, selecting high volume items and
conducting market research to identify environmental preferred
alternatives. The project found that by reusing printer cartridges
instead of throwing them away, UOS could save 40 percent of the
cost of buying new cartridges. That surplus could be applied to
its copy paper purchases, which, for a small additional cost,
could be switched to 100 percent recycled paper. Total cost savings
between the two items would be about 10 percent. Surprising savings
included a 50% cost savings for purchasing recycled plastic trash
liners (saving over $15,000 a year for UOS alone). Other areas
examined included lighting and organic landscaping.
internship provided clear evidence that environmental procurement
does not cost more with good research and careful product
selection. This internship was funded by UOS and has since been
continued by the HGCI within another school at Harvard University.
High-performance buildings: This internship reviewed four
construction and renovation projects on campus that attempted
to implement the LEED standards over the past year. The projects
included a large residential building, a large administrative
and computer laboratory building, a large renovation for a school
and two smaller residential renovations. The review enabled members
of the university community to complete their first sustainable
building learning cycle by generating significant recommendations
that will be incorporated into the next batch of building and
renovation projects in the long-term pursuit of truly sustainable
building design at Harvard.
is rare that university staff has the time to self reflect and
learn from experience, and this internship provided an invaluable
opportunity to do so. The internship was funded by Harvard Planning
and Real Estate and the HGCI. Harvard Commercial and Residential
Real Estate has since funded the continuation of this internship
for the coming year.
fuel vehicles project: Three students were employed to examine
Harvards vehicle fleet, evaluate associated environmental
impacts, research alternative fuel vehicles and educate vehicle
purchasers about vehicle options that would reduce greenhouse
gas production. The project found that biodiesel fuel made
from soybeans and available for use in diesel engines would
reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by 70 percent. A trial of
biodiesel is currently being established. For non-diesel vehicles,
the project recommended switching to more fuel-efficient vehicles,
electric vehicles, or to gas-electric hybrids. One long-term project
also under investigation is a zero emission hydrogen fuel cell
bus. This internship was funded by a grant secured by the HGCI
from the Ford Foundation.
energy reduction program: Two students and one part time manager
were employed to run a feasibility study for computer energy reductions
within our largest Faculty the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
We found that almost 11 percent of the energy consumed by the
Faculty of Arts and Sciences is used by computers, and that less
than 60% of computer users are operating their computers efficiently.
The project examined ways to reduce electricity consumption due
to computers, and found that substantial savings could be realized
by ensuring computers and monitors are turned off when not being
used, and that sleep software is properly activated for all monitors.
project recommended a targeted publicity campaign aimed at incoming
freshmen, faculty and administration, which, if successful, could
save as much as $390,000 in annual energy costs per annum. This
internship project was funded by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences
and the HGCI. The Faculty of Arts and Sciences has since agreed
to fund the full implementation of this project.
food: In response to student demand around reducing genetically
modified foods and increasing organic produce, this internship
examined organic food production, market availability, genetic
food production and risk. The research highlighted the clear environmental
benefits of organic food production and the ominous environmental
risks of genetically modified organisms. An immediate result of
this work has been the introduction of 11 new organic food items
and one new organic pasta dish by Harvard University Dining Services.
This internship was funded by Dining Services.
In addition to the real and potential benefits that participating
administrative units and departments derived from the interns
work, the interns themselves said they learned a lot from the
think the internship greatly exceeded any expectations I had,
said Dan Olsen, who graduated from Colgate University in May 2000
and worked on the energy efficient opportuni ties project. Ive
known this is a field Id like to pursue as a lifetime goal.
This vision is now coming to fruition for Dan. His performance
during his summer internship was so outstanding that he has been
employed by the HGCI as the full time Environmental Loan Fund
of the many positive impacts of the summer internship program
has been the exposure of students to university staff and operations.
Many of the students expressed positive surprise at the high levels
of receptivity amongst university staff, while also gaining a
heightened respect for the daily complexities and challenges they
face. The students were equally quick to understand the value
of linking academic mission with university operations. Amy Sheehan,
a student at the Graduate School of Design who worked on the high-performance
buildings project, said she was impressed with the School of Public
Healths renovation of space at 1 Landmark Center in Boston.
The project, she said, involves many creative energy-saving changes
and it incorporates the idea that the academic mission of
a department goes hand in hand with sustainable development.
students were often surprised to learn how much research they
had to do on the universitys current practices. There is
a pervasive assumption that universities already know what they
purchase, how many computers they are using, how many and what
type of cars are in the vehicle fleet, what pollution they produce,
what kinds of paper are being purchased, who makes the decisions,
etc. Some of this knowledge is available but most of it has to
be collected for the first time. As part of their research, students
were required to work directly with front line people to ensure
that an alternative product or solution was not unworkable or
inferior to current practice. That overall involvement is also
critical to making permanent changes, Sharp noted.
The internships often meet an unfilled need, as people in different
departments are interested in how they can change their practices
to become less wasteful or less polluting, but are often too busy
with day-to-day tasks to investigate those options. As Harvard
University strives to grow and expand at an unprecedented rate,
the workload on staff can be overwhelming. The student internship
program helped navigate this fundamental barrier to innovation.
the summer projects show there are many opportunities to make
energy and resource saving changes at Harvard, they
also show those changes wont happen without broad reaching
involvement, the right style of leadership and support from management,
according to Sharp. The summer internship program was successful
in part because so many schools and departments responded to the
HGCI and agreed to make a small investment in employing students
to help them explore more environmental alternatives to standard
practice (each internship cost less than $6,000 for over three
months of work).
and management support were also critical to the success of the
program. The HGCI was present at the beginning, middle and end
of the program, providing consistent leadership and taking responsibility
for the ongoing effectiveness of the internships. But perhaps
a more fundamental element of success was engaging project partners
in a responsive and flexible dialogue to find the most effective
balance of control and ownership for each project. Throughout
the summer the HGCI focused on the question: What role can we
take that will encourage the most participation, commitment and
effective project management within the respective units? The
HGCI found that each unit responded best to a different role,
according to variations in management support for the project,
political climate, historical experience with similar efforts,
risk tolerance, rapport between the intern and unit staff, etc.
some projects, the HGCI limited its role to interviewing and selecting
students for the positions, and then leaving the units in complete
control. With other projects the HGCI managed the entire work
program, involving the respective units at key decision-making
moments, while with others they stepped in and out at different
points along the way to overcome barriers as they arose. Sharp
and others found that the complexity of the university environment
requires a fundamentally organic approach, responsive to the specific
conditions of the local environment as they arise and change.
In their experience, rationality appears to be more a luxury of
hindsight than a real planning tool. What makes change is partnership,
and what makes partnership is an effective dialogue of ownership,
control and responsibility.
there are many positive aspects to the summer internship program,
Sharp said, the really important thing is that the internships
allow Harvard to reflect on itself and learn from its own experiences.
The students have shown us how universities can become good learning
institutions as well as teaching and research institutions.
The program was so successful last summer that she hopes to institutionalize
it this summer.
more detailed project descriptions, see www.greencampus.harvard.edu.
Powell is on the Harvard University Gazette Staff.
Sharp, an environmental engineer by training, is director of the
Harvard Green Campus Initiative. From 1995-1999 Leith was the
Environmental Project Manger at the University of New South Wales
in Australia. She can be reached at Leith_Sharp
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