Accomplishments & Commitments

Core Focus Areas


Much of what we have accomplished in sustainability at HGSE and continue to pursue aligns with the University’s roadmap, the Harvard University Sustainability Plan, which centers on five core focus areas:

  1. Emissions and energy
  2. Campus operations
  3. Nature and ecosystems
  4. Health and well-being
  5. Culture and learning


Emissions and Energy

Weekend Building Shutdowns

Most weekend activities are scheduled to take place in just one building, Gutman, in order to conserve energy and resources across the rest of the campus during that time.

Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Reduction Goal
In 2016, HGSE achieved the ambitious greenhouse gas reduction goal that President Drew Faust announced in 2008, with the aim of reducing Harvard's GHG emissions 30% (Inclusive of growth) compared to 2006 emissions levels in 2016. This reduction is the equivalent to the emissions produced each year by every building on campus except Gutman, or in other words, the emissions produced in a year by Larsen, Longfellow, Read, Nichols, and Westengard! HGSE achieved this goal, despite doubling the number of activities booked on our campus during this same period, though a myriad of energy efficiency projects and renewable energy projects including:

Adhering to the Harvard University Temperature Policy and scheduling setbacks during slow periods, especially breaks


Energy Conservation Measures, including installing LED lighting and upgrading heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems.


Gutman Library Solar PV System

The Gutman Library solar PV system consists of 24 solar panels that produce over 5.3 kW of power each year—the equivalent of powering Westengard, where Operations is housed at the corner of Garden Street and Appian Way, for 6 months..

Campus Operations

Building Operations

In 2010, HGSE began composting the waste produced by prepping food served on campus (back-of-the-house composting) and then began composting customers' leftovers and disposable packaging (front-of-the-house waste) with the opening of the Gutman Commons Café in 2012. Most recently, we upgraded the waste bins in our key events spaces and high traffic areas in Gutman, Larsen, and Longfellow halls, ensuring that each waste station includes compost, trash, and recycling.

Operations recently installed new filtered water bottle filling stations on every floor of our three main campus buildings (Larsen, Longfellow, and Gutman). Filtered tap water keeps you and the planet healthy since it reduces our reliance on plastic bottled water and coolers, thereby reducing our carbon footprint.

  • It is estimated that 3 liters of water is used to package 1 liter of bottled water
  • U.S. landfills are overflowing with 2 million tons of discarded water bottles
  • Plastic water bottles are petroleum based. In the U.S., it takes 1.5 million barrels of oil to meet the demands

New Construction and Renovation
HGSE follows the Harvard Green Building Standards and is home to six LEED certified projects to date, with plans to pursue additional projects in the near future. In 2007, HGSE completed its first LEED certified project and in the process the first LEED Gold classroom in the world. Thanks in no small part to HGSE's achievements, the University has more LEED certified building projects than any other higher education institute in the world (with 132 LEED projects, a total of 3.5 million square feet of LEED certified space, as of 2016)

HGSE's LEED certified projects:

  • 2020: Gutman Conference Center (LEED for Commercial Interiors, Gold)
  • 2015: Longfellow Hall Renovation (LEED for Commercial Interiors, Platinum)
  • 2013: Gutman Library (LEED for Commercial Interiors, Platinum)
  • 2009: Larsen Classroom Renovation (LEED for Commercial Interiors, Platinum)
  • 2008: Larsen Classroom Renovation (LEED for Commercial Interiors, Gold)
  • 2007: Longfellow Hall Basement Renovation (LEED for Commercial Interiors, Silver)

Nature and Ecosystems

Landscape Operations
HGSE has surpassed the University's goal for 2020 of maintaining at least 75% of landscaped areas with an organic landscaping program by achieving 100% of organic landscaping. We have also brought some of the outdoors in through the living walls in the Gutman Library, which boost productivity and help to create a healthier and more inviting place for our community to gather and learn.

Health and Well-Being

Green Restaurant Certification (3 stars)
HGSE's Gutman Commons Café and catering have always been dedicated to serving sustainable and locally-sourced food and minimizing the waste produced through preparing and consuming the food. We are proud the café is now a certified Green Restaurant.

Gutman Café and Waste Signage

Culture and Learning

Green Team
The Green Team runs a series of events and campaigns each year, some perennial favorites and some one-time projects spearheaded by individual staff members and students. The favorites we come back to each year include:
  • Freecycles - the Sustainability Coordinator and the Green Team host two Freecycle event each year, one at the start of each semester during course previews
  • Valentine's Day Toiletries and Cosmetics Drive to benefit the Cambridge Family Shelter
  • Waste Reduction Ambassadors to commend people for composting and recycling in the Café
  • Move Out Donation Stations to collect students’ unneeded books, clothing, school and home supplies so that we can offer them to incoming students and Harvard Habitat for Humanity
  • Green Commencement to cut back on waste at our biggest event of the year

Recognized HGSE Green Offices
The following offices have achieved at least one of four possible levels of Harvard Green Office certification. Congratulations!

Leaf 1:

  • Admissions 
  • GSE IT

Leaf 2:

  • Office of the Dean
  • Professional Education 

Leaf 3:

  • Doctoral Programs Office 
  • Gutman Library 
  • Financial Aid Office 
  • Development and Alumni Relations 

Leaf 4:

  • Operations 
  • Office of the Registrar 
  • ExCEL P-3 Project, Language & Literacy