Students Seeing Green in Allston

Group lobbies Summers for sustainable development

Sustainable Allston, a two-month old student conservation group, lobbied University President Lawrence H. Summers Monday to make a planned campus across the Charles River a model of environmental conservation.

A delegation of four students—two undergraduates and two graduate students—who attended Summers’ office hours proposed a task force devoted to environmental concerns and sustainability on the future Allston campus.

In October, Summers announced the creation of four other task forces charged with planning for the campus.

While Summers did not commit to a fifth task force, the students said they were pleased with his response and said they were confident that the University would embrace their concerns as construction plans crystallize.

“Summers was extremely receptive to the idea of sustainable development,” group member Zachary D. Liscow ’05 said. “We actually came out of the meeting with much more than we expected.”


Liscow, who is also co-chair of the Harvard Environmental Action Committee, said this new coalition hopes to push Harvard on a wide range of environmental issues.

“Dozens of buildings will be built, obviously. We want to minimize the electricity and water consumption,” Liscow said. “We believe these principles will contribute to making Harvard a model for other campuses.”

In the long run, he said, these initiatives would both cut costs and go a long way towards protecting the environment.

According to informational materials, the Sustainable Allston foresees a “pedestrian-oriented campus,” powered by solar or wind sources and designed with a “comprehensive master plan” in mind.

Associate Vice President for Facilities and Environmental Services Thomas E. Vautin, who attended Monday’s meeting, said that students would play a role in the discussions of how to formulate a set of principles to address Harvard’s green policies across the river.

“It was the first time this group put the question on the table,” he said. “Like any initial meeting, people realize that there is much more in common in their thinking than they initially thought.”

Summers said that the administration understands students’ commitment to the environment and their concerns about the future campus.

“The discussions that students had aided us in emphasizing the importance of sustainability as plans regarding Allston move forward,” Summers said Monday.

Liscow was joined by Allison I. Rogers ’04, who is also co-captain for the Resource Efficiency Program. Rogers said that Harvard had the ability to explore a vast supply of modern tools towards reducing ecological consumption.

“There’s a lot of environmental technology that could be explored here,” Rogers said. “Why not start with Allston? When we create this campus, we should ensure it’s sustainable from the beginning.”

Two Design School students, Justine A. Kwiatkowski and Michael B. Keating, also attended office hours Monday as members of the new group.

The Harvard Green Campus Initiative (HGCI)-—which funds projects throughout Harvard’s schools including solar electric panels on the Business School roof—would most likely take the leadership of any plans for the future campus, said Liscow.

Each year, HGCI’s projects reduce University spending by around $800,000 and prevent over 12 million pounds of greenhouse gases from polluting the atmosphere, according to Vautin.

HGCI Director Leith J. Sharp, who was not present at the meeting, said Summers has given a “clear signal” about his commitment to the environment.

“We would like to assist Harvard in any way that the University president sees fit,” she said.