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Harvard has just received one certificate that it should not throw into one of its readily available recycling bins. On Oct. 24, Harvard University earned a 2005 Green Power Leadership Award from the federal government and the nonprofit Center for Resource Solutions for its commitment to using renewable energy. The award is a triumph for all of Harvard’s schools, and it confirms the University’s place as a leader in promoting responsible consumption.
This award follows University President Lawrence H. Summer’s announcement last October which outlined six Sustainability Principles intended to develop and maintain an environment that boosts human health and fosters a transition toward sustainability. For his part, Summers allocated $100,000 for a new renewable energy fund to expand the University’s use of renewable energy, and he has also created a Renewable Energy Advisory Group to promote green practices across campus and in future capital projects. Other Harvard schools—such as the Kennedy School of Government, which uses wind energy to power its entire campus—pitched in more than their share as well.
Groups at the College have also been working to keep more than just the grass in the yard green. The Environmental Action Committee (EAC), which organizes such events as Earth Day, environmental rallies, and even the airing out of President Bush’s “dirty laundry” in the front of the Science Center, ran a renewable energy campaign last January. It successfully obtained 83 percent student approval in the Undergraduate Council’s presidential election to add $10 to each student’s termbill in order to power 25 percent of student dorms with renewable wind energy. Though the termbill fee was ultimately rejected, the measure was an important impetus in pushing Summers to set aside extra funds for renewable energy.
Another group, the Harvard Green Campus Initiative (HGCI) has waged a successful PR campaign with students and administrators. It helped secure Summers’ promise that new Allston buildings would be constructed with green principles in mind. HGCI has also sponsored art contests, with large prizes, that are focused on imagining what sustainability would look like on campus. The College’s Resource Efficiency Program (REP), with a robust conservation agenda all on its own, joined HGCI in 2004 to award Houses a Green Cup based on conservation. Whether student- or faculty-run, groups like the EAC, HGCI and REP deserve a heap of thanks for helping Harvard to win its Green Power award.
However, all of these environmental efforts and accolades do not mean that we can start using Styrofoam cups again. According to an Oct. 28 Crimson article, “A study released earlier this month by Professor Daniel R. Faber of Northeastern University and Professor Eric J. Krieg of Johnson State College rated Cambridge as the fourth-worst city in Massachusetts in terms of total ‘environmental hazard points.’” Because Cambridge is mainly comprised of students and renters, fewer citizens take an active effort in local politics, and according to the article, this makes Cambridge a target for local polluters. Though Harvard may be a model University in terms of power consumption, Cambridge is not a model town from any environmental standpoint. If anything, this award should inspire environmental advocates on campus to turn their gaze away from campus and towards the wider goal of cleaning up Cambridge.
There is still work to be done to make Harvard fully sustainable. We commend the University for its efforts toward sustainability, and ask students to support campus environmental groups. As the leaves turn crimson, let’s make Harvard green.
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