Campaign Pledges To Conserve Energy

Pledge signers commit to follow at least three sustainable methods

The Harvard Green Campus Initiative (GCI) has announced a new pledge campaign that asks students, staff, and faculty members to commit to a series of energy-saving measures.

If more than 50 percent of the residents and office workers in a building sign the pledge, the Green Campus Initative will buy wind energy credits to offset one-quarter of the building’s energy use.

The campaign, called “emPOWER Harvard,” replaces GCI’s three-year-old “Go Cold Turkey” pledge campaign, which urged students to minimize energy consumption over Thanksgiving break.

The coordinator of GCI’s Campus Energy Reduction Program, Maura K. Leahy, wrote in an e-mail that “‘Winning wind energy’ means that we will pay the premium for renewable energy over what Harvard normally pays for its (non-renewable) utilities.”

The energy consumed by Harvard won’t actually come from wind.

“We pay a wind farm in Minnesota and receive renewable energy certificates (RECs) in return,” Leahy wrote. But, she added, “that energy does not actually come to Harvard. Until we get Cape [W]ind or a turbine on campus, we can only do it from a distance.”

Cape Wind, the first off-shore wind project in the country, is scheduled to begin construction next year on Nantucket Sound.

The new pledge outlines nine methods to reduce the University’s environmental impact. Signers of the pledge must commit to following at least three of the initiative’s recommendations.

Signers can fulfill the pledge by making sure their computer is set for “sleep mode,” turning their thermostat down in the winter and up in the summer, or turning off electrical appliances when not in use.

They can also fulfill the pledge by making double-sided photocopies, taking the T or bicycling to work once a week, or buying “environmentally preferred products,” such as recycled paper.

Signers who work in labs can fulfill the pledge by shutting their fume hood sashes.

Also, signers can fulfill the pledge by publicizing the sustainability initiative or by becoming involved in Green Campus Network activities.

“It’s a great way to make sure that people are taking in mind the actions that they can take throughout the year to live more sustainably,” said Faon M. O’Connor ’08, the co-chair of the Environmental Action Committee.

“The actions we list ARE easy, but many people still don’t do them on a regular basis,” Leahy wrote. “Social marketing research has shown that taking a written pledge, particularly with one’s peers or community, is a great motivator for action,” she added.

The pledge can be signed online at The campaign begins on Wednesday and runs until Nov. 23.

The new campaign comes just two weeks after Harvard won the Center for Resource Solutions’ 2005 Green Power Leadership Award.

The award, also sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency, acknowledges Harvard as a leader in the use of renewable energy in higher education. Renewable sources provide 22,000 megawatt hours annually, or 7 percent of Harvard’s electricity usage, according to the Center for Resource Solutions.