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Green Harvard Makes the Grade

By Madeline M.G. Haas, Crimson Staff Writer

First semester grades are in for environmental sustainability, and Harvard got an A-.

To be specific, the Sustainable Endowments Institute gave the University six A’s—and one C, rebuking Harvard for being secretive about the investment of its greenbacks.

The establishment of green buildings, adjustments made to individual behavior, use of local and organic food by the dining services, “aggressive recycling,” and size of the Harvard Green Campus Initiative were among the achievements that earned Harvard six A’s in the College Sustainability Report Card, released last week.

“Harvard University has one of the most comprehensive campus sustainability programs in the country,” the report said.

The institute largely saved its criticism of Harvard for a section on endowment transparency.

“Detailed proxy voting records are available to the public upon request,” the report said. “Information on endowment holdings, however, is only available to the board and senior administrators.”

The report rated the 100 richest American and Canadian universities on their environmental sustainability practices, examining both endowment and campus initiatives.

Dartmouth College, Stanford University, and Williams College also averaged an A-, the highest average awarded.

“The goal of the report is to spark discussions,” said Mark Orlowski, who is the founder and executive director of the institute. “It’s a way to measure current activity and encourage and create opportunities for innovations.”

Orlowski also said the study findings indicate that endowment size has nothing to do with sustainability.

“Most of the efforts that are going on here have significant environmental and economic benefits for the University,” said HGCI Co-Chair Thomas E. Vautin, who is also Harvard’s associate vice president for facilities and environmental services.

Higher scoring schools had increased “collaboration between administrations and students,” Orlowski said. “Each group brings a lot to the table and by combining efforts you get some real synergy.”

Vautin cited Harvard’s “green living programs”—where students agree to recycle and reduce energy use—as an example of direct student participation.

The report is the first of what will be annual assessments conducted by the Institute.

Based in Harvard Square, the Sustainable Endowments Institute was founded in 2005 as a special project of the Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. The institute focuses specifically on universities and colleges.

“Colleges for the most part have been at the forefront of environmental efforts,” Orlowski said. “Corporations have been doing a lot of good work but it’s been universities and colleges pushing the envelope,”

—Staff writer Madeline M. G. Haas can be reached at mhaas@fas.harvard.edu.

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