Students Flock to Theatre as Harvard Unveils New Sustainability Office

Unnamed photo
Rachel M. Douglas

A packed and slightly moist crowd gathered in Tercentenary Theatre to sample sustainable treats such as apple crisp, and to listen to Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore ’69 advocate for drastic action on climate change.

With temperatures an inconveniently cold 43 degrees, global warming wasn’t very evident in Cambridge yesterday when over 8,000 people packed Tercentenary Theatre for a university-wide sustainability celebration headlined by former Vice President Al Gore ’69.

The event marked the official unveiling of the university’s Office of Sustainability, which will replace Harvard’s previous environmental effort, the Green Campus Initiative.

The new office’s primary task will be to implement the plan that University President Drew G. Faust announced this past summer, which intends to reduce the university’s greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2016.

Edward C. Forst ’82, the University’s executive vice president, said that the event was meant to be a symbol of the school’s commitment to prioritizing environmental concerns.

“We want to make sure that [the issue] gets due respect, attention, focus and is at the front of everyone’s agenda,” he said.

The active involvement of both university offices and student groups in the event demonstrated the collaborative approach that Harvard hopes to bring to the sustainability initiative, Forst said.

The Crimson Key Society handed out t-shirts and water bottles bearing the slogan “green is the new Crimson,” matching the signs attached to trees in the theatre. Students from the Graduate School of Design displayed examples of green architecture and design, while the Harvard Vegetarian Society presented facts on the environmental benefits of a vegetarian diet.

Brandon A. Kennedy ’09 said he thought the event would help student interest in environmentalism.

“It isn’t easy to change our habits, but all this will have an effect, little by little,” he said.

A cadre of student volunteers stood guard at trash bins around the yard, sorting compost-able bowls and napkins from recyclable cups. Harvard University Dining Services also tried to minimize the plastic waste created by the event, according to HUDS Communication Director Crista Martin.

“The first milestone may be energy,” said Martin, “but food is an important part of the overall goal. There’s a recognition that every part of the university has an individual role to play in a community goal.”

Students enjoyed fall’s bounty in the form of local apples, cider, squash soup made from locally grown vegetables, and hot chocolate, provided by HUDS.

The new sustainability initiative is based on the recommendations of a task force made up of primarily professors and administrators, with one student representative. [SEE CLARIFICATION BELOW]

Karin A. McKinnon ’10, co-chair of the Environmental Action Committee, said she felt that the initiative needs to maintain an active dialogue with the student body in order to have lasting effects.

“We need the students on board, the faculty on board, the administration on board,” she said. “We’re all in this together.”

—Staff writer Cora K. Currier can be reached at
—Staff writer Natasha S. Whitney can be reached at


The Oct. 23 story, "Students Flock to Theatre as Harvard Unveils Sustainability Office," stated that the task force charged with outlining greenhouse gas emission reductions had just one student representative. In fact, the task force had just one undergraduate member, but had other student representatives from Harvard graduate schools.