Blue Skies Ahead

Harvard should be proud of its sustainability ranking, and should continue to improve

Harvard students may be used to getting A’s in their classes, but we fell just short of perfect on another type of report card: A recent release by the Sustainable Endowments Institute gave Harvard an A- on its second annual College Sustainability Report Card, which measures the environmental sustainability of the 200 colleges with the largest endowments. We applaud the Institute’s work in raising awareness about sustainability, and hope that Harvard—one of only six schools to receive the highest grade by the Institute’s measure—will continue to improve its admirable environmental policies.

The report, which graded schools in eight categories ranging from Food & Recycling to Investment Priorities, is an effective way to raise awareness about environmental policies—both in terms of highlighting progress and identifying weakness. Sixty-eight percent of schools have improved their scores since 2007—a positive development that should not go unrecognized—and we encourage schools to continue this upward trend.

Harvard should be proud to be ranked as a leader in sustainability, but it is important that the school does not take its A- grade to mean there is no further work to be done. There are always improvements that can be made, and Harvard should constantly strive to increase sustainability and not rest on its laurels. While Harvard’s budgetary constraints are far less prohibitive than those of most other schools, we hope that all colleges also continue to better their environmental practices proportional to their endowments.

As Harvard approaches a critical moment in its Allston development, now more than ever should sustainability be a top priority. In such an expansive construction project, some environmental harm is unavoidable, but Harvard should make sure that it continues its development in the most environmentally conscious way possible.

Moreover, University President Drew G. Faust should use this report as an opportunity to commit Harvard to being climate-neutral, an action the Harvard College Environmental Action Committee has been calling for. We encourage Faust to set Harvard on track to being climate-neutral by 2036, as a plan to ensure that Harvard make up for its greenhouse gas emissions is a vital part of being sustainable. Such a move will hopefully prompt other schools to work towards the goal of climate neutrality as well.

We commend the University for its impressive showing on the report. But as the Institute’s policy of not awarding “A” grades shows, there is always room for improvement, and we encourage Harvard to be a trailblazer in environmental policy. As Harvard heads into an exciting period of growth on both sides of the Charles, sustainability should be key.


Recommended Articles