Green Gauge

The ever-useful Harvard University Fact Book (published annually by the Office of Budgets, Financial Planning, and Institutional Research, and now available on line at contains, for the first time, indicators of environmental performance. The newest edition, reporting on 2006-2007, provides measures of trash generation, growth in volume, and percentage recycled, by faculty; water usage; commuting; financing for “green” capital projects; and certification of buildings under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program.

Information graphic by Stephen Anderson View Larger

Perhaps of greatest interest are the data, displayed here, on greenhouse-gas emissions from buildings’ energy use. The data, from the Green Campus Initiative (, where the methodology is explained), measure metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCDE). The information is imperfect: there is a gap in fiscal years 1990 and 1991 for the Longwood Medical Area, and estimates are required for that campus’s chief energy plant. But as a snapshot, the data do suggest the total greenhouse-gas generation from powering Harvard’s buildings, the growth in such emissions as the University’s physical plant continues to expand at a fast pace (about 7 million gross square feet since 1990), and the varying energy intensity of the activities of different faculties, such as those operating scientific laboratories.

In the future, perhaps it will be possible to report improvements in energy efficiency, and reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions, per square foot, by function, and by faculty—metrics that may come into common use not only institutionally, but for individual members of the University community.

You might also like

John Manning Appointed Interim Provost

Harvard Law School dean moves to central administration

Facebook’s Failures

Author and tech journalist Jeff Horwitz speaks at Harvard.

Kevin Young Named 2024 Harvard Arts Medalist

Museum director and poet to be honored April 24

Most popular

Convocation 2017: What Should an Education Be at Such a Moment?

Speakers reflect on the goals of a liberal arts university. 

Nicco Mele

The director of the Shorenstein Center on how the Internet came to mean so much to him. 

Found in Translation

Maureen Freely ’74, longtime translator of Orhan Pamuk, shares the nuances of bringing a text from one language to another.

More to explore

Photograph of Winthrop Bell 1910

Winthrop Bell

Brief life of a philosopher and spy: 1884-1965

Illustration of people talking to each other with colorful thought bubbles above their heads

Talking about Talking

Fostering healthy disagreement

Vacationing with a Purpose

New England “summer camps” for adults