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.

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