Oscar the Grouch Wants His Trash Back! Green Living Program Conducts Waste Audit

The Graduate Green Living Program at Harvard Business School conducted a Waste Audit on October 21 to get an idea of what the current recycling habits of the HBS Community are like.

Fourteen Green Living Representatives, half of which attend HBS with the remainder attending the Kennedy School of Government and Harvard Law School, collected 50 bags of trash from HBS dorms and residential apartments including SFP, One Western Avenue and Peabody Terrace. Green Living Representatives consistently pulled an even number of bags from each location throughout the week of October 17, culminating in the official waste audit at the end of the week. The waste audit was conducted in two 1 – hour shifts.

Labeled bags were grouped by location, opened and sorted into one of five categories: real trash (items that can’t be recycled like styrofoam), compostables (items that are biodegradable like food), recyclables (items that don’t fall into normal recycle categories like clothing or rubber), paper & cardboard, and bottles plastics & cans. Once sorted, the trash was weighed according to each category and the results were recorded.

Who were the biggest offenders? Soldiers Field Park and One Western Avenue. The combined percentage of recyclables/reusables found in all trash was 49.91%, compared to 40.34% combined for all HBS dorms and 32.73% for Peabody Terrace.

The Graduate Green Living Program was developed to increase community awareness of the importance of living a sustainable lifestyle and to improve the recycling habits of the Harvard University community. An annual waste audit is mandatory to set the baseline for improvement. In one year, Green Living Representatives will perform an identical audit in order to judge the level of improvement which is hopefully linked to the effectiveness of their scheduled program events.

So why on earth would anyone want to spend their Friday picking trash? Natalia Goh, NB, has always had a personal interest in business and the environment. When Natalia arrived on the HBS campus she saw postings and advertising soliciting interest in the Graduate Green Living Program. She attended a Business and Environment Club meeting where she met Meryl Brott, Program Coordinator for the Graduate Green Living Program. After speaking with Meryl, Natalia successfully completed a formal interview and application process. Graduate Green Living Representatives receive compensation for their work.

Recycling is something that Natalia has always wanted to put into place in her own life. Joining the Graduate Green Living Program has made Natalia more aware and accountable of her recycling habits. She encourages students to start making small changes in their own lives to reduce the unnecessary consumption of resources. Students can start off with something as simple as opening windows on a cool day rather than turning on the air conditioning or using both sides of paper.

The Graduate Green Living Program Representatives describe the waste audit as a bonding experience. One Rep suggested that RC students conduct the waste audit in the first week of school instead of Crimson Greetings. Green Living Program Representatives found some interesting things in the trash that they hope are remains of the Priscilla Ball wigs, fish net stockings. One Rep took home a wig.

Natalia encourages students to look out for upcoming activities such as this past weekend’s Pancake and Waffle Breakfast at SFP and One Western and last Thursday’s Harvest Event at Peabody Terrace. Free food and information are plentiful at each event. Also, don’t be surprised if Green Living Reps knock on your door to distribute recycling bags, air conditioner covers to keep your place warm, recycling stickers, and reminder notes.

For further information on the Graduate Green Living Program at Harvard Business School, please visit

October 31, 2005
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