Green Living – Why, What and How

1. What is the Green Living Program and why was it created?
Campus sustainability has been a growing movement both nationally and internationally throughout the past decade. HBS and Harvard Real Estate Services, in collaboration with the Harvard Green Campus Initiative, set up the first-ever Graduate Green Living Program.

In October 2004, President Lawrence Summers announced a set of Harvard Campus-wide Sustainability Principles for the University and in Fall 2005, HBS Housing and Operations Departments and Harvard Real Estate Services created the Green Living Program here at HBS. The program is the first of its kind known to exist at a U.S. business school!

2. What are the top three simple steps I can take to reduce landfilled waste and improve recycling at Harvard?
–Reuse and recycle your paper. Currently, more paper is thrown away at Harvard than recovered in recycling.
–Don’t buy things you don’t really need and buy in bulk to reduce packaging. Per day, the average Harvardian (student, staff & faculty average) generates about 1.58 lbs of trash and .79 lbs recycling. Think about carrying that around for a day!
–Recycle all year round, not just at the end of the semester.

3. Why can’t I recycle pizza boxes?
The actual cardboard of the pizza boxes IS recyclable; it is the food residue that is almost doubtlessly seeped into the cardboard that the recycling company doesn’t want. When recycling collectors see a food-soaked item in a cardboard recycling bin, they may assume that the entire bin is “contaminated;” they can’t take the time to sort out the good and the bad cardboard.

4. How about envelopes with the plastic windows? What about staples? And spiral notebooks? Glossy advertisements? Post-its?
You’ll like the answer to this one; all of these items are fine to toss into the “Paper” recycling bin. In the recycling process, all paper, even the glossy, is converted to pulp, and all non-natural fibers such as metal will be “strained” out. So don’t waste your time removing staples, spiral bindings, or plastic windows.

5. How important is it that I prepare recyclables correctly? Doesn’t this take a really long time?
It is extremely important to prepare items correctly before placing them in recycling bins. This means:
Flatten boxes. If you don’t, they will probably be thrown away.
Clean out obvious food residue from plastics (such as a yogurt container). You DO NOT have to rinse out drink bottles; sugary soda residue is acceptable!
Remove bottle caps (so that residue can evaporate and not add weight and mess).

Custodians cannot take the time to separate dirty containers, remove pizza boxes, or flatten boxes. Just take the few extra seconds; if any food residue gets into a recycling bin, custodians will often trash the entire thing and all the recycling effort you’ve made goes to naught.

6. What do I do with plastic bags?
There is no universal system for plastic bag recycling; that’s why you should really make an effort to prevent the production and use of bags by carrying a re-usable bag or backpack. However, with those bags you do have, try to reuse them. They make great small trash can liners! If your bags are grocery bags from a store with a bag recycling program, you can take them back to the store from which they came.

7. How can I get rid of junk mail once and for all?
Call 1 888 5 OPT OUT to stop credit card offers.

For unwanted contribution pleas and catalogues, make a few simple phone calls or emails and ask to be taken off of mailing lists. To limit your exposure, write “Please do not rent or sell my name” or “No mailing lists” next to your name whenever you order product by mail, enter a contest, subscribe to a magazine, send in a warranty card, or otherwise give your name and address to a company or organization.

One effective way to remove your name from national mailing lists is to write the Direct Marketing Association and register with their Mail Preference Service-an indication that you do not want to be contacted by solicitors. In a letter or 3 1/2 x 5″ postcard, include the date, your name, address and signature, and write “Please register my name with the Mail Preference Service.” (The term “Mail Preference Service” may sound confusing, but rest assured, registration with MPS is what you do to get you off the mailing lists.) This actually works. Marketers do not want to waste their efforts on people who have explicitly stated they are not interested. Mail to:

P.O. BOX 282
CARMEL, NY 10512

8. Where do Harvard’s recycling and trash go?
Trash collected at HBS is transported all the way to rural South Carolina, which uses quite a fair bit of fossil fuel, as you can imagine! Trash collected separately at the HRES apartments goes to a waste-to-energy facility in New England. Recycling, however, goes to a materials recovery facility in nearby Charlestown, Massachusetts where it is sorted and sent out for recycling. Thus in addition to saving the energy used to create new material, at Harvard, recycling also saves in pollution and transportation emissions.

9. Why aren’t we billed individually for our utilities? Wouldn’t that help make people conserve?
HRES doesn’t bill each apartment for utilities for a couple reasons. Firstly, it is a lot more convenient for residents who do not have to deal with paying utility bills. And for places where there were individual electricity meters, like Peabody Terrace, it also means that tenants moving in (sometimes late at night from abroad) would have electricity when they arrived.

Secondly, this decreases infrastructure and maintenance costs. Having individual meters for each utility for each apartment is a very expensive investment. Since SFP and OWA were not designed for this, adding them in at this point would be cost-prohibitive.

10. Why don’t we have recycling in the trash rooms?
This is a great idea, but it’s not currently feasible for several reasons. Firstly, properly maintaining the recycling in the trash rooms is a very costly and labor-intensive process, requiring:
-removal five days a week, and possibly extra attention over the weekend
-weekly cleaning of recycling barrels in the trash rooms
-extra cleaning in the trash rooms and possible pest-removal

Additionally, the size of the existing trash rooms is not conducive for recycling. They weren’t designed with enough room for recycling in mind, and the elevators are also quite small for this purpose. Moreover, recycling could attract pests in the trash rooms and apartments and the build up of cardboard, especially during move-in time could be a fire-hazard. Instead, residents of Soldiers Field Park and One Western Avenue are encouraged to recycle using the two recycle stations conveniently located by the Property Management Office and by 9 Soldiers Field Park.

Learn more:
Sustainability at Harvard: