This is Green Week!

A survey of HBS students reveals that the majority find the Graduate Green Living Program to be effective, particularly in the areas of resource conservation and recycling. The program’s communication materials and initiatives have motivated many students to adopt energy, water and paper saving measures. They feel that they will continue to implement green measures in 2008 and beyond. Despite the positive feedback, students’ answers also suggest that much remains to be done in raising awareness on recycling and waste reduction.

Since October of last year, the Green Living Reps have been hard at work helping the HBS community implement small changes in their daily habits that will have a big impact on the environment. In the fall, the Green Living Reps kicked-off the year with an introduction into the basics of recycling and with a campus-wide Energy Competition. In the winter term, the representatives’ focus has turned toward reducing paper use and conserving water. Now that the RC’s are almost through their first year and the EC’s are fast approaching the end of their stay at HBS, we thought it would be relevant to survey the student body and get their perspective on what (if anything?) the Green Living Program has accomplished.

The Green Living representatives asked a small sample of students across the HBS campus what they thought about the program. Our sample represented the views of EC and RC students who live either in the HBS dorms or on campus SFP/OWA/Peabody Terrace housing as well as off-campus students.

Q1. What was the most effective Green Living initiative at HBS for you this year?

Our survey results showed that the majority of the students have found the Green Living initiatives helpful and their answers suggest that the program has been instrumental in educating them on how to change wasteful habits. Lincoln Howell (OD) says: “The Green Living Program at SFP is great at reminding me to be green. I see billboards and displays every day, which makes me think about conserving energy and water a lot more than I used to.ÿI feel good every time I turn on the free low-energy light bulb the Green Living reps handed out this semester.”

The majority of the responses pointed to the water conservation as the most effective campaign. In particular, HBS students praised the laundry campaign at SFP/OWA that has taught them to choose cold water over hot, to adopt eco-friendly detergent and to de-lint dryers before use.

Other students were also enthusiastic about the efforts to educate on energy conservation. Michael Lyons (NB) said: “I think electricity usage is a good one, because people are constantly leaving lights on and using energy inefficient lights and devices.” Recycling and eliminating paper waste were also favorites; respondents said the visual cues to recycle were helpful and double-sided printing was a great introduction to the HBS campus.

Some answers also demonstrated that the Green Living Program has to improve on its outreach. One respondent stated that he was not aware of any initiatives on campus. Kristen Samuelsen (NJ) added that more efforts should be placed on promoting green living directly in the school’s facilities: “From what I hear, the Green Living initiatives are great – there seems to be especially good visibility in the dorms. As an off campus resident, it would be great to be involved in some way as it seems like the activities primarily focus on those living on campus.”

Q2. What is the most important area that Green Living should focus on for spring 2008?

“The green initiatives are a strong first step – the strongest I have ever seen on any campus or at any company. But, we have a ways to getting rid of all the Styrofoam containers and paper bags at Spangler.”
– Ajay Sudan, NJ, OWA resident

An overwhelming amount of the responses cited improvements in waste management on campus, particularly in the cafeteria, as the most important area to focus on. Students named the ongoing use of Styrofoam containers and other disposable containers as their greatest concern. Morgan Blackwood (NB) echoed the feelings of many students when she said she would like to see more students using reusable mugs instead of disposable coffee cups. Other students were also preoccupied with the amount of food that students throw away; some felt that they were being wasteful.

Other areas of improvement included recycling and energy conservation. Recycling biodegradable items (which the SFP/OWA recycling program is currently not set up to handle although at Spangler, the cafeteria folks will handle composts) as well as introducing recycling cans on each floor of OWA/SFP/Peabody were additional suggestions. In terms of energy conservation, some students at SFP/OWA felt that more should be done to motivate residents to cut back on energy use.

Q3. Have you changed a habit because of a Green Living initiative? If so, what?

“Now I recycle more than just bottles, I use less detergent, I don’t even use hot water in the laundry anymore even though it was difficult at first. It really does work!”
– Deborah Dana, OB, SFP resident

Students’ response to this question indicated that the biggest change in habits were in energy conservation and recycling (reducing waste). More students are now turning-off lights, powering down their computers, using cold or warm water in the laundry rather than hot, and de-linting dryers before use. Others are being more careful with paper; using double sided printing, recycling instead of trashing, reducing the number of pages printed, using wider margins and even cutting back on napkins.

Q4. Do you plan to green your life & your surroundings in 2008 (either by recycling, saving water, conserving energy, etc.)?

When asked this question, most students (with a few notable exceptions) were enthusiastic about continuing to green their lives in 2008. Camila Escobar (OG) summed up the views of many students when she expressed: “[Before coming to HBS] I felt the green propaganda was promoted by tree huggers without practical applications but Green Living provides rational arguments to change our daily habits and gives practical advice to implement more green measures.” She went on to say that she now felt “Pretty green conscious and would continue to implement tips after leaving HBS.”

Other students indicated that they were cutting back on bottled water, using reusable grocery bags, using CFL bulbs, walking instead of driving, switching off the A/C when not in use (especially during the summer!), using double-sided printing and opting out of junk mail.

By and large, the results of the survey seem to indicate the Graduate Green Living Program has made a significant impact on students’ daily habits, particularly in the areas of resource conservation and recycling. And although the reps may feel that it’s safe to give themselves a pat on the back for all their hard work, the fact remains that there is still a lot to be done on campus, especially on raising awareness on green issues and promoting more environmentally conscious choices in the cafeteria. Students keen on learning more about how to green their lives will be glad to know that the Green Living Reps will continue to line up additional activities throughout the remainder of the semester.

If you felt that your concerns were not voiced in this article, or you have suggestions for the program, please feel free to approach any of the representatives.