Is Green REALLY the new Crimson?

Ever since I arrived as a RC last year I was bombarded with Green initiatives – work for HBS Green Living, become a Green Rep and posters of “Green is the new Crimson”. “Great!” I thought, “after living in Atlanta for seven years where there is no separate container for recyclables, finally a place where damage to the environment will be less”. But little did I know that HBS was also typical in terms of wasting paper. Five proofs:

Moving in! Tons of boxes that were dumped near the recycling area in SFP2 & OWA. I talked to the recycling truck driver (whose noisy truck typically wakes me up at 7am every day since he parks it right below my apartment) who came to pick up all of the boxes and asked him where it all goes. He replied “I am not sure, it’s supposed to get recycled, but we all throw it in one big pile and then it gets sorted from there”.

No double printing in any of the printers at Aldrich or Spangler! Is this really the commitment to green? This should be the standard way and it should be really convoluted to get single sided printing. We learned in Negotiations that people are lazy and that they just take the default option. Can’t be that difficult to institute this – are you listening IT support?

HBS parties & events: Remember those annoying little postcard size advertisements that were kept on your desk inviting you to everything from Wednesday night parties to conferences? If you do some rough math that’s 940 students (not counting ECs) getting full color glossy paper multiplied by at least 25 events. These end up as airplanes in class, or more creatively into valentine cards that my section mate gives to good looking guests. I interviewed the lady at Tech Docs and she said that each costs $0.21 to produce – that’s a total of $5,000 of your club dues! It is equally effective for one representative from that club to make an announcement in the section or write it in the dedicated blackboards on the sides or just email! As example, I vehemently and successfully protested against printing these flyers for our India Conference last year. Can we ban this practice please?

Empty pages in cases! Remember the cases where usually the last 3 pages are empty just because on the 4th last page there was one extra line? Can we not change the formatting just a little? That’s 940 * 3 pages * 25 cases (10% of RC cases) = 70,500 sheets of paper that gets wasted! This roughly equates to 10 trees. So I asked a section-mate of mine who wrote cases at HBS before she joined the MBA program the very same question and she replied “There are certain formatting standards that cannot be changed and HBS is very particular about using them as the cases are used all across the globe”.

EC Shopping Period cases – if you just walked by the Distribution center in Spangler in the first week you would have noticed a ton of extra week 1 & 2 case packets that are printed – what is this for? What use will it be after the Add/Drop period? And why are we allowing people to order 8 courses when they cannot take more than five. I understand that we need them so people can “shop” classes – but all of the cases are available online on Course Platform through the temporary course registration. Why not instead allow to order five case packs and the rest you need to print yourself. I obtained some information from the Course Distribution window and found that a total of 8190 sets were printed. Assuming that each set has 5 cases of 20 pages each this translates into roughly 800,000 sheets of paper. On an average people take 4.5 classes (half take a FS) but most people order 7 cases so eventually 1/3rd of all cases end up in recycling or roughly 270,000 sheets of paper which is almost 32 trees.

Individual Envelopes – Barring Finance all the other 8 classes we received our midterm grades on individual sheets of paper in full sized envelopes. Each of them was different. Again running some numbers this was 940 students * 8 courses * 4 pages/course (counting envelope as 2 sheets) = 30,000 pages. The technology already exists to deliver these grades online (kudos to Finance for using it!) then why are the others compelled to print?

Now I am all about having paper copies of cases or printing one-page summaries for class or reading in hard format. I do it myself. I am not against all of that – but I cringe at the sight of wasted paper. We should use as much as we need but the above examples all attack areas where we can save. So go ahead and print all you need, but see if you can save a sheet by adjusting margins, printing double sided, reusing paper or sometimes changing the offset of the bullet.

Author’s Biography
Pranav Kothari is by no stretch of imagination a Gandhian; but he tries to save a little bit of paper, water and time whenever he can, earning the nickname “Efficient-heart” from his lovely dear wife with whom he is unsuccessfully competing to write stories for the Harbus. He can be reached at for bouquets and brickbats to this story.

From Meghan Duggan, Assistant Director of Sustainability and Energy Management

I read your column with interest. The HBS Operations Department, the HBS Green Team, and the student Green Living representatives are always open to suggestions from the entire HBS community. Although there are always opportunities for improvement, as you point out, I want to assure you that we have all been working diligently over the past five years to promote recycling and reduce waste, energy use, and greenhouse gas emissions at the School.

To put things into perspective, Harvard University has an overall goal of recycling 60% of all trash by 2012; HBS met this goal with a 60% recycling rate in 2010. Last year, the School recycled a total of 254 tons of basic recyclables, which includes paper, cardboard, and containers.

In addition:
HBS has implemented single-stream recycling, which eliminates the need for separating paper, plastic, glass, and aluminum and ultimately allows for an easier recycling process.

Since 2003, the School has enacted more than 100 energy conservation measures and adopted cutting-edge clean technologies, including: a green roof at Shad Hall, photovoltaic panels, cogeneration, low-flow water fixtures, and energy efficient lighting. These measures were enough to offset 2,150 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCDE).

HBS trimmed its utility bills by 21 percent from 2006 through 2010. In fact, the School’s energy consumption is almost as low as usage in 2000, and that’s with an additional 200,000+ square feet of new space coming on line between 2000 and 2005 and the completion of more than a half dozen major renovation projects.

Preliminary figures show that HBS also reduced its greenhouse gas emissions in 2009 by 29 percent, compared to a baseline year of 2006 (2010 GHG numbers are not available yet).

In 2010, HBS received a City of Boston Green Business Award in recognition of “extraordinary performance related to sustainable environmental practices.”

Let me now address each of the points you make in your article:

Moving in: Since the Soldiers Field Park (SFP) and One Western Ave (OWA) complexes are managed by Harvard Real Estate Services, not HBS, we will bring this situation to the attention of the Harvard Real Estate representative who attends our monthly Student Service Committee meetings. We will also look into the waste management vendor that picks up the recycling for these buildings. The drivers need to be educated about the recycling process so they can provide an informative response.

No double printing in any of the printers at Aldrich or Spangler: According to MBA IT Support Services, all HBS public printers have the ability to print double-sided, and all public computer kiosks are set up to print double-sided by default. However, a document’s properties can override the printer settings in some situations, which can result in single-sided printing. You always have the option of printing double-sided by going into the “Advanced” tab on the printing dialog box and selecting “Two-sided Printing,” or following the instructions provided on the MBA IT Support Services site (under “Campus Printing”). MBA IT Support Services is looking into making default double-sided printing a universal feature, and is happy to answer any questions you might have about printing or other technology questions at HBS.

HBS parties & events: We couldn’t agree with you more here, and hope that this article and the efforts of our Green Living representatives will encourage clubs to consider alternative methods for promoting events.

EC Shopping Period cases: According to the MBA Program, students are allowed up to eight packets (reduced from nine two years ago) to facilitate the ease and convenience of shopping classes during the Add/Drop period. The goal is to ensure that students can fully prepare for all enrolled and shopped classes. That said, we are happy to discuss with student leadership reducing the number of shopping packets that can be requested. On a more granular level, weeks 1 and 2 packets go in and out of circulation frequently due to the swapping requirement, which means that students must return a course packet to receive a new one. Therefore, many packets are used by two to three students. Additionally, we maintain extra inventory for cross-registered students. During the most recent shopping period, over 375 cross-registrants submitted applications for nearly 600 course seats. Finally, all course materials are not available as PDFs, and classroom policies (i.e., lids down) make paper cases a necessity.

I appreciate the opportunity to respond to your concerns. Be assured that we have a common goal – to make this campus as environmentally friendly as possible now and in the future. When all is said and done, we are definitely on the same page.