A Greener Institution

Harvard Kennedy School is committed to sustainability throughout its operations and policies. Our Campus Planning and Operations (CPO) team strives to provide timely and efficient professional guidance and high-quality campus services for the entire HKS community, and the HKS Sustainability Leadership Council provides strategic guidance on sustainability priorities and new programs to senior leadership at HKS.

Learn about some of the facilities-related efforts and policy initiatives (internal HKS site) that work toward reducing our greenhouse gas emissions footprint and how you can get involved. 

roof of building with solar panels

Reducing energy consumption and transitioning to a low-carbon campus are priorities of Harvard Kennedy School. We're reducing energy load in every campus building by upgrading infrastructure, from adding occupancy sensors and new, efficient lighting systems, replacing aging air handlers and chillers, and being smarter about where and how we use our energy.

HKS has a 61.2 kW solar system installed on the roofs of the Ofer Building, the Wexner Building, and the Rubenstein Building to generate renewable energy on campus. As of January 2024, the system’s 153 panels have generated more than 500 MWh, equivalent to nearly 400,000 pounds of burned coal. New panels will be installed on the roof of the Littauer Building in 2024.

bio compostable bag with items inside

HKS seeks to reduce unnecessary waste and improved recycling options throughout all levels of its campus. We partner with Republic Services for recycling and trash and Save That Stuff for composting.

Learn more about how Harvard handles waste here.

outdoor shot of lawn with trees and people sitting

HKS is committed to achieving and maintaining inclusive well-being through wellness programs and increased access to nature. Since 2017, HKS has been expanding its plant program on campus by installing more plants, greenery, and pictures of natural scenes. Such biophilic imagery has been linked to many health benefits, including: cognitive, psychological, and physiological improvements on health, reduction in stress and inattention, and increased sense of well-being, comfort, creativity, and enhanced mood.

inside a building with fabric chairs

Healthier buildings support healthier people. Our goal is to use only sustainable, non-toxic products in all aspects of everyday operations. We are currently removing chemicals in the built environment from items such as furniture, carpeting, and paint in order to increase the health of our community with both long- and short-term benefits. To read more about healthy spaces and how to make your home "healthy," read this paper written by Harvard's For Health team led by Professor Joseph Allen.

people inside a cafeteria handing food over a glass counter

Harvard adopted the Sustainable and Healthful Food Standards to redesign on-campus cafeterias and Dining Services catering options to improve consumer wellbeing, reduce climate impact on ecosystems and agriculture, reduce food waste, and protect the welfare of workers throughout the value chain, all while offering nutritional menus and helping community members make informed food choices. Harvard wants its community to eat well, be active, and protect the planet. Learn more about Harvard's food programs and policies.

student out on balcony facing courtyard working on laptop

Personal well-being is integral to sustaining a healthy community. Harvard has many resources designed to support every member of our community, including the Center for Wellness and Health Promotion. At HKS, the Green Team hosts frequent meditation session open to all community members.

airplane wing

Travel is an important part of how we conduct our research, mission, and academic practice at HKS. But travel, and air travel in particular, has a large environmental impact on the climate and health of communities across the globe. The greenhouse gas emissions from our HKS staff and faculty air travel is equivalent to the total greenhouse gas emissions that come from heating and providing electricity for our buildings. 

Since 2018, HKS’ Dean-appointed Sustainability Leadership Council has investigated HKS and its air travel footprint as a core campus priority, including how to better estimate HKS’ air travel footprint, explore behavioral nudges and strategies to improve how our community can more sustainably connect, and recommend carbon offset purchases to mitigate the climate and health damages of the travel we do. 

compost and plastic recycling bins

Plastic waste and disposable plastic debris has an clear impact on the ecosystems and oceans around the world. HKS has been working to improve plastic recycling rates in campus operations and to limit the amount of plastic that comes to campus in the first place through better procurement purchases and working with vendors to find plastic alternatives. Multiple projects have been implemented behind-the-scenes to drive down our plastic waste volume and examine what plastic waste can be reduced, substituted, or eliminated entirely.

Community Leadership

The community organization focused on sustainability. Open to HKS students, staff, faculty, and fellows.

An appointed committee of faculty, students, and staff tasked with advising Dean Elmendorf on the HKS sustainability agenda.

A student-run professional interest council supporting engagement on topics related to climate change, energy, and environment.

Sustainability plan logo

Tracking Progress

The Kennedy School’s commitment to sustainability began with an active grassroots effort in 2008 and is now institutionalized with a School-specific Sustainability Plan that was adapted from Harvard University’s Sustainability Plan.

The goal of the HKS Plan is to positively contribute to the University-wide sustainability goals, as well as provide leadership and support to other campuses, internally at Harvard and externally among our higher education peers.

A key component of this effort is to broaden the definition of sustainability from its focus on “greening” the HKS campus to a more inclusive focus on inter-generational well-being. Current research in sustainable development is focused primarily at the global and national level. As a leader in the global community, HKS has the opportunity to join a small group of major corporations and institutions in furthering this research at the scale of local communities.

The HKS Sustainability Plan is the first step in an iterative process. Integration of research, teaching, governance, and culture at HKS is critical to the long-term success of the proposed strategies. Harvard is developing the next Sustainability Plan in 2020 and 2021, and HKS will use that Plan as a model to identify and adapt specific sustainability priorities for our campus.

Download the 2016-2020 HKS Sustainability Plan here.


Green Harvard logoSustainability across Harvard

Visit the Office for Sustainability's website to learn more about Harvard University-wide initiatives like Living Labs, community engagement, green buildings, and available student grants.


The Harvard University Center for the Environment (HUCE) encourages research and education about the environment and its many interactions with human society. The Center draws its strength from faculty members and students across the University who make up a remarkable intellectual community of scholars, researchers, and teachers of diverse fields. The most pressing problems facing our natural environment are complex, often requiring collaborative investigation by scholars versed in different disciplines. By connecting scholars and practitioners from different disciplines, the Center for the Environment seeks to raise the quality of environmental research at Harvard and beyond.

The Center seeks to provide the next generation of Harvard-educated researchers, policymakers and corporate leaders with a comprehensive interdisciplinary environmental education, while fostering linkages and partnerships amongst different parts of the University as well as between the University and the outside world. Through a variety of grants and fellowships, the Center supports research related to the environment at every level, from undergraduates through senior faculty members. By sponsoring symposia, public lectures, and informal student convocations, the Center connects people with an interest in the environment.