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2009 Success Story: Harvard University

Facts at a Glance

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Program Overview

Harvard represented the Ivy League in Game Day Challenge 2009 and was able to achieve the third highest diversion rate of all participants. Participating in the Game Day Recycling Challenge was a multi-party decision involving Athletics, the Office for Sustainability, Dining, Custodial, the Landscape contractor, Alumni Affairs, the Catering contractors, and Recycling & Waste Services. This group decided that trying to recover as much recycling as possible during Homecoming Weekend when hosting rival Princeton University would be a fun challenge. The Game Day Challenge was an opportunity for these diverse groups to work together towards a common goal.

Some Lessons Learned, from Rob Gogan of Harvard Facilities Maintenance Operations Recycling & Waste Services:

One issue that Harvard had was the difficulty with consistently training clean-up staff and ensuring that recycling practices were implemented. They had good cooperation from the day custodians and landscapers, but the evening crews, who actually did the biggest share of the clean-up outside in the dark, had not been adequately trained about separating recyclables from trash. Unfortunately, one crew member was seen throwing the recycling frames into the trash dumpster. Harvard learned from these issues and will address them in future recycling initiatives.

The Office for Sustainability staff put in a heroic effort to round up student volunteers, a key to the success of any university recycling initiative. After discovering that the second shift crews had been discarding a lot of the recyclables into the trash dumpster, a volunteer revealed that his date for that Saturday evening had been cancelled, so he didn’t care how dirty his clothes got. He climbed in and started tossing out bags of sorted bottles, cans and flattened cardboard. By the time he was through, his clothes were in fact filthy, but the once half-full dumpster was only one quarter filled, and at least five cubic yards of recyclables were rescued.

Harvard tracks the amount of waste discarded at the university on a yearly basis, and has made admirable strides in reducing waste. Between September of 2004 and September of 2009, Harvard went from 831 tons to only 588 tons of waste discarded, a 29% reduction.1

Results from 2009 Game Day Challenge
Category 2009 Result
Diversion Rate (%) 57.99%
Per Capita Waste Generation (lbs/person) 0.39
Gross GHG Reductions (MTCO2E) 4
Per Capita Recycling (lbs/person) 0.229
Per Capita Composting (lbs/person) 0.05

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