Community Compact for a Sustainable Future

Sustainability Compact

Sustainable Futures

The City of Cambridge, Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology signed a historic “Community Compact for a Sustainable Future” aimed at leveraging the intellectual and entrepreneurial capacity of the business, non-profit, education, and municipal sectors in Cambridge to contribute to a healthy, livable and sustainable future. The three signatories also announced they have already recruited the participation of an initial group of major business partners including Akamai Technologies, Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research, Boston Properties, and Whole Foods.

Cambridge Harvard MIT


In what is considered to be the first agreement of its kind, MIT, Harvard University and the City of Cambridge developed a compact to work collaboratively to address issues related to sustainability and climate change on a local basis. The “Cambridge Compact for a Sustainable Future” lays out a framework for signatories to work in a more coordinated and robust fashion to tackle local sustainability challenges. Open to eligible organizations and individuals, the Compact aims to leverage the different organizations’ core skills and competencies in research, best practices and governance to generate new solutions in the areas of building energy efficiency, sustainable transportation, climate mitigation and adaptation, waste reduction, water management, renewable energy, urban natural resource management, and green tech incubation.

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  • City of Cambridge
  • Harvard University
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
  • Akamai Technologies
  • Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc.
  • Biogen Idec
  • BioMed Realty
  • Boston Properties, Inc.
  • Cambridge Innovation Center
  • Cambridge Redevelopment Authority
  • CDM Smith (formerly Camp, Dresser & McKee)
  • Draper Laboratory
  • Forest City Commercial Group
  • Genzyme, a Sanofi Company
  • Google
  • Homeowners Rehab, Inc.
  • Novartis
  • NSTAR/Northeast Utilities
  • [t]Twining Properties
  • Whole Foods

Community Compact for a Sustainable Future


Local universities, organizations, businesses, individuals, and the city government have a history of working together successfully to address challenges facing our community. Now threats to our environmental, social, and economic sustainability call for a collective response. This Cambridge Community Compact for a Sustainable Future (Community Compact) creates a framework agreed upon by the signatories to bring to bear our combined commitment to address these challenges.


The signatories to this Community Compact are increasingly concerned about the crisis of global climate change and the many challenges it presents. This crisis threatens the ability of the planet to support secure, healthy, productive, and enriching lives for current and future generations.

Together, the signatories will strive to create a more healthy, livable and sustainable Cambridge community by addressing global environmental challenges including climate change. The signatories will work cooperatively to harness the community’s capacities in research, innovation, entrepreneurship, social enterprise, and governance to strive toward a more sustainable future. The signatories recognize that greater collaboration is key to successfully addressing the urgent challenges facing our community.

Successful Collaboration

The City of Cambridge, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) share a long history of collaboration and partnership resulting in many innovative solutions including but not limited to:

  • Serving on Local Committees: Representatives from MIT and Harvard serve on a number of city committees including the Cambridge Climate Committee, Green Building Task Force, Pedestrian and Bike Committees, and Recycling Advisory Committee as well as serving as DPW Recycling Department Waste Audit Volunteers. Harvard and MIT faculty and staff serve on the City’s Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment Technical Advisory Committee and the Expert Advisory Panel, to name a few.
  • Sharing Knowledge and Best Practices:
    • Harvard and MIT work with city staff to share sustainable design and green building strategies in new construction and major renovation projects, including LEED certification projects.
    • MIT and Harvard work with appropriate city departments to share landscape management strategies, including organic approaches and leaf blower use parameters.
    • They share experiences, strategies, and research with the City on pilot projects such as the Canaday solar thermal and steam tunnel heat-recovery system which supplies at least 60 percent of domestic hot water for all buildings in Harvard Yard; the MIT/Cambridge solar map tool and infrared thermal imaging of Cambridge buildings.
    • MIT and Harvard implement robust Commuter Choice programs and share plans and strategies with the City.
      Harvard University Center for the Environment, MIT Energy Initiative and MIT Energy Club create and share newsletters and robust lists of faculty and student lectures and events open to the community.
    • MIT and Harvard share experiences, strategies and best practices regarding green buildings, food, energy, greenhouse gas reduction efforts, waste reduction, renewable energy, transportation, composting, and water conservation with the City.
    • City professional employees are regularly invited to participate at university sustainability events such as the Walk to Work Breakfast, Harvard Thinks Green (faculty speakers on energy and environment), Green Your Scene events, MIT Efficiency Forward workshops, Earth Day fairs, and curricular classes.
    • Harvard and MIT are founding participants of the “40% Recycling by 2005 Challenge” with the Cambridge DPW Recycling Department.
    • Harvard and MIT work with city staff to share sustainable design and green building strategies in new construction and major renovation projects, including LEED certification projects.
  • Partnering for Grant Development and Implementation: MIT and Harvard staff have partnered with the City to secure and/or implement various grant programs such as the MIT/Cambridge EPA clean diesel vehicle retrofit grant, and the state’s advanced electric vehicle charging station grant.
  • Hubway Bike Share Program: Harvard and MIT are major supporters of Hubway and actively partnered with the City of Cambridge to expand bike share to the city’s neighborhoods. Together Harvard and MIT support 11 stations in Cambridge and Boston.
  • Creation of Green Spaces and Farmers’ Markets: MIT, Harvard and the City host weekly community-based farmers’ markets with educational highlights such as "How to Start Worm Composting" or tabling by local area fruit "recyclers”; create publicly accessible open space such as the new Riverside and Pacific Street Parks; and, through the community gardens, students from Harvard and MIT provide educational and community events around local food and gardening.
  • Food and Material Donations: Harvard and MIT provide yearlong support for area shelters with food donations or complete meals, as well as donations to CASPAR, and Food for Free from farmers’ markets and donations to Cambridge Faith Kitchen. Harvard and MIT donate thousands of pieces of furniture, equipment and other material to local non-profits and individuals in the Greater Boston area.

The Community Compact

Building on successful collaboration, the City of Cambridge, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed this Community Compact for a Sustainable Future to encourage even further collaboration and to deepen our commitment to a more healthy, livable and sustainable local community. The signatories will work to create broader collaboration among themselves and with other community partners in order to leverage the combined capacities in research, teaching, innovation, entrepreneurship, and program development. This will demonstrate that a more creative and sustainable future can be realized for the entire community of Cambridge.

The Community Compact is a living and voluntary document that will evolve over time to maximize local impact and enhance the sharing of ideas and solutions beyond Cambridge, and will be used to invite stakeholders throughout Cambridge to participate in building a better future together.

Through this Community Compact the signatories will:

  • Join with other community leaders who share the same goals and commitment to advance a sustainable Cambridge.
  • Continue to advance Cambridge as a leader in community sustainability.
  • Leverage the unique collaborative power of university faculty, staff, and student resources with City staff.
  • Create a framework to facilitate continued collaboration among the Community Compact’s signatories on projects and actions.
  • Build on existing programs and actions to enhance effectiveness.
  • Develop and share new and innovative strategies, technologies, services, products, and best practices that can be used as replicable models for others, considering cost-effective solutions.
  • Promote research with Cambridge as a living laboratory offering rich learning and entrepreneurial opportunities for everyone.
  • Develop a structure for effective coordination and communications.
  • Report annually and collectively to the community on progress toward a more sustainable future.
  • Convene annually to discuss the state of sustainability in the city.

The signatories will focus on the following possible key areas of collaboration:

  • Building Energy Efficiency
  • Climate Change Mitigation and Preparedness Planning
  • Renewable Energy Systems
  • Sustainable Transportation
  • Waste Management (recycling, composting and waste reduction)
  • Water Management
  • Urban Natural Resources
  • Public Information and Education
  • Green Tech Incubation and Promotion

The signatories will build capacity and support for institutionalizing the Community Compact by:

  • Working together to build a coalition of community partners to engage in sustainability programs and initiatives under the Community Compact, including growing the number of signatories within the Cambridge community.
  • Establishing a steering committee of signatory partners who will meet quarterly to coordinate activities under this Community Compact.
  • Developing a framework to collect and analyze data to document progress toward the goals of the Community Compact.
  • Creating a forum for signatories to report annually on progress toward the goals of this Community Compact and a strategy to communicate actions, activities, and metrics to the community.
  • Exploring processes to facilitate matching interested researchers with community needs and initiatives.
  • Exploring processes to better connect students with entrepreneurs and social enterprises in the sustainability field that are seeking employees.
  • Identifying obstacles to the goals of this Community Compact that can be jointly addressed by the signatories.

Full version of the signed compact can be found here.


Photo credit: Rose Lincoln Harvard University Staff Photographer