Past Challenges – 2012

The MIT Earth Day Challenge is a new approach to celebrating Earth Day at MIT, one that moves beyond information and encourages green action. The Challenge aims to engage a wide audience, allow organizations and departments to contribute directly by sponsoring projects, and–most importantly–create a larger impact on campus.

Check out last year’s action projects below.


FREE Bike Repair Clinic                                                                                                        Sponsor: MIT Parking & Transportation Office  & GSC                                                       The MIT Parking & Transportation Office is providing this free service to support this environmentally-friendly transportation alternative (cosponsored by the GSC). First come, first served. Minor repairs only. An MIT ID is required and bikes must be registered with MIT Parking and Transportation (will be done on-site that day).       

Sustainability and the Student Experience: Exploring opportunities for engagement in an environment and sustainability initiative at MIT                   Sponsors: GSC Sustainability Subcommittee; CIS Global Sustainability WG; Sustainability@MIT; UA Committee on Sustainability; and EHS Sustainability Program       In light of the recently released Environmental Research Council report, the panel will focus on how students can engage in environment and sustainability initiatives both on and off campus. Each of the five panelists will provide brief opening remarks, followed by questions and discussion from the floor. Panelists will include: Prof. Dara Entekhabi, Chair of the Environmental Research Council, Steven Lanou, EHS Deputy Director for Environmental Sustainability, Jennifer Liu, Co-Chair of the UA Committee on Sustainability, Dr. Amanda Graham, Director of the MITEI Education Office, and Dr. Stephen Hammer, Lecturer in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning. Complete the registration form and RSVP to attend the panel to receive your Earth Day Challenge points. Head over after

Volunteer with the Cambridge Science Festival                                                    Sponsor: Sung Kim                                                                                                          What has 500 legs and a heart of gold? Nope, not an experiment gone wild. Instead it’s the team of generous, dedicated, and selfless volunteers who make the Cambridge Science Festival happen! Help out, and receive green points for volunteering at any of the events or via any of the methods listed on the website.

Sleuths Wanted!                                                                                                                 Sponsor: MIT Custodial Services                                                                                              Be a detective and investigate the signage in MIT buildings. Are there signs on the public waste containers in the corridors? Yes? No? Either way, let us know what buildings you investigate. If signs are needed, our custodians will follow up on your tips, and they’ll add the signs. You just have to let us know where you’ve checked. Email your findings to Assistant Manager Felix DeLeon at Five points for each floor of a building, maximum of 10 points per person or two floors. Click here to find the signs you’re looking for.                                                                                                                            

2012 MIT Sustainability Summit – The Horizon Event                                         Sponsor: Sustainability@MIT                                                                                              The 4th annual MIT Sustainability Summit, The Horizon Event, will address the urgency of developing and implementing these breakthrough ideas. The one-day Summit will provide a unique forum for students and leaders from business, academia, government, and NGOs to engage in dialogue and ideation to advance the field of sustainability. Speakers and panel sessions will highlight cutting-edge solutions, emerging breakthroughs, and visionary ideas in sustainable business models, technologies, and policies. The Horizon Event will inspire attendees to reshape their organizations and propel sustainability into escape velocity. To participate, register for tickets to the event, and forward a copy of your confirmation to to receive Green Points for the Challenge.                                                                                                                        

MIT Political Science Distinguished Speaker Series: Marina Silva                                Sponsor: Political Science                                                                                                    Marina Silva (former Minister for the Environment, Brazil) will be speaking on challenges to Global Sustainable Development. RSVP by April 24 in order to receive your Green Points.                                                                                                                               

Pitch Competition                                                                                                           Sponsor: MIT Sustainability Summit                                                                                  Grab this unique opportunity to pitch your business idea at the MIT Sustainability Summit 2012. If you are working on an idea, sign up for the competition to get a chance to make a 1-minute pitch of your idea at the conference. You can gain access to the network of leaders in business, technology, and academia in sustainability attending the conference. Also, if your idea is chosen to be the best, you win $500. So, hurry and sign up for the competition here. You do not need to be registered to attend the Sustainability Summit to participate in the pitch competition.                                                                                 

Easy: Sign up for a Home Energy Assessment                                                           Sponsor: HEET Cambridge (Home Energy Efficiency Team)                                      Signing up for a home energy assessment as part of MIT’s Earth Day Challenge is one of the most energy intelligent choices you can make. Efficiency Devices: During the assessment, devices like efficient light bulbs, programmable thermostats, and water-saving measures are installed free in your home. Combined, these can save you up to $350, and reduce your carbon emissions by 2,120 lbs each year!! Solar: The assessor will also check to see if your home is a good candidate for solar. If it is, you can possibly get solar photovoltaic panels for free (basically you would “rent” your roof to a solar installer and get paid through a lower electricity rate). Local green jobs: These services also help provide local green jobs. These services are paid for by an MA-wide surcharge on your energy bills. You’ve already paid for them. You might as well use them. Follow this link to complete a short survey and determine if your home is eligible now!

Easy on the Planet Product Purchases                                                                        Sponsor: Staples Advantage                                                                                               When making a product purchase through Staples, consider products that have reduced environmental impact or are made from recycled content. MIT Faculty & Staff – utilize the Staples Advantage ECAT program ‘Show me products’ on the home page. MIT Community – utilize any of our Staples retail stores or Earn points by pledging to make Easy on the Planet product choices during the Earth Day Challenge and beyond, and also for sharing your story about the Easy on the Planet product choice you made. Find more information about available products, take the pledge, and share your story here.                                                                                                                        

Action for Our Earth: Photo Challenge                                                                           Sponsor: EHS Office                                                                                                        Snap a scene of people at MIT in action for our earth – the day to day, or the unusual.  Staged scenes allowed.  Example ideas:  someone riding a bike with groceries, a picture from the back seat of your van pool, people using the recycling containers at the office kitchen, a person planting a tree, people using a revolving door, a crowd coming off the subway or waiting at a bus stop, or someone participating in one of the other green challenges listed.  Enter the challenge by sending us your photo with a catchy caption.  In addition to the points you’ll earn for submitting the photo, there will be $10.00 Tech Cash cards for the top 5 photos and the top 5 photo captions, and these will be displayed at the Earth Day Bash on 4/26.  Judging will be done by the EHS Office Communication Services Team.  Entries must be submitted by April 18, midnight.

Streamline Lab Recycling Signage                                                                               Sponsor: EHS Office                                                                                                         Help us update the lab recycling labels around campus to increase and improve lab recycling. Stop by the EHS Office to pick up self adhesive labels for Single Stream Lab Recycling and further instructions. Take a lab recycling photo while you’re out to submit to us to earn an extra point!

Spread the Word!                                                                                                             Sponsor: Sustainability@MIT & UA Committee on Sustainability                           Encourage more sustainable behaviors in your office, lab, or dorm by printing and posting pre-made posters which include: [1] Shut the Sash (for fume hoods), [2] Flip the Switch (turn out the lights), [3] Resolve to Revolve (use revolving doors), [4] Print Smarter (double-sided on recycled paper), & [5] Power IT Down (use power management features on your computer). To obtain the posters, simply visit the Facilities sustainability webpage, and find the files on the right-hand side under “behavior change posters”, or just e-mail Sam at To earn points, simply take a photo of each poster in the location where you’ve posted it, and e-mail the photos to Sam. Earn 5 points per poster for a maximum of 10 points.                                                                                                    

Commuter Connections Tpass Challenge                                                            SponsorParking & Transportation Office                                                                              The MIT Parking and Transportation Office is providing 25 free MBTA passes for the month of April to encourage the use of public transportation. First come, first served. Users must also register for the Earth Day Challenge. Open to staff and faculty only.                      

Zero Waste Lunch
Sponsor: 100 Main Marketplace, Sloan Dining                                                             Purchase a ZERO WASTE meal to earn points in the MIT Earth Day Challenge.  A ZERO WASTE meal is one that is served on a non-disposable plate or bowl. Stop by the Starbucks counter to log your name and e-mail so you can receive your points!             

Recycle with Greenbean!
Sponsor: Greenbean Recycle                                                                                            Register at our machine or on our website ( and recycle at least 10 containers by April 25th to receive 10 points towards the Earth Day Challenge!
Our Greenbean Recycle machine and website gives users real time statistics on energy saved through recycling, number of bottles and cans a user has diverted from the landfills, and container refunds that can be transferred directly to PayPal, Tech Cash or can be donated to charities like the Nature Conservancy and Relay for Life. The Greenbean machine has been on the first floor of the student center since last August and has helped the MIT community divert over 40,000 containers from the landfills!                             

Greenbean Video/Photo Contest                                                                                  Sponsor: Greenbean Recycle                                                                                              Take a picture or a video of yourself recycling at the Greenbean Machine and send it to Kristina@gbrecycle by April 25th. You and your friends may be featured in Greenbean Recycle’s newest user video! All entries will receive 10 points, but the most creative and well-done submission will receive 10 extra points and a special recognition from Greenbean Recycle! Our Greenbean Recycle machine and website ( gives users real time statistics on energy saved through recycling, number of bottles and cans a user has diverted from the landfills, and container refunds that can be transferred directly to PayPal, Tech Cash or can be donated to charities like the Nature Conservancy and Relay for Life. Recently, Greenbean Recycle became one of the 50 semi-finalists for the MIT100K Business Plan competition!

Individual Green Action Blogging                                                                              Sponsor: Sustainability Program, EHS Headquarters Office                                         When you register to participate in the MIT Earth Day Challenge, you’ll be provided with information on how to blog about your Action Project experiences and share with your fellow participants. In addition to blogging about projects, you can earn points by blogging about individual green actions you engage in during the Challenge. Submit your stories and photos about using reusable bottles, buying local food, taking public transportation, conserving energy, and more! You’ll receive points just for contributing, but there’s also the possibility to earn additional points and prizes for submitting the most creative individual green action, the best green action picture, particularly high-impact actions, etc.                 

Trash Into Art                                                                                                                 Sponsor: Yunus Challenge (International Development Initiative + IDEAS Global Challenge) Come view this art installation made of waste and recycled materials. Be sure to sign in at the installation to receive your points!                                                                             

Environmental Fair & Community Clean Up Day
Sponsor: East End House and Kennedy-Longfellow Parent Group         
The East End House is a 137-year-old community center located just outside of Kendall Square. In celebration of National Volunteer Week and Earth Week, we invite you to join us for a morning spent volunteering alongside our community members and beautifying our community, followed by an afternoon fair featuring ceramic tile-making, flower planting, and more!

Sustainability Brainstorming Session
Sponsor: UA Committee on Sustainability                                                                         Help us brainstorm ways to increase awareness and induce behavioral change on campus!                                                                                                                          

Origami Environment                                                                                                   Sponsor: OrigaMIT                                                                                                                  Join OrigaMIT at their regularly scheduled meeting, with a special Earth Day twist! We will fold models from recycled paper to form an environmental scene. No prior experience necessary, open to the public and all Earth Day Challenge participants.

Waste Audit                                                                                                               Sponsor: Grounds Department                                                                                               A waste audit is a formal, structured process used to quantify the amount and types of waste being generated by an organization. Information from the audit will help identify current waste practices and how they can be improved. Being waste-wise can mean a more efficient and effective organization, reduced waste management costs, and better use of limited natural resources.  Participants will physically help to sort waste from a campus dumpster! Sorting for the waste audit will take place in ventilated areas and is carefully controlled. Sorters undertake safety training and use protective equipment such as tongs,gloves, masks and overalls. Waste is never handled with bare hands.          

Choose to Reuse                                                                                                          Sponsors: Working Green Committee                                                                              Help MIT foster a culture of Reuse!  Choose to Reuse is an opportunity for you to divert materials from the trash and pass them on to another life. Stop by to donate and pick up clean and gently used items.  All items are free! Drop off reusable items from 8-11AM. Pick up freebies from 11AM-1PM. Bring: clothes, small household items, clean toys, etc. Avoid: aerosols, food, dirty toys, etc.Considering what to drop off?  If you wouldn’t buy it, don’t bring it.This is a great opportunity to clean out your closet or garage.  And remember, you don’t have to give to get!  For every item you donate, up to 10 items, you get one Earth Day Challenge point!  Max points available: 10. Sign in and tally the items you donate at the event.                                                                                                                                   

Quantifying Environmental Impacts of Agricultural Production                                   Sponsor: Sustainability@Sloan                                                                                             Do you eat? Are you curious about the environmental impacts of how food is produced? Have you heard conflicting information about how to rate the sustainability of food and other ag products? Come to learn about some of the challenges of measuring the eco-impacts of food production at the level of the farm. Christina Ingersoll, MBA class of 2010 and current Research Coordinator for the MIT Sloan Sustainability Initiative will lead this workshop.                                                                                                                 

Green Vendor Fair                                                                                                   Sponsor: Koch Institute Green Team                                                                               Learn more about the green products and services MIT vendors have to offer to assist you in the “greening” of your office, lab, or next meeting. Staples, Bon Appetit, New England Biolabs, Sigma, VWR, and Biolab Services will all be in attendance. The products and services range from products made from recyclable materials to a local repair service for lab equipment. Also, stop by the Koch Institute Green Team table to learn more about our sustainability initiatives; sign-in on the log sheet at the table to receive your Earth Day Challenge points!

Charles River Cleanup                                                                                            Sponsor: MIT Sea Grant College Program                                                                      Come help MIT Sea Grant with the Annual Earth Day Charles River Cleanup! MIT Sea Grant is coordinating trash pick-up along the grassy areas and sidewalks on the Cambridge side of the Charles River between the Massachusetts Avenue and Longfellow bridges. Supplies, including gloves and trashbags, along with a snack will be provided. Email Nancy at to sign up.  Since 2000, the Charles River Watershed Association has coordinated the Annual Earth Day Charles River Cleanup each April with a collaborative of other non-profit organizations. The Cleanup involves volunteers picking up trash at over 100 different cleanup sites along the Charles River and its tributaries.

Climate Change Awareness Campaign – Rivers of Ice: What’s Your Question? Sponsor: Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change                                What’s your question about climate change? Submit your question today and join us on April 21st for a special symposium with David Breashears to mark the MIT Museum’s opening of its special exhibition by GlacierWorks: Rivers of Ice: Vanishing Glaciers of the Greater HimalayaSubmit your question here.                                                               

Energy Upgrade Workday
Sponsor: HEET                                                                                                                 Based in Cambridge, HEET organizes free energy-upgrade work-parties to teach volunteers hands-on skills in lowering their energy bills and carbon emissions. Join us at Friends Meeting House, a Quaker Meeting House at 5 Longfellow Park, Cambridge to help make their Meeting House more energy efficient.  You will be taught how to do the work by experienced team leaders, while you learn how to lower your own bills at home.  Food will be provided at the end. Come along, make new friends, meet old ones, help out!          

Earth Day Colloquium                                                                                            Speaker:  Andy Revkin, Dot Earth Blog                                                                 Building the #Knowosphere: How new ways to share and shape ideas can help build durable progress on a finite planet                                                                Sponsor: MIT Energy Initiative                                                                                  ANDREW REVKIN is the senior fellow for environmental understanding at Pace University’s Academy for Applied Environmental Studies and writes the award-winning Dot Earth blog for The New York Times. He has spent nearly three decades covering subjects ranging from the assault on the Amazon rain forest to the troubled relationship of climate science and politics. From 1995 through 2009, he covered the environment for The Times as a staff reporter. His quarter century of coverage of global warming has earned most of the major awards for science journalism along with the John Chancellor Award for sustained journalistic excellence from Columbia University. Revkin has been a pioneer in multimedia communication, blogging and shooting still and video imagery in farflung places. He has also carried his journalism to a new generation in The North Pole Was Here: Puzzles and Perils at the Top of the World, the first account of Arctic climate change written for the whole family. His other books are The Burning Season, which was the basis for a much-lauded HBO film, and Global Warming: Understanding the Forecast. Revkin lives in the Hudson River Valley with his wife and two sons. In spare moments, he is a performing songwriter and plays in a folk-roots band, Uncle Wade.

Meatless Mondays                                                                                                           Sponsor: Sustainability@MIT                                                                                                Did you know that animal agriculture accounts for about 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions? That means that you can reduce your carbon footprint greatly by reducing the amount of meat in your diet. It’s also good for your health, as meat consumption has been related to a variety of health problems. A good way to get started is by participating in Meatless Mondays. It’s easy: just don’t eat meat for one day each week. To earn points, just e-mail a picture of one of your vegetarian meals each Monday to Of course, all 3 meals should be meatless, but you just need to send a pic of one of them. We hope you’ll continue to reduce meat consumption even after the Earth Day Challenge!                                                                                                           

Improving Energy Efficiency in your Facilities                                                             Sponsor: Sustainability @ Sloan                                                                                        Most businesses have a facility of some kind – an office, a warehouse, a call center, etc. There are tremendous opportunities for companies to save significant money by re-structuring facility operations. Learn about how to identify, quantify and communicate these opportunities in your business. This workshop will be led by Sarah Meyers and Greg Zielinski, two second years who were EDF Climate Corps Fellows last summer.           

Grocery Shopping with Reusable Bags                                                                Sponsor: UA Committee on Sustainability                                                                              Save the plastic bags! Bring a reusable bag to put your groceries in when you shop at the weekly produce stand, and sign in at the checkout table to receive your points.      

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