Commitment to the Environment

Zofnass Program for Sustainable Infrastructure at Harvard
In 2009, Paul Zofnass, and his sister Joan Zofnass, established and funded a program at Harvard University to develop a set of sustainability standards for the design of major infrastructure programs, along the lines of what the LEED program has done for the design of buildings. The Program brings together 30 faculty members and 150 graduate students from six schools at Harvard: the Harvard School of Design; the Harvard School of Public Health; the Harvard Business School, the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, the Harvard Law School and the Harvard University Center on the Environment. Also assisting in the Program have been sustainability leaders from 30 major engineering consulting firms. Helping to fund the Program and participating in the workshops and meetings with government sustainability officials are 12 members of the Sustainable Infrastructure Advisory Board (“SIAB”), including CH2M HILL, MWH Global, HNTB, Stantec, Golder, Arcadis, NV5, Exp, Autodesk, Granite Construction, Power Engineers, and the InterAmerican Development Bank. The Program meets quarterly with the faculty, the members of the SIAB, and sustainability leaders from government agencies throughout the US and abroad, to discuss the newest trends and needs in Sustainable Infrastructure. The Zofnass Sustainable Infrastructure System has served as a useful planning tool for government infrastructure planners and fund raising. The Zofnass Program’s Rating System was combined with the Institute of Sustainable Infrastructure (“ISI”) similar early rating system, to create the Envision Rating System, for Sustainable Infrastructure. The Zofnass Program focuses on ongoing research and development of the Rating System, to keep it current with advances in the sciences in understanding the components of “Sustainability”; the ISI (which is a joint venture between the ACEC, the ASCE and the American Public Works Association (APWA)). ISI is responsible for training in the use of Envision, accreditation, and awards. The InterAmerican Development Bank, one of the largest infrastructure banks in the world, uses the Zofnass Program and Envision system to help them select recipients of their funding, of several hundred billion dollars a year. Among those government agencies that have been working with the Harvard Program, are: US EPA, White House CEQ, US Army Corps of Engineers, US Pentagon (Sustainability Directors of Army, Navy and Coast Guard), NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation, NYSERDA, NYC DEP, NYC MTA, NYC Dept. of Parks, NYC DOT, Mass DEP, Boston Water and Sewer, MWRA, Cape Cod Commission, City of Los Angeles PWD, Long Beach Water Dept., Orange County Water District, County of Los Angeles DPW, Tuscon Water, Pakistan Defense Housing Authority, African Development Bank, Malaysia Ministry of Public Works, Mayor of Athens, Greece, Malaysia Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB), and Chinese Construction Corp. Click here for more information.

New York’s Central Park Tree Identification Program
Paul and Joan also developed a Tree Identification Program for NY’s Central Park, by funding and designing the Zofnass East Side Tree Walk, which identifies 100 different species of trees, plants and shrubs down a two mile path on the East Side of Central Park, parallel to Fifth Avenue, entering at 85th St and running down to 60th St.

Harvard University Center on the Environment
In the early 1990’s, Paul Zofnass played a proactive role in creating the Harvard University Center on Environment, an interdisciplinary department that brought together professors from all the other departments whose disciplines were critical to understanding the issues of protecting and maintaining a healthy environment. (One of the other leaders of this initiative were Paul’s college classmate, Al Gore. The first year the new studies major was offered, it received 250 applications for roughly 25 spots. Paul also contributed the first Scholarship in Environmental Studies, in memory of his father, Jesse E. Zofnass, class of ’25. He served on Harvard’s Visiting Committee to this Center for many years, and continues to serve as an adviser to their Director. (He has also served on Harvard’s Committee on University Resources (“COUR”), since the early ‘1980’s, and also has served as Co-Chair of his Harvard College Class Reunion Fund Drives, since graduation in 1969.)

New England Forest Exhibition at Harvard Museum of Natural History
Paul Zofnass has financed and helped create a major, permanent multi-media exhibition focusing on the natural history, environmental significance, historical development, and conservation of New England forests at the Harvard Museum of Natural History. “New England Forests: The Zofnass Family Gallery”, which opened in 2011. It is visited annually by roughly 200,000 people. Unlike the more traditional displays of museums, which tend to show the difference between different species of flora and fauna, the Zofnass Exhibition attempts to demonstrate the interactivity and interdependency between the various flora, fauna, and the surrounding physical environment.

Zofnass Family Preserve / Westchester Wilderness Walk
The Zofnass family has also created a 250-acre nature preserve in Pound Ridge, NY, one hour north of New York City. Paul has designed and built a ten-mile long “wilderness” hiking trail (also known as The Westchester Wilderness Walk) that runs throughout the Preserve. One of the attractions of the trail is that at no point can any reflection of “civilization” be seen. The Preserve was created through a combination of land gifts and conservation easements organized by Paul and donated by Paul and by his neighbors, in roughly 7 separate parcels and put together over a 15 year period. The preserve is open to the public. Click here to see the original Sunday New York Times article about The Westchester Wilderness Walk/Zofnass Family Preserve.

Riverkeeper – Board of Directors
Paul serves on the Board of Riverkeeper (organized largely by the efforts of Robert F. Kennedy Jr, this organization for the past 30 years has taken on the responsibility of “cleaning up” and preserving the Hudson River and NY Watershed. It also has roughly 150 affiliated organizations around the world, inspired by Riverkeeper and Kennedy, with similar purposes.

Harvard Evolutionary Biology Department – Faculty/Trustee
He serves as a permanent trustee (aka “Faculty Member”) of Harvard’s Organismic and Evolutionary Biology Department (“OEB”), founded in the 1840’s by Louis Agassiz , Asa Gray, and Oliver Wendell Holmes, following Darwin’s explorations and development of the theory of Evolution.

Westchester Land Trust – Board of Directors
Paul served for roughly 20 years on the Board of the Westchester Land Trust, during which time, he assisted in the strategy and preservation of over 5000 acres of land in Westchester County, just north of New York City. His wife, Renee Ring, has just taken over his position in this wonderful organization that has had a huge impact on the preservation of this beautiful part of New York.

Zofnass Environmental Prizes
In addition to the Environmental Scholarship he established at Harvard College, he also endowed an annual Zofnass Environmental Prize at both his pre-college schools: Belmont Day School, and Belmont Hill School (where he also serves as a member of the Corporation.

Harvard Business School “Making a Difference” (“MAD”) Award (2014)
In 2014, Paul was recognized as one of 50 HBS alumni, to receive the HBS “Making a Difference” designation, for “his combining a successful business career with his passion for environmental preservation”.

Mount Auburn Cemetary – Board of Directors
Paul serves on the Board of Directors of Mount Auburn Cemetery, in Cambridge, MA, the oldest landscaped cemetery in the United States (in the 1840’s), and designed in part by Frederick Law Olmstead. He also serves on their Horticultural Committee. He has also served on the Visiting Committee for Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum.

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