Becoming a Green Lab?

Artwork for Green Labs at WesternUA few tips for making and/or keeping your lab green:

ENERGY CONSERVATION

  • Turn off and unplug lab equipment when possible.
  • Turn off the lights when you leave the lab.
  • Replace fluorescent light sources with LED light sources.
  • Maximize energy efficiency: i.e. leave as little empty space in freezers as possible, and only run full loads on autoclaves.
  • ‘Shut the Sash Competition’
  • When the sash is left open, fume hoods use a very+ large amount of energy (the equivalent of 3 U.S. households annually).
    • Shut the sash when not in use to save energy and ensure the safety of users.
    • Facilities Management implemented a ‘Shut the Sash Competition’ in the summer of 2019 to incentivize researchers to shut their sashes when not in use.
    • The winning labs got a pizza lunch!

Two Terracycle recycling bins placed at the and of a lab tableWASTE DIVERSION

  • Consider sharing resources with neighboring labs
  • Consider ways to reduce waste in the planning phase when preparing a new experiment
  • Purchase Terracycle boxes or join the KC RightCycle program to recycle!
    • TerraCycle is a specialized recycling company that recycles material that cannot easily be recycled. You would simply purchase one of their boxes (for the type of item that you would like to recycle) and send it back to them when full. For more information visit: https://www.terracycle.com/en-CA/
    • Kimberly Clark brand nitrile gloves can also be recycled through their RightCycle program. Used gloves (that are not contaminated with hazardous materials) can be shipped back to a Kimberly Clark facility where they will be recycled. Visit: https://www.kcprofessional.com/umbraco/rightcycle.html
    • Facilities Management initiated a pilot project for recycling during the summer of 2019.
    • Two TerraCycle boxes were purchased – one for rigid lab plastics and one for nitrile/latex gloves – and they were put into a 2nd-year lab.
    • The boxes effectively diverted labs plastics and gloves from going into the landfill.

Research proudly displays a freezer kit for defrosting and maintaining ultra low-temperature freezer.EQUIPMENT MANAGEMENT

  • Keep -80C freezers organized and clear away ice build-up. This helps to ensure that the freezers last for many years.
  • Host annual freezer inventory cleanouts to remove unnecessary or outdated samples, and make it a lab policy that researchers are in charge of the upkeep of their own samples
  • Keep a record of where every sample is in the freezer to minimize time spent looking for samples with the freezer door open
  • Service equipment on a routine basis. -80C freezers should be defrosted every year, and no less than every 2 years. Filters and condensers also need to be cleaned regularly.
  • In an effort to improve energy efficiency, researchers with old, energy-intensive freezers were added to a random draw for a high-efficiency replacement. The winners were given Thermo Fisher TSX freezers. These freezers use about 3700 kWh less per year than old freezers, but still, require consistent maintenance to run efficiently
  • The recipients of the new TSX freezers were also given ‘freezer kits’ to help maintain their freezers. These kits contained an ice brush and plastic scraper, gloves, a towel, and posters that outlined how/how often to clean the freezers.

SUSTAINABLE PROCUREMENT

  • Purchase materials and resources only in the amounts that are needed
  • When purchasing new equipment, ensure that it is energy-efficient
  • Maintain an inventory of chemicals and samples that can be referenced when purchasing
  • Check out these resources for sustainable procurement in the lab:
    • ACT, an initiative to identify environmentally-preferred lab products: https://act.mygreenlab.org/.
    • The ‘MIT Green Alternatives Wizard’ is an online flash-based tool that provides alternatives to common laboratory hazardous chemicals and processes: http://ehs.mit.edu/greenchem/

Four research students sitting at a table enjoying a pizza lunch rewardOUTREACH

  • Champion sustainability in your lab and its many co-benefits:
    • Energy-saving changes like shutting the sash on fume hoods are also good practice from a health and safety perspective
    • Purchasing only the amount of material that is needed, or finding an alternative for procedures that use a lot of resources can save money for the lab
    • Maintaining equipment, like -80C freezers, both saves energy and increases the equipment’s lifespan, meaning that it is less likely to malfunction and need a replacement
    • Sample management helps to save both energy and resources but is also important for the reproducibility of results.