By UW Sustainability | Jan 27, 2015

By Celia Gurney

My alarm goes off at 7:30 a.m. I hit snooze and roll over, eager to return to an exciting dream about IHOP. But just as I’m about to order a side of pancakes with my Smokehouse Combo, I remember something that jerks me awake. I sit bolt upright. There’s no time to waste. I’m about to start another day of work as a consultant for the Green Laboratory Program.

Okay, so I do have a few minutes to waste. I don’t have to be in the office until 8:30, and there’s no emergency situation underway. But I’m excited to get to work nonetheless. IHOP is now but a faint shadow in the recesses of my subconscious mind…and maybe a tattoo on the inside of my left ankle that I got on a whim. I’ll never tell.

What the heck is the Green Laboratory Program?

The Green Laboratory Program recognizes labs at UW for their sustainable practices. Labs can get involved by having one member fill out the Green Laboratory Certification application online. As a consultant for the program, I review applications to determine whether labs qualify for certification or not. If they initially don’t, I help them implement the necessary changes in their practices.

Why does it matter?

UW’s 4,500 labs could cut the university’s electricity consumption by about 20% just by operating more sustainably, and that would be a huge step toward our Climate Action Plan goals. However, fewer than 50 labs are currently Green Certified. As a result, my supervisors welcome any ideas I have for increasing participation. It’s a pretty unique position to be in as a lowly, 22-year-old student intern. I may not have the power to ban fracking on a national scale – yet. But I am getting some great experience in program development while promoting conservation behavior.

What do I do all day?

When I get to the office, I start by sending some outreach emails to Fisheries labs, introducing myself and asking if any grad students would like to set up consultation meetings. Then I head down to UW Medical Center to deliver some “Bark! Bark! Go Dark” light switch plate covers, somehow managing not to get lost in the UWMC labyrinth. When I arrive at my destination, a lab member gives me a tour and explains some of the different machines. One machine’s sole job is to keep paraffin wax hot all day. Who knew?! For a moment, I question my decision not to go into the hard sciences. Playing with molten paraffin wax could be my undiscovered passion…

Walking back to the office, I reflect on another reason I love this job: the variety. On any given day, I could be consulting with a lab in Bagley, distributing donation request forms to local pizza places, and engaging in (what I like to think of as) low-level espionage work researching other schools’ certification programs, along with 10,000 other things. Maybe what they say about our generation’s attention spans is true…they might be a little shorter…but in any case, this job doesn’t get boring.

But what about IHOP?

After work, I make my roommate pick me up and take me to the IHOP on Madison. See, Huskies? Dreams really do come true.

Note: Since writing this blog post, Celia has graduated and moved on from the Green Laboratory Program. However, her student-intern colleagues remain and will be writing more posts soon!