By Chika Acholonu | May 8, 2015

This post was originally published in the UW Green Labs newsletter. Each quarter, the newsletter covers a topic on how labs can improve their scores in one category covered by the UW Green Laboratory Certification Application.

Click here to read the rest of this quarter's newsletter and subscribe to future UW Green Labs mailings.

Fieldwork and Work-Related Travel

To “green” your travel, minimize your driving and flying, and consider these travel options to lower your carbon emissions:

  • Carpooling
  • Walking or biking when going short distances
  • Using hybrid UCars offered by UW Fleet Services
  • Amtrak trains for long-distance trips

When meetings do not need to be in-person, consider teleconferencing and videoconferencing (i.e. via Skype) as a substitute for travel. Finally, if planning to make multiple trips to the same area around the same time, think about combining your trips when possible. Like with teleconferencing and videoconferencing, combining trips will decrease your emissions and save you time.

If you must drive, remember to minimize vehicle idling to reduce air pollution. Do not unnecessarily run your vehicle’s engine, as it produces carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and other emissions and wastes fuel and money.[1] Newer vehicles do not require idling to warm up. In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy reports that it takes longer to warm up a newer car’s engine while idling than while driving.[2]

Leave No Trace

To reduce your environmental impact, it is important to not leave anything behind at your fieldwork site. Thus, you should bring enough bags to re-pack all of your equipment and food. One environmental impact of fieldwork is that staking, flagging, or other equipment can cause harm to wildlife. For marking trees or other specific points, marking chalk is a more wildlife-friendly alternative to flagging. In addition to this, it is important to pack up all of your trash—even if it is compostable—because it can take many years to degrade. Trash can also pose health and safety risks to other users of your fieldwork site.

For more information, check out the Leave No Trace Seven Principles at:

Reuse Your Equipment

If using sterile sample containers, choose containers that are reusable and can be autoclaved. Additionally, consider purchasing sample containers made from recycled materials to decrease your environmental impact. When using stakes and flagging, reuse and/or recycle them to reduce waste.

[1] U.S. Department of Energy. Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy. “Idle Reduction Benefits and Considerations.”, accessed 6 Mar 2015.

[2] U.S. Department of Energy. Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy. “Idling Is Not the Way To Go.”, accessed 6 Mar 2015.