- Communication and education
- Energy usage
- Recycling, compost, and waste reduction
- Chemical usage and disposal
- Work related travel and field work
- Water conservation
Promote laboratory sustainability posters
Posters Created by Kate Stevenson in 2014
It is important to frequently remind laboratory members of your laboratory's commitment to sustainability. You can do this by encouraging the following practices:
- Turning off sinks when not in use
- Turning off lights/unused electronics when the last person leaves or when they are not in use (click here for free signage)
- Recycling/reusing as many materials as possible
- Using chemicals conservatively, and replacing harmful chemicals with less harmful ones (MIT's Green Chemical Wizard has information and suggestions)
- Buying local, sustainable laboratory products whenever possible
- Always looking for new ways to conserve, reduce, and reuse
- Sharing your ideas and innovations with others, especially us!
Communicating regularly with neighboring labs makes it possible for you to consolidate orders and share resources. Consolidating orders reduces packaging waste and greenhouse gas emissions from shipping. Sharing resources saves money and space while decreasing consumption, thereby lessening your lab's environmental impact.
Some good ways to keep communication lines open are:
- Saying hello
- Exchanging emails in order to more easily combine orders
- Sharing refrigerator/freezer space respectfully
- Sharing other laboratory equipment respectfully
This quarterly newsletter includes updates on the Green Lab Certification program, strategies for labs to operate more sustainably, spotlights of high-performing labs, and upcoming events. Not Green Lab-certified but want to learn more? Check out a past issue of the newsletter or join the Green Lab Newsletter mailing list!
These are collaborative groups committed to improving the environmental sustainability of their workplace (or any shared space), often involving representatives from various departments. Green Teams encourage behavior change on campus, and therefore help meet the Sustainability Action Plan goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions through behavior change, which includes measuring and monitoring building performance and going beyond the inventory.
This entails participating in an email listserv, a Google group, or even a Facebook group dedicated to resource conservation and operational efficiency. They best way to make this successful is by nominating a grad student, post doc, or manager as the laboratory contact person for the departmental network. This person will continually check and interact with the other laboratory contacts, striving to achieve highest efficiency and sustainability.
Students from the Fall 2012 ENVIR 480 class researched topics related to green labs. The class was lead by Megan Horst, a graduate student who encouraged the students to contact on-campus laboratory members and investigate an issue that interested them. The students findings and reports were summarized in a newsletter.
Unplug and turn off electronics
It is important to know and label the shut down procedure for each device so that energy can be conserved to the fullest extent possible with the least amount of confusion. We have created UW Green Laboratory device shut down procedure labels for your use. These labels are created to work with Avery 5960 mailing label sheets. Feel free to use and share these labels as much as you would like or contact us if you do not have access to a printer or labels but would still like your own set!
Several options are available as reminders to turn off lights. The templates below can be printed out and installed on or near light switches that can be turned off when not in use.
- Bark! Bark! Go Dark! plate covers must be printed on Post-It® printer paper (repositionable) to avoid maintenance issues
- Reminder template
Labs with windows should be able to use fewer or no electric lights during the day. However, if it is not bright enough to see your work with only natural light, you should turn on the lights! Safety first!
You can take these steps to cut down on the energy consumption of your computer and its peripherals:
- Power consumption settings for your computer are in the following locations:
- On Windows, go to Start -> Settings -> Control Panel -> Power Options
- On Macs, go to Apple -> System Preferences -> Energy Saver
- Set your computer to sleep when not being used. Review the Power Options for your computer (Energy Saver preferences on Macs). Shortening the time before your computer goes to sleep (which usually includes powering down the hard disk and turning off the monitor) can save power.
- Optimize your computer for better energy use when you are using it. Quite often, settings that reduce power consumption are adequate for doing your work. See your computer or operating system instruction manual.
For more information, see UW IT's Green Computing web page.
Rebates available to labs for high-efficiency ultra-low freezers
Consider purchasing a high-efficient freezer for you lab! Not only do they use 75% less energy than standard models, but labs that purchase a high-efficiency, ultra–low temperature Stirling freezer are eligible for a $600 rebate from Seattle City Light.
Ordering a Stirling freezer is easy, too! Just contact Tim Kehrili from Global Cooling at firstname.lastname@example.org for a quote. The request can be entered in Ariba by selecting “Global Cooling,” supplier number 276274.
For more information, check out our blog post on the freezer rebates.
It is important to regularly defrost and de-ice your freezer. Ice buildup makes your freezer work harder to maintain a cool temperature, wasting electricity. It is also more hygienic to clean your freezer regularly than to let debris build up. Freezer cleaning kits (freezer gloves and ice scrapers) to assist in your freezer de-icing are available by request. In order to defrost your freezer you must:
- Clean out all samples from inside freezer and move them to another location temporarily
- Turn off freezer
- Unplug freezer
- Allow defrosting for 24-48 hours
- Clean and dry inside of freezer
- Turn freezer back on
- Allow to cool to proper temperature before putting samples back into freezer
Please note that it is equally important to perform regular maintenance on your Ultra Low Temperature (-80°C) freezers.
Cleaning the coils and motors of your refrigerators and freezers is an easy process that can significantly extend the life of AND increase the efficiency of your refrigerators and freezers.
According to the University of Colorado Boulder and UC Davis, turning up your ultra low temperature (ULT) freezers from -80°C to -70°C should have no effect on your DNA samples, but should extend the life of your freezer and conserve energy. Check out their database of samples stored at -70 or higher here and read about University of Colorado Boulder's accomplishments with ULT freezers.
Unfortunately, there are currently no Energy Star rated, laboratory grade refrigerators and freezers available. Please note: Consumer grade refrigerators and freezers should not be used for laboratory purposes, including storing flammable and explosive materials. According to EH&S, "It is unsafe to store flammable liquids in domestic refrigerators or freezers." The EPA is currently working to develop an Energy Star rating for laboratory grade refrigerators and freezers that should be available soon.
Did you know that on average, fume hoods use more energy than the average house? In order to conserve energy and ensure the safety of your lab, shut your fume hood's sash when not in use. When the fume hood is in use, keep the sash as low as possible! By managing and being aware of your fume hood's energy consumption, you can significantly reduce your laboratory's overall electricity consumption.
Additionally, it is important to be aware of what type of fume hoods are in your laboratory. There are Constant Air Volume (CAV) fume hoods and Variable Air Volume (VAV) fume hoods. In a CAV, air volume and fan speed stay constant, but face velocity changes depending on sash height. In a VAV, face velocity always stays the same no matter the sash height, but air volume and fan speed change. All fume hoods at UW are labeled with a small green sticker from EH&S just above or to the side of the sash. EH&S approved "shut the sash" signage is available for use on VAV fume hoods. Please let us know if you are interested!
Hazardous waste reduction
In order to improve laboratory safety and sustainability, we would like to eliminate the use of mercury as much as possible. UW EH&S provides labs with a variety of information on mercury spills on their website. EH&S also provides information on proper disposal of mercury and other such hazardous wastes.
Shipping and mail
Designate a spot in your laboratory (a storage room, office, or a small corner) to store envelopes, boxes, and packaging materials for reuse. This way, they will be easy to find and in good condition when you need them.
Often, vendors will accept packaging materials back so that they can reuse them. For example, Sigma-Aldrich has a free polystyrene recycling program. Contact your vendors to find out if they offer this service. They will explain how to send the materials back. More specific vendors coming soon!
UW Mailing Services has a free service to help departments on campus reduce junk mail. Mailing Services also offers a free mail consultation to help departments reduce postage costs, take advantage of bulk/discount mail programs, reduce undelivered mail, and much more.
On the back (or somewhere inside) of the laboratory catalog, there should be a contact number listed. Call this number and speak to a representative from the company about receiving an electronic version of the catalog. You may also email the company (their email addresses can be found on individual company websites) and request only electronic versions of the catalog.
To consolidate orders, order all of the items you need at one time, rather than doing separate transactions. Companies will often combine your purchases into one box and one shipment, rather than shipping all of your items separately. Additionally, combining your orders with other laboratories allows for all the items to be shipped together, often in the same box. For questions regarding ordering in bulk, check your chemical supplier's website and contact the company if information is not available online.
By ordering in bulk, consolidating orders, and combining orders with other laboratories, you reduce waste from packaging as well as greenhouse gas emissions related to shipping.
Often vendors will offer reduced, recycled, or reusable packaging options. To find out if your vendor offers these options, contact your vendors via telephone or email.
Paper products, from sticky notes to magazines and envelopes to file folders, can all be recycled together through UW Recycling (No more sorting!). If your laboratory does not already have paper recycling, you can learn more about and request a personal recycle bin or Bagit station for your paper recycling convenience.
All of the below information can also be found on EH&S's Empty Chemical Containers instructions sheet.
The University of Washington no longer recycles containers that once held lab chemicals.
If possible, reuse your empty chemical container for chemical waste of the same, or compatible, chemicals.
- Cross out or remove the original label.
- Place a new hazardous waste label on the container. You can download hazardous waste labels from the EH&S website.
All other containers
Only certain types of empty containers are recyclable at this time:
- all plastic bottles and tubs (no hard plastics such as lids, vials and trays)
- all glass containers except Pyrex and bottles with anti-shatter coating
- all metal containers except for aerosol cans (These are managed as "hazardous waste" if still pressurized. If not pressurized, mark as "empty" and placed in the trash)
Setting up hard plastic recycling involves sending a sample of the plastic to UW Recycling to determine how/where the plastic can be recycled. Contact UW Recycling to find out more about recycling your hard plastics.
Styrofoam and polystyrene blocks and boxes
UW Recycling offers styrofoam, plystyrene and packing peanut recycling for clean, unlabeled materials. Click here for instructions on how to 1) recycle styrofoam and polystyrene blocks, 2) recycle packing peanuts, and 3) check to see if your building distributes the clear plastic bags you'll need to collect styrofoam and packing peanuts in.
Printer/copier cartridges and components
UW Recycling collects a variety of items as part of its printer/copier cartridges and components recycling program. Through vendors working with UW Recycling, cartridges will be refilled for resale, returned to the original manufacturer for refilling, or recycled when refilling is not possible. Instructions on how to send UW Recycling your printer/copier cartridges and components or drop them off at a collection station can be found here.
Plastic film such as clean plastic bags, bubble wrap, air pillows (deflated), and food-contamination free shrink wrap can all be recycled. If you do not already recycle plastic film but would like to, see instructions on how to recycle plastic film and order a plastic film bin here.
eMedia, including disks, zip disks, CDs, DVDs, audiotapes, and videotapes and their cases, can all be recycled in the eMedia bins located throughout campus. Electronics such as computers are NOT eMedia and must be transferred to UW Surplus. Confidential eMedia destruction must be coordinated within your department.
Lecture bottle recycling
Gas cylinders such as lecture bottles are normally owned by a vendor and returned to them, whether full or empty. If the vendor does not accept them back, empty cylinders may be recycled as scrap metal with UW Recycling. Cylinders of toxic or flammable gas that are not empty and cannot be returned to a vendor must be disposed of as hazardous waste at the cost of your department. Cylinders of oxygen, nitrogen, helium, argon or other normal constituents of air may be vented. To recycle empty cylinders, follow the procedure below:
- Remove or deface all labels
- Punch a hole in the cylinder (if cylinder contained flammable gas, leave open in a well-ventilated area for 24 hours prior)
- Draw a circle around the hole and write the word "empty" next to it
- Contact EH&S when all of the steps are complete so that they can arrange a pickup. If you have no way of putting a hole in the container, EH&S can still help you dispose of the cylinder correctly. To request an EH&S pickup, you'll need to fill out an Online Chemical Waste Collection Request Form to start off and they should be able to handle it from there.
Pipet tip boxes
UW Recycling no longer accepts pipette tip boxes and trays for recycling due to vendor policy changes. Instead, they recommend that labs purchase and recycle boxes and trays through a vendor with its own recycling program, or transition to reusable pipette tip boxes.
When mailing out your pipette tip boxes, remember to use a reused box and ground shipping! Preserve's environmental assessment of their recycling program weighed the carbon cost of shipping against the benefits of recycling and found that it is important to choose ground shipping. Expedited shipping and shipping that puts boxes on planes significantly increases the environmental cost of recycling lab pipette tip boxes. It is also more expensive monetarily!
Composting paper towels at handwashing stations
To install compost collection containers for paper towels from hand washing, contact UW Recycling at email@example.com.
Chemical, stock room, and freezer/refrigerator management and inventory
It is important to know exactly what you have stored in your laboratory to avoid purchasing unnecessary chemicals and wasting precious space. Assigning a lab member to keep track of your chemicals, stock room, and frozen/refrigerated items can make the process much easier for everyone.
Once in a while, but regularly, assess your current level of sustainability and identify ways your lab could become even more sustainable. Revising and refining your laboratory practices in order to produce less waste (whether this be wasted chemicals, electricity, paper, water, etc..) ensures that your laboratory will always be operating as efficiently as possible.
MyChem is a fantastic program offered by UW Environmental Health and Safety that helps laboratories conduct chemical inventories, exchange chemicals with other laboratories on campus, and access Materials Safety Data Sheets (MSDS's).
Suitable plant waste can be either composted through UW's composting program or sent to the UW Farm for reuse/repurposing. Chemical soaked plant waste cannot be composted or sent to the UW Farm.
Green chemistry methods
According to the US EPA: "Green chemistry consists of environmentally friendly, sustainable chemicals and processes whose use results in reduced waste, safer outputs, and reduced or eliminated pollution and environmental damage. Green chemistry encourages innovation and promotes the creation of products that are both environmentally and economically sustainable."
The best way to implement green chemistry in your lab is by following and posting the 12 principals of Green Chemistry:
"The 12 Principles of Green Chemistry, originally published by current EPA Assistant Administrator Paul Anastas, Ph.D. and John Warner, Ph.D. in Green Chemistry: Theory and Practice (Oxford University Press: New York, 1998), provide a road map for chemists to implement green chemistry.
The twelve principles are:
It’s better to prevent waste than to treat or clean up waste afterwards.
Design synthetic methods to maximize the incorporation of all materials used in the process into the final product.
Less hazardous chemical syntheses
Design synthetic methods to use and generate substances that minimize toxicity to human health and the environment.
Designing safer chemicals
Design chemical products to affect their desired function while minimizing their toxicity.
Safer solvents and auxiliaries
Minimize the use of auxiliary substances wherever possible make them innocuous when used.
Design for energy efficiency
Minimize the energy requirements of chemical processes and conduct synthetic methods at ambient temperature and pressure if possible.
Use of renewable feedstocks
Use renewable raw material or feedstock rather whenever practicable.
Minimize or avoid unnecessary derivatization if possible, which requires additional reagents and generate waste.
Catalytic reagents are superior to stoichiometric reagents.
Design for degradation
Design chemical products so they break down into innocuous products that do not persist in the environment.
Real-time analysis for pollution prevention
Develop analytical methodologies needed to allow for real-time, in-process monitoring and control prior to the formation of hazardous substances.
Inherently safer chemistry for accident prevention choose substances and the form of a substance used in a chemical process to minimize the potential for chemical accidents, including releases, explosions, and fires."
MIT "Green" Alternatives Wizard
The MIT "Green" Alternatives Wizard is a great tool you can use to find alternatives to hazardous chemicals or processes.
Recycle or reuse chemicals
Recycling or reusing hazardous chemicals is a cost-effective way to reduce your environmental impact. Many chemicals, such as acetone for cleaning glassware, can be reused.
Volatile organic compounds
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are gases emitted from certain solids and liquids that pollute the air. This makes them harmful not only to the environment, but also to human respiratory health. By capping any solids and liquids that release VOCs, you reduce the amount released. Examples of compounds that release VOCs and should be capped are: propane, butane, methyl chloride, formaldehyde, d-Limonene, toluene, acetone, ethanol (ethyl alcohol) 2-propanol (isopropyl alcohol), hexanal, and pesticides (DDT, chlordane, plasticizers (phthalates), fire retardants (PCBs, PBB)).
Less toxic cleaners and degreasers
UW Procurement Services offers a wide variety of green cleaning products. One example of greener cleaning is the use of specialty detergents instead of the highly toxic chromic/sulfuric acid for cleaning glassware.
Solvent selection guide
Solvent selection guides can help your lab choose less hazardous and harmful solvents. Several solvent selection guides have been published. You can view a survey and comparison of these solvent selection guides published by the Royal Society of Chemistry here.
Hazards of mercury-containing bulbs
When light bulbs, whether microscope or ordinary household compact flourescent, that contain mercury are broken, they release mercury vapor and a mercury-containing phosphor powder. Mercury is dangerous even in small amounts and takes a significant amount of effort and caution to clean up. The EPA provides instructions on how to clean up broken mercury-containing bulbs, but LEDs are a safer option.
Sustainable purchasing resources
When ordering new chemicals or equipment, it is important to look at a variety of places to find the best option.
- The UW Biochemistry Store is a great place to find items you need immediately, rather than having to pay extra for 2-day shipping.
- UW Surplus is where many departments send their unused items to be sold or repurposed. Here, you can find anything from mass spectrometers to office chairs, and you can send them just about anything for repurposing (excluding chemicals).
- Lastly, MyChem includes a Chemical Exchange program where you can not only find the chemicals you need, but also post/sell your unwanted chemicals.
Purchasing sealed or coated lead
If your lab must purchase metallic lead, choosing metallic lead that has been sealed or coated helps prevent the lead's surface from oxidizing. Over time, oxidized lead can release lead particles into the air, where they can be breathed in and harm lab members' health.
Energy efficient laboratory equipment
Labs 21 offers a Energy Efficient Laboratory Equipment Wiki for help with finding the best energy efficient equipment for your laboratory.
Items manufactured from recycled materials
Students from the University of Washington have compiled a list of "Green Laboratory Products" available for purchasing through E-Procurement. UW Procurement Services also offers a wide variety of vendors for laboratory and office materials and equipment, many of whom offer items that are manufactured using recycled materials.
Reusable lab purchases
Examples of reusable items for laboratories include reusable volumetric pipettes, reusable protective clothing (when it is possible and safety is not compromised), reusable glass test tubes, and reusable glass Petri dishes. Using reusable glass versions of commonly disposed items can greatly decrease the amount of waste a laboratory produces. Talk to your vendors to find out more about their reusable options.
Inventory of refrigerators and freezers
To avoid purchasing a refrigerator or freezer that your lab doesn't need, take regular inventory of your freezer/refrigerator to ensure that expired or irrelevant samples aren't taking up valuable space and energy. Schedule on day a month to be Inventory Day. On the designated day, have a laboratory member (or group of laboratory members) take inventory of the freezer/refrigerator.
"Green" travel tips:
When traveling for work, consider options that have a smaller environmental impact. Some of these lower emission and impact options are:
- Public Transportation can get you just about anywhere! Your U-Pass can take you throughout the Puget Sound on various buses and other vehicles.
- For short distances take a bike or walk!
- Hybrid UCars are another "Green" option offered by UW Fleet Services.
- The Bolt bus can take you to and from Seattle in a short amount of time.
- Amtrack trains are a great resource for traveling longer destinations!
- Greyhound Buses are another resource for longer distance travel.
- Avoid taking a plane when possible! Planes have a huge environmental impact and are usually not the most sustainable option.
Are you planning on making multiple trips to the same area within a relatively short period of time? If so, consider combining your trips and getting as much done on one trip as possible. This will increase your laboratory's efficiency and decrease its impact on the environment!
Teleconferencing and videoconferencing
Videoconferencing and teleconferencing tools can make meetings much more "green" by eliminating the need to travel long distances to meet. Skype is a free video and teleconferencing tool that is often used. Google also offers a free video conferencing tool which facilitate conferences between more than two people.
Following a Pack-in/Pack-out policy means bringing everything - even compostable items! - you took into an area back out with you when you leave. It's important not to leave anything behind at a fieldwork site, as this can greatly impact the environment. Items to take back out may include tools, equipment, food, and trash.
Compostable stakes and flags
Stakes and flags used during field work are frequently left behind or lost. Using compostable staking and flagging materials ensures that if they are lost, they will have a lower impact on the ecosystem. Additionally, be sure to reuse stakes and flags whenever possible.
More sustainable sample containers
When using sample containers, choose containers that are easily reusable, can be autoclaved, and ideally are made from recycled materials. Not all experiments require a sterile sample, and in these cases, sterile or autoclaved containers are not always necessary. Plastic containers seem to be the most widely reusable containers for collecting samples.
Conserve water and report leaks
Some easy ways to conserve water in your laboratory are:
Other ways to save water include:
Sink aerators and water misers
"Installing sink aerators is one of the simplest ways to effectively reduce water consumption. In labs, this means removing any tubing and barb attachments from faucets, screwing in a sink aerator, and replacing the tubing (used to fill containers and eliminate splash), and securing it with a clamp. The equipment required costs less than five dollars, installation can be completed in five minutes, and the result is up to 50% reduction in water usage."
- UW Green Labs: LED Growth Chambers And Sink Aerators Pilot Project By Kate Stevenson & Sylvia Howard
Water Misers are another great option for reducing water consumption. According to Stanford University, installing water misers on their autoclaves and sterilizers reduced water consumption by 50 percent!
Run autoclaves only when full
By running your autoclaves only when they're full, your laboratory can significantly reduce the amount of wastewater it generates. Coordinating and sharing autoclave loads with neighboring labs is another great way to conserve water and energy.
There are SO many different ways to be sustainable in laboratories! It simply would not be fair to limit the scope of this certification program to the ideas listed above. If your laboratory is doing something above and beyond what you read on this Resources page, you can get bonus points for your innovations. Here are some ideas that the Committee thought of along with some thought up by certified laboratories. For a complete list of submitted innovations, view the certified laboratories page.
- Turning off your faucet when you don't need the water (e.g. while scrubbing dishes or containers)
- Using a smaller stream of water when washing materials