Laboratories are one of the next major frontiers in sustainability. Laboratories consume as much as five times more energy per square foot than typical offices, and the opportunity for energy reduction is enormous.
While the combination of energy-intensive equipment, round-the-clock operations, and unique ventilation requirements do pose a challenge when looking at reducing a lab’s footprint, there are indeed steps to take to reduce the current consumption. In the past, research facilities have offered disproportionate opportunities for water conservation, waste reduction, and more sustainable selection of reagents and process equipment.
But as the nation, and the world, take steps to make everything from energy sources to everyday items more environmentally friendly, laboratories are following suit. One organization on the forefront of this movement is My Green Lab, a nonprofit formed to unify and lead scientists, vendors, designers, energy providers, and others in a common drive toward a world in which all research reflects the highest standards of social and environmental responsibility.
Here is a roundup of some items and resources that can be used by labs who want to focus on laboratory sustainability.
Eppendorf CyroCube F740 Air-Cooled Freezer
Designed for individual labs, the My Green Lab certification program identifies best practices for energy-saving and water-saving measures, reducing waste, and eliminating the use of hazardous and toxic chemicals. The assessment associated with the certification allows labs to receive recognition for the safe, sustainable practices that are already in place, and provides suggestions for labs to reduce their environmental impact. One of those suggestions include equipping a lab with energy-efficient freezers and refrigerators. While it used to be a challenge to locate environmentally friendly cold storage for labs, a plethora of options are now available. One example is the Eppendorf CyroCube F740 Air-Cooled Freezer, designed to store a large amount of samples securely while maintaining optimal energy usage.
Implementing chemical substitutions is another way to reduce the environmental impact of experiments. MilliporeSigma DOZN is an online tool that identifies opportunities for green chemistry substitutions for individual chemicals and chemical processes. A resource to identify hazardous materials and offer more benign alternatives, Michigan Green Chemistry Clearinghouse can be found online at www.migreenchemistry.org.
Look for the ACT Label
One of the most straightforward ways to ensure laboratory products are more environmentally friendly is to purchase items that contain the ACT label, an eco-nutrition label for lab products, including consumables, chemicals, and equipment. Some products containing the ACT label include Miele Laboratory Glassware Washer, PG8583 and the Priorclave 320L Autoclave: Non-Vacuum Cycle.
Creating a culture of sustainability through science is possible and with growing resources available, it is our hope that labs continue to drive toward a world in which all research reflects the highest standards of social and environmental responsibility.