The Thanksgiving holiday reminds us all to be grateful for our resources. The wisdom of 'Thanksgiving' is reflected by scientists who benefit our society by using eco-friendly practices, whenever possible, in their labs.
In 1621, the Wampanoag people shared their traditional, celebratory meal with the Pilgrims, an event that occurred during what historians call the age of “The Scientific Revolution”. This age stretched between the discoveries of Copernicus and Newton. Sir Francis Bacon, a contemporary of the Pilgrims, had just advocated the scientific method of reasoning in his work, Novum Organum in 1620. The idea to study nature through systematic research, based on observation and experimentation – would soon be widespread.
A bountiful harvest that provided the people with the necessary resources to survive the harsh Massachusetts winter was definitely worthy of celebration in 1621. Today, the concept is a bit more implicit in daily lab work. Samples are often are considered precious. Yet it is also important for labs to value the "life cycle sustainability" of their labware and lab equipment. In This way we take the long view on resource use.
In thanksgiving for modern science, here is a brief list of the historical progress toward green lab efforts. This list is by no means exhaustive. Please feel free to post any additional, relevant milestones in a comment.
- 1897 - New York City creates a materials recovery facility with sorting for recycling and reuse.
- 1925 - first report of bio-derived, biodegradable plastic characterized by Lemoigne, M.
- 1962 - The concept of Green Chemistry is introduced by the book Silent Spring by Rachel Carson.
- 1970 - Founding of the Environmental Protection Agency.
- 1972 - The first recycling mill accepts residential plastics.
- 1994 - LEED Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system is developed by the U.S. Green Building Council.
- 1999 - The EPA and DOE start the Labs21 program to reduce Energy Consumption of Science Laboratories. This becomes the International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories (I2SL).
- 2001 -Cross-disciplinary field of 'Sustainability Science' introduced at the World Congress.
- 2008 - The National Renewable Energy Lab is established by the DOE.
- 2009 - WaterSense label launched by EPA to encourage the development of water efficient products.
- 2016 - First North American Laboratory Freezer Challenge.