Help labs go green
Since my last post, I have developed a Certification Protocol for laboratories to follow to become certified. This protocol is modeled after the GreenLabs certification instructions from programs at other Universities.The general outline is below:
1. Select a representative from the lab to be the ‘EcoLeader’; that is, the person who is most passionate about improving the lab’s sustainability practices and the point of contact for issues related to the GreenLabs program.The EcoLeader can be anyone in the lab, including the lab manager, a graduate student, or the PI. Typically, it is easiest if the EcoLeader is involved in purchasing. Once an EcoLeader has been selected, please email GreenLabs@uchicago.edu with your lab name and the number of individuals in your lab to declare interest in becoming certified.
2. The EcoLeader should encourage a critical mass (one third or more of the laboratory personnel) to complete the mygreenlab.org assessment.To become certified, the lab must receive an average score of 40% or higher. If your laboratory does not meet the minimum score, your laboratory can work towards certification by collaborating with GreenLabs to implement simple and sustainable practices to reach the minimum certification score.
3. Each certified lab will also meet with a member of GreenLabs in a laboratory meeting attended by 75% of the current lab members to discuss and learn about sustainable practices in the laboratory.
4. To be a ‘GreenLab’, at least 75% of the laboratory members must commit to improving their laboratory sustainability to ensure that the laboratory is actively reducing its environmental impact.
Once the above criteria have been met, and the “UChicago GreenLabs Certification Form” is completed, the laboratory will be ‘GreenLab certified’!
There are a few things to note about this procedure. The first, as I have said before, but in case you are not a regular follower, I will say it again: There is no need to reinvent the wheel for every step of running a sustainability initiative! The project you are currently working on has been done before and the information is out there! Even signage can be reused (assuming you give credit to the initial creator).
Of course each institution will be slightly different in size ,jurisdiction, and practicalities, but Green Labs programs typically focus on the same initiatives and projects. Each lab needs a point person who is going to care enough to begin the process and encourage their lab to maintain sustainable practices after becoming certified. Each institution will need to assess their laboratories’ green practices in some form. And generally, to ensure changes are implemented, a one-on-one meeting is crucial.
Another key point here is that I have been collaborating with Allison Paradise, the founder and director of My Green Lab. She created a wonderful resource for quantifying the sustainable practices of labs. Once this tool is streamlined, the assessment could be a universal process, although for now a flood of users might be overwhelming!
On a completely separate note, I have begun working with Kimberly-Clarke to set up a glove-recycling program. We are starting with a few collection boxes and will see how quickly they fill up. For those who do not know, some nitrile gloves can be frozen down and shrunk into pellets. These pellets can make long-term durable items like benches and chairs, putting our gloves in a better place than a landfill. Kimberly-Clarke’s recycling process only works for their high quality nitrile gloves (I did not realize how important this is, but it really matters what the exact chemical make-up of the glove is). So labs that would like to reduce their waste should purchase Kimberly-Clarke gloves. And recycling gloves DOES greatly reduce waste creation. A previous study estimates that 20% of laboratory waste comes from disposable gloves! Even if half of all gloves need to be discarded into the biohazard bin, a laboratory can still reduce their waste creation by about 10%! We are still in early stages of implementation, but I will write about this project in an upcoming post