UCSF Sustainability Stories

Deborah Fleischer & Jennifer Armenta, Green Impact, July 2015

The Greening of Labs

AlisonMy Green Lab is a non-profit organization formed by a group of former scientists and engineers interested in promoting green technology and practices to science labs. Allison Paradise, Executive Director of My Green Labs, took some time to speak with us.

Allison was inspired to create a new business after spending many years working at a variety of labs. “I was struck by how much waste they produced and energy they used,” she recalled. She was motivated to get them to recycle, but learned very early on that labs would not start to recycle unless they had a plan. She became a consultant for a company that makes microscopes and Allison had the opportunity to visit dozens of labs and to talk with researchers about their work and ways things could be improved. “It was in this role where I actually saw an opportunity to do something,” said Allison, and My Green Lab was conceived.

Her first initiative was to replace the mercury light bulbs in microscopes. She was thrilled to see the support from the scientific community because the new LED bulbs were not only greener, but greatly superior. “It’s better technology, it’s better for science, and it’s better for the environment. It’s just a win-win all around,” Allison shared. What started off as just replacing light bulbs has turned into a full time sustainability program that focuses on reducing energy, water and waste in labs all over the state.

My Green Lab works with universities, pharmaceutical firms, biotech companies and hospitals. Last year My Green Lab focused on developing a Green Lab Assessment that has set a new standard for labs to aim for. Universities all over California are getting involved. UC Riverside and UC Davis are running pilot programs and UC Santa Cruz has been piloting the free assessment tool. UCSF has it own shorter assessment tool incorporated into the UCSF LivingGreen Lab Certification.

What Can Labs Do?

The My Green Lab website provides a wealth of information on best practices labs can incorporate.  For example, the section on Cold Storage provides details on how to reduce energy use from low temperature freezers.  Have you heard -70 is the new -80?
When lab teams learn to make more sustainable choices, they can make a huge impact. “There are many things that labs can do to make a difference,” explained Allison. Below are some actionable changes that labs can implement immediately:

  • Get employees in the habit of turning off all equipment that is not in use.
  • Replace old inefficient equipment, like freezers and refrigerators. (She is currently working to get Energy Star certified equipment into laboratories.)
  • Autoclaves use up to 150 gallons of water per load. Consolidate loads and make sure they are full before you use them.
  • It takes three gallons of water to make one gallon of distilled water. Be responsible about using distilled water and only use it when you really need it.
  • Close the sash on the variable air volume fume hood.
  • Turn off the water baths when not in use. Water baths were found to use more energy than refrigerators and almost as much energy as minus 20 freezers.
  • Chilling up an ultra-low temperature freezer can result in significant energy savings.  An adjustment from -80 to -70 can save 20-30% energy.  To learn more check out this video.

  • Story by Green Impact:  Making Green Happen (Strategy * Communications * Engagement)