Deborah Fleischer, Green Impact, September 2017
UCSF Matthew State Lab: Winner of the 2017 UCSF Sustainability Award in the Team Category
For 2017, the Sustainability Award in the Team Category went to the Matthew State Lab in Rock Hall. The State Lab was recognized for its efforts in becoming first laboratory to ever achieve a Platinum level certification. Last year the lab received a Gold-level certification, and it was inspired to improve its conservation efforts.
In the lab, pipette tip boxes, glassware, cardboard and Styrofoam are recycled and only compostable or washable items are used in the kitchen. The lab’s 20 computer screens are set to sleep after two minutes, which has the added benefit of increasing HIPAA security. Their single-shared printer defaults to double-sided printing and uses 100 percent recycled paper.
To reduce energy consumption, the lab’s -80C freezers have been set to -70C, reducing energy demand by one-third. Fume hoods, lights, and other equipment are powered down completely or unplugged rather than left in standby mode where possible. To educate new employees and visiting researchers, the lab shares its comprehensive checklist of resource conservation measures.
In Conversation with Clif Duhn, Lab Manager
We had the chance to connect with Clif Duhn, the Lab Manager at Matthew State Lab, about the team’s efforts and his personal interest in sustainability:
- What sparked your interested in sustainability? It is difficult to work in a large research lab and not notice the amount of waste material regularly generated. It only took a moment to wonder where is all of these full containers were going before realizing that an “out of sight, out of mind” approach will not alleviate the problems caused by waste generation. Having recently moved near Ocean Beach and spending a lot of time outdoors, there is scarcely a place anywhere that one does not find plastic refuse of all kinds. While I have yet to come across discarded pipette tips in public, all plastic waste remains a global issue. As the manager of several large labs, including that of the Department Chair, we felt that we should take an active role in showing that a large lab can successfully conduct high-level research in a sustainable manner so that I never will see pipette tips littering the beach.
- Why do you believe sustainability is relevant to those working at UCSF labs? Sustainability is a worldwide issue and UCSF cannot isolate itself. Waste regularly finds itself on the other side of the planet, affecting the health and well-being of the people living there. Aside from the electronic waste that is sent across the globe, other waste ends up in local landfills, so the effects of our actions are felt both near and far. Environmental damage to global resources is not bound by borders. While the blame for heavy pollution can be directed at any offender, the consequences are shared by all.
- What one call to action do you have to other faculty, staff and students working at other labs? There is no action taken that is too small to make a difference when it is multiplied by hundreds or thousands. There are hundreds of labs at UCSF with thousands of employees, so we have the ability to make measurable, positive change without detracting from the quality of research, as long was everyone participates.
- Do you have any metrics that have tracked overall savings from your efforts? While there are no quantitative metrics I have gathered since enacting many of the sustainability measures, our custodial staff has remarked that our recycling bins are always close to full, while our trash receptacles rarely need to be emptied. It is not easy for us to track energy usage and waste generation in a lab that shares several areas with an adjacent lab, but even without metrics, knowing that a light or piece of equipment has been turned off that would otherwise have been left on is something simple to strive for.