Green Labs Program

University of Minnesota Green Labs Program

Did you know that labs make up 25% of the physical space at the University of Minnesota but around 60% of the total energy use?

How can I make my lab greener?

Start here:

  • Shut the sash to conserve energy
  • Turn off unnecessary equipment when not in use
  • Clean out freezers
  • Review current waste and recycling guidelines to be sure waste is being correctly disposed of (Reach out to [email protected] with any questions!)

Guide to Energy Efficiency in Lab Spaces

Expand all

Freezers

  • Ultra low temperature (ULT)  freezers can use the same amount of energy as a single family home! There are a few ways that we can increase the efficiency of ULT freezers while saving energy and cutting costs. 
    • Freezer Clean Outs
      • By regularly cleaning out lab freezers and properly disposing of unneeded, expired, and unidentifiable items we can increase the efficiency of the freezer.
    • Increasing temperature of ULT freezers from -80°C to -70°C has been proven to save energy while extending the life of the freezer. 
      • Studies have shown that such a temperature change reduces energy consumption by an average of 37% for both standard-efficiency and energy-efficient ULT freezers without any discernible effect on temperature stability. (source-University of Colorado Boulder)
    • Share freezers with neighboring labs whenever possible
      • If your lab does not require a full freezer, consider sharing freezer space with a nearby lab to save energy. 
    • Join the Freezer Challenge!
      • The International Laboratory Freezer Challenge is open to any lab looking to increase their energy efficiency while participating in friendly competition! 
      • Winning laboratories will have their names and picture published in Nature, receive a certificate, and will receive a stipend to attend the 2021 I2SL conference.
    • Follow this link to request information about the upcoming 2022 challenge.

Fume Hoods

  • Vented fume hoods constantly remove conditioned air from the lab without the ability to easily turn them off when not needed. Vented fume hoods are often the largest energy consumer in the lab. (source-University of Colorado Boulder) By shutting the sash when not in use we can mitigate some of this energy loss. 
    • Stickers will soon be available to encourage all lab members to shut the sash!

Other Lab Equipment

  • Turn off lab equipment, such as water baths, microscopes, and centrifuges when not in use. 
    • Stickers will soon be available to encourage all lab members to turn off when not in use!
  • When it is time to purchase new equipment consider purchasing an energy efficient option.

Guide to Recycling in Lab Spaces

Expand all

Organics Recycling

  • Organics recycling is now widely available across the Twin Cities Campus! Regularly used items such as paper towels and kimwipes are generally placed in the trash. These items can actually be composted so long as they are clean of any hazardous materials or chemicals. 
    • Soon lab spaces on campus will be able to opt in to Organics Recycling in their lab space by requesting organics collection bins.

Lab Plastics

lab plastics sign 400px wide.jpg

Lab Plastic Recycling Protocol

Recyclable materials that are safe to throw in the regular trash can go in the lab plastic recycling. At this time, items that have been in contact with hazardous materials either biological or chemical must not be recycled. Campus recycling is hand sorted by individual people and their safety is important. If there are any doubts about the safety of a material, throw it in the appropriate waste stream; biohazardous waste or collect for Hazardous Waste processing through the Department of Environmental Health and Safety. Please contact [email protected] if you have any questions about the safety of an item for recycling.

Not sure where something goes? Check out examples from the IDK Bin

Styrofoam

  • As of summer 2021 we are now able to recycle styrofoam! 
  • Small styrofoam can be placed in the paper recycling bin. Larger styrofoam, like coolers, should be placed next to the waste station for pick up. 
  • All styrofoam should be clean and dry before being left for recycling collection.

Overview

In summer 2020 a group of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Biophysics (BMBB) researchers and staff connected with the Office of Sustainability to work to create a more environmentally sustainable lab space at the University. They voiced concerns over recycling practices, energy efficiency, and more. Since then, the Office of Sustainability has worked with Anja Bielinsky’s lab team and Ryan Baxley to pilot sustainable lab infrastructure and practices. The pilot began with waste management changes and is now focusing on energy efficiency and emissions reductions practices. All practices and infrastructure changes are being piloted with the goal of expanding the program to many more labs in the future.

Goals

  • Increase knowledge, awareness, accessibility, and engagement with sustainable recycling practices in lab environments
  • Increase knowledge, awareness, accessibility, and engagement with energy conservation efforts in lab environments
  • Decrease carbon footprint of lab spaces on campus

Progress

  • Organics recycling has been implemented in the Bielinsky lab
  • Energy conservation methods have been implemented in the Bielinsky lab
    • “Shut the Sash” and “Turn off when not in use” stickers have been piloted to encourage energy conservation behavior 
  • Baseline data has been collected from all BMBB labs regarding recycling practices 

Highlights

  • Within the Bielinsky and Hendrickson labs, more than 95% of paper towels and kimwipes are going into organic recycling rather than trash and the majority of plastic film and bags are being recycled rather than going to trash
  • The "I Don't Know" waste collection bin has increased the proper disposal of less frequently ordered items and items with unique packaging
  • The Bielinsky lab has found the "Shut the Sash" and "Turn off when not in use" stickers to be effective

What's next?

  • Expanding waste and energy programs into other BMBB labs and beyond
  • Providing organics collection bins for all BMBB labs
  • Working with Energy Management to bring energy metering into the Bielinsky lab