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Auburn University Green Labs

Laboratory spaces foster innovation, research, and student learning across Auburn’s campus.  Yet, the impacts they have on our health, budget, and environmental footprint can be some of the most intense of campus facilities.  A Green Labs Program proactively addresses negative impacts often associated with labs, so the primary focus can remain on educating and innovating for our future. 

A variety of stakeholders on Auburn’s campus have come together to begin the process of developing an Auburn-specific Green Labs Program.  Currently, in the research phase of program development, the long-term goal is to create a Green Labs Program that fits Auburn’s culture, improves research efficiency, enhances lab safety, reduces energy and water consumption, minimizes waste, and supports the university’s sustainability policy and goals.

Simple Steps You Can Take

Laboratory freezers. There are millions of them around the world, essential for scientific discovery and the betterment of human health. We don’t pay much attention to them until they have an issue or completely fail. But there’s something better for your science…periodically attending to your lab’s cold storage for better sample access, sample integrity, reduced costs, and energy savings.  Check out our freezer management best practices page for steps you can take starting today to improve your freezer’s performance and extended its life!

Each year you can join the International Laboratory Freezer Challenge, and over a period of six months implement tried-and-true best practices for your refrigerators and freezers. This will benefit your science and the planet. 9.9 million kWh/year have been saved through this Challenge since 2017 – will you be a part of the effort this year? The winning labs and organizations are featured in the journal Nature and are recognized at the International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories Conference in the fall. Sign up at www.freezerchallenge.org

Labs consume a considerable amount of energy, which results in higher costs and higher greenhouse gas emissions.  Want to help make your lab more efficient?  Check out these top tips from mygreenlab.org!

  • Close fume hood sashes when not in use.
  • Put autoclaves in standby mode & only run when full.
  • Set ultra-low temperature freezers to -70 C.
  • Turn off equipment when not in use.
  • Properly maintain cold storage.
  • Share equipment when possible.
  • Turn off lights when leaving the lab.
  • Utilize green chemistry techniques.
  • Talk about your efforts with colleagues and students!

You can help curb waste through both purchasing and disposal practices.  Check out some common opportunities below, and if you have questions about how to handle specific items, reach out to the Waste Reduction & Recycling Department!

  • Create and use an inventory of lab supplies and equipment to avoid ordering unnecessary items.
  • Use the environmentally preferred filter on VWR’s website to find products with a lighter footprint.
  • Consider vendor buy-back programs.
  • Share lab supplies with other labs in your department when possible.
  • Order paper with 30% or higher recycled content.
  • When you must print/copy, print/copy double-sided.
  • Reuse materials when possible.
  • Make sure your lab or floor has proper recycling receptacles and ensure you and your lab partners know what materials are/aren’t recyclable in the university’s system.
  • Recycle batteries and electronics through the university’s Battery Recycling Program.

Almost every lab involves water somewhere in their research processes, even if it’s simply to keep one’s hands clean.  This means most labs have an opportunity to help reduce their water consumption, leading to lower costs, greater water availability, and reduced emissions from the cleaning and delivery of water.  Check out these top tips from mygreenlab.org for ways you can start to cut your consumption today!

  • Got an autoclave?  Consider a retrofit with a water-saving device.
  • If you’re looking to purchase a new autoclave, opt for one without a steam jacket.
  • Make sure your water fixtures use aerators.
  • Check for leaks on a regular basis and report them ASAP.
  • Ditch single-pass cooling.
  • Run only full-loads.
  • Choose your water wisely.  Opt for purified water only when truly needed.
  • Avoid running water unnecessarily.
  • Try a vacuum pump vs. a water vacuum aspirator.

Get Connected

 If you would like to be a part of the network of Auburn researchers who are committed to running sustainable labs, complete our Green Labs Interest Form. We will reach out to you about participation in this effort. Once connected, you will be able to pilot sustainability efforts as well as provide feedback for your colleagues.

Green Labs Working Group

Representatives from Auburn’s Facilities Management, Office of Sustainability, and Risk Management & Safety have come together to develop, implement, and evaluate the Green Labs Program at Auburn.  If you’re interested in becoming more involved with this aspect of the Green Labs Program, please contact the Office of Sustainability.