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Sustainability

Sustainable Laboratories

Labs are one of the most resource intensive spaces on campus with the sheer amount of energy required to run the necessary equipment and the personal protective equipment (PPE) required to keep everyone safe in research and teaching labs. One department is taking a stand to reduce their labs’ environmental impact. 

Dr. Angela Halfpenny, the Murdock Research Laboratory Manager in the department of Geological Sciences, has introduced a number of sustainable practices in the department’s laboratories. The first major system Dr. Halfpenny has introduced is a PPE recycling program. This program allows disposable gloves, lab coats, masks, booties, protective eyewear, and hair nets to be collected and recycled. After collection these materials are shipped to Terracycle, a volunteer-based U.S. recycling business, to be recycled. 

Recycle gloves

 recycling pipettes
Figure 1 (left) Disposable glove collection box.  (right) Used pipet tip and vial collection box. The used plasticware is acid washed and reused. 

Dr. Halfpenny has also started reusing single use items that are still in good condition. Students and researchers examine their shoe covers after they finish in the lab and, if they are in acceptable condition, set them in a separate box to be reused. Single use plastics such as pipet tips and vials are acid-washed and reused. To stop materials from going to the landfill Dr. Halfpenny has re-used computer parts from the Information Services department, general lab items such as stools, steps and microscopes from CWU’s surplus department and Teflon storage containers from an external company. 

The newest addition to the Geological Sciences Department’s labs are fume hood signs, which were introduced as a part of Emma Nelson’s Sustainability Certificate project. Fume hoods are large ventilation devices that provide a safe space for experiments and limit the user’s exposure to hazardous fumes, dust, or vapors. A single fume hood can consume the same amount of energy in a year as 3.5 homes. Simply lowering the fume hood sash whenever possible can reduce the energy used by 40%. These fume hood signs remind students and researchers to keep the sash as low as possible when they are working in the hood. 

fume hood energy efficiency signs
Figure 2. A sign on a fume hood reminding users that lowering the sash reduces energy consumption. 

This webpage was created by Emma Nelson, CWU undergraduate chemistry student and Sustainability Certificate student.