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Green Labs Guide

How can you bring sustainability into your space?

Chen at Sunrise
Green Labs Certification

The easiest way your lab can participate is by completing and submitting a quick assessment that will provide greater understanding of how your lab works, evaluate where your lab is already achieving sustainability goals, and assess areas where your lab has the potential to become more efficient and sustainable. After completing the assessment, please feel free to submit this to Max Christman (Caltech’s Sustainability Manager) at sustainability@caltech.edu. This begins your journey to become Green Labs Certified! Once your lab has made adjustments, you can submit another assessment and get scored again. This final assessment informs your final Green Labs Certification Score, and your lab will be rewarded with a plaque advertising just how far you have come.

Energy Efficiency - Freezer 2
Energy Efficiency

In 2020, Caltech spent over $12 million on energy costs on campus. Since 2015, Caltech has added fuel cells and solar energy generation, and improved many buildings including making lighting systems, HVAC, air distribution, data center upgrades, and programs to incentivize purchasing energy efficient freezers. However, individual labs can also contribute towards making Caltech even more sustainable!

Poppy with Bee
Water Conservation

California is in a drought, so water conservation is at the forefront of all our minds. The cost of water continues to rise (increasing at 6x the inflation rate) as Californians are forced to seek sources of water that are farther away, using aging and inefficient infrastructure. We are also more at risk for wildfires than ever. Caltech is actively upgrading landscaping, including opting for climate-adapted vegetation that requires less water, removing turf where possible, and ensuring local flora is more beneficial to local wildlife, including butterflies which use Caltech as a stopping station on their annual migration! Caltech is also maintaining the tree canopy, which reduces irrigation burden and increases shade and habitat for local wildlife.

Green Lab Action Shot - Recycling Bins for Guide
Waste Reduction

As we all know, science has a garbage problem! Not only in plastics production, but also in hazardous waste production. Labs produce over 2% of the world's plastic waste annually. Caltech alone spent $1.5 million disposing of over 1500 tons of waste in 2019! Waste reduction is definitely an area of sustainability that Caltech can improve upon.

Gloved hand with Beaker
Green Chemistry

We know, we know! This is the scariest and most unfamiliar area discussed here. However, green chemistry is not reserved for chemists alone! Incorporating green chemistry can improve lab safety, improve lab culture, and create more proactive and innovative solutions to common problems, including the needless usage of hazardous reagents. Green chemistry basically boils down (see what we did there?!) to quantitatively assessing and substituting hazardous chemicals for green solvents, all while protecting research integrity. Some labs have reported that substituting in favour of green solvents has improved resulting data. Caltech has taken an active investment in green chemistry, as these substitutions will reduce overhead costs of hazardous waste disposal for the institute, and will increase researcher and EHS worker safety.

Sustainable Purchasing - Office Supplies 5
Sustainable Procurement

Sustainable procurement is an incredibly valuable tool! Remember: you are the customer, so you have the power to change your lab’s purchasing habits! Switch to a supplier who has a clear sustainability commitment. Or, choose to purchase only 100% recycled products or products that are more energy efficient. You can also choose to purchase from companies with buy back programs for end-of-life disposal of equipment.