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Environment and Energy

 

Q. What’s the point in tackling efficiency in my lab?

Labs are very resource intensive; research spaces consume 3-10 times more energy per square meter than academic spaces. A typical research institution will have 60-65% of its electricity consumed by research spaces and construction costs can exceed £2000+/m2.

Lab consumption is often unaddressed due to the specified nature of research, though some processes are common enough. It’s not just about energy!

The University’s Department of Plant Sciences recently found out that each researcher uses more electricity in their portion of their lab than an entire UK household!

Q. How do I start improving my lab?

A well run, safe lab is likely to be an efficient lab.

Green Impact has a Labs workbook, full of actions that may be suitable to put in place in your lab. We are also trialling the new LEAF tool for baselining the environmental footprint of your lab and identifying the ‘easy-wins’.

Take a look at our Top Tips and Examples/Ideas/Case Studies

The University’s Sustainable Labs Co-ordinator is available to come and visit you and do an informal survey to help highlight some areas to get you going. Email environment@admin.cam.ac.uk

Q. How does Green Labs support the Technician Commitment?

The Technician Commitment is a sector-wide initiative, sponsored by the Gatsby Foundation and the Science Council, to help address key challenges facing technical staff working in research. The University signed it in 2017. Visit the Technician Development website.

‘Technicians make it happen’. This is true for lab improvements that make them more environmental sustainable.

Green Impact is a nationally recognised award and is the University’s environmental accreditation scheme. Awards are given based on the completion of evidenced actions and improvements in your workspace. It is a means of personal and professional growth too!

The Green Labs initiative therefore fully supports the University’s efforts in honouring the Technician Commitment. Areas of particular overlap include raising the profile of technicians’ achievements and pooling the wealth of knowledge people in these roles hold. Green Labs will have a presence at the Technician Conference in September 2019.

Q. My old equipment is failing. What should I replace it with?

Something that matches your needs and is efficient. Don’t blindly replace like-for-like. Some equipment has a long lifespan so take the opportunity to consider the best solution. It’s better to be proactive than wait until something fails and needs urgent replacement.

Green Labs collects information on the efficiency of the more common equipment and may be able to help find the best solution for you.

 If it’s an ultra-low temperature freezer, drying cabinet or microbiological safety cabinet, the Equipment Replacement Programme could help finance an energy-efficient replacement.

If the solution identified is more efficient but more expensive than the ‘business-as-usual’ replacement, you may be eligible for funds from the Energy & Carbon Reduction Project. Get in touch here!

Q. How can I reduce, reuse and recycle packaging waste in lab supplies?

Cardboard and plastic wrapping can go into Mixed Recycling. Make sure to deconstruct boxes before placing them in bins.

Polystyrene shipping boxes cannot go into Mixed Recycling. The amount of polystyrene delivered is a huge issue which gets a lot of attention. We are working on a joined-up solution.

In the meantime, reuse them as much as possible before disposal and lobby the suppliers that give you the most (also let us know).

Some suppliers are being proactive. New England Biolabs has a well-established NEB Shipping Box Recycling Programme, which allows you to freepost return the shipping box to NEB. They can then re-use them for future deliveries. They also donate to the Woodland Trust for every box.

Q. Where do I get stickers and posters?

Our wide selection of labs-related posters can be found here. Our range of stickers can be found here

We hold our own stock too, so get in touch and we can send posters and stickers to you through the UMS

Q. What can I reuse or recycle in my lab?

Consumables

A tricky one. Single-use plastics are widespread in laboratories and tend to end up contaminated. If they are not made hazardous by use and can be reasonably collected, then there may be ways to clean and reuse, or recycle. Please engage with you Departmental Safety Officer before making any changes. The Safety Office website can be found here.

Most pipette tip providers now supply refills, meaning that the boxes can be autoclaved and reused. STARLAB offers free recycling collection of its TipOne pipette tip racking system once used. The rack, the refill wafers, the refill's spacers and top and bottom shells, are all made from polypropylene and can all go into the same dedicated STARLAB collection bags/bins. Others, including Gilson are also trialling returns. Contact your tip provider (and Green Labs).

 

Fisher Scientific offers a collection and recycling service for products with a Fisher Chemicals label, including: 2.5L glass and plastic coated glass bottles (Winchesters).

Equipment

For equipment that is still in working order, another department may have a use for it. University of Cambridge uses WARPit - a free online marketplace for redistributing resources legally and conveniently within the University.

For unused, obsolete or even broken equipment taking up valuable lab space, UniGreenScheme offers a removal and resale service. They work directly with you to collect, store and sell your unwanted equipment and return a share of the profits. It's a flexible service, ranging from one or two pieces of equipment through to full lab clearances. Find out more here

To dispose of old, broken electrical equipment you will need to go down the WEEE (Waste Electrical & Electronic Equipment) route. Environment & Energy can help with this too

Q. What examples of lab efficiency improvements are there from around the University?

Chilling up to -70’C – Clinical School

New wash cycle for reusable plastics – Plant Sciences

Consumables vending machines – Medicine, CIMR

Drying cabinet development – Chemistry

Found a specialist recycler for X-ray film – MRC-CU

Used the Equipment Replacement Programme to reduce number of freezers –

Used ChemInventory to save on chemicals spend – Chemistry

Recirculating chillers to cut-out water-to-drain – CEB, Chemistry

Contact environment@admin.cam.ac.uk for more information on the above.

Q. Can Green Labs financially support improvements?

Yes, if a project or piece of equipment will save energy, the Energy & Carbon Reduction Project may be able to contribute.

For ULT freezers, drying cabinets and microbiological safety cabinets, see here

For other equipment and more facilities-related projects, see here

Q. How do I sign up for workshops?

The Green Labs initiative runs workshops throughout the year on a variety of topics. Recent topics include: lab energy; reduce and re-use; cold storage. To view upcoming events, refer to our Events page. You can book your place through the University Training website’s Environment & Energy page here.

Q. How can I be smarter with my chemicals usage?

Keep Track of your Chemicals using the University's ChemInventory System. All departments should now be using it and groups are encouraged to make their databases visible to other groups and departments.

By searching the inventory, researchers have found stocks of chemicals that they need in neighbouring groups and simply ask to use some, instead of needlessly buying in more. Experiments are not held up waiting for delivery, trials of new methodologies are lower cost to researchers and departments keep within their licensing limits. FAQs on how to use the system are available on the Safety Office website.