We’re proud to announce new updates including a fully searchable database to the ACT Label Website!
The ACT Label, which stands for Accountability, Consistency, and Transparency, offers labs the opportunity to reduce their environmental impact by making smarter purchases, with clear, third-party verified information about the impact of lab products. The ACT Label provides transparency around manufacturing, energy and water use, packaging, and end of life, helping you better understand the impact of the products your lab is purchasing.
Recent updates to the ACT Label will now make it even easier to choose the most sustainable products for your lab. Our brand new ACT database is fully searchable and fully filterable. The database allows you to search for products by name, category, or keyword, as well as filter products by their environmental impact score. This new user experience allows you to learn more about our over 485 ACT Labeled products that span across 10 manufactures.
The new database will allow you to compare products before purchasing something new, or evaluate the impact of a product your lab is already using.
The updated website also offers other features including the option to export product search results into an excel template for ease of reviewing, and new, easier to read label designs, which are also downloadable.
On the backend, this new database will allow My Green Lab to grow the ACT Label program. “These updates will allow us to dramatically scale up the program, and we expect to have 2,000+ ACT Labels by Q2 this year,” says James Connelly, CEO of My Green Lab. “As ACT becomes the global standard around the world, our new database will also be able to fully integrate into procurement databases, helping drive the adoption of more environmentally friendly products in labs, in support of our mission to build a culture of sustainability in science,” continues Connelly.
Visiting the ACT Website will help you understand the ins and outs of the ACT Program. Whether you want to search the database for products in your lab, or you’re a manufacturer who would like to get their product labeled, the new website will help you start your ACT journey.
Check out the new ACT Label website HERE!
Interested in labeling your product through ACT? Get in touch with My Green Lab here.
Water is an often overlooked part of lab sustainability. It pours forth from the tap and then disappears down the drain. It’s nearly invisible. But it isn’t free – it comes from somewhere and it has to be cleaned, transported, stored, and cleaned again before being returned to the environment. All of that has an enormous energy and carbon footprint.
Many laboratories require substantial amounts of water to operate. From autoclaves and glassware washers to purified water systems and faucets, the flow of water in laboratories is constant. Fortunately, there are a variety of ways you can reduce water usage. Like energy efficiency, water efficiency is possible by taking actions in the lab to become more sustainable.
Below, we’ve outlined 9 actions you can take (starting today!) to reduce water usage in the lab.
1. Retrofit autoclaves with water-saving devices
Autoclaves use a lot of water to sterilize equipment, reagens, and hazardous waste in labs. Some autoclaves, like small benchtop autoclaves, don’t use a great deal of water, but steam jacketed autoclaves are often the biggest water consumers in the lab.
There are two ways steam jacketed autoclaves use water. The first is to generate steam to heat the unit in order to sterilize equipment. The second is to cool this steam so it can be discharged. Because the steam produced is so hot, cold water is continuously added so that when discharged, it does not melt the pipes. This process can use as much as 60 gallons of water per cycle (~90 gallons if your autoclave is more than 10 years old).
To reduce this continual stream of water, water-saving devices capture steam in a closed container and use temperature sensors to help control how much water is needed to cool it down. Once appropriately cooled, it can then be flushed down the drain.
Retrofitting steam jacket autoclaves with water-saving devices can cut back water usage by 75-90%. That’s huge! Add this effective water-saving action to the top of your to-do list.
2. Consider new research grade autoclaves
If your lab is in the market for a new autoclave, consider purchasing research grade autoclaves that do not use steam jackets. These newer models use 93% less water (and help reduce energy consumption).
3. Install low-flow aerators to faucets
Low-flow aerators can help reduce faucet flow from 4.0 gallons/minute to <1.5 gallons/minute. Low-flow aerators simply screw onto the end of faucets and reduce flow without changing water pressure. It’s an easy and cheap option that will significantly reduce water usage. Your organization may even have aerators on hand and can help install them. All you have to do is ask!
In a case study conducted at UC San Diego in 2017-2018, aerators installed in labs across the campus saved a whopping 926,000 gallons of potable water per year.
4. Check for faucet leaks and report them promptly
Leaky faucets that drip once per second can waste 3,000 gallons of water per year. According to the US EPA, that’s enough water for more than 180 showers!
Check for leaks anywhere you have a line that constantly maintains water. You can find leaks on autoclaves, ice machines, and water cooled equipment. Once found, promptly report leaks, and make it a common practice to keep an eye out.
5. Eliminate single-pass cooling
Single-pass cooling is a term used to describe a process that uses water to cool something once. In contrast, a closed-loop or recirculating system reuses water continuously. The process of single-pass cooling is not only wasteful, but it can be a safety hazard in the lab, as well.
Single-pass cooling can be found in equipment such as autoclaves and ice makers, and it’s commonly used to cool reactions in chemistry. By eliminating this process from your workflow, you can save hundreds of thousands of gallons of water each year and prevent the risk of flooding.
Instead of running water continuously to cool a reaction, see if your building has a closed-loop water system that you can hook into. If that isn’t an option, you can use a recirculating water bath. If you don’t have the budget for a recirculating water bath (they can be expensive), try an ice bucket + an aquarium pump to create your own DIY option. Efficiency on a budget is still efficiency!
6. Only run equipment that uses water when full
Ensure you’re only running equipment that uses water, like glassware washers and autoclaves, when they’re full. No half-loads allowed!
7. Only use purified water when needed
In order to make purified water, you have to clean and filter it in a process that is not 100% efficient. For instance, it takes about 3 liters of water to make 1 liter of deionized water. If you’re using purified water systems, make sure that you're only using purified water when needed.
8. Don’t let water sources run when they don’t need to be running
If you’re washing dishes or filling up containers with water, a common practice may be to walk away while the faucet is running. This can lead to unnecessary overflow. Instead, always keep your eyes on a running water source.
Alternatively, consider a timed water valve that runs for a certain amount of time or only discharges a certain amount of water. Or, install foot petals so you’re only pumping water when needed.
9. Use a vacuum pump instead of a water vacuum aspirator
Water vacuum aspirators need about 2 gallons of water per minute to work properly. Running them for just 2 hours a day wastes over 60,000 gallons of water per year. That’s the annual water usage for 750+ people!
Instead, switch to a vacuum pump that does not require water usage. Vacuum pumps offer greater control and better performance than a water vacuum aspirator, not to mention a far better alternative for the environment.
Water is essential to life. We need to think hard about how we are using water in the lab, and at home, so that we can be responsible with this most precious resource. Ensure that you’re using water when necessary, with conservation in mind, and disposing of it in ways that ensure we protect the ecosystems it will inevitably be released back into.
The My Green Lab Ambassador Program was designed for scientists and laboratory professionals who are motivated to encourage their lab to be more sustainable. This free, online learning program provides an introduction to lab sustainability and ideas for how sustainable actions can be implemented. Today’s interview highlights Cintia Milagre, Assistant Professor at the Institute of Chemistry at University Estadual Paulista in Brazil.
Cintia is a highly active sustainability advocate within the university and her community. Through the My Green Lab Ambassador Program, she has been able to extend this community and connect with other sustainability-minded individuals.
“[The My Green Lab Ambassador Program] gives me an extra push to move on. Knowing that I am not alone, on the contrary, that there are a lot of passionate, competent, skilled people walking with me, sharing their experiences and helping each other is enriching my sustainability journey.”
Learn more about Cintia and her journey with the MGL Ambassador Program below.
Please tell us a bit about yourself.
I am enthusiastic about sustainability both in my professional and personal life. In my opinion, it should be a commitment to all of us with our planet - our home. My hometown is Itaúna, a tiny city in Minas Gerais state in the countryside of Brazil. I graduated in Pharmacy at Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG) and did my Master and Ph.D. investigations in Organic Chemistry at the Institute of Chemistry at the University of Campinas (UNICAMP).
The goals of my graduate projects were the development of greener organic synthesis methodologies focusing on biocatalytic tools. During my post-doc activities, I spent some months at the Biocatalysis Group in TU Delft-Netherlands, formerly coordinated by Professor Isabel Arends and Roger Sheldon who introduced the concept of E-factor which is now used by companies globally for assessing the efficiency and environmental impact of chemical processes.
In 2012, I joined the Institute of Chemistry at University Estadual Paulista (UNESP). As Assistant Professor, I have duties in four areas including teaching, research, outreach, and administrative work, where I am always concerned about sustainable aspects. I teach Organic and Green Chemistry courses for undergraduate and graduate students and share the coordination of the Milagre Lab with Professor Humberto Milagre where our main research interests are sustainability, green chemistry, and organic synthesis. For the second time, I am the president of the Environmental Ethics Council of our Institute which deals with chemical waste disposal. I also coordinate the Sao Paulo State cities enrolled in “Pint of Science,” a worldwide science festival which brings researchers to the local pubs, cafes, and other public spaces to share their scientific discoveries with the non-academic community. Last but not least, I am the contact person at the Institute of Chemistry UNESP regarding the Green Chemistry Commitment from Beyond Benign and very proud to be a My Green Lab Ambassador.
What drives you to be more sustainable in the laboratory?
It is a pity that the majority of people do not recognize chemistry by its beauty and all the beneficial aspects it brings to our daily lives, such as comfort, relief, and opportunities. After all, chemistry is everywhere… But instead, chemistry is viewed as being responsible for the world’s pollution and correlated environmental and occupational toxic events. I do not blame those people because in the past, the former chemists were not concerned about sustainable aspects and were not even aware of the consequences of their choices as chemistry professionals. However, those days are gone. Nowadays, we have awareness and with it comes the responsibility to be more sustainable not only in our words but most important in our actions. Carrying out and implementing more sustainable practices in the lab is a way to teach and inspire the young chemists so they can make better choices.
What is the most interesting thing you learned while becoming a My Green Lab Ambassador?
There are a lot of small things we can do that turn out to have a huge positive impact. Sometimes we think we must create an outstanding project with difficult and challenging goals to make a difference. Of course, this is important and should be pursued. However, small little things on a regular basis such as turning off the lights on nights and weekends, brushing the frost out of the freezer, powering down and/or unplugging lab equipment during holidays, installing water pressure reducing valves on lab sinks, and scheduling fixed time intervals to turn on the autoclave are awesome initiatives and a good way to start.
How has the My Green Lab Ambassador Program enriched your sustainability journey?
It gives me an extra push to move on. Knowing that I am not alone, on the contrary, that there are a lot of passionate, competent, skilled people walking with me, sharing their experiences and helping each other is enriching my sustainability journey.
What are your 2021 sustainability goals?
To bring at least one of my colleagues and one student to become a My Green Lab Ambassador, and start the implementation of the recently approved project on “Integrated Environmental Management” at the Institute of Chemistry UNESP which has three main goals: urban solid waste management, rational use of water, and improving the chemicals management.
Interested in becoming a My Green Lab Ambassador? Sign up here.
This article was originally published on Lab Manager. It was written by My Green Lab's Christina Greever.
Bringing laboratory cold storage out of the shadows and into the light
They lurk in hallways and equipment rooms, ever-present, ever-consuming, absolutely essential to the vast majority of scientific research endeavors, and yet usually neglected unless they cause trouble. Laboratory refrigerators and freezers should be recognized for what they are: incredibly useful tools and also outsized energy consumers. At least 58,000 ultralow temperature freezers (-70°C), 74,000 -20°C freezers, and 94,000 refrigerators exist within the scientific sector in California alone, consuming a combined conservative estimate of 780 Gwh/year. In California alone. That is the approximate energy use of 63,000 homes over the course of a year. Imagine the global impact of this type of equipment.
What is the International Laboratory Freezer Challenge?
Thankfully, there is a global competition seeking to curb the energy consumption of this type of laboratory equipment. The International Laboratory Freezer Challenge, now in its fifth year, seeks to help scientists realize the variety of benefits that result from dedicating a small amount of time and effort to their refrigerators and freezers each year. These benefits include:
What began as a small competition rooted in sound best practices has now grown to global scale, attracting the participation of 88 different research institutions in 2020 alone. It isn’t too late to join the 2021 Freezer Challenge either—there are still five months left before this year’s deadline of July 1, 2021. By participating, you can be a part of the 9.9 million kWh/year saved over the past five years. That’s enough to offset the carbon emissions associated with driving over 15 million miles! Winners of the Freezer Challenge are recognized at the annual International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories (I2SL) Conference and featured in an article in the journal Nature.
To continue reading, view the full article on Lab Manager here.
We're thrilled to introduce you to Sam Wright, My Green Lab's Chief Operations Officer! Dialing in from Seattle, Washington, Sam recently joined the team, but he's no stranger to sustainability. In addition to an education in geography, philosophy, and business administration, Sam holds a variety of accreditations related to sustainable design, and is passionate about the work he's done, and continues to do, to create a more sustainable future.
"Working in sustainability is inherently optimistic, motivated by the belief that we can do better and be better...There is really no choice: we must learn to mitigate our impact and to adapt to radically and rapidly changing circumstances. Luckily, where there is challenge there is opportunity, and there remains a lot of low-hanging fruit. Luckier still, there are bright, motivated, and mission-aligned people embedded in nearly every organization who are ready to do the rewarding work of reducing their impact."
Read on to learn more about Sam and his sustainability journey. And please join us in welcoming him to the My Green Lab team!
Please tell us a little bit about yourself & your background.
I was born in London, England, and moved to the United States at an early age. I grew up in Seattle, Washington, which I still call home.
I have been lucky to pursue a variety of professional interests. If I had to choose, I would say that the unifying themes of my career so far have been sustainability and construction. I love working with my hands, and many of my early jobs were in residential homebuilding, primarily in the Seattle region and San Juan Islands in Washington’s Puget Sound. I found working with tools so empowering that shortly after graduating from the University of British Columbia I was motivated to help launch the Vancouver Tool Library with a small group of friends in order to create a community resource centered around sharing tools and the knowledge of how to use them. Since then, I have found myself returning again and again to the nonprofit space. Nonprofits occupy such a useful part of the economy, serving to address pressing needs that perhaps challenge a conventional for-profit business model, often while creating substantial value for corporate partners. I had a front-row seat to this when I worked at the International Living Future Institute as the Technical Manager of the Living Building Challenge. Our program participants and sponsors received enormous reputational benefit for pursuing or supporting the highest standard of sustainability in the built environment, while along the way creating buildings that challenged the prevailing wisdom of just how green construction can be. The result is a virtuous feedback loop of organizations ‘doing good while doing well’, a model that is inherently replicable.
My education is in geography, philosophy, and business administration, and I hold a variety of accreditations related to sustainable design. Most recently, I served as a Senior Sustainability Consultant for Säzän Environmental Services, where I had the privilege of working with regional and national leaders in green building, such as the King County GreenTools team.
What is your role at My Green Lab?
I am the Chief Operations Officer. My role is essentially to identify and remove obstacles that are impeding my colleagues and our program participants from doing the important work of greening labs and the supporting ecosystem of products and services. It is an administrative role with an emphasis on organizational management, strategy, technology, HR, finance, and fundraising. I am grateful for the opportunity to support such an exceptional team and community.
What inspires you to do the kind of work you do?
Working in sustainability is inherently optimistic, motivated by the belief that we can do better and be better. Climate change is a clear and present existential threat that is causing immeasurable harm right now. The most vulnerable people in our communities disproportionately bear the brunt of that impact, despite contributing only minimally to the cause. There is really no choice: we must learn to mitigate our impact and to adapt to radically and rapidly changing circumstances. Luckily, where there is challenge there is opportunity, and there remains a lot of low-hanging fruit. Luckier still, there are bright, motivated, and mission-aligned people embedded in nearly every organization who are ready to do the rewarding work of reducing their impact. They often need only a little guidance, which is why organizations like My Green Lab can be so remarkably impactful.
What are your personal sustainability goals?
As a certified sustainable building advisor, I can tell you that in nearly every situation that people use fossil fuels, electricity will do the same job, but often more efficiently and without the ruinous effects on air quality. Critics will say that the grid is powered by fossil fuels, and so using electricity only shifts our impacts downstream. However, the International Energy Agency recently announced that solar is now officially the cheapest source of energy ever in history, with wind close behind, and prices are falling as technology improves. We are living through the biggest and most rapid transformation of our energy economy since the Industrial Revolution. With that in mind, how long will it be until your gas or oil furnace is obsolete? What about your car?
I eliminated fossil fuel use from my house, and while I still rely on gasoline when I need to go distances that are impractical for human-powered transport, I have aspirationally installed an electric car charger. I also strive to reduce single-use plastics, though I can’t seem to eliminate them from my life. Additional sustainability goals and practices include supporting local businesses whenever possible, growing an ever-increasing proportion of my own food, avoiding buying new when used will do, and repairing broken items instead of throwing them away.
What are your hobbies outside of work?
We are blessed to be surrounded by mountains in nearly every direction here in Seattle, and many of my hobbies involve exploring them in some capacity or another. In the summer I like to climb them, and in the winter I like to ski down them. I like to take photos while I do it, though any success I have in this pursuit I attribute much more to the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest than to my own ability. When I’m at home, I enjoy playing the guitar and building things, mostly out of wood.
What are your favorite books / movies?
At the moment, I cannot recommend more highly Ted Chiang’s Exhalation. It is a collection of sci-fi stories that are emotionally resonant, thoughtful, compassionate, mind-bending, and at times breathtakingly beautiful. I recently picked up All We Can Save, which is a collection of “provocative and illuminating essays from women at the forefront of the climate movement who are harnessing truth, courage, and solutions to lead humanity forward." While I have read only a few of the essays so far, I am already comfortable recommending it to anyone that needs a more hopeful perspective on our climate crisis.
Where do you call home?
Seattle is home, and it’s beautiful. It also doesn’t rain nearly as much as people like to think. Did you know that New York gets 20 inches more precipitation per year than Seattle, on average? Sure, our winters are gray and dreary, but our summers can’t be beat. Don’t tell your friends.