By Guest Author LabTAG
There are various ways laboratories can improve their operations, increase inventory management reliability, reduce costs, and help ensure their experiments’ reproducibility. Improving your laboratory sustainability can impact the integrity and quality of samples and the data you generate. Here are some ways to manage sustainability and energy consumption.
Defrosting Your Freezer
The first step in improving your laboratory’s overall sustainability is to ensure you have an up-to-date inventory of samples and reagents. This will allow you to plan your upcoming experiments better and ensure assays aren’t delayed due to missing or expired reagents and help you maintain your samples’ quality and integrity for longer. With so many samples requiring cryogenic storage, an excellent place to start is with better freezer management.
With freezer doors being opened and closed countless times each day, frost can quickly build up inside most freezers, making samples hard to find and sometimes even difficult to access. Hence, defrosting freezers and creating or updating sample inventories regularly is imperative. This will prolong the integrity of stored samples while also reducing energy costs associated with freezer maintenance.
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Once your freezer management system is in place, the next step is to identify cryogenically stored samples, including those stored in liquid nitrogen tanks, with cryogenic labels, ideally printed with barcodes for enhanced tracking. Clearly labeled vials and tubes can reduce handling errors and make tracking easier. This reduces search time and limits how long the freezer needs to stay open. For optimal sample tracking, all specimens should be added to an inventory management system, like a laboratory information management system (LIMS) that records the sample’s exact location, down to the rack, box, column, and row. Moreover, if during the process you find tubes or vials that are either unlabeled or misidentified, you should label them before putting them back into storage. In cases where the samples cannot be thawed first, cryogenic labels that will adhere to already frozen surfaces are available, allowing the vials to be accurately identified without jeopardizing the integrity of the contents. These labels are available in a “blackout” version that can be applied directly over an existing label, concealing obsolete or inaccurate information.
Improving energy efficiency has a positive impact on laboratory sustainability. Research laboratories can consume a staggering amount of energy, widely recognized as one of the highest energy users per surface area. However, there are various ways to limit overall energy use, and as a result, reduce your energy costs. With research budgets as constrained as they are, small savings can quickly add up to substantial amounts for any laboratory.
The largest consumer of energy in most buildings is the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system (HVAC). This is especially true for laboratories set up in old academic research facilities that may rely on outdated HVAC systems. Newer, more sophisticated systems can be programmed around a laboratory’s typical work schedule. This allows them to operate at the minimum rate during off-hours while at full or near full capacity during working hours. They can also be adjusted in real-time in response to contaminants or decreased overall indoor air quality. This not only reduces costs but can also improve laboratory safety and compliance. As such, when funds do become available to upgrade or update any facility, the HVAC system should be one of the first systems identified as a cost-effective, energy-efficient option.
Safety & Sustainability
Sustainability and safety are closely related and vital to every laboratory. Most laboratories handle various dangerous chemicals and biological agents daily. To ensure your laboratory remains in proper operation, those chemicals must be handled according to proper guidelines and standard operating procedures (SOPs), with clear signage advising staff of the potential risks. This entails the use of laboratory safety labels, such as laboratory labels that conform to the globally harmonized system (GHS) or the national fire protection association (NFPA). Hazardous chemicals should also be stored in safety cabinets. For potentially harmful biological specimens, biological safety cabinets are also available.
Moreover, safety material and essential equipment should be routinely inspected and calibrated. This includes your fume hood, which should be certified annually. Calibration labels can be used to help indicate what equipment has been recently inspected and to note the necessary recalibration date. The storage of chemicals must also be reviewed to ensure incompatible chemicals are properly separated and secondary containers are used where appropriate. The use of green chemistry alternatives can also improve your laboratory’s sustainability while also offering a safer, eco-friendly option that reduces personnel exposure to harmful solvents. As an example, Histology professionals have adopted safer clearing and deparaffinizing xylene substitutes such as Clearify™, Histo-Clear™, and Pro-Par. These xylene alternatives offer a non-toxic and biodegradable option that can also reduce disposal costs.
To learn more about identification solutions and labels used in research and medical laboratories, or for free samples, visit LabTAG.com.