Certifying Sustainable Practices

Summer 2021

Graduate research assistant Ryan Weeks was shocked by how much energy could be saved with only minor adjustments to lab procedures after he brought the My Green Lab sustainability certification program to the lab of Marc Ostermeier, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering.

The My Green Lab certification process, now the global benchmark for measuring the environmental impact of laboratory practices, begins with all lab members completing a self-assessment of their practices in everything from plug load to waste reduction. After the responses are analyzed, My Green Lab provides a list of individually tailored recommendations for improving sustainable practices.

Christine Duke, lab coordinator for the Whiting School’s Institute for NanoBioTechnology, came up with the idea to apply for certification for individual labs during the INBT’s Green Office Certification renewal process. She asked INBT lab members if they wanted to participate, and Weeks signed on with the Ostermeier lab in Croft Hall, while Duke spearheaded the program in the lab of INBT Director Sharon Gerecht.

Per their recommendations, Ostermeier lab members began turning off and unplugging equipment at night, ordering from local suppliers, and fixing leaks in their vaults. Raising the specimen freezer’s temperatures by just 10 degrees, to the still-safe -70 degrees Celsius, led to a 30% energy reduction, with each freezer saving a household’s worth of energy every day.

Now Weeks, along with Duke and energy engineer Bena Zeng, want to bring the environmental certification process—and the sustainable changes it recommends—to the university as a whole.