Sustainability and Pollution Prevention

Risk Management and Safety works closely with the UVM Office of Sustainability and UVM Recycling and Waste Management to help meet UVM's overall sustainability goals. Research and teaching labs can play a key role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, lowering electricity usage and recycling overall.



Energy Demand in Research Facilities

Research facilities are energy demanding for a variety of reasons.

  • They contain large numbers of containment and exhaust devices;
  • They house a great deal of heat-generating equipment;
  • Scientists require 24-hour access; and
  • Irreplaceable experiments require fail-safe redundant backup systems and uninterrupted power supply (UPS) or emergency power.


Examining energy and water requirements from a holistic perspective can identify significant opportunities for improving efficiencies while meeting or exceeding health and safety standards. Sustainable design and use of laboratory environments can also improve comfort and worker productivity.

A typical laboratory can uses 5x as much energy and water per square foot as a typical office building. The energy used to run one chemical fume hood can equal the energy used to run 3.5 homes.

See this article from The Scientist on Green Laboratories for more information.

Energy Saving Tips

Lab personnel can do the following to use energy more efficiently in the research environment:

Keep the fume hood sash closed when not in use.

  • Newer chemical fume hood installations on campus include Variable Air Volume (VAV) hoods that ramp down the energy usage when the sash is lowered or closed. These types of fume hoods can create significant cost savings and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In a lab, air that is drawn through a fully opened fume hood sash must be replaced with 100% outside (fresh) air.  Since laboratories have between 6 -10 air changes per hour (ACH), it is costly to heat or cool this air that is essentially only in your lab for 6-10 minutes. 
  • Run electric cords under the hood's airfoil if you can.  


Turn lab equipment and lights off whenever possible.

  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions that result from generation of electricity. Labs use a huge amount of electricity due to the amount of lab equipment that is constant in use.


Perform annual maintenance on lab freezers

Ice buildup in lab freezers can cause temperatures inside the unit to drop inside and freezer doors to building up with so much ice that they cannot close properly. This, in turn, makes the freezer compressor work overtime and run harder and potentially burn out.

Defrost freezers and purge old samples annually.  FInd more information about Freezer Maintenance.

Consider Energy Star appliances when purchasing new or replacing old units.

  • Purchase Energy Star appliances when you are replacing old equipment to help lower electric bills and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. See


Report any problems with building systems to the Physical Plant Department (PPD) by submitting a FAMIS service request. Critical service needs should be reported by phone to Service Operations (SOS) at 656-2560; option 1 to speak to a dispatcher.

  • SOS has a live operator 24 hours a day, During regular daytime hours the call goes to Service Operations staff at 284 East Avenue. After hours the call goes to the Central Heating Plant staff.


Pollution Prevention

Pollution Prevention measures help to meet UVM's sustainable goals.  Pollution prevention (P2) is reducing or eliminating waste at the source by modifying production processes, promoting the use of non-toxic or less-toxic substances, implementing conservation techniques, and re-using materials rather than putting them into the waste stream.  Find out more information about how you can participate in pollution prevention activities in your lab or studio by going here.