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 increasing recycling.

Energy Demand in Research Facilities

Research facilities are energy intensive for a variety of reasons:

  • They contain large numbers of containment and exhaust devices.
  • All air being ventilated out of a lab is not recycled in the building.
  • They house a great deal of heat-generating equipment.
  • Scientists require 24-hour access.
  • Irreplaceable experiments require fail-safe redundant backup systems and uninterrupted power supply (UPS) and/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 lab 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.

For more information, check out this article: The Scientist on Green Laboratories.

Energy Saving Tips

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

Keep the fume hood sash closed completely 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 so the sash can be closed completely.
  • Newer labs are designed to have "occupied" and "unoccupied" modes. This means there will be less ACH when the lab isn't in use, BUT all hood sashes must be closed completely to go into this mode. 

Turn lab equipment and lights off whenever possible.

  • Turning off lights reduces 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. Minimize this whenever possible.

Turn off the water.

  • It takes energy to generate deionized water. Use tap water whenever possible. 
  • Using condensers or rotovaps in a lab may require running water for hours. If the flow rate of the water is one gallon per minute, that's 1000 gallons of water wasted in 24 hours. Use a pump to recirculate water from a bucket to recycle the same one gallon over and over again.

Perform annual maintenance on lab freezers.

  • Ice buildup in lab freezers can cause temperatures inside the unit to drop 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. This means more energy use and more money spent.
  • Defrost freezers and purge old samples annually. Find more information about Freezer Maintenance here.

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 http://www.energystar.gov/.
  • 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 802-656-2560; 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 Heat 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. 

Take time to do the following:

  • Reduce or eliminate waste by modifying laboratory procedures when possible.
  • Research and use non-toxic or less-toxic substances.
  • Implement conservation techniques.
  • Re-use materials as much as possible before putting them into the waste stream.
  • Don't over-order chemcials. Only purchase the amount needed.
  • Examine other chemical options and employ non-hazardous chemicals where possible.

Maintain An Accurate Chemical Inventory

Keep the online chemical inventory (login required) for the lab up to date. The more information available, the better.

  • In the lab, track location, chemical name(s), amounts, and arrival date.
  • Inventory lab chemicals online, at a minimum, bi-annually.
  • Purchase chemicals in the smallest quantities needed to minimize the waste chemicals you will generate in the future. Ultimately, the true cost of a chemical includes both the purchase price plus the cost of proper disposal.
  • Consider obtaining needed chemicals from another laboratory that may not need them or has them in excess.
  • Ask the chemical supplier to provide you with a Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for every chemical you purchase. Maintain SDSs in the laboratory safety notebook or in a digital file on a lab computer.

By maintaining an updated inventory, labs can avoid purchasing additional chemicals that are already available in the lab. 

Store Chemicals Safely

Proper chemical storage can prevent releases to the enviroment while also minimizing unintended reactions.  

  • Keep chemicals in proper storage areas, based on their hazard, unless they are in use.
  • Store chemicals at or below eye level.
  • Do not store chemicals alphabetically; store them by chemical group or hazard (flammable, corrosive, toxic, reactive) to keep incompatible chemicals away from each other.
  • Store hazardous liquids in secondary containment.

For more information about how to store chemicals safely, see Label and Store Chemicals.