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Green Labs Working Group Takes on Lab Waste

sample wet lab set up
January 3, 2017

Penn staff working in labs across campus have been drawn together by their care about the environment and desire to improve the sustainability of their labs. The force behind this initiative for green labs is Elicia Preston, a research scientist and lab manager of the Murray Lab in Penn Genetics.

Elicia hosted a Green Labs Workshop during the recent ReThink Your Footprint educational campaign, focusing on the many simple things labs can do to save the Earth's resources.  She thinks that raising awareness is a simple first step that can make a big difference. “A lot of it comes down to listening to the Office of Environmental Health & Radiation Safety (EHRS), because when you close your fume hood sash and put your waste into the proper waste-stream, that will save energy,” she says. The approximately 20 workshop participants considered solutions for disposing of non-contaminated sharps and broken glass, a process to inventory extra chemicals, and recycling options for Styrofoam, which cannot be recycled in typical municipal recycling programs

Concerned about the amount of waste that labs produce, Elicia was part of a team that applied for a Green Fund grant in 2015 to replace plastic petri dishes with reusable glass ones. Their application cited statistics on how using reusable petri dishes would conserve energy and raw materials and, in the long term, save money.  “Now I have successfully integrated the regular use of reusable glass petri dishes into my lab,” says Elicia, and she reports that other labs now purchase glass petri dishes too.

Anyone interested in participating in the Green Labs Working Group is invited to contact Elicia Preston.

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