10 Ways to Boost Lab Sustainability with Best Lab Practices

Moving toward a greener lab involves thinking about three main categories for action: reducing energy use, choosing consumables that minimize waste, and optimizing lab processes to support sustainability. Read on to learn more about 10 ways to improve your lab's sustainability today.

Reduce Energy

1. Save Power and Carry On

One of the easiest things to do is to turn off equipment when not in use. According to Harvard University, closing the fume hood resulted in significant energy savings of over $240,000 and reduced carbon emissions by 300 metric tons. Consider adding timers or automatic switches that cut off at the end of the workday, or group equipment safely on a power bar so there's only one off switch to turn off when work is done. This works well for lab computers that don't need to run all night. Not in the habit? Post reminders next to equipment and switches to save power and turn off lights.

2. Energy Efficient Options: The New Normal

Choose energy-saving products where possible, opting for more efficient options when replacing items. Technology like Corning® CoolCell® Containers can often achieve the same goals as old products but more sustainably.

3. Sustainable Buildings for Sustainable R&D

Heating and cooling can be major drains on energy inefficiency. When updating building utilities, consider upgrading heat pumps and cooling technology along with zero emissions options. Blinds, shades, and adequate wall insulation will help keep conditions stable throughout the year.

Buy Green

4. Reuse for Longer Life

Replacing plasticware with glass reduces single-use consumables and their associated waste. If you can't switch to glass, it is possible to autoclave many common lab items with pipette tips in reusable boxes, or you could consider using only single-use plastics that come with a recycling program.

Choosing a supplier with forward-thinking intentions can also help you make your lab greener. Corning is pioneering chemical recycling methods that deal with single-use plastic waste by reconstituting it into material that meets lab-quality standards.

5. Say Hello to Sustainable Suppliers

Choose suppliers that offer ethical manufacturing, recycling programs, and better energy management in their facilities. Corning has been recognized for having 798 products included in Fisher Scientific's Greener Choice Program, which is the most of any supplier. This designation is given to products that are environmentally preferable to items within the same use category and come with "assurance that the environmental benefit claims remain substantiated over time."

Find out if your suppliers are working toward energy efficiency goals, such as the Energy Star Challenge for industry. Some suppliers are already rethinking their product designs to reduce plastic used during manufacturing. Making containers with thinner walls can use less plastic without compromising quality. For instance, Corning redesigned its standard cell culture flask to remove its sharp angles and make way for a rounded profile, which reduced plastic used in manufacturing by around 23 percent.

6. Be a Mean Green Recycling Machine

Consider supplier or in-house recycling. Keep a recycling cart near the printer and remind people to print double-sided to save paper. Return used packaging to suppliers who have set up programs to responsibly dispose of it. The Corning Take-Back program offers recycling for common plastic packaging in the United States, and even includes a mailing label to make return easy. Corning is also facilitating an advanced recycling ecosystem that turns hard-to-recycle plastics into lab grade resins for new lab products.

Maintain, Intensify, and Automate Your Lab Processes

7. Make Equipment Last

Keeping equipment running smoothly with regular maintenance ensures optimal functioning and cuts down on energy use. For example, check freezers for excess ice or leaky seals, and keep them full. It's also a good idea to add building infrastructure to the maintenance schedule; repair dripping faucets promptly and clean vents regularly.

8. Intensification

Choosing equipment and processes that use the same or smaller footprint for higher output not only cuts down on lab space but can also mean less plastic waste.

Corning HYPER (High Yield PERformance) products deliver intensified production options for the lab. HYPERFlask® and HYPERStack® culture vessels offer multiple interconnected adherence surfaces constructed from gas-permeable film that maximize cell growth and productivity. Less plastic is involved in growing more cells.

Taking this a step further, the Ascent® Fixed Bed Reactor (FBR) offers savings in both physical size and in the number of campaigns required to grow the required batch of cells. Intensification comes from the bioreactor's built-in linear scalability from 1 to 1,000 m2. The largest Ascent FBR surface area of 1,000 m2 contains more than 133,000 times the growth area of a traditional cell culture flask.

9. The Smart Lab Advantage

Motion sensors for lights, artificial intelligence for drug discovery, and digitization for lab ordering to maintain stocks all help by automatically reducing waste. Even something as simple as using thermostats to control environmental conditions can lower heating costs.

10. Think Green, Work Green

Make going green part of workplace culture with regular reviews, education, and reminders so the message isn't lost. Training sessions and work groups help keep it at the forefront. Consider attending a virtual event with your colleagues, such as Corning's CELLebrate Sustainability in the Lab webinar, which discusses valuable tips, tricks, and best practices for making a laboratory space more sustainable. Learning new methods for improving life sciences sustainability and then putting them into practice is much easier — and more fun — if you do it as a team.

Life sciences laboratories are always changing, and sustainability in the lab will change as well. Join Corning on its journey toward supporting a sustainable supply chain by engaging eco-friendly suppliers, promoting responsible procurement, managing waste intelligently, and mitigating your carbon footprint.