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Houston expert shares tips for shrinking your lab's carbon footprint

Here's some advice for going green in the lab. Graphic byMiguel Tovar/University of Houston

Trying to make your lab greener? Here are some practical examples of how to reduce your lab's carbon footprint and increase sustainability. Since China stopped accepting certain types of plastic waste from the United States and Europe in 2017, the need to dispose of hundreds of single-use plastic vials and other materials (per researcher, each year!) has created an avalanche of waste.

The "single use" problem

COVID-19 has led to even more single-use plastics in labs – and in our everyday lives. The sheer number of gloves, testing kits and even masks we throw away is incredible. "The majority of masks are manufactured from long-lasting plastic materials, and if discarded can persist in the environment for decades to hundreds of years," wrote authors from the University of Portsmouth at the Conversation.com.

Reduce, reuse, recycle

Labs are full of other single-use plastics such as pipette tips, weighing boats, tubes, flasks, reagent bottles, cuvettes, and more. 'Reduce, reuse and recycle' is a fine mantra, but how do researchers cut down on plastics when the sterility of equipment is a concern?

According to the UK's Chemical and Engineering News magazine, "Different users have optimized washing protocols to get pipette tips clean enough for different lab techniques, including mass spectrometry or toxicology and immunology assays.

Earlier this year, for example, researchers at the National Institutes of Health's National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences found their washed pipettes gave the same results as new tips for preparing small-interfering-RNA screening libraries." Customers of Grenova, a lab equipment firm, have reported that some tips can reused 25-40 times.

Baby it's cold

In Nature, Jyoti Madhusoodanan wrote: "Scientists are increasingly aware of the disproportionate environmental footprint of their research. Academic research facilities consume three to six times as much energy as commercial buildings, much of that due to refrigeration and ventilation systems." The has led some third-party "green companies" employed by labs to hold entire conferences around ultra-low temperature freezers. In a feature advertisement in Nature Portfolio, a statistic read: "An average Ultra-Low Temperature freezer consumes as much energy as a single-family home (~20 kWh/day)."

Help for scientists

There are non-profits that will help you mitigate the amount of waste produced by your lab. One of these, My Green Lab, said on its website: "Run 'for scientists, by scientists,' we leverage our credibility and track record to develop standards, oversee their implementation, and inspire the many behavioral changes that are needed throughout the scientific community."

And it offers a free training course for "ambassadors" – those who would like to guide their lab toward sustainable practices.

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This article originally appeared on the University of Houston's The Big Idea. Sarah Hill, the author of this piece, is the communications manager for the UH Division of Research.

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DivInc's newest accelerator based in Houston will support Web3 companies with a social impact. Photos courtesy of DivInc

A Texas-based accelerator focused on helping BIPOC and female founders on their entrepreneurial journeys announced the inaugural class for its newest accelerator.

DivInc's DWeb for Social Impact Accelerator, a 12-week intensive hybrid program sponsored by Filecoin Foundation for the Decentralized Web, will mentor nine companies, all of whom integrate Web3 technologies into their impact entrepreneurship. Participating startups will have access to the Ion’s resources and receive a non-dilutive $10,000 grant to use during the course of the program.

Cherise Luter, marketing director at DivInc, says the Austin-based development program instead chose Houston to host this inaugural cohort because they have a secure partnership with the Ion and other premiere partners in the area, including Mercury, JP Morgan, and Bank of America.

“The team that we already have in place in Houston is so strong, we thought, this would be a great place to launch this concept and then from there determine if we want to launch it in Austin,” Luter says.

Amanda Moya, director of programs for DivInc, says this accelerator will truly be hybrid, enabling entrepreneurs from around the country to benefit from quality virtual mentorship and four weeks of in-person training.

“We want to really engulf them in the Houston innovation ecosystem, to let them know that this is also a landing pad if they are ever to move or travel around and come back to Houston,” Moya mentions.

One Houston-based startup, CultureLancer, will be participating in the program. A career-focused platform that matches students from HBCU with companies looking to hire in the fields of business development, data analysis, marketing, and operations, CultureLancer provides students with project-based learning opportunities.

Brianna Brazle, CultureLancer founder and therapist, says after discussing with friends and family members their struggles to get hired post-graduation she uncovered an underserved market of people in need of career guidance.

“That’s a problem that has been existing and then after doing more research I learned historically about 56%, year over year, of college graduates find themselves unemployed or underemployed,” explains. “My first solution to this problem was a hybrid marketplace.”

The rest of the inaugural cohort includes one to two entrepreneurs from the following companies:

  • Craftmerce, based in Dallas, is a B2B technology platform that brings African artisans and mainstream retail partners together through distributed production, enterprise management, and financing tools.
  • Instarails is working to simplify cross border payments through their app which provides the option to make instant global payments regardless of currency.
  • Looks for Lease, a Los Angeles based wardrobe rental company is combating the carbon emissions brought on by the fashion industry through their circular consumerism business model which operates on an AR platform.
  • Motherocity is an app that allows postpartum moms to track their mental and physical health through personal insights, experiential data, data science, and artificial intelligence, all the way through the first year after giving birth.
  • Salubata combines sustainable fashion and tech through their shoes made from old plastic bottles and integrating an NFT component that allows access to new shoe designs for customers.
  • Seed At The Table is a crowdfunding platform connecting marginalized founders with non-accredited investors, founded by a former Goldman Sachs investment manager.
  • Tribe is a mental health mobile app aiming to make mental healthcare affordable and accessible to black people through their directory of black therapists whose patients can directly book appointments within the app.
  • Subler, which was founded by a Los Angeles high school board member, is a digital marketplace that allows schools to rent out their unused spaces to local community groups.

The program will run from Sept. 18 until their demonstration day which is scheduled for Dec. 7 at the Ion.

DivInc, which runs several accelerators across Texas, originally partnered with the Ion in 2020. The organization introduced its new DWeb program earlier this year.

Last month, DivInc also introduced its inaugural cohort to another new diversity-focused accelerator. The 2023 Clean Energy Tech accelerator program sponsored by Chevron and Microsoft is currently ongoing.

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