Green Labs: Where research sustainability meets safety

Anthony Appleton, Stacey Baumgarn, Andrew Warnock
Anthony Appleton, Stacey Baumgarn, and Andrew Warnock, director of the Natural Sciences Education and Outreach Center, display a new sticker reminding hood users to “Shut the Sash.”

To bring more visibility to the intersection of sustainability and research safety at Colorado State University, Campus Energy Coordinator Stacey Baumgarn , and Research Safety Culture Program Coordinator Anthony Appleton,  have partnered to expand the CSU Green Labs programs and create a new website to showcase its current offerings.

Baumgarn launched the first CSU Green Labs initiative in 2015.  It now includes the International Laboratory Freezer Challenge, Shut the Sash Campaign, training modules, and an ambassador program, with additional programs to be added in the future.

The CSU Green Labs program is an important component of the broader sustainability initiatives at CSU. According to Baumgarn, labs are the most energy-, water- and resource-intensive spaces on campus, and incentives have been an effective way to engage researchers in  programs to decrease waste and increase efficiency.

“People always ask, ‘What actions can I take to become part of sustainability on campus?’” Baumgarn said. “Well, if you work in a lab, think of the Green Labs programs. When one person learns about and adopts a more sustainable practice and improves safety simultaneously, it makes a difference and helps to advance sustainability at CSU.”

Various initiatives available

The various CSU Green Labs initiatives allow faculty, staff and students to become more involved in laboratory sustainability. These programs, which are voluntary and can teach researchers about sustainable lab practices, can be implemented by individual researchers or by research groups.

One of the  longest-standing initiatives is the Freezer Challenge, which encourages labs that use ultra-low and ultra-ultra low-temperature freezers to adopt simple best practices for cold storage management. The Freezer Challenge is a program coordinated by the nonprofit organizations My Green Lab and the International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories (I2SL) and various companies interested in promoting the most energy-efficient cold storage options. Labs at CSU can register online to participate in the 2021 Challenge.

“If you’re doing sustainable research, you’re inherently doing safer research; the Green Labs program aims to merge the two ideas,” Appleton said. “Those who become a Green Lab Ambassador or participate in the Freezer Challenge end up with better and safer research. We want to make sure that our research is aligning with our strategic transformation that has a large focus on sustainability.”

Baumgarn and Appleton continue to encourage individuals to get involved with CSU Green Labs programs. To learn more or to suggest future initiatives, visit the new CSU Green Labs website.