Greening the Laboratory

Lisa Anderson, post-doc at MIT, shares her passion for making the world a better place through science and technology. Lisa discusses the laboratory glove recycling program that she helped to create while at University of California Davis. She also describes green lab assessment programs and her current efforts at MIT.


Lisa Anderson:

It's an honor to be here and to be in a company and around people with strong values, like environmental stewardship. And to know where my restriction enzymes come from. Not just some place north of Boston somewhere. So I'm going to tell you a little bit about my work to Green The Lab and I'm going to start off by telling you about myself. And I was fortunate enough to be exposed to the environment growing up a was able to go hiking and camping and hunting and fishing in rural Michigan. And it was there where I really developed an awareness of the world around us and got interested in how we could make the world a better place through science and through biotechnology. And so greening the laboratory is where I've been focusing some of my efforts on the side.


Laboratories have a big footprint, a UC Davis study found the labs account for two thirds of campus energy, which is huge and of that in the lab, you can think about the appliances, all the instruments that are used, the lighting, domestic water and HVAC in the heating and cooling. A typical lab room exchanges air 10 to 20 times per hour and that can account for the same amount of energy as three and a half households so it's huge. So everyday when I walk into the lab, I think about how do I balance the research that I'm doing, where I'm trying to engineer microbes to make biofuels and chemicals to replace petroleum products. To make the world a more sustainable place with being able to do this sustainably and reduce the impact. And so at UC Davis where I was doing my PhD Studying algae biofuels, I became involved with a program at UC Davis, which is one of the leaders I would say in this front in where there's a certification program for individuals and labs and the community let the campus community as a whole to assess the impact of a laboratory environment.


And so this includes things like energy, such as the heating and cooling systems, ultra low temperature freezers, which is common in biological laboratories. Which can use the amount of energy as a single household each day. We can also think about waste reduction, so recycling, which is where I have focused some of my efforts, which I will get into. We can think about the transportation and the traveling to conferences and how maybe you could have conference calls or web conferences as an alternative. Water, which is very important issue in California and also Massachusetts this summer. Electronics and things like Green Chemistry and fieldwork. And so at UC Davis, I led my laboratory, the chemistry department to a gold certification, where we implemented some changes such as shutting the sash and reducing and increasing temperatures of ultra low freezers and was able to get the entire department on board. And now the department of chemistry at UC Davis has the most number of green labs at the whole university.


So after my PhD, I came to MIT as a post doc and I became involved with some initiatives to make a more sustainable campus. I will say that there's some differences between the west coast and the east coast, so it really was a nice opportunity for me to come and get involved in a different culture. And so at MIT we've been using this tool called My Green Lab. It's a nonprofit started by Allison Paradise and we launched a competition earlier this year in January and we awarded seven teams seed funding, to green their lab and next month where awarding a winner $5,000 for their innovative efforts. So TBA the winner and the innovative idea that will come out of MIT, hopefully something good.


And on that note, one of the initiatives that I became involved with at UC Davis was glove recycling program. And so 22% of lab waste are laboratory gloves, is one of the largest and most consistent waste streams in the lab. There are programs now that, and I became involved with at UC Davis, we were the first university to start a laboratory glove recycling program, with Kimberly Clark and TerraCycle. Of course these are on contaminated gloves, so they can not be chemically or biologically contaminated. A typical researcher if you think you use a pair of gloves each day that are not contaminated and I calculated that at MIT, if you were to take just half the pairs of gloves from researchers that over 20 tons of gloves would accumulate in one year. In 2015, UC Davis collected over two tons from mostly the teaching labs in the chemistry department. So these gloves can be collected, washed, melted, and then cryogenically pelleted and turned into new materials like park benches.


But 20 tons of gloves, that's a lot of park benches. And of course you can think about the benefit or potentially the downsides. Does it make sense to recycle gloves? You actually get something out of it. So the MIT green labs committee is working with some researchers at MIT to perform a life cycle analysis and does it make sense how much energy goes into making the gloves and recycling them? So also TBA, on that, I'm going to close by hopefully inspiring the you and the visitors on yes, you can in fact make an impact. You can reduce energy and the lab that you use in a reduced the consumables by just being aware and also educating those around you. Institutes like UC Davis and MIT have goals, such as zero waste by 2020, at 32% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030.


And places like NEB also are leading the way in these efforts. And so here I'm showing a picture of some green champions from, from UC Davis and also some champions and the team that I've been working with at MIT. Thank you.

Related Videos

  • NEBTV20_720
    NEB® TV Ep. 20 - Green Labs
  • AboutNEB_Environmental_Philosophy_Thumb
    NEB®Environmental Philosophy
  • MatoneDeChiwit_720
    Solving Water Scarcity
Visit NEB’s Video Library
Loading Spinner