Nanotech West Laboratory recently became the first user facility to achieve Green Buckeye Certification through a process initiated by Aimee Price, Senior Research Associate. Price is a member of the University Energy Committee, a group with representation from throughout campus that reviews and provides recommendations for best practices of campus facility management related to energy. It is through this committee that she first learned of the Green Buckeye Certification efforts on campus, modeled after similar national programs. The intent of the Green Buckeye Certification (GBC) program is to inform and encourage implementation of best practices to improve the sustainability performance of campus offices and laboratories.
As part of the Green Buckeye Certification process, Price and Nanotech West Lab Manager Paul Steffen used the initial application checklist as a tool to evaluate the energy and sustainability of Nanotech West’s facilities and activities. They were able to quickly identify a few areas of improvement where quick changes could be implemented, such as providing recycling bins in the lab’s sink areas so empty bottles of acids that were previously thrown in the trash could be recycled.
After implementing some improvements and completing the detailed questionnaire, Price and Steffen met with Green Buckeye Certification representatives and toured the labs with them before being awarded the certification. The certification process helped lab staff consider their daily practices and energy impacts. “Our staff now think about minimizing the use of items and wasting fewer materials,” explained Price. The next challenge is to extend that sustainable thinking to the lab’s many users, encouraging them to make some changes to their practices in the lab, such as using less solvents, which would reduce waste and expenses.
Some simple yet impactful changes Nanotech West Labs made as part of the Green Buckeye Certification process:
- Reduced number of freezers from two to one
- Added recycling containers to labs
- Requested electronic versions of catalogs and journals
- Asking vendors if they accept returned empty packaging
- Communicating with users through meetings, signs, and stickers about the importance of sustainability in the lab and using less solvents and other materials
- Returning some packing materials to local shipping companies for re-use
This certification process was not Price’s first sustainability effort with Ohio State. Price’s family farm is a key player in the Zero Waste initiative at Ohio Stadium to achieve zero waste by 2025 by diverting 90% of waste away from landfills. After each home game, Price Farms Organics collects compostable materials from the stadium’s kitchens, food vendors, and suites composts it on their Delaware farm, and about two years later returns the “Stadium Scarlet” compost to campus for use in the planters around Ohio Stadium.
Nanotech West is the only user facility certified at this time and currently is one of only nine Green Buckeye Certified Laboratories on campus – the other being six College of Public Health labs in Cunz Hall, the Lerch Lab in the Biomedical Research Tower, and the Sadee Lab in Graves Hall. With over 3,000 laboratories at The Ohio State University, there is a great opportunity for progress to be made in increasing sustainability efforts in campus research environments.
“This is a beginning,” says Price. “It’s an ongoing process, and we have identified areas of opportunity and we’ll continue to work our way through that list of opportunities.” Price said Nanotech West staff continue to work with the Green Buckeye team to identify ways to adapt the current lab questionnaire, making it more universal to better evaluate a broader range of labs and their equipment and uses.
For more information on the Green Buckeye Certification process for campus offices and laboratories, visit: http://footprint.osu.edu/gbc.html