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New Green Labs program encourages labs to adopt more sustainable practices

Four labs participated in the pilot launch and introduced energy-saving solutions
By: Irina Vukosavic
November 18, 2022
Woman with lab goggles pouring liquid into the test tube.

The Green Labs program was launched by the Sustainability Office as a way for labs to self-evaluate their sustainability practices.

Earlier this year, four TMU labs volunteered for a pilot project to introduce more sustainable lab practices at the university. 

The Department of Chemistry and Biology’s 20,000-square-foot lab at MaRS Discovery District joined TMU’s Green Labs program at the suggestion of one of the alumni researchers, says Ella Hyatt, the facility manager who oversees the space where mostly graduate students focus on biomedical research which includes cell biology, immunology and cancer. 

Three students at the MaRS Discovery District lab.

Ella Hyatt’s lab is working on reducing energy usage through small, everyday changes.

“We started implementing energy-saving practices such as prohibiting the use of aerosol cans and open flames to avoid extra air being pumped out of the ventilation system,” said Hyatt. “We also opted to turn off all equipment in the lab not being used after 6 p.m., refitted all our laboratory lighting with motion sensors, set ultra low temperature freezers to -70 degrees celsius instead of -80 degrees and implemented a ‘shut the sash’ program for our fume hoods.” 

This winter term, labs across the university are invited to sign up for the Green Labs program, which was developed by the university’s Sustainability Office (in consultation with Environmental Health and Safety) to reduce the environmental footprint of labs. Participants will learn about best practices, exchange ideas, participate in events and competitions, and have access to resources. 

Labs will be encouraged to adopt best practices in energy conservation, greenhouse gas emissions reduction, sustainable water management and conservation, chemical handling and sustainable purchasing. 

“As a leading post-secondary institution with a large focus on research and innovation, it's incredibly important that we demonstrate our commitment to environmental sustainability in all that we do,” said Stephanie MacPhee, manager of sustainability at TMU. “This includes the way we operate our campus and specifically our lab spaces considering how energy intensive they tend to be.”

To become certified, labs register their team with the Sustainability Office, complete introductory training sessions and then assess their labs using comprehensive scorecards. Annually, labs report any changes or progress to renew certification.

Through the program, the Sustainability Office is hoping to empower researchers and lab users to reduce the environmental impact of laboratory-based activities by implementing sustainability practices and technologies and fostering a culture of sustainability. 

Bryan Koivisto holding a flask.

Bryan Koivisto is committed to making his lab more sustainable and energy efficient.

Bryan Koivisto, professor (Chemistry and Biology) and graduate program director (Environmental Applied Science and Management), participated in the pilot program last June after his students saw value in making changes.

The Green Labs program helped Koivisto’s lab adopt sustainable practices gradually. The team started using less toxic solvents that take significant energy to destroy, opening doors to the hallways to bring in cool air instead of using the air conditioner, and turning off overhead lights when there was enough daylight. These changes not only helped save energy, but also saved money.

“Beyond the lab, it is important that we as a society get to a point where we are being as environmentally efficient as possible,” says Koivisto. “We need to be more conscious of the small choices we are making every day and we should work together to improve on them.”

To join the Green Labs program, interested participants can email sustainability@ryerson.ca

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