It’s Monday morning and you arrive in lab a little late. No worries, you drop your tissue culture media into the warming bath, turn on the hood, and head down the hall while things ‘warm up.’
Next stop is the -80 freezer. You dig through the drifting piles of frost and snow, around the boxes of samples with labels that wore off ages ago, and find your quarry. You throw your weight into the door, and manage to get it latched – just barely – and head to the lab.
Once there, you dump yesterday’s gel buffer down the drain and start measuring out agarose and ethidium bromide for today’s experiments. With the gel poured, it’s finally time for coffee. Then maybe you’ll get around to splitting your cells.
It may be an easy morning for a cell biologist, but it was pretty rough on the planet. This week we explore some simple tweaks this busy scientist could make to be greener and more sustainable!
It’s Easy Being Green
Allison Paradise started working in a biomedical research lab when she was in high school. On her very first day, she completed a cloning protocol and went to ask the PI where she could recycle the uncontaminated pipette tips and boxes.
Her question was met with a glare of mixed astonishment and disgust.
“We don’t recycle here.”
Allison was incredulous. Recycling was second nature for her family at home – why should these clean plastics be incinerated rather than repurposed?
Over the next few years, Allison noticed other counterintuitive lab behaviors. Why were the heat blocks and water baths left on 24/7? Why had the -70 degree freezers come to be called, and set to, -80 degrees? And what about all of those laboratory chemicals that were being dumped down the drain and into the water supply.
In 2013, Allison left her industry gig to become CEO and founder of My Green Lab, a non-profit organization committed to making research science more sustainable.
My Green Lab supports programs to conserve water, energy, consumables, and to reduce the lab’s dependence on toxic chemicals. They also offer a Green Lab Certification, measuring your lab’s performance on everything from fume hoods to field work.
This week on the show, we asked Allison to share some ideas that lab scientists could do TODAY to start making a difference for the environment.
Her solutions, like putting the water bath on an outlet timer, use simple strategies for an outsized impact.
And to cool us off (as if that’s a problem in January) we sip the Copperline Amber Ale from Carolina Brewery in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. This beer takes its place as one of the first craft brews we tried way back in the day.
And don’t worry, we definitely recycled the cans!