Community Featured Green Labs

Celebrating Sustainability Champions at the Green Carpet Awards 

The annual Green Carpet Awards were hosted on November 7, 2023 at the Knight Center on the Danforth Campus. Sustainability champions from across the university gathered to celebrate significant projects and programs that are enhancing sustainability efforts and impact.

The program hosted the following speakers, who recognized numerous sustainable achievements between 2022 to 2023. 

Phil Valko, Assistant Vice Chancellor of Sustainability, welcomed attendees and highlighted specific departments across campuses that have exemplified exceptional dedication to sustainable initiatives. These highlights included: 

  • Human Resources, for building sustainability into New Employee Orientation, resulting in a 30 minute presentation that all new employees receive on WashU’s sustainability progress and priorities, as well as opportunities to lead through their departments. To date, over 1,000 employees have received this training. 
  • Department of Anesthesiology, for their conversion to anesthetic gases with dramatically lower global warming potential and use of low-flow anesthesia, resulting in significant greenhouse gas reductions and cost savings 
  • Student Technology Services, for their integration of Sustainability, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion into their operations and a partnership with the Office of Sustainability to pilot using technology and data to drive energy conservation and emissions reductions
  • Facilities Planning and Management, for their continued operationalization of the Lights Out Heartland initiative, which reduces outdoor light pollution during bird migration seasons, helping birds safely complete their long journeys 
  • Resource Management, Danforth Parking & Transportation, Operations & Facilities Management, Mail & Receiving Services, and WUIT, for transitioning their fleets to electric vehicles, reducing carbon emissions by 25% – 50% per mile today and more in the coming years as regional coal plants retire and more renewables are added to the Missouri electric grid 
  • Mail & Receiving Services, Resource Management, Operations & Facilities Management, ResLife, Quadrangle, and Government & Community Relations, for their teamwork building a circular economy at WashU through extensive “Share Our Stuff” move-out collections, supporting the WashUReuse online marketplace, and launching the Circularity Center reuse store located at North Campus
  • University Advancement for the launch of outdoor hydration stations at Commencement and Convocation to replace single serving water containers, saving over 40,000 containers in their first year of use

Green Carpet attendees were the first to learn about the new WashU Sustainability Fund, which will offer WashU staff and faculty the opportunity to submit campus sustainability project ideas for funding consideration. The Fund will support selected projects with up to $2,500 in project or seed funding. The deadline for submissions is January 31, 2024. To learn more about the fund and what projects may qualify, join the information session on December 11.  

Dr. Lance Franklin, Assistant Vice Chancellor of Environmental Health and Safety, shared the accomplishments and goals of the Green Lab Program. The program was reconfigured in 2023 to mirror the more interactive Green Office program with the addition of the formalized checklist. After a brief pilot period, in which 23 labs participated, the official checklist launched in April. Environmental Health and Safety is a key partner for the Green Labs program, and this partnership helped bring the total number of certified labs to 35 during 2023.  

Ed Soltero, Assistant Vice Chancellor and University Architect, presented the key trends related to sustainability in building design and the important role building occupants play in actualizing the intentions of green buildings. As the University Architect, Ed displayed his expertise in reducing a building’s carbon footprint (embodied carbon) while accounting for regional nuance and occupancy factors. 

After presentations by the keynote speakers, the program shifted to recognizing offices and labs that participated in one of two workplace certification programs in 2022 and 2023.  

Tim Goodwin, Director of Business Operations within Facilities Planning and Management, recognized offices from Danforth, West, and North campuses, as well as a handful of satellite locations.  

Lacey Luitjohan, Director of Continuous Improvement within Operations and Facilities Management Department, recognized the offices from the School of Medicine campus. 

David Lott, Executive Director of Research Facilities in the Neuroscience Research Building, recognized newly certified Green Labs. 

Reflecting on 10 years  

The Green Office program passed the decade marker last year. In those 10 years, over a dozen student interns helped recruit nearly 175 offices and over 200 green office liaisons. Every year, the Green Office team brings in new offices and supports continued engagement with re-certifying offices.  

In 2015 the Office of Sustainability set an aggressive goal to increase the number of certified offices by 75% in just two years. At the end of 2017, certifications jumped from 23 offices to 104.  

The Green Office Program is about more than exponential growth, and numbers only tell part of the story. We aim to have quality engagement with program participants, exemplified by the 17 offices that jumped one or more levels between 2021 and 2022. 

Participants and engagement grew continuously until 2020, when office space of any kind became a moot point. Throughout alternative operations brought on by COVID, the program was adjusted to stay relevant and impactful. We continued to align with partners across the university to ensure that our program was in sync with institutional priorities like employee wellness; diversity, equity, and inclusion; and more flexible work environments.  

In 2022, the lagging impact of workplace COVID disruptions showed up in participation numbers. While numerous participants joined the program for the first time, the total number of certified green offices decreased by ~25% as some offices went fully remote and a number of our office liaisons shifted roles.  

However, with the addition of the Green Labs certification, we are growing the overall number of certified workspaces and the number of employees who work in certified spaces. In fact, this year hit an important milestone. As of 2023, over 2000 employees work in certified green spaces. 

Leading by Example  

The award ceremony was a certified Green Event and showcased many elements of green event planning including: a plant-forward menu with locally-sourced ingredients; plaques made from reclaimed wood; natural/compostable/seasonal center pieces (marigolds, gourds, dried grasses and leaves), reusable nametags; and door prizes that support sustainable lifestyles (reusable cutlery sets and seasonal gourds). 

For more information on how to participate in the Green Office or Green Lab Program, visit the Office of Sustainability website.