The Green Labs initiative at the Washington University School of Medicine has led to a reduction in electricity usage of approximately 25 percent coupled with utility-scale energy efficiency improvements.

The Danforth Campus Green Labs Initiative took place in fall 2011 as a pilot program in Brauer Hall and featured real-time online energy usage graphs and a network of lab energy representatives. Part of the Green Labs initiative is the implementation of low-flow fume hoods, which cuts energy use by 40 percent and is coupled with implementing fume hood occupancy controls, which automatically turn off fume hoods when they are not in use. WashU helped to develop these fume hoods, which were exceptionally useful in the Lab Sciences Building, where nearly 300 fume hoods are in use. There was insufficient capacity in the steam and chilled water system to support this number of fume hoods using conventional consumption.


Learn how to cut down energy use for these categories.

General Equipment

How can you reduce the energy used by general appliances? By simply switching something off, you can save hundreds of dollars a year. Below are some recommendations we have for your lab:

  • Turn off the lights when the lab is unoccupied, or when daylight is adequate (use task lighting instead).
  • Light only the rooms in use. Recycle all possible non-hazardous material (material that contains no hazardous material – biological, chemical and/or radioactive contamination) in laboratory waste streams, such as waste containers rinsed per regulatory requirements, cardboard, Styrofoam and plastics – for the EH&S empty container recycling policy, visit here. If you need a recycling bin, email
  • Contact EH&S for recycling broken/surplus electronics or unworking appliances and equipment.
  • List any unwanted, useable furniture or equipment on Washington University’s Purchasing Services Surplus Property website
  • Collect unwanted or surplus lab equipment from your department to donate to Engineers Without Borders, who has a partnership with the Department of Podiatry to send equipment to clinics in Africa. Email
  • Keep chemical fume hood doors closed and engage dampers on point source ventilators when not in use
  • Tissue culture hoods can be kept closed and with UV on when not in use
Office Equipment

How do you reduce energy usage by office equipment?

  • Utilize computer power management software for sleep or hibernation: PC users can use Power Management tools by accessing the Control Panel, then selecting “Power Options.” For Mac users, click on the Apple icon in the upper left of the screen, select “System Preferences,” click “Show All,” select “Energy Saver” from the “Hardware” row, and then adjust the times as indicated above.
  • Do not use screen savers on computers (contrary to popular belief, screen savers lead to increased energy usage because they prevent computers from going into standby)
  • Turn off computers when you leave for the weekend or for long trips
  • Activate power save mode on copiers, printers and fax machines when you leave for the day, or program them to do so if possible
Temperature Control Devices

How do you save energy with temperature control devices?

  • Do not use incubators as refrigerators
  • Autoclave doors should be shut when not in use
  • Empty and shut-off little-used refrigerators and freezers.
  • Defrost and clean out old storage items.
  • Walk-in cold room temperatures can be raised from 4ºC to 7ºC
  • Replace old equipment with energy star devices
  • Turn refrigerated equipment temperatures up during the day, turn heated equipment temperatures down during the day except when in use
  • Turn any equipment off whenever not in use. Most takes 10-20 minutes to come to set temperature
  • Refrigerated floor model centrifuges should be kept off with lids left open when not in use
Green Chemicals

How can you reduce the environmental impact of your experiments? Follow these guidelines for green chemical usage.

  • Use the on-campus EH&S chemical inventory system to share reagent chemicals (or to transfer them to another principal investigator) within your department
  • Seek ways to minimize hazardous chemical use. See MIT’s free Green Chemical Alternatives Wizard
  • Whenever possible utilize digital technology for x-ray and photography needs.
  • Remove any mercury thermometers from labs for safer alternatives.
  • Utilize rechargeable batteries in place of non-recycleable alkaline batteries; when they are spent, contact EH&S for pickup.
  • When washing glassware, minimize solvent rinsing and minimize water use as much as possible. Avoid halogenated reagents if possible
  • Alternate methods to wet chemical spectroscopy (Both manual wet chemistry methods and automated continuous flow analyzers (CFA) methods generate large amounts of waste. Visit here for more information)
  • Look into potential changes in equipment and supplies to minimize material usage such as use of mini-scintillation vials in place of regular sized vials.

What can be recycled in your lab?

Recycle all possible non-highly odiferous, non-hazardous material (no biological, chemical and/or radioactive contamination) in laboratory waste streams:

  • Steel
  • Aluminum cans
  • Cardboard (pizza boxes included)
  • Paper (including binders, spiral notebooks and envelopes)
  • Plastics (#1-7): All non p-listed chemical containers can be recycled if triple rinsed first.

Read the EH&S Empty Container Recycling Guidelines (PDF)

DO NOT recycle food, ice, liquids or Styrofoam. If what you want to recycle is too large for the bin, please rinse it per the guidelines above and place it next to the recycling bin for pickup.

Have questions? Email