Going Greener

Papers, Ph.D. students, and so on make up the traditional outputs of science laboratories, but these days energy consumption matters more and more.

That consumption includes the energy to condition the air and drive the analytical platforms. Disposable plastic, reagents, and other items also contribute to a lab’s consumption. Those consumables raise growing concerns as labs around the world strive to be more efficient, more “green.” Today’s vendors supply more options than ever to build a green operation. Nonetheless, much more work needs to be done to modernize labs.

“Green technology is extremely important in labs,” says David Constable, Ph.D., director of the Green Chemistry Institute at the American Chemical Society, “but not as prevalent as other issues. That is one reason that I think we need to raise the visibility.”

Some vendors already see more customers interested in green technology. For example, Cynthia Cai, director of marketing at Agilent (Santa Clara, CA), says, “Everybody is talking about sustainability.”

Others agree. For instance, Chip Diefendorf, director of business development at Mott Manufacturing (Brantford, Ontario, Canada), says, “Green technology is more important than ever.” He adds, “Many labs are seeking LEED credits.” LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and this program offers a range of ways to improve the efficiency of any lab.

As this article shows, a broad range of lab tools and techniques factor into today’s green thinking.

Assessing the scope

When considering green technology for a lab, two general concepts must be considered: the products being purchased as well as the practices being used by the manufacturer. For example, Mott Manufacturing makes a range of furnishings for labs, from casework—such as drawer and shelf units—to tables, as well as high-efficiency fume hoods. As Diefendorf asks: “What makes the lab furniture green, and what makes the manufacturer of the lab furniture green?” Those are two good questions.

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