Freezers pose a practical problem—how to prevent the interior from warming up when the door opens?
Consider a typical case of a research laboratory, where freezers store precious samples that involve years of researchers’ hard work.
Researchers need to open and close the freezer door, and in the process, the internal temperature gets warmer. The change in the interior temperature can harm the stored samples, which are delicate and temperature-sensitive.
The possibility of warmer temperature environments in freezers causing damages to the stored items is gaining more prominence today due to the growing need for storing COVID19 vaccines at freezing temperature environments without fluctuations from the prescribed temperature range. Laboratories should invest in an ultra-low temperature freezer to store COVID19 vaccines to preserve their potency.
The vaccines are extremely delicate and sensitive to temperature. If there is a slight variation from the prescribed temperature, they are likely to get damaged, which will entail two drastic results for the medical facility that stores the vaccines.
One, the healthcare facilities will not be able to administer the vaccines to people. Two, the facility owners will have to replace the damaged stock, resulting in extra money-outgo.
What is Greening a Laboratory?
Before proceeding further to unravel the slew of the concept associated with finding hacks for greening your laboratory, why not understand the concept of greening a laboratory.
You can regard that as applying different strategies to minimize the negative impact of a laboratory on the environment. It is, however, not a new concept, and the path is not without challenges.
You will get to see some practices are culture-driven rather than driven by necessity. It goes without saying that a laboratory is a place of inspiration, and researchers are heavily invested.
Often, researchers do not take environmental consequences seriously while working in a laboratory. Here are how researchers can minimize environmental risks to laboratories:
Initiate the Discussion
Starting the discussion with your co-workers is the first step towards raising awareness about greener lab practices.
Brainstorm ideas and share your concerns with your colleagues. It is also a good idea to share a list of green-labs-themed websites for the members to review. Subsequently, speak to an environmental health and safety professional to ensure whether your laboratory runs the relevant green programs.
Although many institutes, laboratories, and universities have actuated value-based pro-environmental policies for the life sciences, other such entities have been slower to practice the processes.
For example, most such institutions actuate basic recycling services. The process involves collecting paper products, beverage bottles, and cans. But there are other specialized recycling methods to implement that can address the various types of recyclables commonly used in life science research, such as polystyrene, polyethylene, and polypropylene.
Usually, laboratory safety policies outline ways in which you should treat certain types of laboratory wastes. It can be incineration, sterilization, or neutralization. And each of the methods has its own environmental concerns.
It is good practice to choose methods and chemicals that do not call for regulated disposal. Also, consider secondary treatment methods, such as distillation, to lower the volatility of disposable materials.
As plastics are lightweight and stable, most laboratory items are commonly made of plastics. But the downside is that plastics decompose very slowly.
As such, recycling is the best way of disposing of the waste plastic generated in the laboratory.
You can also lower plastic usage in your laboratory by using refillable tip boxes or storage boxes. It will help reduce plastic items. The reagents need controlled temperature shipping and use expanded polystyrene (EPS) as the insulating material.
Water consumption is essential in laboratories. Usually, laboratories utilize large volumes of water in buffer production, glassware cleaning, sterilization, and incubation in water baths.
You can conserve water in your laboratory in multiple ways. One of the good ways is to follow an SoP while preparing buffers and other aqueous solutions.
Dump out the batches of incorrect buffers, which consumes time and resources. It is a water-efficient process to wash glassware by hand, but many laboratories prohibit handwashing.
You can connect newer dishwashers to deionized and filter water supplies. It will allow multiple rinses of important glassware.
You can also minimize water consumption in your laboratory by using a small vacuum pump if you use a water flow vacuum system. Choose the size considering your lab’s needs and the available space.
It is important to choose recirculating water baths whenever possible and install aerators to minimize the volume of water pouring out of the faucet.
It is impossible to put into motion all the improvements, but you can put forward your valuable suggestions to the environmental health and safety officer or facilities manager.
Reduce Energy Consumption
Actuate lower energy consumption methods in your laboratory. Ensure that your staff puts off the lights and other electrical items at the end of the day.
You can invest in smart lights that get activated by motion sensors if your laboratory is yet to upgrade the lighting system. Keeping lights on after working hours is a bad practice as it entails energy wastage.
Apart from putting lights off after working hours, researchers can do many things to minimize energy consumption.
They can avoid the post-PCR hold. And it is one of the major energy-saving methods in a laboratory. Besides, it is also easy to avoid.
Researchers should plan for finishing their PCR before they leave for the day, and they can ask a staff member to move the tubes to the refrigerator.
There is also another effective method for researchers to save energy in the laboratory. They can shut the biosafety cabinet or tissue culture hood sash. In this way, they can stop the laminar-flow fan from running when not required.
In addition to the methods, you should focus on the laboratory freezer’s usage. Usually, freezers consume large amounts of energy; therefore, you should try out ways to minimize energy consumption. Restrict cold air loss by periodically scraping down the gasket. Also, remove any ice that has accumulated. Remove dirt from the freezer to allow it to work smoothly to achieve and maintain the required temperature.