UBC is a research-intensive university with over 400 labs. Lab buildings account for approximately 50% of UBC Vancouver campus energy use, 25% of water use and 95% of hazardous waste generated.
UBC’s Green Labs Program presents a unique opportunity to minimize the significant environmental impact of UBC’s research laboratory footprint by promoting solutions and actions that reduce energy, water, solid and hazardous waste and foster a culture of sustainability.
Each year Green Labs engages thousands of UBC researchers through conservation campaigns, sustainability workshops, events, newsletters and digital signage. We promote important sustainability values and approaches to UBC students and young researchers that they can apply in their studies and beyond as global stewards for a sustainable future.
Green Labs relies on a champion network of 40+ Sustainability Coordinators who represent over 25 research departments. They volunteer 2-4 work hours per month to implement sustainability initiatives.
By strengthening sustainable practices in laboratories, the Green Labs Program supports UBC’s Policy #5 (Sustainable Development), enhanced Pollution Prevention per Policy SC4 (Environmental Protection Policy), and Policy #9 (Hazardous Materials Management), as well as implementation of sustainability commitments in, UBC’s 20 Year Sustainability Strategy, and UBC’s Climate Action Plan.
2004 | Green innovation fund created to support sustainability projects that benefit the UBC scientific research community
2008 | Green Labs Program launched as a voluntary program
2014 | The Sustainability Coordinator program was expanded to labs and endorsed by then VP Research and International and Associate Provost, Sustainability
2016 | A dedicated Green Labs Program staff position was created to expand Green Labs energy programming and support Climate Action Plan 2020 implementation
Green Labs is a cooperative effort between Vancouver’s Campus & Community Planning, Energy & Water Services, Financial Operations and Safety and Risk Services, and Okanagan’s Campus Planning & Development and Risk Management Services.
Representatives from each of these units form a Green Labs Executive Advisory Group and the Green Labs Committee. These groups serve to approve program strategic plans and annual program plans and budgets. The program would not be successful without contribution from dedicated members of the research community.
Program Priority Areas
The following strategic priorities reflect the need to continue the momentum of the past 10 years to enhance and elevate UBC’s sustainability leadership position, expand adoption of environmentally responsible research approaches, and train the next generation of researchers in laboratory best practices that support their success in an evolving landscape.
Researcher Engagement & Education
- Build researcher expertise in sustainable practices to support resource conservation, waste minimization and sustainable purchasing in the research community.
- Foster distributed leadership and audience led action to support a culture of sustainability and amplify impact.
- Achieve measurable resource conservation and waste reduction in research spaces (energy, water, waste) through climate action.
- Identify building system and lab equipment performance optimization opportunities.
Continuous Improvement & Innovation
- Demonstrate program impact to maintain executive support, enhance audience motivation and recognition, and support UBC’s commitment to be a sustainability leader.
- Improve program outcomes based on annual feedback, assessment, best practices and research into Green Labs initiatives.
- Foster innovative problem solving of Green Labs relevant challenges.
Through the Chill Up Challenge campaign, 30% of campus ultra-low temperature freezers have been set to energy saving temperatures, reducing their energy consumption by up to 40%.
Hundreds of researchers have participated in the Shut the Sash campaign, reducing fume hood driven ventilation by 10%, saving energy and reducing GHG emissions.
The Green Labs Program recently conducted studies to evaluate non-hazardous laboratory waste streams, identify opportunities for increased waste diversion, and pilot new recycling initiatives. Lab plastic, soil and glass have been identified as the areas with the highest impact opportunities.
- Each year UBC Vancouver laboratories generate an estimated 64 to 128 tonnes of plastic waste, with gloves, pipettes and centrifuge tubes contributing the most by weight. This represents 2-5%of UBCs total operational landfill waste.
- To increase diversion rates, Green Labs piloted a glove recycling program and also initiated a refresh of the Lab Plastics Recycling program.
- An estimated 16 tonnes of amber glass is sent from labs to landfill each year. With assistance from Building Operations and Safety & Risk Services, Michael Smith Laboratories is piloting amber glass recycling. The department diverted over one tonne of glass during the reporting year. Green Labs is now preparing for pilot expansion.
- UBC Botany generates 22.5 tonnes of soil waste per year. The department worked with Safety & Risk Services, Building Operations and Sustainability & Engineering to develop a landfill diversion strategy and collection system. The soil is now collected, treated and repurposed as fill or soil for soft landscaping on campus. Green Labs is pursuing opportunities to integrate other laboratory soil waste generators into the collection program.
- 40 Lab Sustainability Coordinators are working to advance sustainability in their departments. Green Labs supports their efforts through training, virtual resources and funding opportunities.
- 1000’s of UBC researchers are engaged annually through sustainability workshops, conservation campaigns, newsletters and digital signage.
- 2019: Green Labs received the Sustainable Purchasing Award from the International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories for a second year. This award recognizes the initiative and progress UBC is making in sustainable procurement of laboratory consumable and equipment. Read the story here
- 2018: The Program received the Sustainable Purchasing Award from the International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories