Overall Rating Silver - expired
Overall Score 56.45
Liaison Bambi Ingram
Submission Date Feb. 7, 2020
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

University of Alabama at Birmingham
EN-11: Inter-Campus Collaboration

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 3.00 / 3.00 Julie Price
Sustainability Coordinator
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Is the institution an active member of a national or international sustainability network?:

The name of the national or international sustainability network(s):
Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education

Is the institution an active member of a regional, state/provincial or local sustainability network?:

The name of the regional, state/provincial or local sustainability network(s):
1. Southeastern Campus Sustainability Network (SCSN) https://sites.google.com/site/sesustainabilitynetwork/
2. Sustainability Officers of Higher Education - Alabama

Has the institution presented at a sustainability conference during the previous year? :

A list or brief description of the conference(s) and presentation(s):
UAB Sustainability shared a 1-hour presentation at the City of Birmingham's Resiliency Summit on August 15, 2018. This event was developed through Birmingham's partnership with the National League of Cities' Sustainable Cities Institute Leadership in Community Resilience Program.

Has the institution submitted a case study during the previous year to a sustainability awards program that is inclusive of multiple campuses? :

A list or brief description of the awards program(s) and submission(s):
Our Sustainability Coordinator assisted our Green Labs Coordinator (an undergrad student) in applying for AASHE's Student Achievement Award 2019. Application here:
This form can be used to submit narrative descriptions of higher education sustainability initiatives, projects or programs. Case study submissions from eligible institutions will be automatically considered for either a Campus Sustainability Achievement Award or a Student Sustainability Leadership Award as part of AASHE’s annual awards program.

Title: Starting a Sustainable Revolution in Campus Laboratories

* Project Overview: UAB Green Labs Program is an institution-wide, voluntary program designed to reduce the university’s environmental footprint while simultaneously reducing operating costs of research buildings. The program accomplishes its goals by providing free energy-saving equipment, encouraging behavioral changes within labs, and providing services to labs that improve energy efficiency and reduce waste generation. In order to participate, research labs first take a survey developed by UAB and MyGreenLab, a non-profit organization dedicated to implementing sustainable practices in research labs across the world. At least half of the researchers in the lab are required to take the survey to determine current sustainable lab techniques and to provide suggestions as to how labs can be more sustainable. Once the surveys are completed, the UAB Green Labs Coordinator visits the lab to provide recognition of current successful initiatives while encouraging them to implement additional sustainable changes. After six months, labs take the same survey a second time to assess progress made in the lab. During this visit, we calculate a conservative estimate of how many kilowatt-hours (kWh) the lab has conserved. UAB Green Labs not only reduces the University’s carbon footprint through reductions in energy and water use, but also by implementing new recycling streams that collect the four largest types of waste from labs. UAB Green Labs has partnered with UAB Research and Occupational Health and Safety to emphasize the importance of safety and research integrity to participating labs.

Organization(s): University of Alabama at Birmingham

Sustainability Topic(s)-Select up to three topics that relate most closely to this resource: Energy Efficiency, Water Reduction, Recycling

Academic Discipline(s)-Only include if an academic discipline is directly tied to this resource (select up to three):

Office(s) or Department(s)-Only include if an office or division on campus is directly tied to this resource (select up to three): UAB Sustainability, UAB Environmental Health and Safety, UAB Facilities, UAB Research

Tags-Enter keywords that will be helpful for grouping this resource (e.g. "bottled water" for bottled water initiatives). For multiple tags, use comma or return as separator: green labs, research labs, laboratories

Background-Describe the circumstances that led to start-up of this project: Laboratory buildings use approximately four times the amount of electricity as traditional office buildings and produce over 25% of the university’s waste. Prior to the Green Labs Program, there was no effective way to reduce energy or waste generation in research environments. UAB is one of the top 5 largest consumer of electricity in Alabama. Consequently, we have one of the biggest ecological footprints in the state. UAB also budgets over 20 million dollars for electrical costs annually. In an effort to help mitigate our footprint and save money, UAB Green Labs was implemented.

Project Goals-Describe the goals of this project: The UAB Green Labs Program works to reduce energy consumption, water usage, and waste generation through behavioral changes, like turning off lights or shutting fume hood sashes when not in use. UAB Green Labs provides free energy-saving equipment to help reduce energy use while also encouraging labs to participate in freezer maintenance & replacement programs. UAB Green Labs also provides basic servicing on lab freezers to improve efficiency and lower energy consumption. Other main goals of this project are to reduce water usage and waste production. These goals are accomplished by discussing water-saving features of equipment and implementing new recycling streams for waste that aren’t recyclable at UAB Recycling or Birmingham Recycling Center.

Project Implementation-Describe how the project was implemented, including who was involved: UAB Green Labs first partnered with My Green Lab in order to help assess labs and their behaviors. The project was originally implemented as a pilot to assess the feasibility of the program in November 2016. A luncheon was sponsored by UAB Research and UAB Sustainability for campus researchers to inform them of the Green Labs Program and the necessary steps to becoming a member. As an incentive, one randomly selected pilot participant would receive a free ULT freezer for their participation in the program. The ULT freezer was funded by UAB Facilities. Additional incentives were integrated into the program for researchers. Researchers were made aware of the free energy-saving equipment (purchased by UAB Sustainability) that they would be able to receive upon enrollment, in addition to free maintenance for ULT freezers. Since the program would be accepting waste from research labs, Environmental Health & Safety first had to approve the program. Once approved, UAB Green Labs implemented a lab recycling program that started collecting pipette tip boxes and polystyrene (Styrofoam) coolers in January 2018 and instituted a glove recycling program in March 2017.

Project Timeline-Describe how long this project took from start to finish and provide a list of key project milestones in chronological order:

November 2016: Luncheon held to educate researchers about a green labs pilot program.

December 2016: Deadline for the researchers to take a survey assessing sustainable lab techniques. Stickers and energy-saving equipment were provided to help labs implement changes.

April 2017: Labs were commended for their participation at the UAB Earth Day Festival.

April 2017: In order to quantify monetary and ecological savings, UAB Research and UAB Green Labs decided to conduct a building-wide pilot program after the original green labs pilot program ends.

June 2017: The 30 charter members took the survey a second time to highlight improvements made. These members were once again informed of ways to be more sustainable in the lab.

November 2017: UAB Green Labs determined which research-intensive building would host the building-wide pilot program.

December 2017: Every researcher in the selected pilot building had received the survey. The original green labs pilot program officially ends after one year.

January 2018: UAB Green Labs implemented new recycling streams for labs to recycle to further encourage labs to participate in the program.

April 2018: UAB Green Labs discussed the feasibility of a freezer “trade-up” program with ThermoFisher to replace the most energy inefficient freezers with more efficient alternatives.

May 2018: We performed a freezer energy audit to determine the cost-benefit analysis of replacing several freezers in the pilot building while continuing to expand participation in UAB Green Labs Program.

December 2018: Developed a boilerplate template for participating labs to use when applying for NIH and NSF grants.

January 2019-February 2019: Ended the building-wide pilot program and awarded a free ULT freezer to one of the participants. Partnered with the Department of Medicine to expand the program and culture of sustainability.

April 2019: Met with the AVP of Research and the Executive Director of UAB Procurement to develop an enterprise-wide freezer maintenance program while also prohibiting researchers from purchasing refurbished, non-energy-efficient freezers.

Financing-Describe the costs (both upfront and recurring) for each component of the project and explain how the project was financed: The cost for UAB Green Labs to use My Green Lab’s survey over the course of the program was $18,000.00. These funds allowed us to distribute a survey designed specifically for UAB research labs throughout campus to assess ongoing sustainable lab techniques. This cost also financed the My Green Lab executive director to visit the university five times to assist in developing the program. The fee also included development of presentations from the surveys of individual labs. UAB Green Labs also spent $3,030.00 on 120 power strips and 120 outlet timers to reduce energy used from lab equipment. $30,465.71 was spent on the ULT freezers that were given to two labs for their completion of the program. We have also spent $286.65 on fifteen Gaylord boxes to help collect the three most prevalent forms of lab waste (#5 plastics, gloves, and polystyrene). We spent $1,146.60 on transporting all recyclable lab items to a regional recycling center. The funding for the freezers ($30,465.71) was provided by UAB Facilities. All remaining funds ($22,463.25) were provided by UAB Sustainability.

Project Results (or results to date)-Describe the outcomes that resulted from the project implementation: From its inception in November 2016, the UAB Green Labs Program has grown to over 100 participating labs. From January 2017 to March 2019, UAB Green Labs has helped recycle more than 20,000 pounds of waste from UAB research labs. UAB Green Labs has also helped conserve energy in research labs. Conservative estimates indicate that by participating in UAB Green Labs, individual labs reduced energy use by 20,000 kWh/year: this is equivalent to how much energy an average home uses in 18 months. Last year’s building-wide pilot alone conserved over 620,000 kWh from January 2018 to January 2019, helping save over $12,000. Given the number of participants currently signed on to the program, has the potential to conserve 2,000 MWh annually.

Lessons learned-Describe what you learned through this project that would be helpful to others wishing to undertake a similar project: Implementing the UAB Green Labs Program has been, and continues to be, an informative experience. Lessons learned from the program include:
• In order to assess the possibility of implementing a green lab initiative, it is optimal to begin with a pilot program.
• Labs often need incentives to participate in additional work outside of their research.
• Many labs deliberately leave equipment on throughout the night to avoid inconveniencing themselves in the morning. Providing free power-saving equipment encourages researchers to quit this practice because there is no cost to the lab.
• Providing researchers with basic freezer maintenance services also encourages them to learn how to do these procedures on their own, while prolonging the life of their equipment and driving down energy costs.
• Energy incentives & rebates from utility companies aren’t necessary for drastically reducing energy consumption.
• To encourage labs to purchase more sustainable equipment, facilities and research departments must pay the difference between energy efficient and non-energy efficient options in order to make the process more affordable for labs.
• A building-wide pilot program to show the monetary benefits of a program is recommended before committing funds to purchasing sustainable and efficient equipment.
• Participating labs gain a sense of camaraderie that drives them to be even more sustainable.

Has the institution had staff, students or faculty serving on a board or committee of a sustainability network or conference during the previous three years? :

A list or brief description of the board or committee appointment(s):
Anthony Hood (UAB Business faculty): Green Resource Center of Alabama Board of Directors http://www.grcalabama.org/
Jim McClintock (UAB Endowed Polar and Marine Biologist): EO Wilson Biodiversity Foundation Board of Advisors; Board of The Nature Conservancy in Alabama
Julie Price (staff): Cahaba River Society Board of Directors; The World Games 2021 Sustainability Task Force Co-Chair; Innovate Birmingham Sustainability subcommittee
Charles D. Amsler (faculty): United States Representative to Standing Scientific Committee on Life Sciences

Does the institution have an ongoing mentoring relationship with another institution through which it assists the institution with its sustainability reporting and/or the development of its sustainability program?:

A brief description of the mentoring relationship and activities:
We have a formal group of sustainability officers in higher education in Alabama who meet twice per year, rotating among campuses. We have met at UAB, UA, UAH, UNA, and USA. Those with formal offices offer mentoring and presentations to schools with partial or no employees assigned to sustainability. In addition, our office regularly gives presentations to other institutions within Birmingham (University of Montevallo) to share our program.

Has the institution had staff, faculty, or students serving as peer reviewers of another institution’s sustainability data (e.g. GHG emissions or course inventory) and/or STARS submission during the previous three years?:

A brief description of the peer review activities:

Has the institution participated in other collaborative efforts around sustainability during the previous year, e.g. joint planning or resource sharing with other institutions? :

A brief description of other collaborative efforts around sustainability during the previous year:

The website URL where information about the programs or initiatives is available:

Additional documentation to support the submission:

Data source(s) and notes about the submission:

The information presented here is self-reported. While AASHE staff review portions of all STARS reports and institutions are welcome to seek additional forms of review, the data in STARS reports are not verified by AASHE. If you believe any of this information is erroneous or inconsistent with credit criteria, please review the process for inquiring about the information reported by an institution or simply email your inquiry to stars@aashe.org.