Labs are critical to Harvard’s research mission but also consume almost half the electricity on campus- which is why the FAS Green Program is partnering with researchers to reduce energy use in labs with a creative and fun new energy competition.

After 6 weeks of tough competition, the first lab-oriented environmental competition at Harvard came to a close on April 9th, just in time for Earth Day and the Harvard Green Carpet Awards. The pilot project hosted by the Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology Department (HSCRB) involved 16 labs in two buildings and targeted five key areas related lab energy efficiency and waste reduction:

  • Shutting fume hoods when not in use.
  • Keeping freezers free of ice buildup.
  • Turning off small benchtop appliances when not in use.
  • Turning off task lights.
  • Recycling in the lab.

Weekly walkthroughs were conducted, and labs were awarded points based on a scale of 1-5 (1 point for poor compliance and 5 points for excellent compliance). Bonus points were also awarded to any lab that implemented an original idea, to encourage creativity and engagement. The goal was to earn as many points as possible over the course of the competition. At the end of the 6 week period, the Macklis, Zon, and Rubin labs earned the winning title, and a celebratory wine and cheese party was thrown in their honor.

One of most exciting outcomes of the competition was the original ideas that labs implemented in order to get bonus points, including:

  • Turning off empty -80 freezers to save energy.
  • Contacting manufacturers to request less packaging with orders
  • Switching from plasticware to glassware in the lab.
  • Starting a reuse program for unwanted lab equipment.
  • Composting.

The competition was a successful pilot program, in part because it was very effective at raising awareness about environmental issues within the research community at HSCRB. Researchers, staff and students within the department all embraced the effort and a friendly and competitive atmosphere emerged. The success of the program provides a useful model for other departments to follow suit, and hopefully it can be modified and expanded upon moving forward.

The Macklis LabThe Macklis Lab

The Zon LabThe Zon Lab

The Rubin LabThe Rubin Lab

The HSCRB Department moved into the newly renovated Sherman-Fairchild building this fall, which boasts a number of environmentally friendly and energy efficient features including a new electrical sub-metering scheme that allows energy consumption to be tracked by floor. These new energy efficient features - along with the competitive nature and collaborative environment at the HSCRB Department - inspired members of the department to suggest a floor by floor competition based on environmental criteria.