Thursday, September 18, 2008

RNase Zap Day: the good, the bad, and the ugly.


This was a big day for the lab. Basically we needed to completely clean the lab of RNases by using this RNase Zap product. The best part of the day was getting the entire lab, (me and the computer peons) to work together and get the lab ready to start experiments. The hardest part of the day was seeing all of the paper towels it took to accomplish this task. Step one was an ETOH wipe down... a few paper towels for this. Then the Zap, which needed to be scrubbed using a paper towel... a few more here. Then a rinse step with a wet paper towel, and last step was the final wipe down with a dry towel. So for each lab bench, each shelf in the freezers, fridges, and storage drawers, there was a significant amount of trash. The way I had to look at it was this: If I did not fully get the lab clean, there would be potential RNase's floating around that could contaminate any samples. If this were to happen, then I would have to go through many trouble shooting repeats of the experiment to figure out where the contamination came from. In essence, even more waste of lab materials. In the end, I did find out that the paper towels we were using did contain some post consumer waste, so there was some greenness to this Zap Day.
The event ended with an outside veggie only pizza party, thanks to TheBOSS!!

Friday, September 12, 2008

The paper towel dilemma

I was asked to order paper towels for the lab. The only condition is that they need to be chlorine bleached. Since I am determined to set up a green lab, I went searching for an Eco-friendly or recycled paper towels that are chlorine bleached. The problem with this request is that there seems to be no such thing. If you want the paper towels to be made environmentally friendly, then you would not use the chlorine bleaching method, since it is very non-Eco-friendly.
OK, but can't there be a compromise? Can't someone make paper towels by using recycled paper and then chlorine bleach them? It doesn't really make entire sense, but it would still be better than using virgin trees to make the towels.

Shout out to the most awesome Boss!

I never thought I could be this lucky.
I was searching for a camera, to document the setting up of my Earth and Energy conscience RNA Laboratory. In a google search, I typed "eco-friendly camera" and low and behold one popped up. The day I did the search turned out to be a day when there was a special promotion through Ritz Camera. The deal was for an eco-bundle green Nikon Coolpix digital camera! The deal being that the money for the camera goes to funding the reforestation efforts of and "will offset 1.91 tons of carbon dioxide per camera sold."
I couldn't believe I found an actual Green camera, both literally and figuratively. Of course that was the one I wanted, BUT, it was not through a contracted supplier. Unless I filled out a million forms, there was no way that I could order it with our funding. Yet our employment has a "green initiative" going on that says we need to be more environmentally-friendly, but does not support outside deals, which means we can only order items through the contracted suppliers.
So I gave up on this very exciting camera and ordered one from the supplier's list. A few weeks later, there is still no camera. Turns out that the one I chose has been back-ordered through the end of October!
I decided to give TheBoss a call. I told him the situation, and how perfect this green camera would fit for the lab.
To my surprise, he handed over his credit card! The camera is set to arrive this Monday, just in time to take a few pics of our upcoming RNase Zap Day. (An explanation of that later.)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Hypocritical situation

One of the items that I needed to order is NOT green. Laundry detergent. I wanted to be able to wash my lab coats, since we have a washer and dryer in the lab, and not send it out to a service. Since, again, we work with RNA, I can't use natural cleanser because the enzymes could ruin my RNA and I would have to repeat and waste more supplies. When I put in the order for a chemical laundry detergent, (Tide) I received an email from the purchasing unit that I needed to choose an environmentally friendly cleaner as opposed to the chemical one that I had chosen due to the new Green initiative at our center. I wanted to scream at her, if only she knew how much effort I am putting in to be more green and less wasteful!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Greetings from the minion

So I want to introduce myelf as a beginner blogger, but I have an important quest. To set up a micro/wet lab to be environmentally friendly. I have put many long hours into searching for products that are eco-friendly and are still in compliance with working in a research lab. One of my first exciting purchases was a new printer. It's from Staples and is energy star efficient and does double sided printing. I was able to get it with a $250 rebate! Another important website I found is for buying eco-friendly electronics.

A message from the Boss

Doing science in a way that is respectful to the environment may seem like a lost cause. After all, most of the daily supplies we use are designed to be thrown away. Furthermore, since time is money, if we can do something faster we generally do it even if it involves throwing away more stuff (think using a kit instead of buying reagents in bulk). Nonetheless, we believe it should be possible to make some changes in the way we do things that does not compromise the science we do, while still reducing the amount of waste/pollution we produce.

I asked Earthmuffin (who works for me) to setup this blog to share with everyone all the things that we are trying do in our lab to reduce waste. The idea is that even if we all do a little, it can still add up to a lot. For example, if everybody gets a double-sided printer, we can significantly reduce the amount of paper we use. This doesn't only make sense from an environmental perspective, but also financially. In these hard times, every PI should be thinking about ways to save money too.

Since Earthmuffin spends a little extra time each time we order supplies figuring out which item is least polluting, she will regularly post her findings here for everyone to see. As this blog gets indexed, we hope it can become a reference for anyone else concerned about scientific waste and the environment.