Sustainability is hiring students! Learn more about current opportunities
uc davis researcher working in a laboratory


Of all building types, labs are the most energy intensive.

Compared to offices or classrooms, laboratories consume much higher levels of energy and water per square foot and also generate considerably more solid, chemical and electronic waste.

Lab Impacts Sustainability Goals Progress Campus Actions

Lab Impacts

  • Energy. Many labs operate 24/7 in order to continue experiments, preserve samples and support specimens. Air exchange and ventilation in labs must be designed to prevent exposure to hazardous or toxic fumes. In addition, many labs use large or specialized equipment, such as ultra low-temperature freezers, with intensive energy requirements.
  • Waste. Nitrile gloves, pipettes, foam coolers, batteries… these are just a few of the commonly-used materials in labs that have special disposal requirements and can represent high volumes of material in the waste stream at research universities.
  • Water. Specialized uses of water in labs include cooling chemical reactions, washing labware, and running autoclaves and ice makers. Some processes may require purified water, which adds high expense to the overall problem of water waste.
  • Electronics. Electronic equipment may require high energy to produce experimental results. It often draws phantom energy, even when not running. Specialized equipment needs to be maintained and operated correctly for maximum efficiency, and it needs to disposed of appropriately at the end of its lifecycle or when no longer needed by the lab.
  • Chemistry.  Green chemistry means designing experiments to reduce and/or eliminate hazardous substances instead of focusing on waste handling, disposal and treatment after a procedure or material has been developed.
  • Field work. Research in the field may involve staking or flagging of research sites. Reusable or recyclable staking materials can be removed when research is complete. Any irrigation requirements need to use the most water-efficient materials and techniques. Data collection needs to reduce or eliminate paper. The carbon footprint of travel to and from the field as well as impacts on the local community also need to be considered.
  • Community. It's no single person's responsibility to create a green lab. It's an ongoing process of planning, decision-making and lab operation in which the principal investigator, lab managers, post docs, graduate students and undergraduate students all need to participate.

Sustainability Goals

  1. Implement an ongoing Green Lab assessment program.
  2. Assess three research groups for Green Lab certification.


Campus Actions

  • Green Workplace –Through its Green Workplace Certification program, the Office of Sustainability helps labs throughout campus implement sustainable practices. 
  • Freezer Challenge – The Office of Sustainability also helps support labs choosing to enroll in the annual Freezer Challenge, an international challenge to improve cold storage management practices for lab freezers and reduce associated energy demand. 
  • Hood Sash Stickers – UC Davis sells a fume hood sash sticker, designed by a former Office of Sustainability employee, to encourage people to “shut the sash” for both safety and energy savings;
  • Green Chemistry – The UC Davis Department of Chemistry is a signatory to the Green Chemistry Commitment of Beyond Benign Green Chemistry Education. This is a demonstration of commitment to teaching safe and sustainable lab practices to chemistry students.