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Welcome to UCSF Green Labs! Here you will find resources, tips and best practices to make your lab more sustainable. Our suggested simple actions save money, reduce energy use, and make the lab more efficient for researchers and lab managers.

Labs consume significantly more energy per square foot than the average building due to specialized equipment, such as laboratory fume hoods, -80 degrees freezers, and other research equipment. Operating labs as efficiently as possible will, thus, significantly reduce a lab’s carbon footprint and energy requirements.

Chill Up Your Freezer:  -70C is the new -80C
According to MyGreenLab, chilling up your ultra-low freezer from -80 degrees Celsius (C) to -70C has two major benefits:  it can reduce energy consumption by 30% and in doing so it can prolong the life of your freezer.  This means less down time and less chance that your samples will be compromised.


Freezer Rebates
The Office of Sustainability provides freezer rebates to labs looking to replace old, inefficient ULT freezers with energy efficient ones. For more information, click here.

Defrost freezers frequently
Ice acts as an insulator. When it builds up in a freezer, the system uses more energy to maintain the required temperature. Freezers should be defrosted when the ice is greater than 5 mm. Ask us for a free freezer brush!

Get a Mop
Clean up water and ice spills with a mop instead of paper towels and or absorbent pad. This will come in handy when defrosting your freezers as well.

Shut Your Sash
According to MyGreenLab, a single fume hood can use as much energy as 3.5 households every day due to the large volume of air that must be moved through the hood by the ventilation system. Lowering or shutting the sash reduces the speed of the exhaust fan, thereby reducing the energy used by the fume hood ventilation system.

Turn off or unplug equipment when not in use
This one is obvious, but a friendly reminder always helps. If a piece of equipment is not being used, turn it off. This applies to lights, centrifuges, shakers, computer monitors, and fume hoods. Another easy way to reduce energy and waste in the lab is to identify equipment that does not need to run 24/7 and use a timer to turn the items off in the evening and back on in the morning.  Items such as heating blocks and mixers can easily be plugged into one power strip and programed to automatically turn off at the end of the day.

When left plugged in, our electronic gadgets and basic appliances still use what’s called phantom or vampire energy — even when they are turned off or in sleep mode. For example, a plugged-in cell phone charger sucks energy even when it’s not charging your phone. There is a simple antidote:  unplug it when not in use.  The use of a power strip can make this easy to do for multiple devices. Using a “smart” power strip that automatically shuts off when devices are inactive makes this even easier.

We provide free services for power strips and timer installations! Simply reach out to us at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) to request this service.

Buy Energy Star and EPEAT
If you are purchasing new equipment, look for Energy Star and EPEAT labels. Go here to see Energy Star lab-grade freezer and refrigerator options. For desktops, laptops, imaging equipment, mobile phones, and televisions, look for the EPEAT, ecolabel to identify and compare high-performance, more-sustainable products.

Links to Energy Star products by category:
LED Lights
Computer Monitors
Data Center Storage
Hot and Cold Water Dispensers
Ice Machines

UCSF Facilities Services Water Efficient Equipment Incentive Program
New UC Office of the President policy requires the elimination of once-through water cooling for equipment. Equipment will be metered for two months pre-installation, and post-installation until the water savings payback is met. The incentive will be met if the water savings for the incentive amount are met in one year.

  Sterilizers can receive a rebate of $5000
  Sterilizers using water cooling consume between 150,000-1,000,000 gallons of water per year.

  Other Lab Equipment can receive a rebate of $1000
  Lab Equipment such as Glass Washers, Ice Machines and Condensers can consume between
  25,000-150,000 gallons per year.
  Pipette Racks for Glass Washers will receive a rebate for 50% of the purchase cost.

UCSF Facilities Services Laboratory Faucet Maintenance and Efficiency Program
Facilities Services is initiating a program to perform maintenance and efficiency work on laboratory faucets using domestic and industrial water for washing/rinsing. The program does not include faucets using purified water at this time.
Faucets will be cleaned up, and maintenance will be performed on all components. In addition, 1 gallon per minute laminar flow restrictors will be installed to improve water efficiency.

For more information on incentive and maintenance programs, contact UCSF Water Coordinator, Eli Perszyk at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Save Water in your Lab

1.  Conserve high quality water (deionized, reverse osmosis, distilled). For every four gallons made of these highly processed waters, one gallon of “rejected” water is sent to the drain. Consider alternatives to stand-alone reverse osmosis and other purification systems. Are they really necessary?

2.  Don’t “overwash” dishes/glassware:  If you are using a dish- or glasswasher, choose the correct settings for the type of labware you are actually running through, and don’t set dishes/glassware under a running faucet and walk away. 
Set up five wash basins: (1) soap and water; (2) tap water rinse; (3) 2, 5, or 10 percent hydrochloric acid rinse; (4) and (5) two separate deionized water rinse basins. Rewash your plastic wares and save money.  Steris glasswashers can be set to reuse the last rinsewater for the next wash cycle.  Contact Facilities Services to request this.

3.  When replacing equipment that employs single-pass water cooling, replace it with equipment that uses a closed-loop cooling system or can be placed on the campus chilled water loop. By doing this, UC Davis Chemistry department is saving about 2 million gallons (more than 7.5 million liters) per year of drinking water, in addition to saving money on helium recovery.

4.  Eliminate vacuum aspirators, and use a vacuum pump for the same task. This can save about 238 gallons (900 liters) of water per hour of use and avoid the possibility of contaminating water with solvent residue.

5.  Evaluate programming cycles loaded onto autoclaves and verify that programs match purpose.  Determine which autoclaves/sterilizers are at the end of their life cycle and consider Facilities Service recommendations for energy and water efficient replacements. Ensure that written standard operating procedures (developed from the manufacturer’s instructions) are kept nearby and followed.

6.  Re-evaluate habits/practices to ensure they adhere to current best practice standards and avoid developing long-term habits/practices that have been exaggerated over time. (Example: setting timers on autoclaves to wash longer than necessary is a common habit that becomes common practice over time so that lab staff no longer are adhering to more efficient standards)

7. Report leaks or any other plumbing issue in the lab. To report, you can call (415) 476-2021, filing a work order, or emailing .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Your lab will save water, eliminate unnecessary leaks, and be a good steward of campus resources.

Send your comments and questions to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or any ideas about water conservation to


·      VWR Sustainability Incentive Program

·      Corning Recycles

·      New England Biolabs Styrofoam Takeback Program

·      Sigma Aldrich Styrofoam Takeback Program

·      Kimberly-Clark Glove Recycling Program

·      Genesee Pipet Tip Recycling

Interested in becoming a UCSF LivingGreen Certified Lab? Just fill out this self-assessment form and get rewarded for the safe, sustainable lab practices you have already implemented, and explore new ways to reduce the environmental impact of your lab. More information here.
We are excited to report that, in 2017, the Matthew State Lab became the first-ever LivingGreen Platinum Certified Lab at UCSF. How did they do it? Click here to read their story.

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