Laboratories at MIT push boundaries beyond their primary research. Case in point: This year several labs signed on to reduce waste and hazardous materials and conserve energy and water.
It began on Earth Day, when MIT’s Environment, Health and Safety Office (EHS) awarded $5,000 in seed money to help labs create a culture of sustainability. Over the next several months, eight labs competed in the Green Labs contest.
Prizes included two $5000 awards, for the most resources saved and the most innovative solution. The winners — the Brushett Lab and the Wang Lab — were announced at a poster session in the Stata Center on Dec. 12.
Eyes on the prize
The Brushett Lab in the Department of Chemical Engineering (ChemE) won the award for the most resources saved. Aiming to become a net-zero-waste lab, its members managed to recycle almost all of their consumables, including gloves. They also adjusted equipment pumping speeds and gas pressure set points and reduced their use of electrolytes.
The Wang Lab in the Department of Mechanical Engineering won the award for the most innovative solution. They set up a complete energy monitoring test lab with WeMo switches and used it to determine which changes would save the most energy. They also plan to establish a Lab Energy Assessment Center, where MIT students in the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program would be deployed to labs to monitor energy use and recommend changes.
The other labs that competed also did their part to make a difference:
Behind the scenes, MIT and the environment both benefited from the contest:
Next up: North American Freezer Challenge
EHS wants MIT to win the North American Freezer Challenge. The award will be given out in Boston next October to labs with the best energy-saving practices for cold storage. To compete, labs need to sign up by Jan. 15. To find out more, attend one of the IAP kickoff sessions on Jan. 9 or 11.
The Green Labs contest was sponsored by EHS, with support from Campus Construction, The Office of Sustainability, MIT Recycling, the Department of Chemical Engineering, the Koch Institute, and MIT.nano.