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Sustainability and Science: How Eco-Friendly Labs are Contributing to a Greener World



There’s absolutely no question that scientific laboratories are beneficial and much-needed in the world. It’s in scientific and biological research facilities that research is conducted and implemented, and cures and medicines are created. And, because the attraction to science is to make the world a better place, many laboratories are pursing noble goals beyond their work, such as going green in the lab.

Across the country, science labs are stepping up their game in an effort to contribute to a greener world. In an effort to be more eco-friendly, labs are gravitating toward projects that help the environment as well as participating in research activities that are less impactful.

Designing an Eco-Friendly Lab:

An eco-friendly lab doesn’t waste energy; in fact, reducing energy waste is a top priority. That’s because laboratories are notorious for their energy usage. For example, Harvard University is more than 25 million square feet and laboratories account for only 21 percent of that space; yet, those labs consume nearly half the campus’s energy.

“It’s a very energy-intensive space,” says Jamie Bermis, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Green Program Coordinator at Harvard. Simply put, laboratories consume the majority of campus utilities, as well as business labs, which also hemorrhage energy.

If possible, you may want to consider moving your lab to a more efficient location or using a service to house your lab’s equipment while you renovate. With today’s improved sciences (at-temperature backup freezers, electrical systems, etc.), lab relocation is safer than ever and an efficiently designed laboratory is going to cost less to operate.

Here are some eco-friendly ideas for the lab:

·  Close the sashes on unused chemical fume hoods

·  Defrost freezers

·  Shut off lights and other power guzzlers at the end of the day

·  Participate in multiple batch rinses instead of running the water all day

·  Pick green chemicals over non-green ones

Eco-Friendly Labs to Look Up To:

Some campus labs are already as green as they can be. Or, they’re on their way to reducing energy waste and thus reducing costs. These are a few of the best performing labs, and you can emulate their behaviors to make your lab that much more sustainable.

Harvard University FAS Sherman Fairchild Laboratory:

Harvard has always set a precedence in terms of eco-friendliness. The FAS Sherman Fairchild Lab is one of the most recent built-on-campus projects that is unique in its composition. In fact, 91 percent of the lab’s building materials are recycled. It was also built so that 97 percent of the lab is exposed to natural sunlight. Additionally, the lab was built using low VOC paints and sealants.

Pomona College Richard C. Seaver Biology Building:

Another amazing eco-friendly lab is Pomona College’s Biology Building. Just like the Harvard lab, the biology building was built in a way that attracts natural sunlight, which helps reduce the amount of energy that’s wasted on lighting. Additionally, the school is outfitted with solar panels and concrete floors. One of its most unique features is the electric vehicle charging station located outside the building.

Aberystwyth University Institute of Biological, Environmental, and Rural Sciences (IBERS):

Not only was IBERS constructed from approximately 80 percent recycled material, its primary use is to research and develop ways to make the planet greener. The laboratory is mainly focused on climate change, and looks for ways to help ensure humanity successfully survives it. The IBERS building has a natural ventilation system and a rainwater harvesting system. Builders created IBERS hoping it would inspire students to become more focused on the environment.  

Overall, there are countless reasons your lab should go green. It will lower costs, and it’s an exceptional way to give back to the earth and your community. Even little changes make a world of difference, so consider auditing your greenness and implementing some changes today.  


Will Self-Driving Cars Be Better for the Environment?



self-driving cars for green environment
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Zapp2Photo |

Technologists, engineers, lawmakers, and the general public have been excitedly debating about the merits of self-driving cars for the past several years, as companies like Waymo and Uber race to get the first fully autonomous vehicles on the market. Largely, the concerns have been about safety and ethics; is a self-driving car really capable of eliminating the human errors responsible for the majority of vehicular accidents? And if so, who’s responsible for programming life-or-death decisions, and who’s held liable in the event of an accident?

But while these questions continue being debated, protecting people on an individual level, it’s worth posing a different question: how will self-driving cars impact the environment?

The Big Picture

The Department of Energy attempted to answer this question in clear terms, using scientific research and existing data sets to project the short-term and long-term environmental impact that self-driving vehicles could have. Its findings? The emergence of self-driving vehicles could essentially go either way; it could reduce energy consumption in transportation by as much as 90 percent, or increase it by more than 200 percent.

That’s a margin of error so wide it might as well be a total guess, but there are too many unknown variables to form a solid conclusion. There are many ways autonomous vehicles could influence our energy consumption and environmental impact, and they could go well or poorly, depending on how they’re adopted.

Driver Reduction?

One of the big selling points of autonomous vehicles is their capacity to reduce the total number of vehicles—and human drivers—on the road. If you’re able to carpool to work in a self-driving vehicle, or rely on autonomous public transportation, you’ll spend far less time, money, and energy on your own car. The convenience and efficiency of autonomous vehicles would therefore reduce the total miles driven, and significantly reduce carbon emissions.

There’s a flip side to this argument, however. If autonomous vehicles are far more convenient and less expensive than previous means of travel, it could be an incentive for people to travel more frequently, or drive to more destinations they’d otherwise avoid. In this case, the total miles driven could actually increase with the rise of self-driving cars.

As an added consideration, the increase or decrease in drivers on the road could result in more or fewer vehicle collisions, respectively—especially in the early days of autonomous vehicle adoption, when so many human drivers are still on the road. Car accident injury cases, therefore, would become far more complicated, and the roads could be temporarily less safe.


Deadheading is a term used in trucking and ridesharing to refer to miles driven with an empty load. Assume for a moment that there’s a fleet of self-driving vehicles available to pick people up and carry them to their destinations. It’s a convenient service, but by necessity, these vehicles will spend at least some of their time driving without passengers, whether it’s spent waiting to pick someone up or en route to their location. The increase in miles from deadheading could nullify the potential benefits of people driving fewer total miles, or add to the damage done by their increased mileage.

Make and Model of Car

Much will also depend on the types of cars equipped to be self-driving. For example, Waymo recently launched a wave of self-driving hybrid minivans, capable of getting far better mileage than a gas-only vehicle. If the majority of self-driving cars are electric or hybrids, the environmental impact will be much lower than if they’re converted from existing vehicles. Good emissions ratings are also important here.

On the other hand, the increased demand for autonomous vehicles could put more pressure on factory production, and make older cars obsolete. In that case, the gas mileage savings could be counteracted by the increased environmental impact of factory production.

The Bottom Line

Right now, there are too many unanswered questions to make a confident determination whether self-driving vehicles will help or harm the environment. Will we start driving more, or less? How will they handle dead time? What kind of models are going to be on the road?

Engineers and the general public are in complete control of how this develops in the near future. Hopefully, we’ll be able to see all the safety benefits of having autonomous vehicles on the road, but without any of the extra environmental impact to deal with.

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Road Trip! How to Choose the Greenest Vehicle for Your Growing Family



Greenest Vehicle
Licensed Image by Shutterstock - By Mascha Tace --

When you have a growing family, it often feels like you’re in this weird bubble that exists outside of mainstream society. Whereas everyone else seemingly has stability, your family dynamic is continuously in flux. Having said that, is it even possible to buy an eco-friendly vehicle that’s also practical?

What to Look for in a Green, Family-Friendly Vehicle?

As a single person or young couple without kids, it’s pretty easy to buy a green vehicle. Almost every leading car brand has eco-friendly options these days and you can pick from any number of options. The only problem is that most of these models don’t work if you have kids.

Whether it’s a Prius or Smart car, most green vehicles are impractical for large families. You need to look for options that are spacious, reliable, and comfortable – both for passengers and the driver.

5 Good Options

As you do your research and look for different opportunities, it’s good to have an open mind. Here are some of the greenest options for growing families:

1. 2014 Chrysler Town and Country

Vans are not only popular for the room and comfort they offer growing families, but they’re also becoming known for their fuel efficiency. For example, the 2014 Chrysler Town and Country – which was one of CarMax’s most popular minivans of 2017 – has Flex Fuel compatibility and front wheel drive. With standard features like these, you can’t do much better at this price point.

2. 2017 Chrysler Pacifica

If you’re looking for a newer van and are willing to spend a bit more, you can go with Chrysler’s other model, the Pacifica. One of the coolest features of the 2017 model is the hybrid drivetrain. It allows you to go up to 30 miles on electric, before the vehicle automatically switches over to the V6 gasoline engine. For short trips and errands, there’s nothing more eco-friendly in the minivan category.

3. 2018 Volkswagen Atlas

Who says you have to buy a minivan when you have a family? Sure, the sliding doors are nice, but there are plenty of other options that are both green and spacious. The new Volkswagen Atlas is a great choice. It’s one of the most fuel-efficient third-row vehicles on the market. The four-cylinder model gets an estimated 26 mpg highway.

4. 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

While a minivan or SUV is ideal – and necessary if you have more than two kids – you can get away with a roomy sedan when you still have a small family. And while there are plenty of eco-friendly options in this category, the 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is arguably the biggest bang for your buck. It gets 38 mpg on the highway and is incredibly affordable.

5. 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Diesel

If money isn’t an object and you’re able to spend any amount to get a good vehicle that’s both comfortable and eco-friendly, the 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Diesel is your car. Not only does it get 28 mpg highway, but it can also be equipped with a third row of seats and a diesel engine. And did we mention that this car looks sleek?

Putting it All Together

You have a variety of options. Whether you want something new or used, would prefer an SUV or minivan, or want something cheap or luxurious, there are plenty of choices on the market. The key is to do your research, remain patient, and take your time. Don’t get too married to a particular transaction, or you’ll lose your leverage.

You’ll know when the right deal comes along, and you can make a smart choice that’s functional, cost-effective, and eco-friendly.

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