Office of Energy & Sustainability

How to Make Your Lab Greener

Sustainability and human health go hand in hand. Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) manage the use of chemicals and the disposal of hazardous waste at Weill Cornell Medicine, but researchers can take steps to make their labs greener.

Interesting fact: If labs could divert 2% of plastic from landfills, they would save 100 million metric tons of CO2.

(Source: The Rheaply Platform)


Work With Your Vendor

  • Choose greener products: Ask your supplier for products made of more sustainable materials or less toxic ingredients.
  • Order locally to reduce the footprint of transportation and fuel waste.
  • Condense your orders once or twice weekly so products ship together with less packaging.


  • Avoid using unnecessary plasticware, solvents, and other materials.

--> For example, refillable pipette tips, use much less plastic than prepackaged ones.

--> Order samples rather then entire bottles for test experiments. 

  • When possible, prepare bulk solutions to reduce tips and tubes, reorganize experiments to minimize tubes, plates, and tips, or explore alternative methods that have reduced steps.
  • Use smaller plastic items when possible, and purchase plasticware made of recycled plastic.


  • When possible, reuse certain plasticware (centrifuge tubes, weigh boats, cell culture plates), or use glassware, and autoclave if permissible. When considering what is reusable, it is best to check with the manufacturer. 
  • Reuse reagent and media bottles – glass or plastic - as container for sharps contaminated with chemical or hazardous materials (which need to be kept separate from other regular sharp waste and disposed of by EHS). Note: No bottles which contained EPA –P-listed materials. Verify the compatibility of the waste with the container material, triple rinse, and cross out the labels.

  • Repurpose working pieces from broken equipment.


Recyclable items can include:

  • Pipette Tip Boxes
  • Non-Hazardous Reagent or Solvent Bottles (Triple-rinsed and with labels crossed out)
  • Cardboard
  • Clean aluminum foil
  • Paper from labs.

Share Resources and Equipment

Choose EnergyStar Products

Upgrade inefficient laboratory equipment and make sure to purchase EnergyStar products to maximize energy savings.

Shut the Sash

Fume hoods are one of the most energy-intensive pieces of equipment on campus and should be kept at the lowest possible level when working and closed when not in use. Please visit the EHS site for more information on the Shut the Sash initiative.

Minimize Energy Use

  • Properly maintain ultra-low temperature freezers, including defrosting them at least once a year. Consider setting them to -70°C rather than -80°C. Learn more about ULT maintenance here.
  • Turn off instruments and lights when not in use. 
  • Use outlet timers to schedule auto-turns on/off (drying oven, water bath).

Avoid Water Waste

  • Inform Facilities Management & Campus Operations immediately of any leaks in your lab.
  • Run the autoclave only at full load and with water-saving cycles. In Belfer, autoclaves are programmed for automatic schedules, usually M-F 6am-8pm. If the schedules can be shortened, please contact the Belfer autoclave manager. Autoclaves require constant water to temper steam condensate to drain, even when they are on standby, at the rate of 1 gallon per minute!
  • Use purified water only when really needed.  It takes about 3 liters of water to make 1 liter of deionized water. Moreover, to make purified water, you need energy for the purification process.
  • Use metallic bath beads instead of a water bath. Did you know: you can cool metallic beads in the -80 and use them to keep samples frozen instead of dry ice?
  • Avoid single-pass water coolers and use systems that recycle the water (like recirculating chillers) or substitute water-cooled condensers with waterless condensers (CondenSyn Waterless Air CondenserFindenser).

Consider Green Chemistry Alternatives

Substitute toxic ethidium bromide with GelRed®, GelGreen®, or SYBR® Safe. Beyond Benign is a great resource. The free Millipore-Sigma tool DOZN can help you understand which synthetic route is more environmentally friendly.

Plan Microscale Protocols

Plan microscale protocols before scaling up to save money and reduce material usage.



Did you know

Earth Day was founded in 1970. U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin called for a nationwide demonstration in the spring of 1970 aimed to raise awareness of environmental issues. It worked. The first national Earth Day was April 22, 1970.

Office of Energy & Sustainability 1300 York Avenue, LC006, Box 14, New York, NY 10065