Phil Wirdzek

Founding President and Executive Director
1952-2021

Phil and Annie WirdzekPhilip James Wirdzek was the Founding President of the International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories (I2SL). For more than 15 years he served as Executive Director and President, until his unexpected passing October 9, 2021. Phil was the driving force behind I2SL, starting a non-profit organization from his home with the help of his wife Annie, and growing it into an international network of lab designers, engineers, owners, operators, users, managers, vendors, and service providers. But he was so much more—a loving husband, a devoted father, a faithful leader, a community volunteer, and model train enthusiast, to name a just few of his avocations.

An affable leader with an eye for great ideas, Phil had a knack for bringing together lab innovators in a warm and inviting environment that allowed individuals to grow, projects to incubate, and working groups to achieve results. He did his best work in a fast-paced environment and inspired other high-energy colleagues to make great contributions to the field. Phil excelled at forging relationships between stakeholders that resulted in new processes, tools, and educational materials that greatly benefitted the laboratory community. The I2SL Annual Conference and Technology and Services Fair is the go-to event for lab sustainability professionals around the world, thanks to Phil’s oversight of content and encouragement of networking. He also encouraged local leaders to create I2SL chapters in 12 U.S. regions and internationally, helping labs in many corners of the word be more efficient and sustainable.

Prior to founding I2SL with Beth Shearer and Kath Williams, Phil was a career employee for 27 years with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). He began laying the foundation of I2SL’s precursor, the Laboratories for the 21st Century (Labs21) program, in the early 1990s, when he was working as the national energy and pollution prevention coordinator for EPA's own laboratories and in conjunction with the Federal Energy Management Program. As the Labs21 program manager, Phil directed the development of all program components, including marketing and public relations, partnerships, conferences and workshops, technical support and program tools, and the Labs21 Centers of Excellence.

Through his work with engineers, architects, facility managers, and technology and service providers, Phil helped EPA evolve to “walk the talk” and pushed the Agency to become the first major purchaser of green power among all federal agencies. He was also crucial in the creation of EPA's Sustainable Facilities Practices Branch in 2000, which continues to this day as the Sustainable Transportation and Solutions Branch focused on making EPA a leader in federal sustainability.

For his many accomplishments at EPA, Phil received numerous awards, including the Agency's gold medal for developing the Labs21 program, the James W. Craig Pollution Prevention Leadership Award, two presidential awards for federal energy management, and the Environmental Professional of the Year award from the Association of Energy Engineers. And while the awards speak to his achievements, it was his drive, innovative spirit, and ability to forge relationships among agencies and stakeholders that made efficiency in high-tech facilities the important issue that it is today. Phil is greatly missed among all who care about lab sustainability, but his legacy lives on in the continued work of I2SL.