The Implementation of a Green Labs Program at University of Alabama at Birmingham

Nicholas Ciancio, University of Alabama at Birmingham

In a partnership with UAB Sustainability and my Green Lab, we implemented a Green Labs Program that was dedicated to encouraging sustainable lab techniques throughout research labs on campus. We learned that labs were originally resistant to participate due to a lacking incentive. We then offered all charter members that were willing to parcipate in the pilot program the opportunity to randomly receive an ULT freezer as an incentive. Encouragement from department chairs was also helpful in promoting participation. In an effort to reduce energy use we offered free power equipment (outlet timers, power strips) to participants. In an effort to combat waste production, we implemented three new recycling programs that address pipette tip boxes, polystyrene, and glove. These waste streams account for nearly 28% of waste produced in our labs. One important lesson was that we saw the biggest reduction in waste and energy use through behavioral changes made within labs. After finishing the pilot program we were able to quantify the projected energy savings of six labs over one year. Combined, the labs were projected to save over 150,000 kilowatt hours annually. We found that most labs were unaware of existing sustainability programs that would help divert waste from landfills.

Learning Objectives

  • Identify directions and methods to implement a green labs program at their university that will help divert waste produced in labs from the landfill.
  • Learn how to provide incentives to encourage labs to participate in a sustainable labs program that is dedicated to reducing energy usage.
  • Learn how to combat potential obstacles that those implementing a Green Labs Program may face, including opposition from the university, the power companies, and current state laws.
  • Learn how to cooperate with current sustainability programs on campus while also partnering with OH&S/EHS in order to maintain the safety and research integrity of research labs on their campus.


Nicholas Ciancio is the founder and coordinator of the Green Labs Program at UAB. He founded the program in November of 2016 as an effort to reduce carbon emissionsemissions, energy usage, and water consumption in research laboratories across the campus. Through the Green Labs Program, UAB has saved hundreds of thousands of kilowatt-hours by providing energy-saving equipment. Nick lives in Birmingham, Alabama and loves to try new restaurants when he isn't working.


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