As America’s first research university, Johns Hopkins University has been a steadfast leader in innovative laboratory work since its inception. However, research laboratories present a unique sustainability challenge  they use five to ten times more energy per square foot than a typical office building. 

To address this issue, the Office of Sustainability and Sustainability Leadership Council (SLC) collaborated to found the JHU Green Labs Initiative. This initiative improves JHU laboratories’ sustainability efforts and reduces material waste and energy consumption through program development and collaboration between researchers, faculty, students, staff, building managers, and facilities. 

Contact for more information or to join the Green Labs listserv


    Did you know that ultra-low temperature freezers consume as much electricity as a typical household? Lower your lab’s carbon footprint and challenge your cold storage practices by taking part in the Freezer Challenge.

    Supported by the International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories (I2SL) and My Green Lab, this challenge is designed to promote best practices in cold storage management for laboratories around the world. Harnessing spirit of competition, the Freezer Challenge encourages laboratories to achieve greater energy efficiency, sample integrity, and sample access.

    Focus areas include, but are not limited to:

    • Good Inventory Management Practice
    • Temperature Tuning
    • Freezer Requirements and Consolidation

    The annual competition operates from January to July. The winner of the challenge will be featured in Nature magazine and will be awarded during the annual I2SL conference. To register, please fill out this form.


    The Green Labs Certification process educates and engages JHU scientists who want to reduce their environmental impact. Through a self-assessment survey and collaboration with the Office of Sustainability, participants learn specific sustainable laboratory best practices and implement them into their everyday work. Endorsed by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) and International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories (I2SL), this certification is not only is it beneficial for the environment, but can also give labs positive recognition when applying for grants. 

    The full process takes 8-12 months and includes:

    1. Baseline assessment
    2. Change implementation
    3. Certification
    4. Continuous change
    5. Recertification (certifications expire after 2 years)

    To begin the Green Labs Certification process or for more information, please contact


    Did you know that if left open, one fume hood in a laboratory can use approximately three times more energy than a single household in a year?

    To reduce this impact:

    1. Close the sash when not in use.
    2. Consolidate chemicals and avoid using fume hoods as storage cabinets.
    3. Do not block back air flow.
    4. Consider upgrading to new multiple-stash configuration fume hoods.
    5. Share fume hood space in order to decrease the amount of fume hoods which need to be operating at the same time.
    6. Contact the Department of Health, Safety, and the Environment if you have any issues with your fume hood alarm.

    Improving efficiency of your building’s infrastructure can save energy and lower your environmental impact.

    Best practices for reducing infrastructure energy consumption are:

    1. Contact building management or maintenance if you have any facilities problems. The contact list is available here.
    2. Avoid blocking thermostats and occupancy sensors with equipment, lab coats, or materials storage.
    3. Open or close window shades to reduce lighting usage.
    4. Keep operable windows closed to maximize heating or cooling efficiency and minimize waste.

    Equipment plug load is responsible for approximately half of a research building’s electrical consumption.

    To maximize sustainability efforts:

    1. Turn off equipment when not in use.
    2. Use outlet timers to automatically power on and off equipment.
    3. When possible, share equipment with other labs or core facilities rather than purchasing and powering your own.
    4. Turn off screen savers and use energy saver modes such as sleep or standby on computers and large equipment.
    5. If possible, replace energy-intensive equipment with more energy-efficient models.
    6. Before purchasing new equipment, see if it is available for use at one of JHU’s many core facilities

      Green chemistry, also known as sustainable chemistry, uses chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate the use of hazardous substances in order to decrease the need to devote time, money, and energy to hazardous waste processing.

      The Twelve Principles of Green Chemistry can be found here.

      In addition:

      • Use an alternative to ethidium bromide for nucleic acid detection.
      • Use an alternative to radioisotope labeling.
      • Identify ways to run reactions at ambient temperature and pressure without heating or cooling.
      • Test reactions on a small scale before scaling up to ensure reagents are not waste. Likewise, do not run more larger-scale reactions than are vital.
      • Utilize waterless condensers in place of condensers that require single pass cooling. 

      Ultra-low temperature (ULT) freezers are energy-intensive lab equipment.

      Best practices involving ULT freezers are:

      1. Perform regular freezer maintenance:
        • Clean the air filter to remove dust and grime.
        • De-ice the freezer: scrape ice from around the door and rubber gasket and perform a total thaw of the unit.
      2. Keep freezers 8 inches away from the wall and 5 inches away from each other, and do not store items on top of them.
      3. Keep a paper or digital inventory of your samples to ensure you always know where your samples are and how many you have. Use rack, box, and sample labels to stay organized.
      4. Increase the temperature of your ULT. -70° C has been proven safe for most if not all samples. Increasing the temperature of your freezer can save electricity and also prolong the life of your compressor.
      5. Ensure you have a comprehensive backup plan should your freezer fail. If you can keep a backup freezer, set it to -40°C to -60°C. You can also check with your department to see if they can loan a backup freezer. If not, companies such as Diversified Laboratory Repair can provide a prechilled rental freezer. 

      Biosafety cabinets can also be resource and energy intensive pieces of laboratory equipment in your workspace.

      Best practices for biosafety cabinets are:

      1. Keep the air flowing by avoiding blocking front or rear vents.
      2. Ensure sterility by disinfecting with appropriate chemical disinfectant (such as 70% ethanol) before and after use, making sure to spray and wipe all surfaces.
      3. Use the UV for 30-60 min after use and keep the sash closed when not in use to maintain sterile surfaces. 
      4. Avoid clogging your vacuum by ensuring you have a filter and overflow container separating your waste container from the vacuum. Be sure to rinse lines with 10% bleach solution and water to ensure you do not need to dispose of contaminated lines.
      5. Do not use open flames and volatile or dangerous chemicals in your BSC. Open flames can disrupt airflow and cause damage to the HEPA filters while harsh chemicals can damage HEPA filters and working surfaces of the BSC.
      6. Ensure your BSC is certified annually. If it is not, contact Biosafety within JHU HSE.

      Each school offers a variety of options for waste reduction in labs. For general guidance, check out campus initiatives.

      All recyclables must be free of contamination, reagents, and solvents if recycled. Labels on bottles of chemicals and reagents should be removed if possible and nonremovable labels should be defaced with marker to indicate that they are clean and then placed in proper bins. See HSE guidance (this will link to the PDF document) on recyclables. At all schools, recycling is not allowed for materials from any BSL3/ABSL3 laboratories or vivarium.

      • Homewood:
        • Office paper products, cardboard, clean #1 and #2 plastic bottles.
        • Kimberly Clark and Halyard nitrile gloves are accepted in designated RightCycle boxes from approved labs*.
        • Pipette tip boxes and inserts are accepted in designated boxes from approved labs*.
        • Electronic lab waste can be collected after it has been certified as decontaminated by HSE by making a request with JHU recycling.

      *Contact to participate in specialty recycling programs.

      • School of Public Health:
        • Office paper products, cardboard, clean #1 and #2 plastic bottles.
        • Electronic lab waste can be collected after it has been certified as decontaminated by HSE by sending an email to or calling 410-955-FSR! (3771)

      *Contact to participate in specialty recycling programs.

      • School of Medicine:
        • Office paper products, cardboard, and clean #1 and #2 plastic bottles.
        • Pipette tip boxes and inserts are accepted in designated bins*
        • Electronic lab waste can be collected after it has been certified as decontaminated by HSE by submitting a request through the work order system.

      *Contact to participate in specialty recycling programs.