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Encouraging behaviour change in laboratories

sustainable labs

Shut the Sash competition in our Synthetic Chemistry Laboritories

25 October 2016

Taking responsibility for small routine tasks, such as unplugging equipment and shutting fume hoods reduces environmental impact of laboratories.

Laboratories cause significant environmental impact, consuming around five times more energy and producing much more waste than office spaces. As part of the commitment to become a net carbon neutral campus by 2030, the University of Bristol’s Sustainability Department and School of Chemistry are working together to develop initiatives to improve the environmental performance of the University’s many laboratories, and share the resulting good practice.

Unplug and Shut the Sash are two such initiatives; student-led competitions encouraging lab users in the Synthetic Chemistry Building to make small energy-saving changes to their daily working practice.

Unplug encouraged lab users to switch off equipment when not in use. Users were made more aware of energy use in the lab by putting timers on constantly-running equipment like ovens and ‘switch me off’ stickers. They were also encouraged to save energy by consolidating the contents of ovens, fridges and freezers. The winning lab saved 1,405kWh over the course of the six-week competition, with an overall energy reduction of 29 per cent. The other initiative, Shut the Sash, encouraged users to close fume hoods when not being used – this being a particular issue since a single fume hood uses about the same amount of energy as a UK household. Shutting the sash can reduce energy by around 70 per cent and we saw a 57 per cent reduction over the competition.

Both competitions were delivered as part of the University’s Sustainable Labs Initiative which works to reduce the environmental impact of laboratories that account for 40 per cent of the University’s total energy use. As a result of these two competitions alone, it is projected that the Synthetic Chemistry Building’s reduced energy will save the University £7,550 per year as well as reducing the organisation’s environmental impact by 55 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

Professor Nick Norman, Head of the School of Chemistry, said:

“I’m delighted that all those who work in the Synthetic Chemistry Building have engaged so positively with these projects. UNPLUG and SHUT THE SASH are just two examples of Chemistry’s involvement with the Sustainable Labs Initiative with the University’s Sustainability Department. I look forward to continuing this positive collaboration. Not only is this the right thing to do from an environmental standpoint, it continues to deliver very real financial savings.

Further information

Green Impact Labs is a new environmental framework for labs. Contact Anna Lewis ( for further information.

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