User Engagement Strategies In NIH Green Labs Program

Bani Bhattacharya, National Institutes of Health
Minoo Shakoury-Elizeh, National Institutes of Health

How do you encourage sustainability in labs? What are the most effective strategies? NIH recently developed the new Green Labs Program to encourage labs to participate, implement, and practice greening initiatives in laboratory environments. Our experience indicated the key to successfully implementing a program essentially depends on sound user (researcher)-engagement strategies. We've found a simple yet powerful fact that remained constant throughout our experience – the more users that are engaged and involved in these types of programs – the higher the likelihood of successful programmatic adoption and effective implementation. The users were engaged in developing the first, 2018 NIH Green Labs Program, assisting with the outreach and communication strategy, and participating in the Green Labs Program. The most important element of the user engagement strategy was recognizing and rewarding labs with the NIH Green Labs Program certificate that met the Green Labs Program criteria. Additionally, further incentives were offered to 2018 NIH Green Labs Program winners to attend and participate in the 2019 International Institutes for Sustainable Laboratories Conference. We've seen clearly that continuous engagement of users is not only beneficial, but needed, to promote and encourage sustainability initiatives at NIH. The presentation will share the user engagement strategies from inception/initial development through successful implementation, focusing on the 2018 NIH Green Labs program. As a final note, the presentation will also share the user's perspectives in engaging and encouraging sustainable behavior in labs.

Learning Objectives

  • Understand what approaches were utilized to engage lab researchers at various stages of the Green Labs Program;
  • Assess the importance of evaluating and acknowledging labs with rewards and recognition and special incentive awards in increasing awareness about sustainability in lab;
  • Discuss the user's perspective in getting involved and embracing sustainability; and
  • Present examples to encourage behavioral changes in labs.


Ms. Bani Bhattacharya serves as the Environmental Management System Program Manager at NIH. Ms. Bhattacharya collaborates with Environmental Management Program Leads and Sustainability Goal Leads to implement and communicate environmental management initiatives. Initiatives that are part of various environmental management programs such as greenhouse gas emission reduction, solid waste management and recycling, chemical waste handling and disposal, etc. These are cross-jurisdictional programs involving Teams of participants who have daily opportunities to choose to work in an environmentally-friendly way.

Minoo Shakoury-Elizeh, a biologist at the Genetics and Metabolism Section of LDB /NIDDK /NIH and a member of the NEMS Sustainable Lab Practices Working Group (SLPWG) since 2009, has been a leader in the planning and execution of the NIH Green Labs Fair from 2012 to 2018.

Minoo has coordinated the events and conducted tireless outreach for these fairs by engaging numerous labs throughout the NIH. She has advocated for reduction in the usage of mutagenic reagents and promoted recycling whenever possible. Minoo visited labs in NIDDK, NHLBI, NCI, NEI, NIAID, and NICHD to raise awareness of the availability of safer alternatives. Now, as a result, multiple laboratories have switched to the safer substitute chemicals. Her efforts will lessen the introduction of potentially cancer-causing chemicals to the NIH waste stream and reduce the costs associated with disposal of hazardous waste. The measures Minoo has advocated will help NIH reach its goals for the HHS Strategic Planning Sustainability Performance Plan and are crucial for preserving the health of our environment for future generations.

Over the past two years, her outreach and activities ranged from writing articles for the NEMS working group and the “My Green Labs” for the inside NIH publications, to helping lead conversations around the NIH Green Labs Program to the NIH Lab Managers, NIDDK safety Committee, and the NIH Fellows Committee (FelCom). Her latest contribution was during a recent poster presentation in April 2019 at NIDDK Scientific Conference.


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