There are more efficient ways for Federal funding to be spent and resources to be used for research on university research campuses. These numerous opportunities include establishing shared equipment assets, improving lab space utilization and fume hood allocations to match actual need, and implementing best practices that minimize energy use, water use, and generation of solid and hazardous waste. Inefficiencies not only mean less money for actual research; they also mean greater costs to universities and the federal government in support of research, and a larger environmental footprint than necessary.
Scientists are finding it increasingly difficult to obtain federal funding as universities continue to expand, thus raising the competition for federal dollars. Furthermore, as work is being done to reach climate commitment goals, universities realize that laboratories have a large energy footprint and that many opportunities for conservation exist in labs. This combination of pressures makes the present an opportune time to address efficiency with scientists and other stakeholders at universities.
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Kathy Ramirez-Aguilar, Ph.D., manages the CU Green Labs Program at the University of Colorado Boulder, a program she has been building and creating since 2009. She has a doctorate in analytical chemistry from the University of Colorado Boulder, a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from the College of William and Mary, and 15 years of university laboratory research experience within the fields of biochemistry, analytical chemistry, and organic chemistry. Working as a research scientist, she saw a real need for a program to engage scientists in resource conservation in labs. Through active participation in the I2SL community and annual conferences, Green Labs Planning Group, and the U.S. Department of Energy Better Buildings Alliance, she regularly collaborates and shares ideas with colleagues across the nation at universities and federal agencies who care about efficiency and sustainability in lab environments. She chairs the I2SL University Alliance Group, which is presently exploring the topic of connecting sustainability to lab finances.