Connecting Sustainability With Research Funding: Why is There a Need, Who's Taking Action, and What Will be the Benefits?

Kathryn Ramirez-Aguilar, University of Colorado Boulder

Do you see opportunities for increased efficiency in the way funding is spent and resources are used for research on your university campus? For example, opportunities to avoid equipment duplication, improved lab space utilization and fume hood allocations to match actual need, better chemical and cold sample management, and efforts by scientists in decision making to minimize energy, water, 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. The vast majority of research funding on US university campuses comes from the federal government. But scientists are finding it increasingly difficult to obtain this funding as US universities continue to expand in research (space and scientists) thus raising the competition for those federal dollars. Furthermore, as work is being done to reach climate commitment goals, universities come to 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 at universities. Connections between sustainability and research funding would promote efficiency, not only to reduce the environmental footprint of research, but also to maximize the research that can be funded with existing federal research budgets.

Learning Objectives

  • Learn about the consequences resulting from missing connections between sustainability and research funding
  • Learn about initial efforts to make the connections
  • Learn about the expected benefits from making the connections
  • Learn about why now is this an important time to make the connections


Kathy Ramirez-Aguilar manages the CU Green Labs Program at the Univ. of Colorado-Boulder. She has 15 years of lab research experience where she recognized the need for a program to engage scientists in conservation. Through participation in I2SL, Green Labs Planning Group, & the DOE Better Buildings Alliance, she regularly collaborates & shares ideas with colleagues at universities & federal agencies. She chairs the I2SL University Alliance Group presently focused on connecting sustainability to lab finances.


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