Explorations of Landfill Diversion in Research, Teaching, and Clinical Labs

Kelly O'Day Weisinger, Emory University and Emory Healthcare
Ilyssa O. Gordon, Cleveland Clinic
Kathryn Ramirez-Aguilar, University of Colorado Boulder

Waste minimization and landfill diversion are key components of successful laboratory sustainability programs, but often require a level of dedication and creativity above and beyond a typical researcher's daily objectives. While researchers need to focus completely on the science at hand, responsibly diverting packaging and waste generated from their daily experiments may be a distraction. As America's leading research, teaching, and healthcare institutions make progress toward comprehensive sustainability goals, attention on solid waste materials streaming from lab buildings is increasing. Collaboration between key stakeholders within each institution and affiliated industries is essential for success. The production and disposal of laboratory materials used in research, teaching, and patient care represent a life cycle that begs to become a closed loop. No one entity is accountable for the responsible management of materials; rather, a collective obligation exists to transform this sector.

In this session, three institutions from across the country will identify challenges and posit opportunities for building a robust landfill diversion program in laboratories. Highlighting challenges experienced, opportunities observed, and creativity and problem-solving harnessed to successfully minimize waste and divert the flow of lab solid waste materials, three areas of focus will frame the conversation: 1) developing products to minimize waste entering the lab and with thought given to future disposal; 2) identifying resources and building community partnerships for successful materials management; and 3) lab user/owner/operator experiences that inform opportunities for lab space design and construction that promotes landfill diversion. Experts from the Cleveland Clinic, Emory University, and the University of Colorado Boulder will present stories that illustrate these three topics. These will be supplemented with either guest panelists and/or examples of innovators in the sectors of supply development, materials management, and lab planning and design, as they relate to waste minimization and landfill diversion. Our experts will then lead the audience in an interactive dialogue to brainstorm solutions and industry innovations that can support landfill diversion in laboratories, contributing to a collective conversation that informs and spurs industry innovation. It is our hope that the outcomes of the symposium are tangible materials that support I2SL's mission and community of practice.

Learning Objectives

  • Understand the environmental, social, and economic impacts of solid waste materials that come from research, healthcare, and teaching laboratories and the value of waste minimization and landfill diversion.
  • Identify challenges and opportunities related to the diversion of solid waste materials from laboratories in diverse settings across the country.
  • Gain ideas for replicable innovations for diverting laboratory solid waste materials from landfills.
  • Be motivated to develop tangible ideas for building connections among key stakeholders, engaging industry in innovation, and setting and achieving goals for closing the loop on the production and disposal of laboratory materials and supplies.


Kelly O'Day Weisinger is a Sustainability Programs Coordinator at Emory University and Emory Healthcare. She conducts staff outreach and engagement and works with all of Emory's units on waste minimization, energy and water use reduction, sustainable procurement, climate action, lab and office sustainability, and curriculum and research. Kelly also has expertise in transportation demand management. She acquired a Master in Environmental Law and Policy from Vermont Law School in 2009.

Ilyssa O. Gordon, MD, PhD is a gastrointestinal pathologist at the Cleveland Clinic. In medical school she led a student group that explored the intersection of healthcare and healthy environments and joined the hospital sustainability committee. As founder and co-chair of the Cleveland Clinic Greening the Labs Committee, she facilitates and implements landfill diversion & energy conservation programs and is dedicated to making environmental stewardship a reality in the hospital lab setting.

Kathy 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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