How to Make the Research Enterprise More Sustainable and More Equitable

Michelle Gabrieloff-Parish, University of Colorado Boulder
Christina Greever, University of Colorado Boulder
Star Scott, University of Georgia

Discussions of social justice and equity are often overlooked aspects of sustainability within the laboratory sustainability field. Many of us focus on environmental impacts of research and the economic benefits of sustainability innovation, but social justice and equity are often left out of the conversation. Experts have long defined sustainability as happening in the overlap of environmental, economic and social and culturally sound processes, practices and efforts.

The goal of this presentation and workshop is to help participants start to make connections between laboratory facilities, research, and social justice issues, and to expand our understanding of sustainability. This session will provide an overview of the environmental justice movement and how social justice and equity relate to research spaces, with specific examples. Participants will explore their assumptions, impacts, and potential for change. Designers, engineers, architects, administrators, green labs facilitators and researchers all have something to gain from this interactive presentation, which will enable participants to be more aware of equity issues that are connected to the laboratory environment and the intensive resource use of the research enterprise. In addition, audience members will be encouraged to interact and participate in this illuminating discussion with the goal of making our contributions to the laboratory sustainability field more equitable. All levels of awareness of social justice issues are welcome.

Learning Objectives

  • Gain an understanding of social justice issues and how they are a critical component of sustainability.
  • Understand how social justice is connected to the building of laboratory facilities and the sphere of research.
  • Explore how research and laboratories impact various communities in different ways, utilzing the framework “who benefits from this, and who bears the burden?”.
  • Identify how our work in the laboratory sustainability field can better include social justice and equity, for the mutual benefit of all impacted communities.


Michelle Gabrieloff-Parish is the Assistant Director for Energy & Climate Justice at CU Boulder’s Environmental Center, the largest and oldest in the country. She works to illuminate the connections between climate, sustainability, and justice through various programs, trainings and events. She is a co-founder and executive board member of the Just Transition Collaborative housed at CU. She is also on the board of Frontline Farming, an innovative food justice organization in Denver. Michelle is a frequent speaker, presenting for colleges and universities, and non-profit organizations, especially about the connections between sustainability and social justice.

Christina Greever was the Program Assistant and Outreach Coordinator for CU Green Labs at the University of Colorado Boulder from September 2015 – October 2018. Since November 2018 she has been working remotely for CU Green Labs in a temporary role from Salt Lake City. She has worked on a wide variety of initiatives with CU Green Labs including the shared ultra-low temperature freezer program, lab equipment metering, outreach to labs, and development of the Eco Leader Enhancement Program. She currently works part-time for the lab sustainability nonprofit My Green Lab.

Prior to starting the Green Labs program at the University of Georgia in 2016, Star Scott spent nearly a decade as a Research Professional in conservation-driven research, as well as several years as a Chemical Safety Specialist with the Office of Research Safety. Star's background is in wildlife biology and ecology and she is the CSHEMA representative for The Higher Education Associations Sustainability Consortium (HEASC) and the co-vice president for the Georgia Chapter of I2SL.


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