UW–Madison Labs Complete the My Green Lab Certification Pilot Program

UW–Madison is a world-class research university, but the vital work of laboratory research also presents significant sustainability challenges. The Office of Sustainability’s Green Labs Team collaborated with My Green Lab to pilot its certification program at UW–Madison. The program focused on implementing sustainable practices without compromising research.

In the Fall of 2022, seven labs joined the pilot program and completed a baseline survey inquiring about current lab practices. Upon completion, the labs received a feedback report detailing sustainability-related improvements they could make within their workspaces and the larger research community. The Green Labs Team then assisted and supported the labs as they implemented these sustainable actions.

In August of 2023, participating labs were asked to complete a final survey to indicate the improvements they made. My Green Lab then analyzed the results and awarded certification levels to labs that completed the program. The certification lasts for two years, at which time labs have the opportunity to recertify.

Ultimately, four labs completed the certification process. These labs are listed below with their certification level and a brief description of their work.

  • Photo of the Bolling Research GroupBolling Research GroupGold: “The Bolling Research Group is studying the relationships between food composition, bioavailability, and health effects. Foods have many different types of unique molecules beyond vitamins and minerals that may improve health. These non-nutrient molecules are known as “dietary bioactives.” The research group is working to understand how dietary bioactives from fruit, vegetables, nuts, and dairy products improve immune function and reduce chronic disease risk. The profile and abundance of dietary bioactives depends on many factors, including the type of food, growing conditions, food processing, and storage. Research on how dietary bioactives impact immune function and reduce disease risk can aid in the production of high-quality foods for improving health. The Bolling Group is attempting to improve chemical analysis of food bioactives and understand the complexity of metabolism and bioavailability of these molecules, and it is using cell-based assays, rodent models of inflammation, and human intervention studies to understand how dietary bioactives can prevent chronic disease.”
  • Photo of The COPLOW Lab teamCOPLOWPlatinum: “The Comparative Ocular Pathology Laboratory of Wisconsin was founded in 1983 by Dr. Richard R. Dubielzig, a board-certified veterinary pathologist with a long-time research interest in ocular pathology. The extent of the service has grown exponentially, currently providing histopathology diagnoses for more than eight thousand cases annually. COPLOW is a mail-in service designed to evaluate ocular and periocular tissues to provide diagnoses for veterinarians and veterinary ophthalmologists around the country and the world. Veterinary specialists in ophthalmology need a service that not only provides a timely and accurate diagnosis but is capable of going beyond the diagnosis and investigating relevant aspects of ocular pathology to better understand the pathogenesis and prognosis of veterinary ocular disease. The laboratory is also interested in disseminating information on ocular pathology to students of veterinary ophthalmology at all levels.”
  • Koch LabGold: “The Koch Lab resides in the Department of Plant Pathology and the Molecular and Environmental Toxicology Program, and it focuses on creating attractive and functional urban landscapes that simultaneously benefit pets, people, and the environment while reducing the non-target impacts of water, fertilizer, and pesticide usage. The lab pursues this primary goal through a variety of applied and molecular research projects, and the results are disseminated to the general public through an active extension and outreach program.”
  • UWBC DNA Sequencing FacilitySilver: “Center DNA Sequencing Core is a state-of-the-art lab that employs advanced techniques and knowledge to answer genomic questions for researchers on campus and around the world. It employs Illumina, PacBio and Oxford Nanopore technologies. They thrive on collaborations for new and exciting projects as well as providing the basic data that drives day-to-day research on campus.”

These four labs improved their scores in almost every category that the My Green Lab Certification program measures. One notable improvement was in the category of community. This category requires labs to implement sustainability leaders, provide training for best practices in sustainability, and create sustainability goals, thus helping them design frameworks for future improvement.

The four labs listed above improved their community score by an average of 29%. Additionally, the Bolling Lab improved its cold storage score by 34%, the COPLOW Lab improved its energy infrastructure score by 52%, and the UWBC DNA Sequencing Facility improved its Fume Hood score by 21%. Overall, the labs that completed the 2022-2023 My Green Lab certification program did a fantastic job implementing practices to increase their sustainability.

Based on the success of the pilot program, the Green Labs Team is now administering the My Green Lab Certification Program on an annual basis. The 2023-2024 certification process is already underway with 15 participating labs. Each lab has completed the baseline assessment and is in the implementation period of the certification process.

How to get involved:

Registration for new labs in open until August 25th each year. The annual certification program occurs during the academic year. Click here to learn more about the My Green Lab Certification Program. If you’re ready to get your certification journey started, click the button below!

Register for the My Green Lab Certification Program

Article by Gaby Johnson and Winston Thompson