Sustainable Labs

Introducing the UT Dallas Sustainable Labs Pilot Program for Academic and Research Labs

There are three categories to a sustainable lab approach: Waste Minimization and Recycling, Energy Conservation, and Sustainable Chemistry.

The Office of Research Research, Campus and Environmental Safety team is sponsoring our campus efforts to facilitate sustainable labs at UT Dallas. Our goal is to support and empower students and student-led organizations to help lead our campus to green, sustainable ideas and practices in laboratories. Students from all schools and disciplines who champion these efforts are invited to utilize this information.

Waste Minimization and Recycling

Waste Minimization
Waste Minimization and Recycling

Reducing waste and material use is essential in Sustainable Labs. Purchasing items consciously can lead to minimizing waste in the long-run.

  • Check with Surplus before purchasing equipment, office furniture and appliances.

  • Unwanted equipment, office furniture and appliances need to go through Surplus. A decontamination form (PDF [Portable Document Format File] ) may be required for lab equipment and other items previously used in labs prior to transferring to Surplus. Please contact a Safety Specialist in the Research, Campus and Environmental Safety team with questions at

  • Instead of purchasing disposable plastic products, purchase reusable lab glassware.
  • Consider reusable materials when possible.
  • Share equipment with lab neighbors instead of buying personal equipment.
  • Consolidate orders, whenever feasible.
  • Purchase paper and other supplies that have a high recycled content.
  • Purchase and use rechargeable batteries instead of single-use batteries.
  • Purchase multifunction devices such as all-in-one printer, fax, and scanner machines.
  • Participate in the Chemical Surplus program.
    • Offer unwanted chemicals to the Chemical Safety Program in the Office of Research
    • Search for available chemicals through ChemTracker
    • Contact the Safety Team to participate.

UT Dallas collects special recycling items. Batteries, Styrofoam, plastic wrap, and ink toner can all be recycled at UTD. Please reference our Specialty Recycling Locator to find out where you can take these recyclables.


The Office of Research offers battery recycling at UT Dallas. All campus generated batteries are acceptable in the recycling stream. Battery specific recycling bins are available in most buildings on-campus. Please see recycling locations for specific placement. For more information about the program and frequently asked questions, please review the Hazardous Waste page of the UTD Institutional Risk & Safety website.


Styrofoam containers that research materials are received in may be recyclable. If they are uncontaminated and free of labels, tape, and plastic bags, then the styrofoam containers can be collected for special recycling. If you need a large quantity picked up from your office, please contact for assistance.

Plastic Wrap

Facilities Management, through our partnership with Trex, is collecting plastic film. Please reference our Specialty Recycling Locator to find the nearest disposal collection point on campus. If your office handles a high volume of dry plastic wrap, contact and we will provide a bin to collect the material. Acceptable materials include plastic film, plastic bags, shipping wrap, and bubble wrap.

Energy Conservation

Reducing energy use in the lab is an important step towards becoming a Sustainable Lab. Energy conservation can be done through equipment settings and purchasing.

Fume Hoods

A fume hood can use as much energy as 3.5 households annually. The two types of air ventilation in a fume hood is Constant Air Volume (CAV [Constant Air Volume] ) and Variable Air Volume (VAV [Variable Air Volume] ). A CAV [Constant Air Volume] fume hood is when the air flowing through the hood is constant, whereas a VAV [Variable Air Volume] fume hood can adjust the air flow through the hood. By lowering the sash of a VAV [Variable Air Volume] fume hood, as much as 40 percent of energy can be saved.

Operating a fume hood properly is not only an energy saving opportunity, but also important for your personal safety and safety of others in surrounding areas. Download the Fume Hood Operation Poster (PDF [Portable Document Format File] ).

Refrigerators and Freezers

An individual -80 degree freezer can cost between $1000-1500 a year to run. Increasing the temperature by ten degrees in an ultra-low freezer can actually decrease energy consumption by 30%. Setting deep freezes to -70 degrees also increases the lifespan of the freezer.

Other methods to decrease energy use in lab refrigerators and freezers:

  • Look for Energy Star devices when replacing equipment.
  • Minimize empty space. Consolidate and share if needed and turn off unnecessary equipment. Be sure to properly segregate and label by lab.
  • Defrost and clean freezer and refrigerator coils with build-up greater than 2 centimeters, as ice and dust cause the compressor to work harder.
  • Consider room temperature storage when possible.
  • Regularly clean your refrigerator and freezer filters. Freezers with excess ice may need to go through a decontamination procedure and melted ice may need to be collected. Please contact a Safety Specialist with the Office of Research for guidance on research freezer defrosting at
  • Regularly inspect seals and gaskets.
  • Have freezer serviced if it is not reaching the set temperature.
Fume Hoods

Excessive lighting can use high amounts of energy. By having natural lighting during bright days, artificial lighting can be minimized. When replacing old lightbulbs, make sure to switch to LED [Light-Emitting Diode] bulbs. Have motion sensors installed in overhead lights. When leaving the lab, always make sure all lights are turned off.

Bio-Safety Cabinets

Turn off biosafety cabinet when not in use and turn off UV [Ultraviolet] lights after 1 hour or less. Regularly clean the UV [Ultraviolet] lamp of the bio-safety cabinet to prevent dust accumulation.

General Equipment
General Equipment

Making sure lab general equipment is in optimal shape helps to minimize waste. Service your equipment on a routine basis. Before purchasing new equipment, make sure to check Surplus first. Look for Energy Star devices if Surplus does not have what you are looking for. Turn off any equipment when not in use.


Activate power-saving mode on all electronics, such as computers, copiers, printers, and fax machines. Do not use screen savers, as they are use more energy than they save. Power off computers when you leave for the weekend or for trips.

Sustainable Chemistry

Sustainable Chemistry

The goal of “sustainable chemistry” is to reduce both the hazard potential and the environmental burden posed by the chemicals (used or wasted). By using more sustainable chemicals, UT Dallas labs will help to reduce the use and production of dangerous substances.

  • Research chemical alternatives that are safer and more environmentally friendly, such as the ACS Green Chemistry Institute®.
  • Consider participating in a campus mercury thermometer exchange program. Make sure to dispose of them properly. Disposal information can be found through the Hazardous Waste page of the UTD Institutional Risk & Safety website.

  • Chemical Inventory System
    • Organize lab chemicals on a first-in, first-out basis in order to avoid waste and over-purchasing.
    • Have well managed inventories of chemicals as to not duplicate chemical purchases.
    • Share chemicals between departments rather than purchasing new ones.
    • Maintain a thorough materials and equipment inventory to reference before ordering new supplies.
    • Participate in the Chemical Surplus Program
  • Microscale experiments, whenever possible