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Department of Genetics

 

Made up of staff and students, Genetics is proud to have a Green Team!

We run fun events during the year to promote various sustainability initiatives. All are welcome so if you’d like to join us, please email gen-greenteam@lists.cam.ac.uk. We meet several times a term to discuss pressing issues and are currently working towards the Green Impact and LEAF (laboratory efficiency assessment framework) awards. Our department has three Sustainability Champions Amy Bains, Emily Kempin and Liam Browne. Please get in touch if you have any feedback on our actions or ideas for future events and initiatives.

The University requires all staff to complete an online Sustainability Induction course when they begin their University position, and to renew the training every few years. The course provides some background about why it is important to think about making our workspaces and labs more environmentally friendly and how we can start working on this. Want to do more? You could also take this free online course to become a My Green Labs Ambassador and join a network of others trying to improve their lab spaces for a better future.

Below are some hits, tips and links we hope you will find helpful.

Travel

Travelling to work and travelling for meetings and conferences can have a big impact on our carbon footprint. There are many ways you can reduce this by thinking about if you need to travel, and the most efficient way to get there.

  • Holding meetings online can remove the need to travel entirely, and provides colleagues with care responsibilities, disabilities or those who just prefer to work from home the ability to choose when they come in.
  • If you do need to travel somewhere, and are able to, some of the healthiest ways are to cycle or walk. Check out the University Travel by Bike webpage for information about cycle to work schemes, the best routes to take, security and repair advice, and more.
  • Public transport is another great alternative. Your University membership can get you great discounts on Bus and Train tickets. Why not hop on the U Bus for just £1 per single ticket, or just £2 for a day rover ticket.  Check out the University Travel by Bus webpage and Travel by Train webpage for more infrormation and discounts and travel to work loans available. There are also lots of E-Bikes and E-Scotters around the city, that are available to use.
  • If you have to drive to work, check out the University Travel by Car webpage to see how to make it as environmentally friendly as possible.
  • If you are travelling further for work, see the Univeristy Sustanable Business Travel webpage for more information and advice on the best ways to travel sustainably.

 

Online Meeting Options

Holding meetings online can remove the need to travel for work, and provides colleagues with care responsibilities, disabilities or those who just prefer to work from home the ability to choose when they come in.

All University staff have a Microsoft Teams account, and Zoom accounts can be obtained for departments. The University encourages the use of these technologies to hold meetings online, either entirely, or in a hybrid format. The use of these technologies is also encouraged to help support learning, however teaching is expected as in-person.

There are plenty of training opportunities to help you get the most out of them on the UIS courses website. Below are a few to get started with:

LinkedIn Learning, provided by the University, is another great training resource for any of your online meeting and teaching needs.

 

Energy Efficiency

Labs use 10x more energy than office spaces, so as a department with a large number of labs, its important we do what we can to reduce our energy usage across the board.

Small things can help can help make a big difference!

  • We’ve already made a start by switching over to automatic lights across most of the department, meaning they won’t stay on if the room is empty. If you are in a room that still needs a switch, make sure it gets turned off when you leave.
  • Have a look at your computer settings, such as the brightness and sleep times, and set them to be as low/short as possible for the functions you need. At the end of the day, ensure you switch it off. If you are working from home, use the VPN to access your work server files, this can still be used with the computer off (as long as you don’t require something on the hard drive).
  • In the labs, make sure you turn any equipment off that isn’t being used (as long as this won’t disrupt any functions). If you have equipment that needs to pre heat or similar, for example water baths, you can purchase a plug timer which will turn off out of hours and back on in enough time to be ready when you need it.
  • It is also imperative you shut the sash on fume hoods when not in use and ensure you keep these as empty as possible to improve their efficiency. They should not be used as storage and you should keep items away from the front where the vent it.
  • Only use the lift when moving large and heavy objects.

 

Waste

Offices and labs are one of the largest producers of waste in the world.

To take a steps in a more sustainable direction, we first need to move away from single use, disposable items and find reusable alternatives. We have already made a start in the kitchen, where you can find mugs, plates and cutlery and we promote all events as BYOC (bring your own cup) meaning that we no longer use disposable items for events. You can help by using a proper water bottle, or if you work in a lab, look at buying refillable pipette tip boxes and glass weigh boats and serological pipettes.

Secondly, reduce your waste. Try to find companies that use fewer packaging materials/will take back thier packaging materials, share your spares with other colleagues, reduce your printing/ensure printing is double-sided, and turn off the heating/air-con in your workspace when you leave. 

Lastly, look for recyclable materials. If reusable won’t work, ensure the items you purchase come in recyclable packages, keep your glass Winchesters as waste containers and if you have empty tip boxes, why not repurpose them as autoclave containers or blot paper holders.If you printed some notes for a meeting that are no longer needed, punch hole in the corner and connect them with a tag to make yourself a notebook. Or add them to the scrap paper tray in the printing room for others to use.

When disposing of waste, ensure you use the correct bin. Any clean, dry recyclable materials should go in the labelled recycling bins (including in the labs). There is a battery and toner cartridge collection point in the Tea Room and we are looking at getting a compost bin in there too, for food waste. In the labs, ensure you only place biologically contaminated waste in the autoclaves, to save on the energy and water of running those and check the Waste Stream posters for other items.

If you have old furniture or equipment to dispose of, put if on WARPit as another group or department might be looking for it. You should also use this if you are looking for an item to purchase.

We regularly run electronic waste collections (WEEE), so keep an eye out for those calls to safely dispose of any you might have.

 

Purchasing

When purchasing new items, its second nature to compare price, but its just as important to compare energy ratings and sustainable practices in producing the items. Please take these into account when you are making purchases.

Consider ordering from companies that have sustainability initiatives, such as take back programs for packaging (Agilent, Corning, NEB, MiliporeSigma) or recyclable packaging (ThermoFisher).

It’s always good to try and coordinate orders with other groups, to order in bulk and reduce the amount of packaging and the number of deliveries required. If you are ordering chemicals, check the ACT label. This shows the environmental impact of the product and you should always try and find the least harmful alternative for any uses.

For more information on sustainable purchasing, check out the sustainability considerations on the Procurement pages.

 

Cold Storage

A single Ultra Low Temperature freezer can use as much energy as an average household everyday. By reducing our ULTs from -80°C to -70°C we have already saved 30-40% of their energy use. There is more we can do about our cold storage options though.

Overstocked fridges and freezers require a lot more energy to run, so they must be audited every 6-12 months to ensure nothing is being stored unnecessarily. They need clean fans and vents, as well as a clear space around these and any heat producing parts to be efficient, to ensure these are regularly checked as well. Freezers build up ice, making them inefficient too, so these must be fully defrosted on at least and annual basis.

If you follow these instructions, you will get the most out of your appliances and they will run efficiently for years to come.

Upcoming events

12th Jan 2023

Hybrid seminar in Biffen Lecture Theatre - please contact Caroline Newnham cn355@gen.cam.ac.uk for the Zoom link

26th Jan 2023

Zoom meeting - please contact Caroline Newnham cn355@gen.cam.ac.uk for the Zoom link

23rd Feb 2023

Zoom meeting - please contact Caroline Newnham cn355@gen.cam.ac.uk for the Zoom link

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