Reducing waste and saving energy, one lab at a time

Green Labs

Labs across campus are making moves to be more sustainable by working with the award-winning UBC Green Labs Program to reduce the environmental impact of lab-based activities.

UBC is one of the world’s top research universities and home to over 400 labs that serve as an important resource to encourage and support innovation. Research labs account for approximately 50% of energy use, 25% of water use and generate 95% of hazardous waste on the Vancouver campus.  

Through leading, practical strategies developed by UBC’s Green Labs Program, in collaboration with its academic partners, researchers across campus have access to a suite of tools, programs, and resources to reduce the environmental impact of lab-based activities. 

Dr. Reinhild Kappelhoff, Lab Manager for the Overall Lab at the Centre for Blood research has been involved with the Green Labs program since its inception in 2008.  

Dr. Kappelhoff shows off their lab's glove recycling program.
Dr. Kappelhoff shows off their lab's glove recycling. 

"As a lab manager, we have a leadership role and the power to make sustainable decisions about what to buy, from whom to buy, how to deal with waste and recycling and educating colleagues in the lab on how to be more sustainable. Every recycling initiative implemented into the lab will help take climate action against global warming,” said Dr. Kappelhoff. 

The Green Labs Program is one of the first of its kind in the world and has over 30 dedicated sustainability lab coordinators across campus that are working to advance sustainability in their departments. Recently, the UBC Green Labs Program received the prestigious Green Lab Program Pioneer Award by the International Institute for Sustainable laboratories. 

“Our focus has been to empower researchers to make informed choices and implement strategies for reducing lab-generated waste,” said Kate Andrews, Green Labs Program Lead at Campus and Community Planning. “We do this by offering researchers training, incentives and access to resources to help them make positive changes in their labs. This includes providing guidance on smart purchasing through the Green Purchasing Guide.” 

Here are some highlights of the program:  

Chill Up Challenge


The Chill Up Challenge 

To reduce energy use, UBC Green Labs created the Chill Up Challenge to encourage researchers to raise the set point temperature of ultra-low temperature freezers. The challenge has been hosted at UBC’s Michael Smith Laboratories, the Life Science Centre, and most recently in the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, where the faculty's newly chilled up freezers save an estimated 30,440 kWh in annual electricity, that’s the equivalent annual electricity use of 142 standard chest freezers. UBC’s Freezer Rebate Program also provides financial incentives for purchasing energy-efficient ultra-low temperature freezers. 

Shut the Sash

Shut the Sash Campaign 

Fume hoods at UBC consume up to 10% of campus energy due to the large volume of air that needs to be heated or cooled and moved through them. The Shut the Sash campaign encourages labs to keep their fume hoods closed, which in addition to being an important safety step, also lowers the ventilation of variable air volume fume hoods and reduces the energy used. The 2022 campaign targeted in two Chemistry buildings resulted in saving 47000 kWh in energy savings.  

amber glass

The Amber Glass Recycling Program 

This program helps reduce UBC’s solid waste stream and its associated GHG emissions by providing an opportunity for labs to recycle glass containers that would otherwise be sent to the landfill for disposal. Non-hazardous amber glass bottles are collected by labs and recycled into new bottles or ground into sand-blasting material. The program was piloted in 2017 in Michael Smith Laboratories and now recycles amber glass from the Life Sciences Centre, the Chemistry complex, Chemical and Biological Engineering, and Aquatic Ecosystems Research Lab. In total, 7450kg of UBC’s Point Grey campus lab glass was diverted from landfill in 2022.  

If you are interested in learning more about the Green Labs program, here are some additional resources: 

A Lab Sustainability Course is available on the Canvas Catalog and is open to all UBC staff, faculty and students on the UBC Vancouver campus. Learn more by vising the Green Labs website:

If you have questions, reach out to You can also sign up for the Green Labs newsletter for current initiatives and opportunities.