Research Labs Can Save Energy, Money — and the Planet

Photo of Assateague Island National Seashore in 2012

Photo of Assateague Island National Seashore in 2012Climate change doesn’t require your belief. Even if you want to bicker about causes, the effects are undeniable:

While the Paris Agreement has yet to grow teeth, the acknowledgement by world leaders that something needs to be done is still a significant step forward to slowing global warming. The question of what to do next is daunting. More wind farms and solar arrays aren’t enough to reverse global warming and its disastrous effects on life. Reducing carbon emissions is a worthy goal, but by how much? Climate scientist Ken Caldeira of Stanford University says by a factor of at least 10. That might be more than most Americans are able to swallow.

We can but try. Researchers are looking closely at plug load — and not just in homes and offices.

In a 2015 study of plug loads from labs, offices, service buildings, recreation buildings, and public spaces, at Stanford University, analyst Moira Hafer found that autoclaves were the eighth most energy consuming piece of equipment out of 56 types studied, and were often run less than full, further wasting energy and water. Focusing just on laboratories, My Green Lab surveyed 1,500 scientists in California in 2015 and published a report on the energy consumption of lab equipment. Autoclaves, which were found to consume as much as 527 GWh/yr, are near the top of the list. But they don’t have to be. Research grade autoclaves use significantly less energy than medical grade autoclaves because they do not have to be on all day long.

And that’s just where the savings begins. Scientists can now do more than contribute to understanding climate change through research. They can also actively work to stop it by reducing energy consumption in their labs.

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