By Alex Caryotakis
This week, Anjana and I interviewed a stakeholder who participated in the ART program back in its very first year, 2008. Professor Ichiro Nishimura was the director of the Weintraub Lab in 2008, allowing him to host the Sustainable Lab Practices Team. Professor Nishimura was very helpful, giving us great information and suggestions to use in our final report.
Here is a sneak peak: Professor Nishimura first became interested in sustainability after reading an essay in Science that pointed out the hypocrisy of some lab scientists who should care about the environment, but nevertheless do not recycle plastics, use inefficient lighting and lots of freezer space, and travel to numerous conferences that could be replaced by a Skype call. To address this inconsistency, Nishimura became involved with the ART teams. Nishimura’s team decided to focus on the waste stream of the Weintraub Lab.
In a lab such as Weintraub, with numerous waste streams and strict precautions, that is a hard task. But the team succeeded in finding some materials, such as the paper wrappings of pipets and white paper waste, which could be recycled. We are happy to say that recycling practices are still in place at Weintraub. However, there is one caveat: Nishimura stressed the need for more institutional memory when it comes to recycling in the labs. That is, students who work in the Weintraub lab today do not know how to properly use the recycling bins.
Thus, from our interviews, we have found that when ART teams make changes, it is important that educational programs follow to sustain those changes. If that is done, a sustainable culture can be built for years to come.