The Sustainable Lab Program is motivated by the recognition that research itself contributes to sustainability challenges by being naturally energy- and resource-intensive. Penn State is taking on this challenge by piloting the nonprofit My Green Lab’s (MGL) certification program that assesses fourteen target areas for behavioral change.

Each participating lab commits to:

  • appointing a My Green Lab Coordinator (MGLC)
  • taking the MGL survey
  • reviewing the resulting report
  • making some improvements over the course of six months during an academic year (fall and spring semesters)
  • retaking the survey for a final rating by My Green Lab

Educational support and networking opportunities are provided to participating researchers by MGL and the Sustainable Labs Leadership Team guiding the project. Labs have the option of being paired with a paid undergraduate student and a Sustainable Lab Ambassador (SLA), who is trained by Penn State’s Sustainability Institute staff to support the researchers’ desired improvements. Each MGL Coordinator (MGLC) mentors the undergraduate student.

Since this program’s inception in September 2022, labs have:

  • closed fume hoods
  • replaced hazardous chemicals
  • learned more about sustainable practices
  • turned off and/or unplugged unused equipment
  • turned up ultra-low freezers as part of the MGL Freezer Challenge

These changes not only save money and reduce the University’s greenhouse gas emissions, but they also improve safety, all while maintaining the integrity of the research.

Program Benefits:

This project supports progress towards Penn State’s strategic goals by:

  • enhancing student success by preparing our graduates to be future problem solvers and attractive candidates for jobs
  • growing interdisciplinary research excellence
  • fostering a sense of belonging through creation of a network of students and researchers working on these issues together 
  • maximizing our operational efficiencies and savings

As national granting institutions incorporate sustainability into project applications, this program will enhance Penn State’s competitiveness in grant applications. This program is already producing operational efficiencies through better equipment management practices, product selections, and waste reductions.

The Penn State Energy Institute is proud to receive a My Green Lab Gold Certification for three of its labs in the Coal Utilization Laboratory:

  • C104: Sarma Pisupati leads the research in this lab, which focuses on the extraction of critical and rare earth elements from secondary sources. 
  • C104A: Mohammad Rezaee leads the research in this lab, which focuses on the extraction of critical elements from primary and secondary sources.
  • C104B: Thandazile Moyo leads the research in this lab, which employs the use of electrochemistry and electroanalytical tools to study surface reactions in mineral dissolution.

Following the successful certification of these labs, the Institute is now working toward certifying Research East 218 and 222, and C101 and C101C Coal Utilization Laboratory.