Category: People (page 2 of 35)

Wear it Out, Send it Back: Vendor Take-Back Programs for Labs

As any science student knows, laboratory settings are extremely resource-intensive. Tufts’ Campus Sustainability Council confirmed this in their 2013 report, stating that lab and hospital buildings have a disproportionately large environmental impact. Unfortunately, much of the material waste produced in labs is unavoidable. Items like pipette tips and vials are demanded in enormous quantities and typically cannot be recycled. Despite these difficulties, steps can be taken to minimize the amount of material that ends up in the landfill.

Emily Edwards, the Engineering Lab Coordinator and Eco-Ambassador in the SciTech building, continually tries to reduce waste in her labs. She collects and recycles packing materials like Styrofoam coolers, commonly used for transporting biomaterials, and tries to reduce the use of disposable materials like paper towels. SciTech also has a large electronics-recycling bin, ensuring that worn-out lab and office equipment is not sent to the landfill. Sanjukta Ghosh, a biology lab coordinator at 200 Boston Ave., has also taken steps to reduce lab waste, most notably her participation in vendor take-back programs.

 

What are vendor take-back programs?

Vendor take-back is an increasingly common practice whereby a product can be returned to the company that sold it at the end of its useful life. Many companies have begun to offer take-back services voluntarily, although it is up to the consumer to participate in these programs. Vendor take-back has a number of advantages over traditional waste disposal, and has the potential to greatly increase environmental sustainability. For example, vendors of electronics may offer to collect and safely recycle them, preventing them from ending up in landfills. In addition, many vendors will take back packaging materials from their products and reuse them. This reduces waste, and also saves the vendor money and resources. Interestingly, the vendor take-back model places the onus on retailers to safely dispose of their products, rather than passing this responsibility on to the consumer.

It is important for consumers to take advantage of existing take-back programs, especially in equipment-intensive settings like university labs, in order to reduce their waste output and environmental impact. Agilent and Eppendorf are two such companies that have programs in place to collect worn out lab products. Large equipment pickup may only be offered with the purchase of a replacement product, but pickup is often free for smaller items. Details vary by company, and it is typically necessary to make arrangements for pickup with a local representative.

As lab equipment retailers are becoming more environmentally conscious, they now offer a wide array of services toincrease sustainability. For example, some companies offer refillable pipette tip boxes, which saves packaging and is typically cheaper too! These include:

  • Ranin
  • USA Scientific
  • VWR

Many lab vendors have also begun developing products that use less materials, and some offer specialized programs like solvent recycling. Finally, many companies will take back their own packaging materials for free, using pre-paid shipping labels. Some of these companies are used by Tufts, and include:

  • New England Biolabs
  • Qiagen
  • Sigma Aldrich

Although this practice does divert material from the landfill, it can still have environmental drawbacks. For example, because Styrofoam is so porous and light, transporting coolers back to the distributor for reuse can actually have a larger carbon footprint than manufacturing new ones.

 

Onsite Supply Center

While the waste associated with shipping equipment and reagents to labs may seem unavoidable, many universities have already implemented a simple solution. Instead of individually mailing each new order of lab materials, a supply center can be set up onsite to provide campus labs with the materials they demand. This system virtually eliminates packaging, as items are delivered in bulk to the campus supply center, where they are stored and then picked up as needed by lab personnel. As an added bonus, onsite supply centers tend to save money, as items no longer need to be individually shipped to campus, and vendors may offer discounts for bulk purchases. Although Tufts does not currently have any supply centers, in the future this could be a cost-effective way to minimize unnecessary waste.

 

Tips to Reduce Lab Waste

Always recycle when possible – common lab materials (like cardboard boxes from gloves) often end up in the landfill when they could easily be recycled. Make sure that you know which materials are recyclable, and always place them in the appropriate bin. For more information on recycling at Tufts, visit the recycling website.

Keep track of inventory – know what materials you already have on hand, and only purchase the needed amount. Properly labeling and storing reagents also ensures that others can use them in the future.

Properly dispose of e-waste – old electronics, batteries, light bulbs, and similar items can be diverted from the landfill by placing them in their designated specialty-recycling bins, which may vary by building. This ensures that they will be safely disposed of, while salvaging useful materials. Empty Ink and toner cartridges can often be mailed back to manufacturers to be refilled.

Donate equipment – even better than recycling unwanted, functional equipment is donating it to other institutions. On the flip side, you can receive equipment donations from other labs, which saves money too! Finally, Tufts employees can subscribe to the freecycle e-list, and donate or request items within the Tufts community.

Purchase environmentally friendly materials – many vendors offer refillable or recyclable items like pipette tip boxes. Look for more sustainable alternatives to commonly used lab materials!

 

Taking steps such as trading in old equipment or refilling pipette tip boxes may seem small, but they can contribute to a significant decrease in lab waste. Implementing these actions can help transform resource-intensive labs into pinnacles of sustainability on campus.

 

Reusable Plates of Boston 2017

On Tuesday, June 6th, President Monaco hosted the second of three President’s Picnic at the Boston Campus. These annual zero-waste events bring together the Tufts community to celebrate another year of hard work. The zero waste initiative at each of these picnics encourages attendees to BYOP — Bring Your Own Place-setting — which reduces waste created from disposable dishes, cutlery, and cups.

Condiments and drinks were served in bulk, rather than individual packets, to further reduce packaging waste.

Recycling interns helped sort recycling and compost at special Zero Waste Stations.

Attendees who brought their own dishes could also win special, sustainable prizes! This year, the first fifty won a reusable paper towel.

Attendees did a fantastic job helping us keep this event zero-waste. We hope everyone enjoyed the great food and company and will continue these sustainable practices into the future!

Click for recaps from the Medford President’s Picnic and the Grafton Presidents Picnic.

First International Flyingless Conference

Image from Professor Wilde’s Twitter Account @flyingless.

On Friday April 28, 2017, Professor Parke Wilde from the Friedman School—in collaboration with Tufts Professors Richard Auner in Music and Ani Patel in Psychology, graduate students Mehreen Ismail, Victoria Chase, and Ola Ozernov-Palchik, and Professor Mary Farbood from NYU, Andrea Norton from Beth Israel Deaconess, graduate students Maximilian Burkard and Nils Meyer Kahlen, and Professor Richard Parncutt in Graz, Austria—put on the first international flyingless conference called the Global Arts and Psychology Seminar (GAPS). This event was created with support from David Kahle, the Chief Information Officer; Tina Woolston, the Director of the Office of Sustainability; and Bill O’Brien, a Multimedia Specialist. With audiences in Graz, Austria; Sydney, Australia; Sheffield, England; La Plata, Argentina; and Boston, MA, USA, GAPS was quite a successful event.

So why a flyingless conference? Well, Professor Wilde explains this event as a hopeful one in the times of climate change. He continues that communities of universities must be leaders, yet contribute to climate change in traveling to conferences to share research and knowledge. This conference aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through a lifestyle change in the academic world. He believes that while some may claim these changes are impossible or will hinder economic activity, “thoughtful people will innovate new ways of living prosperously that have less impact on the environment.”

Part of the solution can come through the many ways we can find fulfillment with minimal impact on the environment. Professor Wilde encourages his audience to think of the list of things that bring joy and happiness without being resource intensive. The professor points to music, mental health, and well-being, a direct link to the topic of the conference that before may have seemed out of place. The professor makes it clear the connection the environment has to so many other fields of studies and aspects of life.

He reminds everyone involved and participating in GAPS, “here today, you are part of something important.”

View the GAPS here:

 

 

Tufts Student Studies Sustainability and Food Systems in Italy

PERUGIA, Italy — “So many people told me that the most important thing I could do at Tufts would be to study abroad. Tufts really focuses on intercultural communication and awareness,” said Alex Cherry from his seat at a café in the center of Perugia, Italy. Alex is pursuing a Dual Major in International Relations and Environmental Studies at Tufts University, though he is currently studying abroad through the Food & Sustainability Studies Program (FSSP) at the Umbra Institute, an American study abroad program in Italy.

At Tufts, Alex says that his educational background has had a focus on the science and policy of environmental studies, while at Umbra “the focus has been more on cultural identity and the contrasting ways that different societies produce and consume food.” Umbra’s FSSP is a curricular concentration that applies an interdisciplinary approach to the study of food and sustainability in order to discover how the individual, the community, and society relate to food in Italy, America, and elsewhere. As part of the program, Alex has taken courses in the history and culture of food, sustainability and food production, and the business of wine.

A key characteristic of the FSSP is that all courses include a series of co- and extra-curricular activities as a supplement to topics discussed in class. To develop a deep understanding of various food production processes, Alex has spent his semester cooking an antique Roman recipe in Florence; exploring an ancient pharmacy to learn about the medicinal characteristics of food; touring multiple, family-run, organic wineries and cheese producers; working in a synergistic garden; and visiting local farmers’ markets. He has also had the opportunity to go truffle- hunting in the hills of Umbria and discuss organic agriculture with Matteo Bartolini, a lobbyist for the European Agricultural Commission for Sustainable Agricultural Reform. When asked what he thought of the flurry of community engagement activities that filled his semester, Alex responded, “What’s the point of being a student? Why am I studying? It is so that I can be trained in a professional way so that I can go and do something for the community that I am a part of.”

In addition to his courses within the FSSP, Alex chose to compliment his semester studies with CESP 351: Fair Trade Practices: Seminar and Practicum. During the course’s practicum, Alex works in a local fair trade shop and assists with the advertisement of events that promote fair trade concepts to the locals of Perugia. He commented that the shop’s community is welcoming to volunteers of all backgrounds, including locals with mental or physical disabilities. “The whole ethos of what they do is making sure that everyone is getting what they deserve, to create a community space,” said Alex as he described how the fundamentals of fair trade translate into the shop’s community. During the seminar portion of the course, the class reviews the impact of fair trade on both local and global economies, the place for fair trade inside the global market, and the role of the World Fair Trade Organization. Readings and discussions offer comparative analysis of Italian and American perspectives on global markets and the complexities of communicating such a topic across cultures.

As he ended his conversation with Umbra staff, Alex explained that he feels it is important for students of an interdisciplinary field, such as food and environmental studies, to learn to have a well-rounded perspective that discounts neither science nor culture and history. He concluded saying, “I am really glad that I got to see both the Italian and American perspective [on food systems] at the same time and in the same place.”

About Food & Sustainability Studies at the Umbra Institute:

The Food & Sustainability Studies Program is an interdisciplinary curricular concentration at the Umbra Institute, an American study abroad program located in the central Italian city of Perugia. Often called a “big university town in a small Italian city,” Perugia is the ideal setting to study abroad in Italy, with fine arts, business, and liberal arts courses. For more information about the Umbra Institute or its Food & Sustainability Studies Program, contact the associate director of the Program, Zachary Nowak (znowak@umbra.org). You can also watch a short video describing studying at the Umbra Institute.

Earth Month Celebrations

Tufts has a month-long series of events planned to educate the community about sustainability issues. The month will culminate with an Earth Day celebration on the Medford/Somerville campus.

See the Facebook event

April 6th
Lunch & Learn: An acidifying ocean: Where might it lead?
12:00-1:00 PM, Rabb Room

April 6th
Medford Bike Commission Meeting
6:00-7:30 PM, Tufts University Mayer Campus Center, Room 012

April 7th
Tufts Food Systems Symposium: Intersections of Waste and Food Insecurity
10:00 AM – 2:00 PM, Breed Hall, 51 Winthrop Street

April 7th
Hillel’s Farm to Table Shabbat Dinner
5:00-9:00 PM, Tufts Hillel, 220 Packard Ave

April 10th
CIERP Research Seminar: Ujjayant Chakravorty
12:30 – 1:40 PM, Cabot 702

April 10th

Federalism in the Era of Climate Change

6:30 PM, Barnum 104

April 11th
TIE-SEI Nexus Symposium
1:00-6:00 PM, Alumnae Lounge

April 12th
ENVS Internship Poster Symposium
12:00-1:00 PM, Remis Sculpture Court

April 12th
Hot Topics in the Environmental Industry (Networking Event)
5:00-7:00 PM, Alumnae Lounge

April 13th
Lunch & Learn: Sustainability at the municipal level in Somerville
12:00-1:00 PM, Rabb Room

April 13th

MassDEP Climate Meeting: AlChE Boston Dinner

6:00- 8:30 PM, SciTech

April 14th
Environmental Escapade to the Boston Public Market + art exhibit at Hay Market
12:50-3:10PM, Back of Miller Hall

April 18th
Eco-Rep movie screening of The Age of Consequences
6:00 PM, Tisch 304

April 19th
Voices from the Edge: Gina McCarthyFacebook Event Page 
7:30PM, Alumnae Lounge
Presented by Ex College

April 20th
Lunch & Learn: Boston to Bukoba and back: Building the honey money chain
12:00-1:00 PM, Rabb Room

April 20th
Grafton Green Team Clothing Swap
Grafton Campus

April 20th
8th Annual WSSS Symposium
9:00 AM – 5:00 PM, ASEAN Auditorium, Cabot Center

April 21st
Earth Fest + Eco-Reps Clothing Swap/Jumbo Mountain
11 am – 2 pm, Academic Quad in front of West

April 22nd
March for Science (Boston)
2:00-4:00 PM, Boston Common

April 24th
Clean Water, Healthy Rivers: Preventing toxic algae blooms in local waterways
6:30-7:45 PM, Barnum 104

April 27th
Lunch & Learn: Drought, blight, and the aesthetics of dispossession
12:00-1:00 PM, Rabb Room

If you are planning any Earth Month events at Tufts that were not included on this list, please contact sustainabilityoffice@tufts.edu and we will add them.

Older posts Newer posts