Hello again and a happy Friday to everyone! It’s the end of another week and I’ll continue here our series on Green Labs. This time we’ll have a look at the other side of the world, i.e. at the Green Labs Program at the University of Queensland in Australia. It’s part of a larger initiative of the university promoting “sustainability across all aspects of learning, discovery, engagement and operations” and features a nice collection of Green Labs Fact Sheets, which contain lots of tips for running a lab more environment friendly. Especially one of them caught my attention and that’s the fact sheet on water consumption.
Let’s assume that you haven’t read the UQ’s fact sheet yet (or just pretend that’s still the case) and imagine that you’re asked, “where in the laboratory do you use water?”. Of course, there are the activities, which everyone does: washing you hands, cleaning lab equipment, using water to dilute or prepare solutions. That’s what came to my mind. Now looking at the UQ’s study (see picture below), this does indeed account for 25% of the water consumption. But would you have guessed that the air conditioning system uses much more water, i.e. 42%?!? Well, I guess the fact that Brisbane has a humid subtropical climate might contribute to that and it might look different for universities with a more moderate climate. And even if one might not be able to do much about it (in this case, it’s up to the Property & Facilities Division … unless you can adjust the air conditioning in your room? If someone’s working at the UQ and could comment on this, please do so!), it’s good to be aware of this.
And one can definitely try to do something about the remaining 68%, i.e. the use of water for sanitary purposes and for the usual lab processes. For example, when you clean the labware, run the dishwasher only once it’s fully loaded or don’t let the tap water run all the time. Or at least not at full throttle – usually a reduced flow rate is still more than enough. Look at the example given in the fact sheet, where a test with reduced flow rates for autoclaves indicated a possible reduction of 62%, which translates into savings per autoclave of over $2,000 a year. Not bad at all, isn’t it?
Also, some of your cooling lab equipment might work with much less water. Again, the fact sheet give a nice example here: instead of letting the water run through the cooling apparatus just once, it’s possible to circulate it a few times before the water becomes to hot and goes down the drain.
Besides all the helpful tips, this fact sheet taught me that there might be some equipment using water that I wasn’t even aware of. And awareness is the first step, isn’t it? So, let’s be more aware about when and where we’re using water. And then let’s take the next step and take actions to reduce our water consumption!
A while ago I noticed the faucet of the bath had a leak. After calling the plumber I used a juice carton box with some thread hanging from the faucet, but since the dropping was quite often (and the carton didn’t have enough capacity for the water), I remembered that while surfing for green inspiration and eco tips, found a website where there was an idea on how to reuse a shampoo bottle to extend the faucet and since my tap is very close to the wall the bucket doesn’t really fit. so with this method I could properly place a bucket underneath so that the water can be stored there and then be reused to flush the toilette or something while the plumber comes and properly fixes the leaking. The tutorial I mentioned originally is to extend the faucet so that kids can reach the water to wash their hands, which is also very convenient!
I found it so satisfactory and great how a big issue (because I noticed there were 10L of water a day wasted with that leaking, 10L!!!) had such an easy temporary solution (I write it in bold because the ideal solution is to fix properly the leaking wherever you find it). So, here are the steps of this super idea. I practically followed the steps from Cheerios & Lattes tutorial:
First, cut the whole top of the shampoo bottle
Then, measure approximately the width of the tap and cut the bottom part of the bottle. I left a side uncut so that it makes some pressure and is really fixed when you insert the tap inside
Now, just insert the faucet inside the square you just cut and voilá!