sustainable tips for remote research

A pause on research doesn’t have to mean a pause on sustainability! There are many ways working from home can be just as productive and successful as being in the lab. Here’s a list of quick and easy tips to stay green when conducting research remotely and communicating with other lab members.

1. Donate unused PPE to hospitals.

When research in the lab takes a pause, help out frontline healthcare workers by donating your unused and appropriate PPE to the UCI Medical Center using this form or visit GetUsPPE to find additional locations and instructions on donating near you.

2. Opt for reusable cloth masks instead of disposable ones.

When outside the lab, the CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies). Visit the CDC site for more information and instructions on how to make your own cloth masks.

3. Avoid using a screensaver and set computers to sleep mode during breaks or periods of inactivity.

It’s important to take breaks after analyzing research data and writing literature reviews. During periods of inactivity, remember to put your computer in sleep mode or adjust your computer’s energy settings so it goes to sleep automatically after 5 minutes. Click here to learn how to adjust your energy settings for Windows and Macs.

4. Be mindful when upgrading electronic devices.

If you find yourself in need of a new device, donate, sell, or recycle your old electronics. To avoid the hassle of selling your device, try a buy-back program. Find electronics second-hand or if buying new, look for ones that are EPEAT-certified or meet Energy Star Requirements.

5. Save batteries and empty ink cartridges for proper recycling on campus.

Working from home may be causing you to use up more batteries and ink cartridges than usual. Save these items and take them to one of the multiple battery and ink cartridge recycling locations around campus when possible for easy recycling. Find the list of locations here.

6. If purchasing paper, choose 100% recycled paper.

Per campus standards, UCI uses 100% post-consumer recycled paper. Follow suit at home by doing the same. We recommend Boise Aspen 100% recycled paper.

7. Go paperless.

What’s better than using recycled paper? No paper! Switch to taking your notes digitally or try a paperless notebook. Use DocuSign to obtain signatures, invest in a good scanner to convert documents and navigate them through searchable PDFs, and electronically save rather than print. Not only are you saving paper, but saving money on buying paper, ink, and cartridges.

8. Ship items sustainably.

Travel restrictions may be limiting your field research and requiring you to ship items instead. When shipping, avoid rush delivery unless absolutely necessary and use green conscious methods. This includes choosing correctly sized boxes for your products, minimizing packing filler to keep products safe, and consolidating orders to the same recipient into one package. While many retailers sell eco-friendly packaging such as biodegradable bubble wrap, packing peanuts, and plastic wrap, shipping sustainably can be as easy as reusing that cardboard box you have lying around or heading into your local UPS for earth-friendly air pillow or retention packaging.

9. Make your coffee using sustainable methods.

If you’ve made it routine to have a cup of coffee to start your workday, consider brewing that cup at home sustainably. If you use a Keriug, ditch the k-cups and opt for a reusable k-cup that you can fill with your own coffee grounds. Better yet, switch to a french press which uses no waste and compost the grounds after you’re done. Don’t forget to use your own mug!

10. Discuss and plan for returning back to the lab.

When conducting Zoom check-in meetings, brainstorm how you can implement more sustainable practices when research resumes and make a plan for how you will accomplish that. Will you order more outlet timers to conserve energy? Print signs to demonstrate how to minimize water usage? Whatever it is, try to include all lab members and open up the discussion to more ideas and questions.

11. For those who do still enter the lab occasionally, follow this checklist before leaving:

my green lab