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Green your lab

Think green when buying lab supplies. Many companies offer ways to reduce your environmental impact through these purchases and programs:

Products that are less toxic or less hazardous

SYBR Safe (distributed by Invitrogen) is a DNA stain designed to replace ethidium bromide, with a proven reduction in mutagenicity. See MIT's case study of SYBR Safe pilot testing (PDF).

Safe Imager Transilluminator (distributed by Invitrogen) is a light box designed to replace harmful ultraviolet (UV) light for viewing stained gels (DNA, etc.) in the lab.

Bio-Safe Coomassie Stain (PDF) (distributed by Bio-Rad) is a dye designed to replace traditional Coomassie stain for detecting proteins in electrophoresis gels. This stain is non-hazardous and eliminates the need for methanol and acetic acid for detaining.

Products that conserve materials

Continental Lab Products ESP (Environmentally Sensitive Packaging) pipet tip reloading systems reduce waste by 60% using re-usable, recycled content tip boxes and selling stackable tip inserts rather than single-use boxes.

Corning Labware (also distributed by Fisher Scientific) makes centrifuge tubes and serological pipets which can be bought in bulk, which can save you money and reduce wasted cardboard and Styrofoam packaging.

Friendly GreenTM Wipes (distributed by Blue Thunder Technologies) provides a greener alternative to the traditional Kimi Wipe used in labs.

Phoenix STAR Petri dishes (also distributed by VWR Scientific) were designed to use 35% less plastic than conventional Petri dishes.

Kimberly Clark recycled content paper towels and wipes (also distributed by Fisher Scientific) reduce the use of virgin wood for paper products used in the lab.

VWR Next Generation Pipet Tip Refill System offers an environmentally friendly option for pipette tip systems.

On-site supply systems. If you order from one vendor often, you might consider setting up an on-site supply closet with them. These are small freezers or storage areas with a set stock of products used in your lab, department, or center. You manage the inventory and in exchange, vendors can provide you with:

  • Free or discounted shipping,
  • Free products,
  • A freezer for storage,
  • Promotional items or sales,
  • Convenience of having supplies on-hand whenever you need it.

You help the environment by consolidating your restock shipments rather than requesting multiple single-order shipments, reducing packaging waste and transportation impacts. A recent study showed that one institution cut its shipments from 200 per year to 50 per year, just from setting up an on-site supply system with one vendor!

Life science supply vendors offering on-site supply systems:

General Lab Supply Distributors offering on-site supply systems:


Purchase less hazardous chemicals with the Green Chemical Alternatives Wizard. This web-based tool, developed at MIT under a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency, allows individuals to search for alternatives to hazardous chemicals commonly used in laboratories. Print your search results, or have a link emailed to you. MIT users can link to the SAP procurement page from the wizard.

Medical supplies

Hospitals for a Healthy Environment (H2E) website is an excellent resource for information on reducing waste and environmental impacts form healthcare and medical equipment, supplies, and operations.

Vendor Recycling Programs

Some vendors with take back materials such as pipet tip boxes (examples include Brinkmann-Eppendorf, USA Scientific, VWR, and Corning Labware). Contact your vendor for details on their specific take back program.

Solvent recycling: CBG Biotech has partnered with Triumvirate Environmental to provide small scale recycling units for xylene, ethanol and other commonly used laboratory solvents.

Waste oil recycling: Certain laboratories and spaces on campus generate waste oil. Certain types of oil, such as Fomblin oil (high performance vacuum oil), are cheaper to send back to the manufacturer for reconditioning. The resulting is a savings to the lab as well as reduced natural resource consumption.

Packaging recycling: Many vendors will take back packaging materials. Some make it simple by pre-labeling their boxes to be returned to them at no charge (examples include Sigma Aldrich and New England Biolabs).

20-L can program is MIT's program for reducing packaging associated with hazardous chemical waste disposal. Chemical waste is consolidated into 20-L containers that ship as is. Conventional waste shipment calls for packing of 4-L containers in a 55-gal (approximately 220 L) drum with absorbent material ("overpacking"). The 20-L container avoids the need for this additional packaging and saves MIT in labor charges. Click on the "Waste Collection Guideline" on the right hand side of the page.

Send clean surplus packing peanuts to the MIT Mail Services Packing Peanuts Reuse Program, WW15, by placing sealed bags on any Interdepartmental Mailbox.