ASU Environmental Health and Safety goes beyond promoting ASU community safety through training and oversight. EHS also leads several initiatives that advance the university’s sustainability goals across hundreds of campus laboratories.
“We spent the last several years building the Sustainability and Resource Conservation team to create reuse, consolation and recycle programs that support reduced waste costs and increase efficiencies,” said Michael Ochs, associate director. “EHS has committed to supporting ASU’s sustainability efforts.”
EHS participates in the state’s Pollution Prevention Program. The program seeks to reduce the use of toxic substances and hazardous waste generation and is a regulatory requirement with the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality.
In 2021, EHS supported the program by recycling:
- 29,168 lightbulbs.
- 7,480 pounds of batteries.
- 5,554 pounds of lead-acid batteries.
- 4,149 pounds of metal.
- 3,363 pounds of non-regulated waste.
- 109 pounds of recycled metal aerosol cans.
The department also collected 3,481 one-gallon bottles from being discarded after a single use and instead distributed them to labs for reuse. Ochs said this initiative saved the university approximately $34,000.
The EHS Sustainability and Resource Conservation team has partnered with a local supplier to source refurbished waste drums. The partnership reduced the impact on resources needed to create new drums and their transportation while also saving money. Ochs said more than 300 of these drums are purchased annually by ASU, which saves roughly $23,000 compared to buying new drums.
EHS oversees the Green Labs Program to reduce energy use and implement other sustainable practices through education and alternative solutions. For instance, labs have implemented the “Shut the Sash” energy conservation program for over 1,200 fume hoods, which reminds researchers to shut the fume hood sash when not in use to ensure safety and reduce energy use.
ASU currently has 633 certified green labs that reduce energy consumption and engage in other sustainable practices. Learn how to designate your laboratory as a Green Lab.
The Chemical Exchange Program helps reduce hazardous waste as EHS collects unused and unopened containers from one lab and provides them to another. Ochs said that EHS ensures the chemicals are unopened to preserve their integrity for future lab use. He added that the program reuses 15–20 chemical bottles annually on average.
Safe water disposal
EHS created the Drain Disposal Program to prevent non-hazardous wastewater from being discarded with hazardous waste. EHS identifies specific laboratories to take the wastewater that contains no hazardous or radioactive chemicals and safely dispose of it in the sewer.
This initiative saves the university money and reduces accumulation at hazardous waste facilities. Last year, the program saved nearly 2,000 pounds of non-hazardous waste at 21 ASU locations from being unnecessarily processed.
Despite all its efforts, EHS continues to look for ways to make its operations more sustainable. “We’re always looking for ways to increase and expand environmentally-friendly operations,” said Ochs. “EHS wants to be a sustainability leader in higher education.”
Become a sustainable Sun Devil
Ochs encourages those interested in contributing to ASU’s sustainability efforts to complete the Seeds of Sustainability training and consider joining the ASU Compliance Officers program. Sun Devils who work in labs can participate in the Chemical Exchange Program or have their laboratories become a Green Lab.