Assessing environmental awareness in Chemistry Labs

UPDATE JANUARY 2014: A student has been selected to take on this project. To learn more about it, go to the MCGILL CHEM WASTE GROUP website!

ASR Project 1.2: Benchmarking the Environmental Impact of Campus Labs

 Project Description:

Laboratories have a significant environmental impact in terms of energy and material consumption, waste produced, and hazardous materials processed. While the very processes of some research require large-scale consumption of resources and energy, there are undoubtedly opportunities for increases in efficiency and reduction in waste production in lab environments. In order to identify those opportunities, the impact of laboratories needs to be measured and quantified in a standardized fashion. Categories of environmental impact relevant to the lab environment require identification, and subsequent ‘break-down’ into quantifiable metrics. From such a foundation, standards, guidelines, and targets can be formulated in order to develop policies and behavioral shifts that will work towards reducing the overall environmental impacts of labs on campus. This work will highlight the progress that McGill has already made, benchmark the sustainability performance of labs, and identify areas that need improvement for the future.


-To determine appropriate categories of sustainability that would relevant for understanding the environmental impact of research labs (energy, material consumption, bio-waste, etc.)

-To develop metrics (whether newly created or adapted from other Universities), within categories of sustainability, that can gauge the sustainability performance and the environmental impact of a research lab (kilowatt hours of energy consumed per month for example).

-Methods have to be developed in order to apply sustainability metrics based on the variation that exists between labs on campus: equipment that a research lab uses, the type of research being undertaken in that lab etc.

-These metrics should be harmonized or informed by parallel efforts to improve or measure the environmental impact of labs at comparable research institutions and Universities across North America.

-Data will be aggregated from participating labs in order to run a pilot assessment of lab sustainability based on the metrics created.


 -Research: The student will produce a 15-25 page research document that will outline methods used, results found, and a conclusion. This will present the sustainability categories, the metrics, an outline of comparable systems of assessment at other research institutions, and finally the data from participating labs and a presentation of the metrics being applied to those labs.

-Presentation: Stakeholders, including the labs reviewed, staff members at Hazardous waste, Environment Health and Safety, and those at the office of sustainability, will be invited to a presentation of the results hosted by the student.

-Reflection Piece: The student will be expected to write a 1-2 page reflection on their experience, the challenges they faced, their solutions to those challenges, and provide feedback with regards to the ASR process.

Responsibilities and time Commitments:

The student is responsible for the management of their time, and ultimately the success of the project. Note that according to McGill’s credit system, a 3 credit course represents roughly 9 hours of work per week when spread over a normal semester.

Environmental Health and Safety staff will meet with the student 1 hour per week over the course of the project (as well as be available for a reasonable number of additional emails and phone calls), to answer questions and provide resources and guidance.

 Project supervisors:

Faculty Supervisor TBD.

Client: Wayne Wood, Environmental Health and Safety

 Course Code: 

 This ASR project will be registered under the relevant department’s independent research course code (ENVR 490 for example).

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