Keeping It Green - Your Lab's Environmental Program

By Roger S. Hill
Your customers and the government expect that your lab is environmentally responsible and is not causing pollution while running your business. In the 21st century, it is not good enough to just comply with the environmental rules. Leading companies in many industries have programs in place to reduce the environmental impact from their operations. It is not just about having a green business, but saving money that contributes to an improved bottom line.

An Environmental Management System (EMS) is an effective tool to make your lab greener. An EMS does not guarantee regulatory compliance; it puts a system in place to make regulatory compliance more achievable. This reduces the likelihood of fines for violations and helps prevent repeat violations.The basic steps to develop a lab EMS are:

Develop an Environmental Policy Statement signed by the senior lab manager. Examples of the key points of the policy could include:

• Commitment to environmental compliance with local, State and Federal environmental laws and regulations.

• Prevention of pollution at its source whenever possible.

• Integrate sound environmental practices into lab operations and business decisions that could impact the environment.

• Continually improve environmental performance through use of effective environmental management and planning.

• Establish and track performance for your environmental program.

• Conducting regular environmental management reviews to assess the progress toward meeting environmental goals.

• Education of employees at all levels concerning proper waste management procedures and their environmental responsibilities while at work.

• Foster communication throughout appropriate levels of the company about environmental commitments and performance.

• Promotion of environmental programs in the community.

2. Identify the significant environmental impacts from your lab operations. Typical impacts include paper, cardboard, polish, water, electricity, solid waste and polish. Once the environmental impacts are identified, strategies can be developed to reduce these impacts.

3. Set environmental goals for your lab. Examples are reduction of waste, using less electricity, and reducing polish use. Each of these would result in cost savings.

4. Include environmental procedures in your lab work practices and employee training. If it is not written down and employees are not held accountable to follow environmental procedures, violations are more likely to occur. All employees have environmental responsibilities, even office workers that recycle the used paper.

5. Management Review. Lab management should review the status of the lab EMS program annually. The review should include EMS committee minutes, any violations, and progress towards meeting environmental goals. The review should be written. On-going top management commitment and support is critical to an EMS program!

A good starting point for your labs EMS is to check out the EPA Web site www.epa.gov. Setting-up a small team of employees and managers with a broad background of the company’s environmental impact and lab processes is a good starting point. This group would identify your lab’s environmental concerns and develop strategies to reduce them. Stressing smaller projects with a high probability of success help give the program momentum.

Also selecting projects that reduce cost and improve laboratory efficiency help gain management support. Getting everyone involved in environmental projects will allow employees to take ownership of the company’s environmental program. They also have ideas as to how these improvements can be made.

Your EMS provides a plan to wake up your lab’s environmental program, reducing your environmental impact and the chance of environmental violations. This program should contribute to lowering the cost of operations, and it will make environmental responsibility part of your corporate culture. Becoming a greener lab will give your employees and customers a reason to celebrate because your company is doing their part to protect the environment.

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Labtalk May/June 2018