Episode 5: Exploring the Nexus of Sustainability and Research with My Green Lab - Transcript
Dave Karlsgodt 0:00
Welcome to the campus energy and sustainability podcast. In each episode, we'll talk with leading campus professionals, thought leaders, engineers and innovators addressing the unique challenges and opportunities facing higher ed and corporate campuses. Our discussions will range from energy conservation and efficiency to planning and finance, from building science to social science, from energy systems to food systems. We hope you're ready to learn, share and ultimately accelerate your institution towards solutions. I'm your host, Dave Karlsgodt, I'm a principal at Fovea, an energy carbon and business planning firm. In this episode, you will hear my interview with Allison Paradise, who is the executive director at My Green Lab. Allison has chosen to take on an important but often neglected aspect of sustainability. The research lab space, her nonprofit focuses on fundamentally permanently improving the sustainability of scientific research. In our interview, you'll hear more about her recent success and getting an ENERGY STAR designation for all low temperature freezers, an exciting new program to provide nutrition like labeling for laboratory products and equipment, as well as how My Green Lab is helping scientists better align their work with their desire for a more sustainable world. I hope you enjoyed this discussion with Allison Paradise. So Allison, maybe you can start us off by giving us some background on how you came to create the nonprofit migraine lab and how you got interested in sustainability specifically focused on scientific research.
Allison Paradise 1:29
Sure, so thank you so much for having me. It's really it's a pleasure to be here. And to share this story with you. This whole thing actually started back when I was 17. Believe it or not, many, many years ago, I grew up in Connecticut. And I'd gotten an internship at a pharmaceutical company about an hour or so from my parents house. It was the summer between my junior and senior year of high school. And I got up really early in the morning, I drove to work, I felt very grown up because I was commuting with all these commuters, it gets to the lab, they sit me down and say right, you're going to do an experiment today. And I was really feeling very excited because I thought they would have me read or something the first day or maybe shadow somebody, but no, they gave me they gave me a sample of blood. And they said look, what we need to do is we need to separate out all the different cells in this. And we're going to do this experiment called facts, which is stands for lesson Lee activated self sorting. So I get to my bench, I start doing the experiment. And I realized I'm going through a lot of pipe Pat tips, a lot of them. Some of them are hazardous. So I throw them in hazardous waste. But the boxes and a lot of the other tips that I was using, they only touched water, or PBS and I thought, well, I can recycle these. So I'm looking around, I'm trying to find a recycling bin and there's just there isn't one. And I'm like, well, maybe I'm just missing it. Maybe it's not in my little area. Maybe there's a general recycling center, I can bring all this to so I kind of save it all. We go through the whole experiment at the end of the day, and I'm getting ready to go home. And I realized I still haven't found the recycling bin. So I go to the PI, and I say to her, right, so where's the recycling bin and I just have to recycle these and then I can head out. And she's kind of looking at me like, I'm not sure if I should be taking you seriously right now is she is she trying to make a joke? Like her face was just so confused. And I'm looking back at her also so confused, because it seems to be a relatively simple question. I've got a lot of plastic it belongs in the recycling bin. Where is that? And she just looked at me. She goes, we don't we don't recycle here. Everything's incinerated. And I, I couldn't really compute that. I just said, Wait, what? No, no, but this is just plastic. We don't have to. I mean, we don't have to incinerate it. It's totally fine. And she's like, No, we really everything gets incinerated here. And she takes all of this stuff from each takes the beaker that had the pipettes, she takes all the different pipette boxes. And she just chucked them all in the trash. She hands me back the beaker and she's like, this is dirty now please go wash it. And I'm just horrified. My heart is breaking. I can't believe I just threw away that much plastic. I don't think growing up that we were particularly environmentally minded. I think we just, we was just assumed, though, that we would recycle. Because of course you would recycle. And it just makes sense. And so for me to get into that environment, and have that not be an option was really, yeah, well, it didn't feel good at all. So after that, that whole summer. And then basically for the rest of my career working in labs, which was another almost 10, 15 years, I just would take the plastic with me home, anything that I that I thought could be recycled, I would take it home and put it in my home recycling bin, which I subsequently found out is really terrifying for the people who take your home recycling, like you should should not be putting patio boxes in that I just assumed they wouldn't that nobody really looked at it. And it would just be plastic, but actually, sometimes that can be designated as medical waste and, and actually, then all the recycling gets thrown away, which also doesn't make any sense that we would freak out that something might be medical waste, and so we put it in the ground. But that's a whole other story. But anyway, for the longest time, I was just taking things back with me and I had this car full of just plastic from the lab. And and yeah, and then, you know, I kept thinking somebody would do something about this, that, you know, it's it had been 10 years of me working, I did my undergraduate I took a couple years off, I did work when I went to graduate school, nothing, still no recycling whatsoever in the labs, then I worked as a consultant for a few years and still no changes. And I just thought, you know what, this is ridiculous. I mean, really, somebody should do something about this. And, and I thought, you know what, I've been waiting for a long time for somebody to do something about this in nobody has, so I'm going to do something about it. And that's how the nonprofit got started.
Dave Karlsgodt 6:05
It's interesting, because you talk in your story just now about waste. But I know in seeing you at the California higher education sustainability conference recently, you were talking more about energy use and labs, particularly low temperature freezers. So how did you make that switch from waste to energy? Or is that a switch or just an addition?
Allison Paradise 6:25
Yeah, that's a good question. I would say it's an addition, not so much a switch, although although definitely does seem to be the focus of the organization at the moment. We were about two weeks old when I attended my first California higher education sustainability conference, or CHESC, as it's known out here. And, and we were since we were startup nonprofit, we really didn't have a lot of money to attend the conference. So I volunteered. And as a volunteer, I was asked to sit in on a session that was talking about energy consumption on campuses. And I go to this session, and I should, I should actually put the visual for people because it's, it's actually very funny, I had gotten to the volunteer station earlier that day, to get my volunteer t shirt. And I'm not a very large person. So I wanted to make sure I would get a T shirt that would fit and they said, Oh, no, your shift doesn't start till the afternoon. Don't worry about picking up the shirt. Now, come back in the afternoon, we'll definitely have a size small for you. No, no problem. So okay, so I spend the morning walking around talking to vendors. And I come back in the afternoon to get my T shirt. And literally all they have left are like XXLs. I mean, the thing is just massive on I could I was like a dress. And so I'm wearing this huge t shirt where the sleeves are coming down to my elbows, and the bottom of it comes down to like my knees. I look like a kid dressed in their parents clothing. And I'm like, I could have this very small head and this massive t shirt. I go and I sit in on a session where they're talking about saving energy and laboratory buildings. And, and every person keeps talking about how laboratory buildings use, you know, 60%, 50 or 60% of all the energy on campus, but they only occupy 20 or 30% of the space. So it's this very outsized energy consumption, relative to the amount of space that they that they actually take up. But everybody said, we can't do anything about that. Because scientists are very special people. And they're doing highly specialized research. And we don't want to disrupt their research. So instead, we're going to focus all of our efforts on the other 40% or 50%, on our campus, such as offices and dorms, etc. And I'm listening to people keep saying this over and over again. And I like that. No, that's wrong. Of course, you can talk to scientists about energy. I mean, it's not something I'd ever thought of, which is embarrassing to say. And I think most scientists don't think about it in their daily lives. But if you were to mention it to them, I don't think that they would come back to you and say, No, absolutely not. We never want to think about energy efficiency. It's just not something that occurs to them. So after listening to, you know, the three presentations, where they say, we don't want to talk to scientists, and then listening to the question answers where people are saying, Yeah, we also are afraid of talking to our scientists. I just thought we should, I mean, again, we should do something about this. So I raised my hand, and I look absolutely ridiculous. I'm in my volunteer uniform dress shirt. And I say, you know what our nonprofit addresses energy efficiency and laboratories, we work with scientists to reduce energy consumption. It wasn't strictly speaking true at the time, but it felt like something that we could easily do. And so I figured, let's just, we'll just do that. And as soon as the session ended, I had all these people come up to me and give me their business cards, they were so excited, they said, We want to work with you. And I thought, Oh, this is great. Now I just have to work out what it is that we need to do. But it's seemed, you know, it seemed like it was there was a real need to help scientists in this way. And, and as a former scientist, it just felt like it would be relatively simple for us to figure out how to message to them so that they could understand the problem and actually do something to address it. So yeah, I raised my hand. And it was from there that I made connections with a guy at UC Davis, Alan Doyle, who is really kind of the father of the green labs movement. And I met the head of business development for kW engineering at the time, Andy Bayowski. And the three of us got together at the western cooling efficiency center following that conference, and started brainstorming, what can we do to reduce energy consumption in labs and this idea of plug loads and minus 80, or ultra low temperature freezers kept coming up. And that was how we started the Center for Energy Efficient Laboratories as an offshoot of that meeting, and how we kind of went down this path with energy. And I think the reason it seems like we do a lot in energy is just, we got into something that was a lot bigger than I realized it was going to be. And it just kind of engulfed us for a little bit. But it's definitely a part of our message, not the entirety of the nonprofit. And so that's how we ended up getting into the energy space. So completely random. And I still to this day, can't believe anybody took me seriously in that outfit. It was so ridiculous.
Dave Karlsgodt 11:24
Do you still have the T shirt?
Allison Paradise 11:26
Oh, yeah, I definitely have the T shirt. I had to keep the T shirt. It was my lucky shirt. But I can't wear it out in public, it still looks ridiculous on me.
Dave Karlsgodt 11:36
Allison Paradise 11:37
I never really grew into it.
Dave Karlsgodt 11:39
Now, that's an interesting story. It's funny how, you know, just standing up and raising her hand all of a sudden, can send you off in a totally new direction. And I think too often people are too scared to raise their hand so good for you? Well, so. So once you got back, and you know, you had this nonprofit setup, and you had focused on mercury and waste, if I understand it correctly, and then you came back? And how did you switch the structure of your organization to then focus on energy directly? I mean,
Allison Paradise 12:05
um, that's a good question. So actually, it was not that difficult, because we were so new, for me to go back to the board and say, Look, actually, if we want to address sustainability in labs, it has to be holistic, it can't just be looking at waste. And they all agreed with that. So really, we expanded our focus to include all the main pillars of sustainability, and labs, energy, water waste, and green chemistry. And we did that all within the first month of the inception of the organization. And it just made sense, you really want to educate people and, and help them make an impact in their workspace, it really needs to be a comprehensive message. And at the time, we were working on a green lab certification, which we've subsequently launched, and it's been around now for three years. But at that time, we were working on this certification. And so it was a natural fit to just plug in the energy work to plug in the water to add in the green chemistry, so that we kind of came up with a comprehensive guide for laboratory spaces. So actually, yeah, it was not that difficult to to add that in, because we hadn't really done very much, within the first couple of weeks, mostly, it was just setting the groundwork, you know, filling out the paperwork, etc. From there, we had to fund this idea of wanting to look at energy consumption and labs, that was really the next big hurdle. So the the I kind of adding it into our mission and putting it into the vision of the organization, that part was easy. But then how do you actually do something about it. So we had these ideas about us wanting to create rebates for laboratory equipment that in the same way that at your home, you can get a rebate for energy efficient dishwashers, or an energy efficient washing machine or something like that. That was our vision for the Center for Energy Efficient laboratories that it would be a place where we could test products, provide recommendations to people for energy efficient equipment, and then work with utility companies to get rebates. Because we had this idea, but we needed to somehow fund it. And our initial thought was, we would use the same model that had been used previously in California, for the food service industry. So there's something called the food service Technology Center. It's funded by the California utility companies, specifically Pacific Gas and Electric, which is in Northern California, or pg&e. And what they do is they take products, they've been doing this for over 20 years, they take products from the food service industry, they test them, and they look at their energy consumption. And they make sure that they perform the way that they're supposed to perform according to spec. And then they give that information to the utility companies and back to the manufacturer. And the manufacturers can work to improve their energy efficiency. And then also they work with utility companies to develop rebates for the food service industry. So that model really appealed to us because we had a very similar set of circumstances in the lab where we have a lot of laboratory equipment, we don't really know how much energy it uses, we need that information in order to drive the market towards energy efficiency, and testing equipment and providing that information and feedback back to the manufacturers would be very valuable. And in addition, if we could develop rebates for laboratory equipment, that would be to me that would be the holy grail, because scientists are very mindful of the amount of money that they're spending. And it's very difficult to get them to purchase something that's a lot more expensive. But it's also energy efficient. The premium they're willing to pay for energy efficiency is not that high, it might be five or 10%. We needed to get this funded. So we thought the California utility companies would be a natural fit for this, given their work with the food service Technology Center. Andy and I. So Andy from kw, and I went up and down California meeting with utility companies, specifically Pacific Gas and Electric. So Cal Edison or St. Louis and San Diego Gas and Electric sdg&e. And we met with them for I would say at least a year. And the proposal that we gave to them was to start this whole center. So it was a proposal for I don't know, be three quarters, a million dollars, something crazy. And we had said we're going to test certain pieces of equipment that we knew use a lot of energy or kind of anecdotally, we figured they use a lot of energy, including also low temperature freezers or minus 80s autoclave. I think we might have had lasers in there, I can't remember there were a few other pieces of equipment. So after us banging on doors, and basically showing up on invited to people's offices. They said, Okay, look like we're kind of tired of seeing you will fund something, but we're not going to give you three quarters of million dollars, because we don't know who you are, we might be in love was very new. We were at this point, we were maybe six, eight months old, and kW had been around for a while, but they had no real credentials in this particular space. And so the utilities were like, Look, it, we can't just give you this, this isn't a lot of money. Also, they really weren't convinced that the laboratory market was a big enough market for them to get invested into. So restaurants seem pretty obvious, especially in California, there are a lot of them. But laboratories, they're a little bit hidden right there in all different types of market segments. So you've got them in universities, you've got them, obviously, in your biotech and pharmaceutical companies, their labs, and hospitals, their labs in industry. So Apple has a lab, IBM has a lab. I mean, there's all these all these spaces that are considered labs, but that the utility companies would never have broken out in that way. So they break out their markets, by University by academia, biotech, things like that. They don't break them out by research lab spaces. So they said to us, look, if you want us to fund something bigger than what you're going to have to do is demonstrate to us that there's a real market for this number one, and number two, that these spaces use a lot of energy, because it's just not worth it for us otherwise. So that's what we did, they gave us funding to do that. That was our very first study, it was published in 2015. And in that, we demonstrated that there were a lot of labs in the state of California, and they use a lot of energy, which, if you've ever been in a lab, it's very obvious. If you've never been in a lab, I guess was not so obvious. And we extrapolated all of that to the rest of the United States. So that we were able to kind of give a broader picture of, of what it looks like in the whole us. And we found something like 200,000 or more labs across the US. The amount of laboratory space in California, just in the life sciences industry was about 70% of the number of restaurants. So if you added back in what we would have said, you know, in the industrial market, so when I say life science, what I mean is academia, biotech, pharmaceutical companies and hospitals. It doesn't include those spaces like Ron would have, or Intel or Apple or those spaces, we would call those more industrial spaces. You added those back in the amount of square footage of love space in the state of California rivals the amount of square footage of restaurant space. Wow. I mean, it's huge. Yeah, it's a lot of labs. And I don't think California is that unique in that way. I mean, Massachusetts is very similar. And we found that, again, across the country, there's there's a lot of lab space. So when we gave that to the utility companies, they said, okay, right, yeah, now we agree with you, we're still not going to fund you for three quarters a million dollars. So we still don't have an actual center for the so the Center for Energy Efficient laboratories still exists only as a virtual center. But nevertheless, they gave us funding to do the next project, which was to look at also low temperature freezers, because we identified that as part of our market study as being something where there were a lot of them in the state. So we found there about 60,000 utility freezers in the state of California, the pretty conservative estimate. And then if you extrapolate that to the rest of the country, California usually represents about 10% of the country. So there's about 600,000 ish, you LTE freezers across the country. So there's a lot of them, we know that they use a lot of energy, because people had been metering them for a very long time. So each one uses about as much energy as a single family home, which is about 20 kilowatt hours a day. So it's a lot. And we knew that there were energy efficient models that had come out onto the market that were more expensive. So that means there's a solution. And there's an opportunity for rebate. So they just kind of fit all the right criteria. So we started looking at those as our next project. And we used the food service technology centers testing lab, because that existed as a place to test equipment, and they test refrigeration all the time for the food service industry. So it was just a perfect natural fit, we use their lab to do all of our testing for the wealthy freezers. So that's how we've been getting the seal off the ground is project by project using the food service technology centers testing facility, and also using AWS expertise and understanding how laboratory equipment interacts with the ventilation system in order to really provide an accurate picture of how much energy laboratory equipment is really using and what the benefits are for switching to something that's energy efficient.
Dave Karlsgodt 21:24
Okay. Okay, I got a couple of background questions and for you, so one is, you mentioned ultra low temperature freezers, what do they use for in a laboratory, you also mentioned autoclave. So just for, you know, people that are may not be familiar with laboratory spaces, can you just briefly describe what those are?
Allison Paradise 21:39
Absolutely. And thank you for calling me out on that. Sometimes, when you're in it so deep, it's hard to remember, it's hard to keep a perspective, you know, that not everybody knows what these things are. So also the temperature freezers, I grew up calling the minus 80s. And that's because that's the temperature they're set to. So they're tend to be typically set to minus 80 degrees Celsius, we've been calling them ultra low temperature freezers because well, obviously, there's such a very low temperature, but also because we have a movement in our organization and other campuses across the country have this movement to actually not keep them at minus 80. But instead to put them to minus 70. And that's for reasons of trying to save energy. And also, because the compressor doesn't have to work as hard if it's not such a such a low temperature. When I was first starting in lives, these freezers used to be set to minus 70. And then they kind of started creeping down lower and lower. Now, sometimes you see them set to minus 85, sometimes to minus 96, I've seen a few of them. So anyway, that's why they're called ultra low because they're very, very low. And they're colloquially called minus 80s. Because that's tends to be the temperature that they're set around. They use a lot of energy. And they are used in a laboratory space for long term sample storage. So if you have a sample that you need to keep around for more than a week or two, you'll usually put it there. And in particular, things like cell lines, RNA, any sort of tissues, anything to try to spend beds biological, and where you want to try to stop the biological activity. So you're trying to stop it from degrading, that's what those were used for.
Dave Karlsgodt 23:20
Is there anything special about the minus 80 VS minus 70? Is it like turning your amplifier up to 11? What's the why the extra 10 degrees?
Allison Paradise 23:30
You know, there isn't anything special about it. So when they first came out, actually, the very first set of cold storage for labs that was in this vein of being very, very cold, were set to minus 40, because that's as low as the compressors can go. And then when they started adding two compressors, well, then they could go lower, right, they could go to minus 80. Or in some cases, like I said, even lower than that, depending on the refrigerant and the type of compressor. So the original freezers were at minus 40, then they were set to minus 65, or minus two 70. And now they're going lower and lower, but not for any biological reason, there's actually been no studies demonstrating that samples are stored better at minus seven at minus 80 than a minus 70. Or that there's any detriment to samples when they're stored at minus 70, or VS minus 80. So we're in the process of trying to gather some data on all of this. And there is a longevity study occurring now in the UK. But I mean, people are going to want to see this over the course of 20 years. So in the meantime, anytime we have a lab that changes the set point on their freezer, we put their name and the samples that they're storing, and a database on our website, so you can just access that through our website. And it was started by CU Boulder, and Cathy Ramirez Aguilar, who's just phenomenal. She and Alan are just really wonderful, wonderful people in the green labs movement. So yeah, you can check that out. And that's that's how we've been trying to convince people to go to minus 70. because it saves about 40% of the energy. And like I said, the compressor doesn't have to work as hard. And that means the freezer might last a little bit longer and these expensive pieces of equipment, and they're storing valuable samples. So you don't want them to just, you know, up and die.
Dave Karlsgodt 25:07
Okay, but let me stop you there. You said they will save 40% of the energy by saved by changing the 10 degrees. Yeah, Isn't it crazy? 10 degrees. Yeah, that's very crazy. It's like, I suppose like you hear that about a car. I'll give you you know, drive at a certain speed. But then you accelerate more you you burn a lot more gas.
Allison Paradise 25:24
Yeah, it's amazing. I it blew me away. I think we'd always been quoting 20% based on what we'd heard from other people, but then we actually tested it. And for new freezers It was about I think, was 37% on average, savings. Yeah, is unbelievable. And so now I mean, honestly, when we did our report for the multi freezers, we demonstrated that changing the set point of the freezers to minus 82 minus 70 of the 10% of the freezers in the state of California, would save 26 million kilowatt hours a year. That's, that's nuts, right? Like, just this one. simples change, if we could just all agree to go back to as Alan likes to say, go back to the 70s and change everything to 70. Again, yeah, we could save a lot. And our freezers might last a bit longer, it would be really nice.
Dave Karlsgodt 26:14
And you could do that with existing, with existing equipment, you don't necessarily need to buy a new freezer to do that. Or are they kind of preset?
Allison Paradise 26:21
No, no, you can do it with existing equipment, you can just simply change the temperature.
Dave Karlsgodt 26:26
Wow. Okay. Well, that's great. Okay, so your one other question. Um, you also mentioned autoclave, it sounds like you've done most of your work on ultra low temperature freezers, not autoclave or not other some of the other types of equipment. Why, what what are those or why did you choose those over other things?
Allison Paradise 26:41
Okay, so autoclaves are... they're sterilisers, so they're steamed sterilizers. They're used to sterilize equipment. They're used to sterilize media and different types of reagents. And they're also used for hazardous waste. autoclave us a tremendous amount of energy and water, we we've done a lot of metering, UC Riverside actually did an excellent study on autoclave demonstrating the energy and water consumption of a standard autoclave versus an energy efficient and water efficient autoclave. And the results were staggering. But the reason we didn't start with them and other types of equipment are for a couple of reasons. So number one, they're more difficult to test, depending on the type of Article if some of them actually hooked up to the to a, like a chilled water loop or a loop inside of a building. And that makes them relatively challenging to test, especially if you're going to put them into a test facility.
Dave Karlsgodt 27:33
Part of the building rather than something, plug into the wall. Yeah. Okay, that makes sense,
Allison Paradise 27:37
although there are some that you can plug into the wall, but most of them are other kinds of are part of the building. And then the other reason was honestly, with when it came to also low temperature freezers, there had been something called a test method developed, we've been talking a lot about rebates and energy efficiency, but we haven't talked yet about ENERGY STAR in the EPA. And that's another big part of this, right? So it's, it's really helpful if we can get ENERGY STAR certification for laboratory equipment that helps feed into this whole idea of identifying energy efficient equipment, as well as obtaining rebates from the utility companies. So the EPA and Energy Star in order for things to qualify for Energy Star, they have to meet a certain set of guidelines. And those guidelines are created through testing equipment, the test that's done for equipment is something called a test method. And that test method has to be agreed upon by the industry, and ENERGY STAR before you can even move forward with the ENERGY STAR process. So a test method only existed for laboratory refrigeration, as well as for MRIs and CT scanners was the only two pieces of equipment or two product categories, I guess, that the EPA and ENERGY STAR have developed a test method for, which meant that we could take a freezer into our testing lab and test it according to the standard test method and give the results to the EPA and Energy Star, which is exactly what we did, if we were to work with another piece of equipment. And that's going to be our next phase, you know, when we start to work with autoclave and we start to work with no water bath, and lasers and all these other types of pieces of equipment, we're going to have to first develop a test method. And that process can take quite a while. So for in the case of also low temperature freezers, the test method development took about eight years was crazy. And then right and then for us to come in and get the manufacturers to agree to do the testing. And for us to get the funding and all of that that took another almost four years. So it was almost a decade's worth of work, to get Energy Star ratings for you, lt freezers to identify the energy efficient ones, and for us now to possibly hopefully get rebates here in California. So if you look at that process, and you're at a point where the utility can be say, right, we want to fund you to do something. Next, you're not going to pick something that doesn't have a test method to start with. That's why you're the freezer. So I mean, they fit like I said, they fit the bill in so many different ways. They, they use a lot of energy, there are a lot of them, there were energy efficient models, there happened to be this test method, the everybody's kind of excited and interested about them. And they're also really easy to understand. It's a freezer, right? It's I mean, it's just like the freezer in your home. Whereas some of these other pieces of laboratory equipment. autoclave I think are a little bit easier for people to understand because they tend to kind of equate them to being sort of similar to a dishwasher, those esteemed steriliser, but other pieces of laboratory equipment, there are no analogous pieces of equipment in another industry. And so they're also really hard for people to wrap their heads around why they would fund a study like that. So when I think about electron microscopes, for example, that's a very highly specialized piece of equipment, that requires a lot of explanation to get somebody to understand why that's important, how many of them there are, how you can tweak it to make it more energy efficient. It's just a lot more complicated. I think, for people, it's not as intuitive. And so we're trying to go with the easy intuitive things to just get the ball rolling and get the community excited about this idea of energy efficiency in laboratories. And then from there, we can tackle the harder things
Dave Karlsgodt 31:11
Make sense. Well, and I guess it's kind of like, I mean, you would never make an energy efficient drag car or something like that. Right. And for the purposes, limit the amount of energy they use the the there's a performance requirement there, which I'm sure it's true. A lot of lab equipment as well. But okay, if that makes sense. So all right, you mentioned the Energy Star rating. And it sounds like based on your presentation at the California higher education sustainability conference, you guys have worked your way through and the Energy Star rating, is there. Maybe tell us a little more about that. And also, I guess, curious, you mentioned earlier there, like 20 kilowatt hours per freezer per day, which is pretty staggering. I think my house uses about that. here in Seattle, I have electric heat. But what's the difference between an energy efficient freezer and then a non energy efficient freezer, there's like three questions or you can work with.
Allison Paradise 32:02
Okay, so I'll talk let's take the last one first. So the difference between an energy efficient freezer and a standard efficiency freezer is about 12 to 15 kilowatt hours a day. So it's really significant, really, really significant. And I think the most energy efficient, you LTE freezers that I've seen are somewhere in the neighborhood of six to seven kilowatt hours a day. And the ENERGY STAR standard is actually normalize two cubic feet. So it's point five, five kilowatt hours per cubic foot per day, which equals about 11 or 12 kilowatt hours a day for the standard size that we've been talking about. So there's sort of a standard size that when I'm quoting 20 kilowatt hours a day, obviously, they come in different sizes, the most common size is between 26 and 29 cubic feet. And those are the ones that are right around 23, there's there are some that are quite larger, and they use a bit more and some that are smaller, and they use a bit less. But that's that's Canada range. So if we talk about that range, yeah, the savings are really substantial. And Energy Start did issue that specification, that point five, five kilowatt hours per cubic foot per day. And the manufacturers that we've worked with have now been submitting their data to the EPA to get issued the Energy Star rating. And I know that Sterling ultra cold just received their Energy Star rating, which is awesome. And I would imagine that the thermo TSX is not far behind if they haven't already gotten it. So it's really great news, all of those, that information is now available on the EPA website. And now people can actually identify pieces of equipment that are energy efficient, which is really, it's really, it's really great that that's where we finally got it's, it's sucks that it took 10 years. But it's really great that that that's where we're at.
Dave Karlsgodt 33:48
If somebody at a university then would like to buy an Energy Star rated freezer, how would they go about doing that? I mean, not, they're obviously not going to go on Amazon and just buy one. But what, what what does that look like as I know, procurement in laboratory spaces is usually quite different than, you know, say, facility department buying, you know, paper towels with bathrooms or something like that, what does that look like?
Allison Paradise 34:11
Typically, people purchase larger pieces of equipment, you know, capital equipment through manufacturers or vendors. So they either go direct, or sometimes they go through a distributor. So if you want to purchase energy efficient freezer, you would just buy it directly from that manufacturer from the vendor. And they've been advertising quite a bit, the ones that are energy efficient. So I mentioned the sterling and the thermo or two that I know, have I or at least I think by now have their EPA Energy Star rating. And there's a third, I know for sure that's working on getting theirs and possibly a fourth. So those were also all be listed on the ENERGY STAR EPA website. So you can just go there and find them, make some models, and then directly contact those manufacturers. Although it's surprising, you should say Amazon, because Amazon actually is getting into the laboratory supply space. And I wouldn't be surprised if you started seeing these on Amazon pretty soon because I was looking for something the other day, I think it might have been a water bath, I forget what I was looking up, but it came up on it on Amazon. And I was shocked. So you never know, Amazon seems to want to be in everything, you know, so. But for now, for now you can buy them through manufacturers and through vendors. And, and the nice thing is that a lot of campuses also have sustainable procurement guidelines, and sustainable procurement initiatives. So if you're interested in purchasing a freezer, that's energy efficient, even though it might be a little bit more than a standard efficiency unit, I think you'll find a lot of procurement departments will be very supportive of that choice. Whereas sometimes if you go to buy a piece of equipment that's more expensive than another, if your scientists, you know that they will push back pretty hard on that. They'll ask you why are you going with the most expensive one? Why are you going with with the least expensive one, we have a contract, etc, etc, it can be really difficult. It's really nice that the interests now of everybody are kind of aligning to make the process of purchasing something that's sustainable, a little bit easier for everybody. So it's good.
Dave Karlsgodt 36:11
So if I understand it correctly, Allison, though, the typically if you're an principal investigator at a university, and you've got funding from an external source, usually responsible for buying some of your own equipment, and how does that play out with with ultra low temperature freezers be something they would buy, or the university would buy? It sounds like autoclave or baked into the building. So they would probably come with with the space that they would provide. But how does that work?
Allison Paradise 36:34
Yeah, that's a that's a really good point. So one of the challenges in laboratories has been historically, you know, in trying to get people to purchase things that are energy efficient, or just generally sustainable is that the the poi or the lab, they're the ones who purchase the equipment for the space, they would purchase you or the freezer, they would purchase all the other equipment and consumables for this space. But the utility bill are directly paid for by facilities. So although PIs are charged something called overhead. And overhead is a mixture of all of the costs associated with running the lab. So it would be for the energy would be for the water, it would be for the removal of hazardous waste, the custodial staff, everything that goes into kind of keeping the lab running, that's just called overhead. And that's taken out as a percentage of the funding that every lab gets. And that overhead is actually quite high. It's usually 50 or 60%. Some places have a little bit less, but it's it's quite a lot
Dave Karlsgodt 37:35
50% of the of their funding, is that what you mean?
Allison Paradise 37:39
Yeah, exactly. It's not strictly speaking to but without getting into all the nuances of it. More or less, it's about 50 cents of every dollar that gets donated to research or given to research is just taken off the top and goes to paying for to keeping lights on as what we used to call it in the lab. So it goes to paying the utility bills. So anything that you can do, it's kind of again, it's this really nice merging of, of all these different interests that come together. So for labs, if they start if they keep using more and more energy, that overhead costs is going to keep going up and up, which means there's less money that goes directly to research. That's not ideal, and four campuses, right, they don't want their utility bills to creep up and up and up. So if people are buying stuff that's energy efficient, it keeps their their costs down. So it really is a win win for everybody. Even though you've got the split where the pie buys the equipment, but the facilities people pay the utility bill. And the rebate actually helps a bit, I think or we're hoping that the rebate will help a bit to bridge that gap so that the PIs will be incentivized to purchase something that's energy efficient. In spite of the fact they won't directly realize the energy savings from that. It's the facilities group that pays the utility bill that will directly realize energy savings from that. And as a result that what we've seen on a lot of campuses across the country is that facilities will often offer internal incentives to their scientists to purchase energy efficient equipment. So UC San Diego that had a great rebate program that they ran last year, where they were I think they were just flat out giving people energy efficient ultra low temperature freezers, but I think UNH University of New Hampshire, they give a five or $6,000 rebate to their scientists and incentivize them to purchase something that's energy efficient. Most rebates typically fall between two and $3,000 as internal incentives. Again, because the facility side recognizes the savings and food PI's perspective, they're like, well, I just want to buy something that I can afford.
Dave Karlsgodt 39:43
Great. What's the payback look like on those? So you have a you mentioned some savings numbers, but like just in terms of dollars, like how long does it take for the premium of the energy efficient model to pay for itself?
Allison Paradise 39:56
That's a good question. So it's about two to three years, depending on there's a million different factors, because there's so many different types of VLT freezers, but we just did a work paper for the California utility companies. And we're seeing, you know, for the larger ones, it's two to three years. For the smaller ones, it's a little bit longer, maybe three to five years. But nevertheless, it's really, these are pieces of equipment that last 10 to 15 years, especially in academia, they're turned over a little bit more frequently in biotech, but they're usually not less than 10 years. So it's worth it for people.
Dave Karlsgodt 40:30
And is there any issue with the PIs? Do they care about the efficient freezers when performance wise, like I know, I've heard stories, I think from somebody I'm going to talk to in a future podcast about energy efficient use and say like, you know, army bases, where they had these really energy efficient washing machines, but they took all night to wash their clothes. And if they have small break, it was like, it was just impractical for them to wash the clothes. 12 hours, right? So is there? Did you guys care about this? Or is this kind of a non issue for them?
Allison Paradise 41:00
So they do care? I mean, they definitely think they care on multiple fronts. So we did a study demonstrating that that actually, most scientists really would prefer to buy equipment that's energy efficient. So it was something overwhelming, like 70, or 80% of them cared about energy efficiency, but performance, obviously, right? When they're there to do research. So the performance has to be there, it doesn't make any sense for people to be purchasing things that don't meet their standards, because then it the research is compromised. And then what's the point, right, there's no point even having the lab if you're not going to be able to do the research that you want to do. So we tested all of the freezers when we did them to make sure the performance matched what people were expecting. And we found that the energy efficient freezers in some cases performed better. And in some cases, they didn't perform as well. And it just depended on the metric or the parameter that we were looking at. But all of that information we published, and none of the freezers were so far outside of the norm, that I would say, Oh, we definitely should didn't endorse these. And ENERGY STAR was interested in that as well, these energies are also doesn't want to put their logo on something that, quite frankly, doesn't work for the market. And that will be the case for every piece of equipment that we look at will need to make sure that it functions in the way that it needs to for a lab, because to your point, right an energy efficient piece of equipment that takes 12 hours to get to temperature. That's not really practical for the lab, you know, it's just not gonna work.
Dave Karlsgodt 42:29
So it sounds like you've gotten the low temperature freezers through the EPA Energy Star program. So congratulations on that sounds like a pretty major milestone. It sounds like you're working on a rebate program. Is that just for California or for the whole country?
Allison Paradise 42:43
Yeah, good question. So at the moment is just in California, we just submitted the information to the Energy Commission in California, for actually developing a rebate. And now the California Energy Commission has to look that over and approve it. And then once that happens, we should have a it's in the state. And then the plan is to take that information and share it with the rest of the country. And this is a very standard model. So I have mentioned before the food service Technology Center, they work with the California utility companies to develop rebates for the food service industry, and then those are widely adopted across the rest of the country. So this model of having California start a rebate program and then having to be adopted is there's a lot of precedent for that. So we're going to be using that model. We've been in talks with ever source in Massachusetts, and I think they are also planning on doing something very similar. And then we will use the consortium of utility companies that are part of something called the electric power Research Institute, or f3. And get that information out to all of them through that channel. So our hope is really that most parts of the country will have rebates, for your tea freezers by 2019. And again, that will help start this idea of having the rebates for the laboratory market sector. Right now, that just doesn't exist. So if you look at a rebate catalog, you'll see for food service, you'll see for grocery stores, you'll see stuff for hospitals, you'll see all these different market segments broken out, but not laboratories. And I'm really excited to actually start to see that come in, in these rebate catalogs, that it'll be equipment, but also h back and all of these other things that go into laboratory spaces, a whole designated section, just for them. Now, that's great.
Dave Karlsgodt 44:28
Well, okay, so based on this, raising your hand at a conference and saying that you worked on energy, you really didn't and then having that's an amazing story. And yeah, again, congratulations on getting through that all the way to both the EPA Energy Star rating, and hopefully this rebate program. That's awesome. So what's next? I mean, there's a lot of I know, from my own work and doing energy model and buildings on campuses that, especially in lab buildings, ultra low temperature freezers are on the map. I mean, they're a big deal. There's like that thousands of them on each campus, potentially, especially at big research institutions. But the H back system is usually the biggest energy user. So is there is that an area you're going to go into next? Or what's the next technology you hope to tackle?
Allison Paradise 45:13
Yeah, good question. Um, we're probably not going to go anywhere near age back. I mean, I recognize that it is, by far and away, the largest part of the energy consumption in a laboratory building is due to age fact system tonight. And I mean, that's very well documented. And there's a lot of wonderful people who are doing exceptionally good work in that space. In fact, the woman we work with at kW engineering, Alison Farmer, she's like a whiz in that space. She's wonderful. It's just not what our area of expertise is. And I think that there are enough people who can help laboratory buildings, optimize their age HVAC systems, that we don't need to be a part of that, I want us to be doing things where we can really have an impact. And that for us, I think, is on the behavior side of things. So as I mentioned, I'm a former scientists, all of us at migraine lover, former scientists, we really understand how scientists think and how they are, they operate their laboratory space. And we're very focused on educating them on how to be smart in that space. So a lot of behavior change a lot of thinking about, about how and why they do things the way they do. Because, you know, the fact that I could be working in a lab for 10 years, and literally have, it never occurred to me how much energy that space is using, that's kind of terrifying. When I look back on it, I mean, that's almost unbelievable. You know, that, the how blind I was to so many aspects of sustainability in the lab. And so for me, and for our organization, I think that's where we're most excited, is educating people and getting them to open up their eyes, to seeing their environment just a little bit differently, and then in turn, use that to make some real demonstrable changes in their environment. I think that goes a long way, not only in the lab space, but then in other places where people are working or interacting. Because when you suddenly start to see opportunities for energy reduction and waste reduction and water reduction in your work environment, it starts opening up your eyes to opportunities for those for reduction of those things in all other aspects of your life. And so for us, that's where we're most interested in where we think we can have the greatest impact, and let the people who are engineers and who really know about HR systems, let them do that work. And let us do the work with the scientists.
Dave Karlsgodt 47:36
Well, fair enough. Alice, you don't have to take on the HVAC system. You're right. I mean, there are plenty of other organizations and companies out there working on that. If not the HVAC system, then what else? So there's other equipment, there's other fume hoods? Or are you going to go through more equipment, taking it through the Energy Star program? Or?
Allison Paradise 47:55
Well, we're definitely going to be taking more products to the Energy Star process for sure. We finished the also a temperature freezer project and the board president I sat down and really looked at Okay, what's what's our plan of attack for the next project? And how are we going to scale this up, we thought, you know what, it's a great effort to try to get energy star ratings for laboratory equipment, I fully believe that. But it does take a long time, you know, this last one took 10 years or more for the wealthy freezers, there are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of different types of laboratory equipment, and so will all be dead. With very, very long gone, by the time we get Energy Star ratings for all of them. And it just didn't make a lot of sense for us to spend all of our time and effort trying to raise money for for that program. In that way, we just thought there must be a better way to get the information out to people. That is that has the same level of transparency, but takes a lot less time I'm to actually go through and analyze, and doesn't require us to go to the utility companies and beg for funding every year, that only focuses on equipment, right? Energy Star only looks at equipment. So it only looks at things related to energy consumption, which again, is great. But it leaves out consumables, and it leaves out chemicals. And it's a really long process. So we thought you know, what we need to do is if we are going to say to people, look, we want you to make better choices about what you purchase in the lab, we have to have just like I said at the beginning how our nonprofit wants to have this holistic approach to sustainability and not just be focused on one or one thing or another, then we need to have a program that support sustainable procurement, that also is as holistic as possible. So we're launching at the end of the month, kind of beginning of September and eco label called act. And that label has on information about energy consumption of products, as well as water consumption, the impact of manufacturing, the impact the packaging, looking at the end of life of both the packaging and the product. And we hired an independent third party auditor to actually go through and verify all the information from the manufacturer related to all of these different categories. And in the end, what we have is what we're calling a nutrition label for laboratory products. And so this will allow people to make smart choices about what they purchase in the lab by giving them all the information that they need to make those decisions. So if you're interested in energy, and you're looking at something like an autoclave, it'll have a number on how much energy it's using. And that number will be independently verified by an auditor. So maybe it's not as rigorous as the ENERGY STAR test, but at least it's third party verified. And then that way, you can kind of compare it across autoclave, if you care about energy, if you care about the environmental impact of the product as a whole, we total up all of those different categories. And we have something called an environmental impact factor. The lower the number, the better it is for the environment, the higher the number, the worse it is. So we're developing this label to actually try to fill this gap because we saw that again, while the ENERGY STAR process is amazing, and it's wonderful. It's just simply not going to work. If we want to move things forward at the pace that we want them to move forward. So the act label is is our way of fast tracking equipment as well as consumables and chemicals, and working with procurement departments and working with scientists in order to help them make smart choices. And the hope is really that with this label, we can start to drive the market towards energy efficiency and towards sustainability in general in the same way that the Energy Star rating did that for ultra low temperature freezers. So what we found is, when we started that project, there was only really one model that was considered energy efficient, or was certainly only one that was being marketed as being energy efficient. And that actually was going to be a problem because ENERGY STAR does not want to give a rating to just one manufacturer. But it turned out as we started talking about it and telling people we were going through this, this project, lovin hold all these other manufacturers managed to come up with energy efficient models. And so now there are at least three, as I said, possibly four, that will be ENERGY STAR certified this year. So the in the market is just it continues to go in that direction. In fact, someone just sent me an email today about a company in Denmark, that's marketing, they're also a fruit temperature freezer as being energy efficient. I mean, that is a thing now that people are using in their marketing material. And it's something that they care about, that for years ago was just completely absent. So I think we can see that these labels and these programs can help drive the market on their own towards sustainability. And so we're hoping the label does the same thing in a way that's just a little bit faster. So that's our next big kind of program, although we will be working at minus 20 freezers with utility company. So we're still continuing those projects, it's just like I said, it's a bit slower. So we'll do one project with a minus 20 freezers this year with the utility companies, but we hope to have at least 100 products labeled with the ACC label by the end of 20.
Dave Karlsgodt 53:00
Excellent. Well, it's nice to hear, because you're sounds like you're approaching it both from a standards perspective, you know, which is the slower track as well as just getting market information out there. And, you know, for me, it's, as somebody who's worked in, you know, the energy space, especially on campuses, it's always frustrating to hear how much human energy is used to talk about things that are relatively small in the grand scheme of the problem. And laboratories are usually given a pass, like you mentioned up front, and you know, that they do really tend to be the most energy intense spaces, campuses are growing, you know, so we always want more laboratories. Scientists themselves are kind of seen as these, you know, the saviors of humanity, if we're going to solve these, you know, big climate change scale problems, we need scientists to do it. Yet, the work that the scientists are doing themselves is a big contributor to the problem, which often goes unnoticed. So it's, I really appreciate all the work you're doing to kind of bring attention to that, but also, to do it in a way that's productive. And you know, not just shaming, because that's not really going to be a productive way to approach it. So
Allison Paradise 54:06
That was so well articulated.
Dave Karlsgodt 54:08
Oh, thank you.
Allison Paradise 54:09
So Well, yes, exactly. What you said,
Dave Karlsgodt 54:12
I appreciate that. Well, so as we wrap things up, what would you like to leave people with? or How can they get involved? I mean, are you looking for funding? Are you looking for volunteers? Are you looking just for people to take advantage of programs? Or what what's the ask of our listeners here today?
Allison Paradise 54:28
Oh, all of the above. I mean, as a small nonprofit, we're always looking for funding for donations. And we've always be faithful to accept any of those. We all we have volunteer opportunities for people, especially when it comes to helping us out with conferences, which attend quite a few conferences with scientists and our booth tends to be, believe it or not, our booth is actually one of the most popular booths at the scientific meetings that we attend. Last year, we had over 2000 people visit our booth at neuroscience conference, which was almost seven 100 people more than the next closest booth. So we can always use help with that. And we do do quite a bit of data analysis. So always could use help. And certainly by all means, go to our website, check out our programs, the kind of consulting work that we do is at no cost. So reach out to us, we're happy to help in any way that we can.
Dave Karlsgodt 55:20
Perfect. And any closing thoughts?
Allison Paradise 55:22
Sure, the work that we do in the laboratory space, I think is incredibly important, as I think it lays the groundwork for a much larger movement around sustainability. You know, scientists, they are very, very focused on what they do. And they have blinders on really, when it comes to sustainability. And what the work that they're doing has a lot of requirements. So it isn't the case that you can just swap one thing for another, you can't just change out a chemical just because one is more toxic than another one. It just doesn't work that way. What's very interesting to me about this is that this space, I think, is very challenging, that if we can figure out a way to message to people that actually resonates with them and gets them to, to change the way they think about the work that they're doing, and change their behavior, that I think those lessons can be applied more broadly to the general population. And that's really where I see all of this going, is that I hope that in five to 10 years migraine lab is, is obsolete, it's not needed, that everybody's already thinking about this in the laboratory space. And we can take this nonprofit to really address sustainability across the board. And helping people understand that sustainability. It's equated with being a sacrifice and so many ways. And it need not be a sacrifice, because I mean, at least in the lab, it can't be a sacrifice, if you make it if it's a sacrifice, it doesn't work for the research. Like I said, there's no point of people being there. So educating people that sustainability really isn't about sacrifice, it's just about being smart, and really thinking through the consequences of your actions. Not just from an environmental perspective, but also in a lot of cases, especially in the lab from a safety perspective. And actually, generally from an economic perspective. So all of us can take the lessons of what we've been doing here in the lab and apply them more broadly to any area that we work in and looking at energy reduction, or just sustainability more broadly. right in and helping people understand sustainability, not as a sacrifice, not as a three minute shower. Right, which is I think what always everybody talks about, at least out in California, I work in sustainability. Man, I wish I could take a 10 minute shower again, it sucks that I have to take these short showers, right, it's short showers. It's I can't water my lawn. It's a lot of negatives, right? sustainability is always associated with things you can't do. And we're trying to change that to be associated with things that you can do. It's about positive things, not about negative things.
Dave Karlsgodt 57:55
Yeah, final question then would just be are there ways people can get in touch with you directly? How would you like people to contact
Allison Paradise 58:01
Um, probably email is best: email@example.com. And my cell phone number is area code 860-680-3283. And I guess if you're going to use that number, text is always better than a phone call. But by all means, if anybody has any questions, or listening to this, or wants to get involved or wants to learn more, or has some really cool ideas for collaboration, and we're always open to that. I mean, we love to work with people as much as possible. This whole movement doesn't work if we're all working kind of isolated in our own little silos, anything that we can do to collaborate. I'm totally open to like this podcast, which is an awesome collaboration.
Dave Karlsgodt 58:41
Well, I really appreciate the energy that you've brought to the show. And it's so fun to hear the stories of people that have stood up and taken on a topic that nobody else was paying attention to and brought attention to it and actually accomplished it. I mean, bravo. Again, I don't think most people realize how challenging it is to work both with laboratory paces as well as utility companies, which are notoriously difficult. So really impressed with all the work you've done. And thanks again for sharing all this on our show today.
Allison Paradise 59:09
Thank you. Thanks so much for having me. Really appreciate it.
Dave Karlsgodt 59:14
That's it for this episode. As always, you'll find show notes on the website at campusenergypodcast.com. Please keep those show ideas coming and perhaps take a moment to read a review on iTunes to help us get the word out about the show. After a lull this summer. We have a few other episodes in the works and hope to pick up the pace for this fall. Thanks for listening.