Monday, June 1, 2015

Presenting Mascharak Lab: UCSC’s first Platinum Certified Green Lab

By Lily Urmann- Green Labs Facilitator

When the Green Labs team conducted our walkthrough to certify Mascharak Lab, it would be an understatement to say that we were all impressed. The lab’s commitment to sustainability and conserving was outstanding. What was even more impressive, and rare among labs on our campus, was their teamwork and collective effort to recycle, save energy, and reduce waste in their lab. The Green Labs team is excited to announce that Mascharak Lab is UCSC’s first Platinum Certified lab- the highest award in our ranking system! I sat down with the Green Lab Zero Waste Coordinator Chris Kane to interview Indranil Chakraborty and Samantha Carrington from Mascharak lab to see how they work towards sustainability in their lab.


Chris: What is the primary focus of the work you do in your lab?

Indranil: Currently cancer is the most detrimental disease on earth. As per survey conducted by National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the year 2015, an estimated 1,658,370 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in the United States and 589,430 people will die from this disease. Although chemotherapy is the most common treatment for this ailment, there are several types of cancer, which are resistant to such treatment. In addition this procedure also associated with various adverse side effects. It has been known for a while that carbon monoxide can induce pro-apoptotic effect (apoptosis is a process of programed cell death) towards hyper prolific cells like cancer cells. However, utilizing carbon monoxide as gaseous form in hospital settings is not very favorable. To utilize the therapeutic potential of this small molecule, in our lab we are designing some metal carbonyl complexes that release carbon monoxide upon light illumination. In that way we plan to deliver carbon monoxide in a more controllable and targeted fashion to eradicate cancer cells. In such pursuits we are designing such molecules where CO release can be triggered with the aid of visible light (as good a normal flash light). We are employing also some theoretical calculations to aid our design principles.

Samantha: The goal overall in this project is to bring fiber optic therapy to also help as an addition to chemotherapy. CO not only induces apoptosis in cancer cells, it actually also helps to sensitize cancer cells towards chemotherapeutics about 1,000 times. With our experience in synthesis, we are able to bring the theoretical chemistry together with the synthesis and photophysical chemistry to make these complexes very visible light active.

Chris: How did your lab hear about the Green Labs Program?

Samantha: We heard about it at the LSR meeting. They had a slide for Green Labs, and there were people representing Green Labs from Environmental Health and Safety.


Chris: What prompted you to pursue certification?

Samantha: A long time ago we were having problems with our lights because the whole light system in PSB was redone in an effort to be more “green”. It was actually really funny because they put in new light sensors in our lab; we are a photoactive lab, so our chemicals release or decompose upon illumination. These lights would go on and off by themselves, and affect the experiments. We spoke constantly with the really great electricians and people putting all the lighting to try to fix the problems, and then finally the main engineer on the project, and she said “We had no idea that people were so green!”. The reason the lighting system was changing was so that sensors were able to turn off the lights people had forgotten about and our goal was to just keep the lights off all the time.

Indranil: That’s when we reviewed the system, and deactivated the entire automated lights. Samantha: This was actually the first time anyone had ever brought up our carbon footprint and energy consumption into light because no one else works with the lights off. We started thinking about it and how we run our lab and it seems pretty efficient compared to other labs.

Chris: And I would imagine that to pursue the actual certification it sounded like the slide that offered funding incentives for labs was a motivator? Samantha: Yes, we were so excited! Lily: And once we purchase the new energy-efficient equipment for your lab, we will be able to monitor and record the savings, then re-apply for a larger grant next year and continue growing the Green Labs program to get more labs involved.

Chris: How do you communicate sustainable practices within your lab, to existing and incoming lab members? Samantha: It’s more about how we practice doing things in our lab- we would like to recycle, and in general we like to do things that make sense overall. It all fell in line with being green and sustainable. So it would be weird for half the lab to be doing one thing and for one person to be taking out recycled paper and throwing it in the trash! Indranil: When the incoming graduate students see Sam doing these things, they follow her lead and assume this is how the lab runs. Since Sam was our LSR, she’s good at giving a general overview about how to be safe and sustainable.

Chris: Are there any other sustainable practices that you plan to implement into lab for the future? Sometimes this can be hard for labs if it’s seen as a barrier to get their work done, but there's always room to improve. Samantha: A long time ago, we had a printer that printed double-sided, but it used too much ink (which was expensive). So we were trying to use less ink, and we buy the recycled paper- but when we got a new printer, it only printed one-sided. Although it’s now efficient in ink, there are always downsides. Now our goal is finding “the one” that will be good with ink AND print double-sided! This is especially important as we are trying to get everyone on the electronic inventory system, but still have to print it out- which is a lot of pages, since we are one of the largest synthetic labs on campus. We are just trying to get everything more electronic both to save paper and make our system more efficient.

Lily: How do you encourage members of the lab to be sustainable and use sustainable practices? It sounds like it comes mostly from wanting to be safe, but what advice would you give to other labs to be more sustainable? Samantha: There are both office supplies and reagents that are made for the practice of sustainability- for example, we return the empty printer cartridge for refills. There’s recycled paper that is just as cheap as regular paper and buying from certain suppliers which are known to be more sustainable than others. Often times the reagents are the same price, and the difference is how they affect the environment. These are definitely small things, but they all add up and have an impact.

Chris: I think many people have a misconception that sustainability is all about “green”, but it’s also about making sure the lab can get it’s work done safely and at an economically feasible cost.


If your lab is interesting in getting certified, please email lurmann [at] ucsc [dot] edu and check out the Green Labs Website.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Residenace Hall Waste Signage Project

I was standing next to the College Ten dumpster and couldn't figure if I should throw my domino's pizza box in the recycling or landfill dumpster. I threw it into the recycling bin because isn't that what you do with cardboard? Little did I know that you are supposed to recycle clean pizza boxes and throw away the part that has food and grease on it. I went back into my room feeling guilty about calling myself a “sustainable” person because I wasn't sure if it had made the right choice or not near the dumpsters.

As I stared at the wall in the room, I thought it would really nice to have a recycling sign on my wall to guide me threw my waste disposal so I don't get confused when I'm taking out the trash from my dorm. I brought up this idea at an Education and Outreach team meeting at the Sustainability Office and we agreed that this was a good educational material for students. We planned to start this pilot project at College Nine to see how efficient dorm signage is and whether or not it aids students when throwing away their trash.


After getting approval from the CHES (Colleges, Housing and Educational Services) sustainability working group, gaining interest and support from the College Nine Senate and Resident Assistants, Rebecca Sale (Education and Outreach Team associate) and I created surveys to gain an understanding of current student behavior when it came to properly disposing waste. After the signs were created, they were placed in every College Nine Residence Hall room. We conducted waste assessments with the Zero Waste Team to measure the percent refuse before and after signage through rough visual estimates.

The waste assessment results clearly demonstrated that the signs were effective because the percent refuse increased from 53% to 65% meaning the waste contamination had decreased. In the future, we hope to extend this project to all colleges with the hope of reaching our 2020 goal of zero waste.


This project means a lot to me because it is nice to know that all students who live in the college dorms and apartments will be able to contribute to our campus goal. Regardless of whether or not we have a specific goal, as students, we will all work together for the welfare of our earth and for each other.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

June 2015 Green Tip: Sustainable Choices to Make in the Check-Out Line

Do you wonder how to make green purchasing decisions? Below are some amazing sustainable products that are perfect for making your dorm, home, and office a greener environment this summer.

LIGHTBULBS: Choose LED over CFL

Top 10 Benefits of LED Lighting:
  1. Long Life - life time expectation of up to 100,000 hours (11 years of continuous operation)
  2. Energy Efficiency - 80-90% Energy Efficiency compared to conventional lightbulbs; this means 80% of the electrical energy is converted into light and the rest is lost and converted into other forms of energy such as heat
  3. Ecologically Friendly - free of toxic chemicals and are 100% recyclable
  4. Durable - resistant to shock, vibrations, and external impacts; excellent for outdoor lighting
  5. Zero UV Emissions - produces little infrared light and close to no UV emissions, so highly suitable for foods and materials that are sensitive to heat
  6. Design Flexibility - can be combined into any shape to produce highly efficient illumination; can be dimmed!
  7. Operational in Extremely Cold or Hot Temperatures
  8. Light Dispersement
  9. Instant Lighting and Frequent Switching
  10. Low-Voltage
Top 10 Problems with Fluorescent Lightbulbs:
  1. Frequent Switching Causes Early Failures
  2. Fluorescent Bulbs Contain Mercury
  3. Fluorescent Lights Give Off Ultraviolet Light
  4. The "Buzz" On the Fluorescent Ballast
  5. Power Quality and Radio Interference
  6. Not as Efficient at High and Low Temperatures
  7. Fluorescent Lamp Shape Cause Retrofit Problems
  8. Most Fluorescents are Not Able to be Dimmed
  9. Contaminants Cause Disposal and Recycling Issues
  10. Light from Fluorescent Bulb is Non-Directional
Did these benefits of LED lighting convince you? LED lighting has even more benefits and advantages, so make sure you go LED and save both the planet - and your money!

REFILLABLE PROPANE CANISTERS

Every year in North America, 40 million disposable one-pound propane cylinders are used, with over four million in California alone. Because of limited, expensive recycling options, the empty cylinders are often disposed of improperly in landfills, dumpsters, household trash, campsites, on the roadside or in recycling containers.

ReFuel Your Fun, a company, has created refillable propane canisters. The new valves on the refillable one-pound cylinders work exactly the same except they can be refilled and reused hundreds of times for up to 12 years. On the other hand, disposables are costly…not only to the environment but to your pocketbook as well.

So, the next time you go camping this summer, remember to bring your refillable propane canister!

SOLAR OVENS

With solar ovens, the sunlight is converted into heat that is retained for cooking. Check out SolarCookers.org for information on why to use a solar oven this summer when your cooking.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

New SlugRoute App

Ever wondered where the loop bus is when you really needed it?  The new SlugRoute app was made just for that!  The mobile app tracks all loops with new LEDs signs, labeling if they are for upper campus, out of service, or a regular loop.  The app is available for Androids and will soon be available for iOS systems.  For iPhone users, you can access the app by simply navigating to slugroute.com.

Thanks to Larry Pageler (Director of Transportation & Parking Services), Kevin Abas, Kerry Veenstra, Wade "Simba" Khadder, Emily Wong, and other students from the i-NRG lab, for developing this useful app that helps make sustainable transportation on campus easier!


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Innovative Approaches to Sustainability at Other Campuses

Here are a few selections of the innovative approaches to sustainability taking place on other college campuses. Each of these examples was chosen because they represent ideas that UCSC could potentially implement in some form, or in some cases, already has begun to. If you see something here that you want to make a reality at UCSC, contact the Sustainability Office susted [at] ucsc [dot] edu and we will help you direct your ideas toward fruition! 

Roosevelt U Student Develops Phone App to Encourage Recycling 
As part of a sustainability studies program course, honors student Dusan Koleno created the Google Play app, Recycle Tracker, to enable users at home and office to keep track of what and how much they are recycling with comparisons, including pie and bar charts, that can be viewed by weekly, monthly or annual usage. 

U Washington Divests from Coal Companies 
The university's Board of Regents recently voted to prohibit direct investment of endowment funds in publicly traded companies whose principal business is the mining of coal for use in energy generation. 

U Vermont Adds Sustainability Requirement 
Starting with this fall’s freshman class, Class of 2019, sustainable approaches and practices will be built into the university’s curriculum across departments, and woven into co-curricular activities, so there will be several ways for students to fulfill the new requirement.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Extended Deadline: PowerSave Housing Survey - July 11

Attention UCSC undergrads living in an on-campus residential housing unit! PowerSave Campus would like your input on energy use in your building. Please take the short 3 minute survey here and be sure to include your UCSC email address to be entered into a raffle for one $100 and 4 $50 bookstore gift certificates! The information collected in this survey will be used to help prioritize investment in energy conservation projects and programs. The deadline to participate has been extended to July 11th at midnight.

June 2015: Classes, Trainings and Community

Poetry and Music in the Alan Chadwick Garden: June 6
Join CASFS for this annual free poetry reading and music from noon-2pm onJune 6th in the "Up Garden" at UCSC. More details here.

The Homeslice CSA: Registration Now Open
The Pie Ranch in Pescadero is expanding their Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) to include Santa Cruz and Davenport. As a CSA member, you will receive a weekly delivery of organically grown produce. You can either sign up for half a season for $312 or a full season for $600. The boxes come with vegetables, leafy greens, herbs, wheat flour or berries, dry beans, seasonal fruit and eggs available on request. Register to be a CSA here.