Allyson Long | Safety Coordinator at Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Could you talk about your role as an active member of the Green Labs Team?
I joined the Green Labs Team when I was working with EH&S Research Safety to promote safety in sustainability – to protect both laboratory personnel and the environment. I’ve used my transition to Scripps Institution of Oceanography to encourage SIO labs to become more involved and be leaders in UC sustainability. The Vernet Lab at SIO was the winner of last year’s North American Laboratory Freezer Challenge (NALFC), and there are now 7 SIO labs and 5 SIO offices Green Certified. I love working with a research community that is forward thinking and action driven. Some upcoming projects the GL Team is pursuing are reviving the Chemcycle program, getting more labs to chill their freezers up, and collecting data on lab waste. Any UC San Diego lab is welcome to join the monthly Green Labs meetings just to listen in on or to actively participate in ongoing projects.
What are some sustainable habits for energy use, recycling, and waste management that support sustainability initiatives for UC San Diego?
It’s important to know that we all make trash and consume energy. But we can all certainly make less trash and consume less energy! UC San Diego makes simple acts of sustainability easy: Coffee carts/cafes will give you a discount for bringing your own coffee mug and some places offer reusable mugs (you just have to ask!); Hydration stations are virtually everywhere so there’s no reason to buy disposable plastic water bottles; Dining facilities like Roots offer reusable dishware and post-consumer composting; And every space on campus has recycling bins.
An important and impactful habit is to start becoming disengaged from single use disposable plastics. You can’t avoid every plastic thing, but you can refuse a plastic straw or lid that is handed to you. Consider bringing your own reusable silverware to your next office potluck, or buying a fresh piece of fruit instead of fruit in a plastic container. I bring a basket of reusable mugs and a reusable coffee carafe from an on-campus coffee cart when I host meetings. People still go for the disposable items because it’s what they know or because it’s more convenient, but some of my SIO colleagues now ask to “check out” the basket of reusable mugs for their meetings. Look at what other spaces are doing around you; I borrowed the reusable mug share program idea from the Sustainability Resource Center located in Price Center.
Know that changes take time and don’t become discouraged or feel guilty when you can’t avoid waste. Learning new habits and practicing things differently will be hard in the beginning, and certainly not everyone around you is going to embrace sustainability the same way you do. Engage and inform your colleagues by putting up a UC San Diego recycling guide next to your kitchen waste bins or host a Writing Instrument Brigade collection in your office. Join one of the campus sustainability groups to become connected with others in our community. I’m so glad to be part of both the Staff Sustainability Network and SIO for Sustainability groups because they keep me motivated and remind me that we’re all part of something bigger. Keep things simple and know that little actions lead to big changes.
You established a recycling center at SIO to collect items that can’t be properly recycled in the single stream bins. Could you talk about how you went about doing this and why it’s important to the goal of Zero Waste?
Diverting waste from landfills is an easy task when it’s convenient, which was my goal. “Universal waste” are items that California prohibits from going into the trash and landfill, but can be recycled. These include batteries, fluorescent lights, and electronics which contain human and environmental hazards like lead, mercury, and cadmium. UC San Diego already has great programs established to collect these types of waste, such as sending batteries for disposal through intra-campus mail or dropping off your used cell phones at the collection point in the Price Center Bookstore. There is also the Writing Instrument Brigade program where you can send in your unused writing instruments (pens, pencils, markers, etc) to be diverted from the landfill and upcycled.
Knowing how to navigate all the information on Blink and knowing where to go on campus to find these services is half the battle, so providing a central recycling collection point for SIO just made sense (even more so considering SIO’s location from main campus). Recycling is a universally recognizable component of waste minimization and everyone on campus can help divert hazardous materials from being landfilled. Every item diverted from the landfill contributes to the Zero Waste Goal!