Research Sustainability

Partner with the Office of Research and fellow investigators who are working to create a culture of environmental sustainability at Vanderbilt University Medical Center

Research Impact on the Climate

  • Research labs have a carbon-footprint that is 4-10x that of office space, and often create large amounts of plastic waste

  • In the U.S., the healthcare sector is responsible for 8.5-10% of the country’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions 

  • Reducing the environmental impact of research provides a broad range of benefits and opportunities:
    • Cost savings
    • Grant opportunities
    • Process efficiency
    • Impact on vendors and supply chain
    • Employee morale and recruitment
    • Reduced CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions

Did you know? A conventional -80C freezer uses as much energy as an average U.S. household! (via  U.S. DoE)

Featured Opportunities for Action

Learn from VUMC Colleagues

The ‘Climate and Health’ episodes of the Vanderbilt Discoveries in Action ("DNA") podcast series take an expansive look at the disparities of climate change and its impact on health and well-being, as well as sustainability opportunities. 

The episodes range from an introduction to the intersection of climate change, the planet and wellbeing to tangible ideas from physician-scientists about how to infuse climate literacy and action into personal and professional lives. 

This growing collection of DNA episodes explores the relationship between medicine, wellbeing, climate change, and leadership — and spotlight resources that you can read and share including a curated list of journal articles.

Check out the podcast here and on your favorite podcast app:

Shared Resources & SustainabilityRRT

Vanderbilt Cores & Shared Resources (aka "cores") are key partners in environmentally sustainable research. Cores offer expertise and economies of scale that guarantee effective resource use, which also decreases user costs. For example, samples from multiple lab groups can be "batched" on the same flow cell for DNA sequencing and only processed once all the lanes are full. A single microscope or flow cytometer can serve many investigators, saving space and money and reducing the environmental impact of shipping, building, and maintaining multiple instruments. By having dedicated experts manage instrumentation, cores often extend the lifespan of shared equipment well beyond manufacturer expectations.

Cores also address the environmental impact of science through a more rigorous, reproducible, and sustainable conduct of research, as described in the Journal of Biomolecular Techniques. Cores maintain standardized research procedures, validated reagents, well-calibrated equipment, and other practices that support rigorous research. These core practices help ensure that experiments are well-documented and can be trusted as the basis for further discovery. Read more about Vanderbilt's efforts toward rigor, reproducibility, and transparency (RR&T). A FASEB report on Establishing a national strategy for shared research resources in biomedical sciences outlines a high level framework for incorporating sustainable practices into RR&T and core lab programs.  

In total, Vanderbilt has more than 80 cores that support rigorous, sustainable research practices. Browse core services here.

Getting Started with Sustainable Research Practices

  • Take the "How green is your lab?" quiz from Nature and scientists at the University of Colorado Boulder. The quiz will help you identify ways your lab is making an impact and provide new ideas for promoting sustainable practices.

  • Consider these guiding questions for research labs

    • Can I reduce the carbon footprint of my lab?
    • Can I support others in making these changes?
    • What does the institution have in place to support this work?
    • What can I do to assist with institutional change?
    • How can we as an institution support change in the larger community?
  • Save resources, time, and money (and increase rigor & reproducibility!) by using Vanderbilt Cores & Shared Resources

  • Participate in the Freezer Challenge to increase the energy efficiency of your lab's cold storage. You can adopt the cold storage best practices without officially joining the challenge. 

  • Learn "How to Green Lab" with monthly tips:

  • Use the Top 9 checklist below to improve lab energy efficiency:

top 9

Additional Resources

Vanderbilt Efforts

External Resources