Green Labs

Solvent Recycling

Environmental Health Safety partnered with the Departments of Pathology and Dermatopathology at CUMC to begin an on-site recycling program for spent xylene and ethanol used in these laboratories and returning to it use over and over again. Many years and many thousands of gallons later (these laboratories recycle in excess of 3,000 gallons of xylene and ethanol annually) the program is running strong and maintaining green benefits, both environmental and financial. 
The program has recently expanded to include methanol and ethanol, and now includes laboratories in Chemistry, APAM, Biology and Engineering. Additionally, a second solvent recycler, purchased in 2011, is servicing the Northwest Corner Building, Pupin, Shapiro, Mudd, Fairchild, Engineering Terrace and Schermerhorn, thereby increasing the total yield of recoverable solvents.
Since 2008, the acetone recovery program has returned almost 2,500 gallons of recycled acetone to participating labs in the Department of Chemistry and is on pace to recycle more than 1,000 gallons of solvent at the Morningside campus.
Read more about the solvent recycling program, and other EH&S recycling initiatives.  



Reusable Sharps Containers

Environmental Health & Safety has created a reusable sharps containers program, replacing single-use containers with re-usable containers.  A single container may be used as many as 500 times.  In less than one year, the University had eliminated nearly three tons of plastic and two tons of CO2 emissions from just the Morningside Campus.  Read more about the reusable sharps containers.  


In the design of the Northwest Corner Building (NWC) and other projects, Columbia is collaborating with Labs21, a voluntary partnership program jointly sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories (I2SL) to improve the environmental performance of U.S. laboratories. The goal of the program is to encourage the development of sustainable, high-performance and low-energy laboratories nationwide. As a Labs21 Partner, Columbia will set measurable energy and environmental performance goals for the seven floors of laboratories in ISB, benchmark performance using Labs21 tools and share performance results.  


Fume Hood Upgrades

Phased rehabilitation and upgrading to "low-flow" fume hoods on the Morningside Campus is yet another contribution to Columbia's energy-saving efforts.  


Mercury Thermometer Exchange Program

Heavy metals such as mercury, silver and lead are common in the academic and medical settings, but also have many common applications such as electronic equipment, thermometers, light bulbs and dental fillings.  In an effort to reduce the potential for contamination of the environment due to mercury, EH&S continues to pursue opportunities to remove and replace mercury containing devices with non-mercury devices as well as establish mercury recycling programs where the continued use of mercury is necessary.  As part of EH&S’s mercury campaign, CUMC campus has exchanged over 400 thermometers for alcohol-based thermometers since 2002.  Over 75 thermometers have been exchanged at the Morningside campus and Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory has exchanged over 31 thermometers since 2007.  All thermometer exchanges are free of charge to the laboratories