Pharmacology Goes Green
The department of Pharmacology & Experimental Therapeutics on the Medical Campus is officially the first department to have 100% of their offices certified by the Green Office Certification program. The Green Office Certification program, which was launched in March 2011, rates individual offices based on daily practices involving energy use, waste, recycling, communication and activities.
Because the Pharmacology staff has been so proactive, they are piloting the Green Department Certification program which is similar to Green Office but addressive the collective actions of entire departments rather than just individuals. Pharmacology expects to be certified within next month after final analysis of their programs and activities.
The department’s initiative to go green started well before the Green Office Certification program went into effect, however. Though Academic Coordinator Kristina Bigdeli has been the biggest driving force in getting the department to change their behavior, she says that department Chair David H. Farb began advocating that the department go paperless prior to when she was hired last year.
“I’m very interested in efficiency and optimization. I was always brought up not to waste energy, food or resources,” says Dr. Farb. His interest in sustainable consumption comes from his background in pharmacology as well as his interest in boating. “I’m a pharmacologist, I think about toxic substances going into the environment,” he says. When he goes out on his boat with his family he is forced to live with resources that are much more limited than what he is used to at home. “It made a lot of sense to me to pursue the green approach. It seemed like a win-win” he says.
The first step that Dr. Farb took was mandating that all faculty and staff get rid of their filing cabinets and scanning all documents. His motivation in getting rid of filing cabinets was not only to reduce the amount of paper, but also to free up space. “Space is valuable. Now we have more space for researching and teaching,” he says.
In addition to instating a paperless policy, the department has found several other ways to reduce their carbon footprint. Bigdeli took the initiative get both the faculty and staff educated about sustainability and one by one they all came on board.
Handbooks are only distributed to students as PDFs and anything that is printed is printed on 100% recycled paper. The department has committed to only purchase Energy Star appliances. To reduce waste they have purchased a state-of-the-art coffee maker that uses coffee from compostable cloth packets rather than plastic cups as well as supplying plant-based compostable utensils in the kitchen. In addition, this month the department will be hosting a Zero-Waste reception, one of the first on the Medical Campus. Despite all of the work they have already done, they are still finding ways they can be more sustainable. One of the next steps the department wants to take is replacing several halogen lights they have in the lobby with more efficient LED lights.
“We’re always seeking to improve ourselves,” says Bigdeli, “you’re not working unless you’re getting better with every step and progressing.”