Sustainable Berkeley Lab maintains a calendar of Earth Month events throughout April. This year, a new group at the Lab, the Sustainable Garden Club, hosted a DIY Succulent Workshop and Plant Sale.
All year, the JGI helps support finding solutions to clean energy and environmental challenges. And many JGIers work to connect those big goals with their everyday activities, striving for sustainability in lab spaces as well as offices.
These efforts dovetail into sustainability commitments for the wider Berkeley Lab. “We’re shifting now to our net-zero strategy. And so we’re looking at the overall greenhouse gas impacts from all of our operations,” said Brie Fulton, program manager for Sustainable Berkeley Lab (SBL). By 2030, Berkeley Lab aims to cut its greenhouse gas emissions in half, relative to its 2015 baseline emissions.
Reaching that goal will mean slashing direct emissions from energy, natural gas and electricity, as well as embodied emissions. “So these are emissions that were made in creating goods and performing services,” Fulton said. These emissions come from the whole lifecycle of materials used — from their creation to their disposal.
To minimize emissions from the disposal end of that lifecycle, there’s a specific push going on at the JGI — the ZERO Waste Initiative — that works to prepare the IGB to be the first Lab building with laboratories where 90% of landfill waste is diverted to compost or recycling. That initiative is the result of a partnership with Sustainable Berkeley Lab, building on years of collaboration on sustainability efforts within the JGI. Within the JGI, that work is staff-led. “There was a lot of groundwork laid in Walnut Creek before people moved into the new building,” Fulton said.
For example, even before moving to Berkeley, the JGI committed to using Stirling freezers to store samples, which use less than half as much energy as other models. They also implemented the use of Klaatu, a freezer management system that monitors energy use and helps detect problems with freezers storing precious samples. Another shift that happened when the JGI was still located in Walnut Creek was starting to use central waste stations, rather than under desk trash bins. These encourage everyone to sort all waste into compost, recycling and trash.
Last year, in Berkeley, the now IGB-wide ZERO Waste Initiative began its most ambitious project yet: a special recycling program to recycle lab plastics, which account for much of the building waste. Once this program is running smoothly, the hope is that it could be implemented in other buildings at Berkeley Lab.
Fulton noted that the IGB ZERO Waste Initiative is a great team of collaborators for testing new initiatives like this. “So when we have a new idea, we can come to them and say, ‘you know, we want to try this. We want to get this done’,there is support, and there is the energy, and frankly — it’s the work, to make it happen.”
Recently, IGB ZERO Waste Initiative members took on another new effort: planting a potted sustainable garden outside the building. In fact, they’ve recently formed an offshoot of the Zero Waste Initiative, Sustainable Garden Club. “What a way to stay connected to this desired outcome you want, and have something beautiful be there,” Fulton said.
A New Offshoot: Sustainable Garden Club
In her work at Berkeley Lab, Doina Ciobanu generally works at a single-cell level as part of the JGI MicroScale Applications team. But on a recent lunch break, she got to help tackle a challenge at a much different scale — moving a 3-foot long, spiny cactus into its new home at the lab, without any finger pricks. “It’s very funny because you use forceps to hold them,” Ciobanu said.
In the last few months, the Sustainable Garden Club has organized lunchtime gardening sessions to plant succulents and cacti in the large terracotta pots. These pots are right around the corner from the patio where food trucks arrive each day.
“Our goal is to create more green spaces at the Lab,” Ciobanu said. To do that, they’re repurposing abandoned planters, planting donated plants and swapping tips on growing greenery. With sustainability in mind, they’re focused on easy-to-maintain, drought tolerant plants that can also provide shelter to pollinators like bees and flies.
On April 19, this group hosted a DIY Succulent workshop and a plant sale. Members from across Berkeley Lab gathered to learn more about planting and tending these shoots of their own.
The Sustainable Garden Club welcomes more members, regardless of gardening experience, Ciobanu said. “If you want to learn both how to propagate and how to grow plants that are sustainable in many environmental sense, this is a very good club to join.”
Interested in learning more about the Sustainable Garden Club at LBNL?
- Submit this form (https://bit.ly/LBL-SustainableGardenClub-Signup) to be added to the Google group.