Scientist stands in a chemistry laboratory

Sustainable research: Tips for environmentally aware scientific research

January 16, 2023

The Lobby for Doctoral Students DoKUS at the University of Stuttgart has created an information sheet on sustainable research and how to save energy.

How can we raise awareness of sustainability in our research? This question is the focus of the sustainability working group of the Lobby for Doctoral Students DoKUS [DE]. "This issue gave rise to the idea of preparing an information sheet with specific tips," says Juliane Heitkämper, an active member of DoKUS and a doctoral researcher at the Institute of Theoretical Chemistry at the University of Stuttgart. "As doctoral researchers, we help shape research. So, it should go without saying that we also have a responsibility to make university operations more sustainable."

Working closely with the Green Office, Heitkämper and her colleague V S Pavan Kumar produced a two-page information sheet in English. The information sheet includes both general and specific tips for various laboratory situations, reminding people to act in an environmentally friendly and resource-saving way:

  • Use CPU time carefully! Turn off your computer whenever it is not in use.
  • Don´t forget to turn off lights and heating whenever possible. Keep doors of offices and laboratories closed to keep the heat in the room.
  • Travel wisely! Choose a transport system that has a lower environmental impact when traveling to the university or to conferences.
  • Be the change that our planet needs, get involved and motivate your colleagues.
  • Use reusable glassware instead of single-use plastics.
  • A single fume-hood guzzles as much energy as four households. Keep fume-hood sashes and clean-benches shut at all times if switching them off is not possible.
  • Reduce waste. Remember to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle!
  • Switch off any equipment or devices when not in use.

Infosheet about sustainable research as PDF to print out

Heitkämper and her colleagues have already presented the poster to two faculty councils and would like to give it to professors and research group leaders. "We would like to see scientists discuss the tips on the information sheet with their groups and address their specific laboratory situations. Ideally, the information should also be integrated into teaching," says Heitkämper.

Energy saving in research

The information sheet also has tips for saving energy. This is very important, especially at the moment. "Energy plays a very important role in research. Our infrastructure often requires a lot of heat energy and electricity. But there is a huge potential for saving energy in this field and small measures can make a big difference." As part of the energy-saving campaign "Think more. Use less. Save energy. Together!". The University of Stuttgart is aiming to reduce energy usage by 20 percent and has also provided tips on saving energy.

Sustainability as a strategic goal

"Emphatic commitment to sustainable development" - this is the seventh strategic goal of the University of Stuttgart. The university also demonstrates its dedication to sustainability in its structure and development plan SEPUS (only readable in the university network or via VPN). And that is why, for DoKUS, the issue of sustainability is not a question of "if", but of "how". The group focuses on ensuring that the topic remains current, which is why the information sheet is being posted in as many university hallways and laboratories as possible.

The Sustainability working group at DoKUS is looking for more doctoral researchers who want to get involved. If you are interested, please email Juliane Heitkämper

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