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Help develop a Bird ID tool!

Reducing the Lab's Footprint

by Elise Ferree and Suzanne Kates
Photograph by Elise Ferree

Cornell Lab employees find creative ways to conserve at work

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology works to conserve birds worldwide, but we are mindful of how our individual energy use at home and work also impacts our environment. So in early 2008, some of our staff organized the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Group for Sustainability to raise our own awareness about sustainable living and to help make the Lab a more eco-friendly place to work. We switched as much as possible to shade-grown Fair Trade coffee and took steps to save energy and reduce waste. We’re celebrating small steps that together can make a large difference. Below are some of the ways we are working together toward these goals. We’d love to hear your ideas for making our ecological footprint a little lighter as well.

Saving Energy

At the Lab’s Alternative Transportation Day in 2009, we provided breakfast for people who carpooled, biked, or walked to work.
  • We reduced overnight lighting in parking lots.
  • Turned off overhead lights when not needed and use desk lamps when they would be more efficient.
  • Replaced incandescent bulbs with high efficiency compact fluorescent bulbs.
  • Turned off equipment such as printers and computers over the winter holidays. (Last year we saved about $2,400 in one week!)
  • Switched from overnight computer backup to backing up when computers shut down, saving about $9,360 per year.
  • Used a Kill-a-Watt device to measure energy used by various types of computers in different modes of operation (on, off, in sleep mode) to determine the most efficient ways to run our computers.
  • Worked with our facilities management to redistribute heat loads from the perimeter radiant loop to primary air handlers and to modify control sequences on air handlers and exhaust systems, improving the efficiency of heating and cooling our building.
  • Held an annual Alternative Transportation Day to encourage biking, walking, carpooling, and taking the bus to work. This past spring 60 of our 200+ staff participated!

Reducing Waste

  • We use environmentally friendly cleaning products.
  • We use 100-percent-recycled paper for photocopying and printing, try to print double-sided when possible, and try to make as few print-outs as possible.
  • We compost food scraps and coffee grounds. They are collected in bins in the Lab kitchens, and on a rotating basis staff take the compost home. Over the 12 months since the program’s inception, a ton of “waste” has been diverted to local gardens.
  • We bring our own reusable dishes to our summer picnic, and recycle packaging materials. To further cut down on trash, we contracted with a local composting service to take our food waste. In these ways, we reduced the amount of trash we’d formerly produced at the picnic by 90 percent (from 15 to 1.5 bags).
  • We encourage outside caterers to compost and to use compostable tableware if they use disposable dishes. Staff members use washable dishes from our well-stocked kitchen for our personal meals and for meetings.