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What is Green?

There are as many ideas about being "Green" as there are hues. Simply stated, it is anything that conserves our natural resources while protecting the environment, taking a long view of actions today that impact the future. Impacts are often viewed through the lens commonly referred to as the three pillars of sustainability: environmental, economic, and social.

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Sustainability - Why is it Important?

"Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. To pursue sustainability is to create and maintain the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony to support present and future generations."1 Sustainability are the "abilities"- responsibility, capability, and equitability to minimize the impact on our people, planet, and economics.

How Can We Practice Sustainability in Histology?

Practicing sustainability in the histology laboratory shapes paradigms in four fundamental ways: minimizing our impact on the Earth, maintaining our well-being, decreasing the cost of waste management in the laboratory, and discovering new processes affecting our daily work. By embodying our community's determination to protect and preserve the environment's natural and economic resources, we become aware of our impacts.

What Types of Actions Can We Take to Make a Laboratory "Green"?

  • Recycling
  • Water conservation
  • Renewable or energy-efficient products
  • Efficient processes
  • Education

How Laboratories become Aware of Impacts: Greening Histology

Dr. Donella Meadows, an environmental scientist and thought leader on sustainability, used a system thinking perspective to identify interdependencies within systems.2 Evaluating the interwoven picture of the "greater whole" clarifies the greatest significance, indicating what to measure. Dr. Meadows states, "Indicators arise from values (we measure what we care about), and they create values (we care about what we measure)"3. A histology laboratory is a complex system where each step of the process influences and impacts the other parts. Information points, or indicators, act as guideposts when making decisions and planning our actions.3

New types of information must be gathered and shared when setting sustainability goals while developing a roadmap for creating green histology laboratories.

Key Performance Indicators (KPI) determine how to evaluate, plan, implement, measure, and monitor sustainability changes. Some KPIs for the histology laboratory are energy, water, supply, and waste. The ability to raise awareness of current practices that deplete resources creates opportunities for new ways of reducing, reusing, and recycling throughout the histology laboratory. "We must identify and understand the risks to human health and the ecosystem to enjoy a high-quality life."4

How Can the Histology Laboratory be Assessed?

Use a "greening perspective" throughout the histology diagnostic pathway to find minimal impact resources that support the environment in:

  • Physical Space
  • Grossing
  • Processing
  • Embedding
  • Microtomy
  • Staining
  • Archiving and storage

Download the Green Histology educational resource now for case study examples and a step-by-step guide for assessing your laboratory.

References

  1. Learn About Sustainability. Environmental Protection Agency. Accessed 05March2021. https://www.epa.gov/sustainability/learn-about-sustainability
  2. Wright, Diana, and Donella H. Meadows. Thinking in Systems: A Primer. Earthscan, 2009.
  3. Meadows, D. 1998. Indicators and Information Systems for Sustainable Development. The Sustainability Institute, Hartland VT, USA. http://donellameadows.org/wp-content/userfiles/IndicatorsInformation.pdf
  4. Environmental Protection Agency. A Framework for Sustainability Indicators at EPA. EPA/600/R/12/687. October 2012. www.epa.gov/ord

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