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Research and operational excellence—sustaining for future generations

Sustainability in Action: Fostering our future workforce

Girl at screen

Thanks to the more than 100 staff members who volunteered their time, the Lab hosted more than 580 children, ages 9-15, for this year's Take Our Daughters & Sons to Work Day on April 25.

We cannot think of a better way for employees to engage in sustaining our Lab for future generations. We are committed to sustainability and to reporting our social, environmental and economic performance in a standardized, transparent way using the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) internationally accepted framework.

We're pleased to say that for the fourth year in a row, we've earned an A+ for our Annual Sustainability Report. Check out our performance; get familiar with our 12 focus areas; and consider how you contribute to a sustainable Lab for future generations!

Mike Moran, Sustainability Program Manager
Kathleen Judd, Sustainability Program Technical Lead

Employee Involvement

Even kids got into alternative commuting this year!

John McCall and son

Jon McCall (alternative commuter of the month for January) and his son biked to work on Take Your Kids to Work Day April 25.

When selected as the alternative commute winner in January, Jon stated his favorite reasons for biking to work: "It's fun. It saves money. There are health benefits from the exercise, and I don't have to sit in traffic. I also just enjoy being outside and seeing all the beauty around the Columbia River, such as the wildlife and sunrises."

Over a year ago, PNNL began offering the telework option to staff and introduced many alternative commute options, such as the PNNL Rideshare Community—a "place" where staff can meet up to find ride-sharing partners, and track their alternative commute miles and reduced carbon footprint.

Science to Sustain the World

Bio-inspired technology enhances cyber security in the energy grid (digital ants)

Our cyber security researchers have developed a bio-inspired technology for detecting threats to the security of the electric grid. "Digital ants" can roam a computer network the same way that real ants patrol a nest.

When a digital ant perceives a threat, it releases digital pheromones to attract other digital ants to the vicinity. Each ant provides a small piece of information that can be correlated to reveal the issue and the information is transmitted to human operators who can act on it.

The algorithms that run digital ants were designed specifically for the Smart Grid. Digital Ants technology was selected by Scientific American as one of the "10 World Changing Ideas in 2010."

Superheroes Living Our Values

Chris Montgomery

Chris Montgomery displayed Creativity when she instituted a process/approach that encouraged EMSL staff to use previously printed-on paper for working draft copies. By doing this, she was able to reduce their paper consumption by 43%—saving 30,000 pieces of paper. Chris took the initiative to implement a new process and track the results. It's an organized activity with clear directions, making it easy for people to participate. She even went through old files and salvaged one-sided papers.

Have you seen a PNNL colleague go out of their way to demonstrate leadership through sustainable actions? Nominate them for an award!

Caring for the Community

Students in touch with the environment

Janelle Downs and Student

On a brisk morning in April, Ms. Tilson's Delta High School 10th graders were not in science class. They were outside, walking a few blocks to Sutch Park and Hip-Deep Creek behind Kadlec Hospital in Richland, Washington.

Under the guidance of PNNL scientists Janelle Downs and Ted Posten (retired), they followed the standard scientific investigative process in their work—learning to think like a scientist.

They went to work taking measurements of the creek, collecting samples they'd analyze in the lab the next day for water quality, documenting the plants and vegetation, and analyzing how individuals and businesses can affect the quality of the water in the creek.

While performing the stewardship activity of cleaning up the creek by collecting debris and other litter, the students were amazed at how many muddy old shoes they pulled from the bottom of the creek.

This environmental, service-learning project is supported through a SITE (Students Involved with Their Environment) sub-grant received from the Teaching Research Institute at Western Oregon University, which is part of a larger U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant.

PNNL plays a leadership role in Delta, our local STEM high school, and was instrumental to the school's opening in 2009. On June 7, we celebrated the graduation of the first class from Delta.

Operational Excellence

Marine Sciences Laboratory protects nesting birds with deterrence

In part due to lush natural surroundings that offer pristine sanctuary to migratory birds, the Marine Sciences Laboratory in Sequim, Washington, has developed a number of best practices for protecting native migratory species. Situated on the bluffs and shoreline of Sequim Bay on the Olympic Peninsula, MSL facilities can easily attract nesting birds that might otherwise nest in nearby forest and wetlands areas.

By deploying a few simple deterrence measures, birds are persuaded to nest in nearby habitat rather than Lab structures where birds could be disturbed, even unintentionally

Among other measures, staff members at the MSL have

  • mounted metal spindles on exposed light fixtures to keep barn swallows from nesting on them
  • installed clear plastic strips that form curtain barriers to birds in open-air, covered areas
  • screened-in rafters and installed metal shielding over outdoor structures to prevent nesting.

Rechargeable batteries here to stay

In support of our commitment to reduce waste, PNNL recently implemented a policy of using rechargeable batteries in offices to the maximum extent practical. If used properly, and depending on the application, rechargeable batteries generally last longer and will reduce life cycle costs.

Here's the bottom line—whether rechargeable batteries will work for you is dependent upon the device you use them in (i.e., the amount of power the device draws) and following the recommended charging guidelines.

Rechargeable batteries work best in moderate- to high-draw items. Rechargeable batteries are not recommended for use in emergency items such as flashlights and smoke detectors.

Tips to increase effectiveness:

  • Do not over-charge the batteries
  • Use the correct charger for your type of battery.
  • Have some extra, fully-charged batteries on hand.
  • NiMH batteries deplete faster in warmer weather.
  • Store charged batteries in dry conditions at normal room temperatures.

All batteries contain corrosives and heavy metals, so the fewer the batteries in our landfills the better!

If you have feedback, questions or story ideas for our next issue, please send an email to

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