Second Nature banner

Sustainable research, operations, and community

Diversity Fair Builds Community

"Inclusiveness" is one of our social focus areas

Diversity FairAuthor Stephen Covey once said, "Strength lies in the differences, not in the similarities," and it's the variety of interests, backgrounds and ways of thinking represented at PNNL that strengthen us and give rise to our world-class research.

Each year, PNNL sets aside a day to celebrate staff differences through foo

d, entertainment and sharing of interests— the Taste of Diversity Street Fair was held on September 4, 2013. PNNL staff and members of the local community showcased their passions, hobbies and interests in interactive and engaging ways.

From delicious ethnic food and great entertainment to the variety of booths featuring everything from wildlife rescue and wood turning to helping those in need—the Diversity Fair is a PNNL tradition.

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

Operational Excellence

Staff Development Goes Green

The Scientist & Engineer and Management Development Programs (SEDP and MSDP) kick off next month with a ropes session, and half of our participants have agreed to carpool to the location about an hour away. Development program staff strives to be more "green" by building electronic workbooks/materials, conducting electronic evaluations and surveys, and continuing to review each program to encourage sustainable operations. Participants are also encouraged to bring their own devices to class to view electronic materials hard copy handouts are limited. Kudos to the SEDP/MSDP staff and participants for their efforts!

America's emissions qualification testing going greener

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a major environmental goal at all federal agencies, and at PNNL we may have just found a new process for qualification testing of radiological emissions monitoring locations in exhaust stacks that's going to be much better for the environment.

A study funded by the Sustainability Pays Program identified nitrous oxide (N2O) as a potential alternative to sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) which has typically been used as a tracer gas. The study found that using N2O in place of SF6 for stack testing was feasible and reduced the carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emissions by 98%. Sulfur hexafluoride has twice the global warming impact of N2O.

The feasibility study led by John Glissmeyer and Julia Flaherty (both Environmental Scientists) began in 2011. John and Julie collaborated with the Effluent Management Rad Air Task team and the Environmental and Molecular Sciences Laboratory, and received contract support from the Waste Treatment Plant.

In scale-model qualification testing conducted in 2012, the use of N2O and SF6 was compared. There was no statistically significant difference between the two, and it appears that N2O is a feasible replacement for SF6—from both a technical and a financial standpoint.

Further tests to demonstrate the equivalence of the two gas tracers for scale-model stack emissions monitoring qualification found no statistically significant differences in the stack qualification results between SF6 and N2O gas tests. Consequently, PNNL completed full-scale and scale-model qualification tests using N2O gas, resulting in an estimated emission reduction of 260 metric tons CO2e. The greenhouse gas emission savings from the full-scale test was equivalent to removing 500 cars from roadways for one year.

As a result of this PNNL study, N2O is now included in the draft ANSI/HPS N13.1 (American National Standards Institute/Health Physics Society) standard on stack sampling. Soon the entire country could be making the same changes. The next step is to evaluate the use of N2O as a replacement tracer gas in fume hood testing to further reduce the use of SF6 at the Lab.

For more information about Sustainability Pays, please contact Jennifer Su-Coker.

Removing Bicycling Roadblocks: Bike Fixit Stations Installed

Riding your bike to work just got more convenient. In an attempt to aid current and would-be bicyclists, PNNL has introduced bicycle fixing stations at its Richland campus.

Feedback from PNNL staff indicated that there was a large desire for a communal bike pump and/or fixing station, and not having something like it available was a major barrier to people riding their bicycles to work.

DERO FixIt labelTo address this issue, PNNL's Sustainability Pays team funded the purchase of resilient, high-security bike repair stations and pumps. These stations—the Dero Fixit—can be found on many college campuses (e.g., University of Washington) and in cities like Minneapolis, Minnesota. They can withstand a lot of abuse; there has been low theft in high-crime areas; and communities with them installed have seen a positive overall response.

What do these fixing stations do? They have a variety of tools to make adjustments or fix many different parts of any type of bicycle, a QR barcode that staff members can scan with their phones to get guidance on how to use the tools, and a pump that fits mountain and road bike valves.

For bicycling and alternative commuting resources, PNNL employees may visit the Employee Commute Community.

Science to Transform the World

A little over a decade ago on Wednesday, August 14, 2003, more than 50 million people in the U.S. Northeast and Toronto were left in the dark during a devastating blackout. Check out PNNL's new video to learn what happened 10 years ago and how the nation's power grid has been improved since then.

Sustainability Superhero Susan Turner

Taking Purchasing Paperless

Susan TurnerThanks to Susan's passion and influence, her contracts team is going paperless. They started the process last year, trained their staff, and as of April 2013, nearly half of all purchase orders were processed without using paper. Going paperless helps achieve consistency, reduces our footprint, and promotes collaboration and data retrieval. Feedback has been positive and the staff appreciates the extra room in their work space.

Sustaining our Workforce: Mentors Matter Video

A summer intern video project

PNNL is committed to creating a better tomorrow by giving STEM learners real-world experiences through a variety of work-based learning programs for high school, undergraduate and graduate students, as well as teachers. In fiscal year 2013, PNNL hosted nearly 1,100 interns, fellows and post-docs. But these visitors aren't the only ones benefitting—staff members who volunteer time as mentors learn and grow from the interactions too. And often the campus visitors have significant impact on the research. Watch the video(4:45 min.) .

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

Subscribe to continue to receive Second Nature quaterly. Or if you do not wish to receive future issues, please send an e-mail with "unsubscribe" in the subject line.