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Sustainable PNNL - Balancing social, environmental, and economic needs for a more sustainable future

Environmental Stewardship

PNNL has a long history of demonstrated commitment to protecting and using resources wisely. For nearly a decade, we have used the ISO 14001 standard and Environmental Management System to track and improve upon our environmental performance. Last year we began incorporating a broader set of sustainability priorities into our Environmental Management System to better align with the GRI's global standard for sustainability performance. We continue to do so and are leading the way for others.

Our long-term priorities are aggressive reductions in energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, and use of water and materials, and to protect natural resources while fulfilling our science and technology mission for the U.S. Department of Energy.

We strive to achieve zero waste at staff events by incorporating "reduce, reuse, and recycle." At two events 100% of the waste was recycled, reused, or composted. Now employees ask, "Is this a zero waste event?"

EMSL scientists (left to right) Ping Yang, Dave Cowley, and Niri Govind.

EMSL scientists (left to right) Ping Yang, Dave Cowley, and Niri Govind.

EMSL s supercomputer (pictured here), Chinook, will allow scientists to develop a molecular level understanding of the complex biological, chemical, and physical processes that underlie the environmental and energy challenges facing DOE and the nation.

EMSL supports a wide range of computational activities for addressing critical research in energy production (e.g., bioenergy and artificial solar energy) and bio/ environmental remediation for studying surfaces and interfaces on natural heterogeneous materials present in atmospheric or subsurface environments. Large biomolecular simulations, large data bioinformatics computations, aerosol modeling, and reactive chemical transport modeling are also supported.

Managing Our Energy and Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Across the PNNL campus, greenhouse gas emissions from both direct and indirect sources increased by 11 percent in 2010, driven in part by an increase in the size of our workforce and energy use in our research facilities.

As our employee population grows, we recognize the importance of managing our facility energy use, the impacts of employee transportation, and the use of other resources. While this growth provides economic benefit to the community, fostering a culture of environmental stewardship will be essential to minimizing the impact of our growth on the environment.

Our work requires a substantial and growing demand for energy-intensive laboratories and high-performance computing equipment that ranks among the fastest in the world. For example, EMSL, the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory Chinook supercomputer supports more than 80 research projects from around the world, and logged more than 150 million core hours of use.

A number of efficiency measures were implemented to manage the intensive amounts of energy needed for PNNL's computing equipment. We were able to reduce fossil fuel use in our most energy-intensive facility through the reuse of the facility's "waste" heat. We have also realized efficiency gains from the installation of high-efficiency LED lighting throughout our facilities. As a result, PNNL's electricity consumption only increased by 4 percent. After energy efficiency improvements, we further reduced the impact of our operations by purchasing renewable energy certificates to offset 70 percent of our remaining electricity use.

We continually look for opportunities to integrate advanced efficiency measures into our operations and to use our campus as a test-bed for the innovative technologies that our researchers are developing. Opportunities for improving our energy and greenhouse gas performance in 2011include expanding night setback hours on heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning systems and implementing IT efficiency improvements, including the further consolidation and virtualization of servers.

Minimizing Our Use of Toxic Chemicals

PNNL's goal for managing chemical use is to reduce toxicity by right-sizing inventories, actively eliminating unneeded materials, redistributing unwanted materials to new users, and identifying substitute materials of lesser toxicity.

  • As part of DOE's Hanford cleanup program, more than 500 PNNL employees vacated several old buildings on the Hanford Site and moved into new, more energy efficient research facilities on the PNNL campus. During this process, more than 2,400 kilograms of chemicals were redistributed outside the Laboratory or safely disposed of, saving almost $1.4 million. This practice is now being used for other moves at PNNL.
  • The ChemAgain chemical redistribution program re-deployed 639 chemicals in 2010, eliminating the need for their procurement and disposition.

89% of the paper products consumed contained 30% or more post-consumer recycled content. Our goal is 100%.

PNNL Sustainability