Planetary Health

Nurture illustration

Like other areas of health care, health research creates a lot of waste and uses a lot of energy.

At the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, we are committed to reducing the impact of our research on planetary health and the environment, as indicated in our strategic plan.

Did you know:

  • Biomedical research labs produce two per cent of global plastic waste
  • A -80 C freezer consumes as much energy as the average household every day
  • A traditional autoclave uses almost 200 litres of water per minute

Minimize the impact of research on the environment

Save energy

Save energy
  • Consider how far the supplies you order are being shipped and how they are packaged
  • Let suppliers know you're seeking more sustainable products and companies with sustainable practices
  • Buy supplies in bulk, but only if you have the space to safely store them
    • Consider proper storage of flammable and corrosive materials.
  • Consider whether you could carpool, bike, or take transit to the hospital
  • Change the temperature of -80 C freezers to -70 C, which saves a lot of energy with no effect on RNA, DNA or protein preservation
  • Ask TOH electricians to install motions sensors and timers on the lights so they're only on when needed (e-mail
  • Remind people who leave the lab to clean out their materials from ultra-low-temperature freezers
  • Consider using the OHRI Biorepository for long-term storage of research samples.


  • Think twice before printing a scientific paper or using a new flask
  • Keep an inventory of chemicals and materials and use them before they expire
  • Consider switching to an electronic lab book
  • Consume less water by asking TOH plumbers to install aerators on your faucets (e-mail
  • Make some reagents yourself rather than ordering kits with plastic bottles


  • Coffee break? Bring a reusable coffee mug
  • Packing a lunch? Bring a reusable water bottle
  • In the lab:
    • Use glass pipettes and media bottles instead of plastic
    • Order pipette tip boxes that can be restocked



Create a Green Team in your area

Create a green team
  • Find other people who are passionate about making your workplace greener
  • Meet monthly to brainstorm ideas
  • Share your ideas at lab and team meetings
  • Think about one day in your workplace -what greener choices could you make?

Get inspired!

Get inspired

OHRI is actively engaging in planetary health initiatives, including in our infrastructure planning, where we are gradually converting all of our ultra-low freezers to high efficiency, with nearly half already converted.

As individuals and groups, we have the power to make research more sustainable.

For example, the cancer research labs (3rd floor) have made a big impact with a few simple changes:

  • Eliminated over 182 kilograms of plastic waste by switching to restockable pipette tips, and over 272 kilograms of plastic by switching to glass media bottles.
  • Saved 11 households worth of energy every day by changing the temperature of their -80 C freezers to -70 C.
  • Reduced their annual supply shipments from 223 to 75.
  • Installed motion sensors and timers so lights are only on when needed, and reduced water consumption by adding aerators to faucets.
  • 70% of lab members are My Green Lab Ambassadors, and the lab is working towards a My Green Lab Certification

Learn more: