The University Record: New swap shop aids U-M researchers, sustainability goals

This article was originally posted on The University Record by Caitlin Jacobs on June 11, 2024.

A new Lab Swap Shop will allow University of Michigan researchers to browse for free, pre-owned laboratory equipment while supporting the university’s waste-reduction goals.

The shop, housed in Room 5004 of the 1100 North University Building, opened June 6.

More than 100 U-M community members turned out for the opening festivities, collectively saving $51,270 in equipment costs and diverting 563.4 pounds of material from landfills.

Any U-M researcher can donate unwanted lab consumables and equipment and take what they need.

A photo of several people standing around a table, two of them signing their names.
Visitors at the first day of U-M’s new Lab Swap Shop sign in and pick up slips used to track inventory. (Photo by Ashlee Bise, Office of Campus Sustainability)

The Lab Swap Shop will open from 1-3 p.m. each Thursday, with online shopping available any time. New inventory is added on an ongoing basis. Expanded hours and information will be available on the Lab Reuse Program webpage.

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The shop is an expansion of the longstanding Lab Reuse Program, which enables U-M to redistribute surplus chemicals, equipment and materials to researchers across the Ann Arbor campus.

Operated by the Office of Campus Sustainability in partnership with Environment, Health & Safety, this initiative has safely diverted 6,200 pounds of supplies from landfills in the 2024 fiscal year, more than in any past year of the program.

While any Ann Arbor campus lab can donate and request items online or attend pop-up swap days, OCS saw value in opening a permanent location for the program to engage researchers further.

“We noticed that the monetary and waste-diversion savings associated with this program are significantly higher when individuals have the chance to shop in person,” said Alexandria Galens, program coordinator for sustainable labs at OCS.

When comparing average daily diversion rates, in-person lab reuse events are nearly 23.5 times more effective than online-only shopping, and result in up to 14 times more cost savings for researchers.

Top reuse program participants include LSA’s departments of Chemistry, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and Earth and Environmental Science. Thus, OCS and LSA partnered to open the new shop on Central Campus, convenient to the many labs.

A photo of lab equipment on a table
Some of the lab equipment available at the Lab Swap Shop. (Photo by Ashlee Bise, Office of Campus Sustainability)

Jen Grover, LSA’s lab safety officer, said the program benefits sustainability and laboratory safety across LSA.

“When a lab donates extra supplies or old equipment to the Lab Reuse Program it means that aisleways, benchtops and cabinets are being cleaned and organized,” Grover said.

The new shop also supports LSA’s spatial efficiency goals by envisioning an underutilized space to serve the college’s research goals in a new way.

Other opportunities to advance laboratory sustainability include:

By stejenna

Jenna Steele is the Year of Sustainability and Carbon Neutrality Program Assistant for U-M College of Literature, Science, and the Arts.