Going for Gold: Kibbe-Tsihlis Lab Gets Green Labs Certified

The Kibbe-Tsihlis Lab recently became a Gold Certified Green Lab for incorporating sustainability into their laboratory practices.  

Ben Nilson is a rising fourth year at the University pursuing his Master of Public Policy and an undergraduate degree in Global Studies with a concentration in Global Environments & Sustainability.

Leading the way in sustainable research practices, the Kibbe-Tsihlis Lab has achieved Gold Certification from the Green Labs program. With the help of the UVA Office for Sustainability Green Labs program, researcher-led initiatives have smoothly and easily transitioned the lab to become not only safer but also more resource-efficient.

The UVA Green Labs program welcomes all research laboratories at the University interested in reducing their environmental impact. Green Labs works to incorporate occupant-driven behavioral changes to conserve energy and water while reducing waste and purchasing footprints. Labs are extremely resource-intensive: while they take up only 10% of Grounds, they are responsible for one third of the University’s energy footprint. Getting Green Labs certified helps labs reduce their impact while also becoming more efficient with their grant funds and aligning with UVA’s 2030 Sustainability Plan Goals. The Green Labs program works to embed a culture of sustainability in labs. As reinforced by the School of Medicine Dean Dr. Kibbe,

Kibbe Tsihlis Green Labs Certification group photo
The Kibbe-Tsihlis Lab celebrates their Green Labs Gold Certification with their plaque and beaker mugs.
“Researchers play a critical role in making the School of Medicine more sustainable...Only through the actual investigators can we make this happen - everyone has to do their part!”

Under Principal Investigators Drs. Melina Kibbe and Nick Tsihlis, their team develops novel therapies for patients with vascular diseases through interdisciplinary approaches, combining biomedical engineering, materials science, and chemistry, to name a few. On their journey to Gold Certification, the lab took on initiatives in five key areas: Chemicals & Reagents, Materials & Refuse, Cold Storage, Electronics & Appliances, and Engagement.


These goals couldn’t have been achieved without the hard work of the lab manager, Ms. Robin Siletzky. As explained by Ms. Siletzky, “Labs can be resource intensive, but there are simple ways to reduce our impact if we make a conscious effort to minimize waste.” The lab began by participating in the 2022 Shut the Sash Challenge and the 2023 International Freezer Challenge. According to Ms. Siletzky, “the easiest change to adopt was to increase the freezer temperature and frequency of maintenance.” The ultra-low temperature freezers used in laboratory research can consume as much energy as an average American home. Increasing the set point from -80° to -70°C can generate 30-40% energy savings. Steps like these are what helped UVA win the Top Academic Organization award in the 2022 International Freezer Challenge, removing fourteen households worth of energy from our footprint.


The lab also began to incorporate other sustainability techniques. To address energy usage, “Folks in the lab proposed turning off the lyophilizer pump when no one was signed up to use the equipment,” said Dr. Tsihlis. “Not only does this save energy, but it reduces wear and tear on the pump, which will save the lab money.” To reduce water usage, the lab incorporated a recirculating pump on their rotovap system to recirculate and reuse that water rather than expelling it down the drain. To target waste, the lab incorporated new recycling signage and pledged to minimize Styrofoam usage. The lab even made changes to the materials they are purchasing and using, switching out ethidium bromide used for DNA imaging for the safer, greener alternative, GelRed.


“These changes were all easy to incorporate, and a lot of them were already being done,” said Ms. Siletzky. While the lab was aware of the benefits of sustainability before, the certification process “put it in the forefront of our minds. As we became more conscious of things like water usage, repurposing and reusing became part of our lab’s culture.” According to Dr. Tsihlis, “It was heartening to see the interest in the Green Labs initiative, and I am proud to display our Gold Certification plaque on my office window.”

Kibbe Tsihlis Green Labs Certification Robin Nick Melina
From left to right, Dr Nick Tsihlis, lab manager Robin Siletzsky, and Dr Melina Kibbe.


Dean Kibbe sees the lab’s certification as an opportunity to expand the prevalence of sustainability throughout UVA Health. Currently, 13 labs in the School of Medicine are Green Labs Certified, but Dean Kibbe hopes that in taking these steps, others will see that achieving certification isn’t hard, but rather something everyone can do. Further, she highlighted the need for sustainability in the wider Medical Center - “Operating rooms have significant waste and energy consumption…Moving towards green operations is needed globally.”


The Kibbe-Tsihlis Lab is one of many labs working with UVA Green Labs to become leaders in the world of sustainable research. To this lab, sustainability fits right into their mission; while they are generating positive change in the medical field, they are also supporting the longevity of their local community and environment.



Interested in becoming one of UVA’s Green Labs? Contact [email protected] for more information.