Laboratory Self-Audit: Setting Up Your Audit
Classrooms and laboratories practicing pollution prevention are safer for students and in most cases easier on the school budget besides being fairly easy to implement. However, changes in thinking must occur to make the initial effort a success. Lay the groundwork for change before using the Self-Audit Checklists included in this resource. Start with some basic grassroots organizing using these suggestions or some of the many community development resources available. The result will be a program that works for your school community.
Deal With Regulatory
First make sure you are in compliance with local, state and federal regulations concerning your wastes.
- If you have disposal or hazardous waste issues that may be out of compliance, contact local authorities or service providers.
- Once the problem is resolved, use this guide and other resources to prevent such problems from recurring.
While there is no exact recipe for success, the following elements will make it easier:
- Support of school administration
- Person(s) willing to spend time on the details and promote the projects from within
- Other teachers and students who are interested in pollution prevention
- Community businesses and local service providers willing to provide startup assistance and form partnerships
Organize your Team
Preventing pollution will be easier and more effective if it is a team effort. Some team-building suggestions are:
- Survey local businesses and your school community to help gauge current interest.
- Form an advisory committee of two or three key team members to provide leadership and support broad participation.
- Promote what you are trying to do and educate team members about pollution prevention.
Each team member will participate at a different level, but all should be committed to the goals of your program. Some promotion tips and a list of potential team members and tasks are included for your reference.
Do a Self-Audit
Employing as many team members as possible, use the checklists included in the Laboratory Self-Audit to assess areas where you can reduce and eliminate waste and manage your lab operations more efficiently and economically. Research each area identified and brainstorm possible solutions.
Create Your Plan
Review the notes you make at the end of General Housekeeping and each other section that applies to your facility. Develop a written plan to address each situation your audit reveals and strategies to continue to reduce waste and conserve resources. Some important elements of a successful plan are:
- Include target dates for implementation and who is responsible.
- Make it easy for all team members to read and follow. Portion out sections that apply to specific team members.
- Build a feedback mechanism into the plan so team members can let you know when something isn't working right.
Organize and Document
Keep the following information together and organized:
- Self-audit notes and decisions
- Current inventory of supplies and waste
- Plan maintenance schedule (keep track of dates when activities occur)
- Product and service supplier contact information
- Pollution prevention team member contact information
- Correspondence and paperwork related to your efforts
- Notes on your efforts as progress is made
Review your plan on a regular schedule. Document:
- Changes in activities
- Introduction of new activities
- Glitches or problems
- Inventory updates
- Changes to the plan and dates they were implemented
The next section covers housekeeping and conservation practices that apply to everyone. After you complete this section, choose the checklists that apply specifically to your your lab areas.
These contacts can answer questions about state and local regulations, recycling opportunities, disposal facilities and special collection opportunities. Look for them in the local and state government sections of your phone book.
- County Extension Agent
- County Health Department and Sanitarian
- Environmental Health Office
- Water and Sewer Authority
- Landfill Operator
- Solid Waste Office
- Hazardous Waste Agency or Office
Instructors: An instructor or laboratory manager is the ideal leader for the team. Their potential roles include:
- Educate the community about pollution prevention
- Supervise creation of a pollution prevention plan
- Assign tasks to other team members
- Keep school administration informed of progress
- Hold the team responsible for regular maintenance of the plan
Students: Students have a big opportunity to reduce waste at the source and make the plan work. Their potential roles include:
- Conduct the audit
- Problem solve and research waste issues
- Record the plan in an easy-to-follow format
- Use the practices in their daily activities
- Perform regular plan maintenance tasks
Partners: It very important to form partnerships. Local businesses, fellow academic programs, other schools, government agencies, parent/teacher organizations, and recyclers are examples of important partners. Some roles that partners may fill include:
- Waste management help
- Sponsor collections of materials for reuse or recycling
- Advice and technical assistance
- Bulk buying or recycling agreements
- Community promotion
Administration: Your administration can be proud of this contribution to a healthier school. Keep them updated on the team's efforts. Their involvement may include:
- Official sponsorship of the program
- Allowing dedicated time and resources
Teach your pollution prevention team, coworkers and colleagues why pollution prevention is important and why you are embarking on this endeavor. Local service providers may be willing to give a presentation or do some training. A business that has successfully implemented pollution prevention practices can be inspirational. You may want to promote your activities by sponsoring a poster contest, writing an article for the school newspaper, and giving a talk in class or at a parent/teacher meeting.
Spreading the Word
Make sure everyone using the laboratories and teaching areas is aware of your pollution prevention plan and policies. Keep a reference guide easily accesssible once your plan is in place. It's a good resource for others wanting to create a pollution prevention plan as well as for those using the plan. Let other teachers at your school and other schools know what you are doing; exchange ideas and offer your experience.
Develop flyers and posters based on your goals and outcomes. Instruction lists in the lab will help everyone stay on track.
Make it easy
Pollution prevention methods are more successful when they are quick and convenient for everyone who uses your facility and easy to incorporate into everyday lab activities. Offer incentives for following the plan and coming up with new ideas.
Monitor and Modify
Promotion and education doesn't stop once the plan is running. Note progress and modify as necessary. The advisory committee should meet every so often to consider the following:
- Are you receiving feedback from team members (positive or negative)?
- What achievements have been made since you last met? What doesn't work any more?
- Are the needs of partners being considered? Should new partners be added?
- Do additional outreach efforts need to be undertaken?
The P2 audit for Agricultural and Vocational Educators was produced by the Peaks to Prairies Pollution Prevention Information Center, funded by the US Environmental Protection Agency.