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National Institute of Mental Health

NIMH Greening Guidelines

Protecting the Environment from the Grassroots Level



​​ Through grassroots input, the NIMH Green Committee (GC) developed the following easy-to-follow guidelines for promoting environmental protections at NIMH headquarters and at sites on campus.  We encourage all staff to ACT NOW on behalf of present and future generations:     


Assume responsibility for learning about the environmental impacts of your work practices

Conserve use of paper products, electricity, fossil fuels, water, and toxic chemicals

Teach others about the NIMH 4Rs (Reduce Use, Reuse, Recycle, and Re-buy)


Notify the Office of Research Facilities ( of water leaks and electrical problems

Obey local environmental laws and regulations

Weatherize to conserve cooling/heating (e.g., lower office shades in summer, raise in winter)


Through grassroots input, the NIMH Green Committee (GC) developed the following easy-to-follow guidelines for promoting environmental protections at NIMH headquarters and at sites on campus.  We encourage all staff to ACT NOW on behalf of present and future generations: 


I.  Greening Practice Guidelines


A.      Reduce Use and Reuse

B.      Recycle

C.      Re-buy (or Green Purchasing)


II.  NIH Environmental Training


III.  References and Resources


IV.  Appendices – Recyclables


I.  Greening Practice Guidelines

A.  Reduce Use and Reuse



  • Use the duplex feature on printers and copiers when needing more than one page

  • Use 100% post-consumer recycled paper for daily printing/copying needs

  • Consider making note pads using the blank sides of paper you otherwise would recycle


  • To reduce ink consumption, make “fast draft” the default printer setting, and manually change to “best” print quality if needed for final documents   


  • Purchase and use rechargeable batteries instead of single-use batteries.  To limit toxic chemicals, use lithium-ion or NiMH (nickel metal hydride) instead of NiCd (nickel-cadmium) batteries

Office Supplies:  

  • Reuse office supplies (e.g., rubber bands, paper clips, binder clips).  If damaged rubber bands cannot be reused or repurposed, place them in the trash.  Broken clips may be placed in commingled recycle bins at NIH.

Food/Drink Containers: 

  • Consider using reusable beverage and food containers, utensils, and napkins in place of disposable products, while still applying basic hygiene principles.  Some building cafeterias permit customers to purchase drinks and food using their own beverage containers and plates.


  • Enter and exit through revolving doors to reduce heat/cooling loss and to consider the comfort needs of those working in the area

  • Consider the use of energy-efficient bulbs when electric lighting is needed.  For more information, visit ENERGY STAR Lighting

  • Turn off lights, except where motion-detecting light sensors are in place, when leaving a room for more than 15 minutes 

  • Instead of using electric lighting as a means of conveying in-office status, use a sign or post a note on your door to indicate you are at work but not in the office at the moment

  • Turn off computer peripherals (e.g., monitor, printer, etc) and lab equipment when not in use, including when leaving the office for meetings and at the end of each work day

  •  Use surge-protecting power strips for low-power loads (e.g., computers, monitors, a/v equipment) to prevent the energy waste of “vampire” electronics (radios, televisions, etc); turn the strip off when not using plugged-in items, unless crucial memory settings would be lost


NOTE:  For safety reasons, power strips and extension cords should not be used for microwave ovens or refrigerators; use power strips with the UL label only and never use extension cords with power strips, per Know How to Spot Common Fire Safety Hazards in the Workplace); to prevent electrical fires, inspect the wattage of items to be plugged into a power strip—add up the total wattage to determine if the power strip is rated to handle that level.

Fossil-Fuel Consumption:


  • Turn faucets off immediately after use and when performing tasks requiring only intermittent water flow (e.g., brushing teeth, wiping counters, etc)


Toxins and Hazardous Waste:

  • To minimize hazardous waste, purchase chemicals in the smallest needed quantities. Hazardous chemicals must be disposed of in accordance with the NIH Waste Disposal Guide

  • Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs) must be treated as hazardous materials.  On the Bethesda Campus, ORF facility maintenance (301-435-8000) is responsible for the replacement and management of spent tubes

  • Mercury:  NIH prohibits the unnecessary acquisition of mercury, mercury-added products, and use of mercury and mercury compounds on its facilities, per the NIH Mercury Policy, which address the procurement, use, and disposal of mercury


B.  Recycle


Montgomery County regulations require businesses and employees to recycle paper-based products (including cardboard), and products made of plastic, glass, aluminum, tin, scrap metal, and related items. ​

The NIH Bethesda campus and Executive Boulevard generally share the same recycling rules, but there are a few differences.  See Appendices 1-3 to determine what may be submitted for recycling at both locations.


C.  Re-buy (or Green Purchasing)

Green purchasing is the selection of services and acquisition of products that minimize negative environmental impacts over their life cycle of manufacturing, transportation, use and recycling, or disposal. For example, the use of phosphate-free soap in labs and to clean animal cages can reduce phosphate emissions by roughly 10-12 tons* per year and help protect the Chesapeake Bay watershed in the process. Green purchasing also refers to the purchase and use of materials that have been recycled or recaptured. ​

II.  NIH Environmental Training


The NIMH GC urges colleagues to take the online NIH Environmental Management System (NEMS) training as a means of conveniently learning about our responsibilities for reducing the environmental impact of our work.  The training can be accessed at NEMS Training​.  

​ The NEMS was developed as part of the NIH commitment to the environment.  It was implemented in accordance with Executive Order (EO) 13423, and conforms to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 14001:2004 standard for environmental management.

This is intended to serve as a living document.
To suggest additions for inclusion in the NIMH Greening Guidelines,

III.  References and Resources


IV.  Appendices - Recyclables


Appendix 1 – Mixed-Paper Bins

Except where noted, paper-based products going into Mixed-Paper bins are generally the same on the NIH campus and Executive Blvd. Items that contained food or drinks should be empty and rinsed. The following are examples:

  • books (paperback and hard-cover)

  • cardboard* cartons (e.g., milk and juice cartons); plastic or metal lids go in commingled bins

  • catalogs/journals

  • document binders/3-ring binders—paper-based only at NSC, but all types on Campus

  • envelopes

  • file folders

  •  journals/catalogs

  • magazines

  • meal boxes, snack-food boxes (aka paperboard)

  • sticky notes

  • telephone directories                     

  • empty tissue-, toilet-, and paper-towel rolls

  • wax-coated paper (e.g., drink boxes, ice cream containers, wrappings boxes)

  • newspaper

  • paper (white/colored; place shredded paper in a clear plastic bag near the paper bins)

  • postal boxes (e.g., small overnight or 2-day boxes); on campus, place with the cardboard


*At NIMH locations both on the NIH Campus and Executive Boulevard, large cardboard boxes (without packing materials) must first be flattened and then placed near recycling bins or on the loading docks.


Appendix 2 – Commingled Bins

Except where noted, items going into Commingled bins are generally the same on the NIH Campus and Executive Blvd. They include glass, aluminum, tin, plastic, and container lids (separated from their containers). Those that contained food or drinks should be empty and rinsed. The following are examples:

  • aerosol cans (non-hazardous only)

  • cans and their separated caps (aluminum, tin, steel)

  • foil (aluminum, tin)          

  • empty food-grade containers (e.g., yogurt, butter, cottage cheese), and lids (separated)

  • food-storage containers (plastic and glass, but no Pyrex), and lids (separated)

  • glass bottles, jars (no Pyrex), and lids/caps (separated)

  • plastic bags (e.g., retail, sandwich, other miscellaneous (NIH Campus Only)

  • plastic bottles, cups, containers, prescription bottles, and lids (separated)

  • plastic food trays (e.g., from frozen meals)

  • plastic utensils (rinsed) (NIH Campus Only)


Bottles that contained buffer and saline solution must be placed in the Empty Chemical Bottle Containers for pick-up by Chemical Waste (NIH Campus Only).


Do not recycle anything contaminated with infectious, hazardous, or radioactive waste. Visit NIH Waste Disposal to access The NIH Waste Disposal Guide.


Appendix 3 – NIH Campus Only:  Additional Recyclable Items

  • Batteries – Call 301-496-4710 for collection on campus

  • Construction Debris – Call 301-496-7990 to request a dumpster at least 5 days in advance

  • Electronics – Call 301-496-4247 for collection and reuse on campus

  • Pallets (wooden) – Place on loading dock

  • Pipette Tip Racks – Place in Pipette Tip Rack bins (generally located in buildings with labs)

  • Scrap Metal – Must be recycled on campus. Place scrap metal in labeled, 30-yard open-containers at theBldg 10, B2 Loading Dock; behind Bldg 11; the Bldg 25 scrap yard; or the Bldg 13 Loading Dock

  • Tyvek® Garments – Put in clear plastic bags, place on loading docks, and then call 301-402-6349 to notify appropriate staff that items are available on the loading dock for collection

For more information about on-campus recycling, please visit NEMS Recycling.

NIMH Green Team Contact:
Liz Bivins-Smith
NIMH Green Committee Chair​
(301) 793-7239

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