Our Department of Molecular Pharmacology and Cell Biology has recently been recognized as a "green lab" by the non-profit organization My Green Lab. Since fall 2019, the FMP Green Initiative has been working to make research at the FMP more sustainable. My Green Lab reviewers evaluate laboratories in the context of sustainable laboratory practices and award certification levels ascending from bronze, silver, gold, and platinum to green. Volker Haucke's laboratory is thus the first My Green Lab certified laboratory in Germany with the best sustainable rating of "green".
The young "FMP Green Initiative" appeals to everyone to save enormous amounts of energy and waste with simple reforms in the lab. Want to know how? Then read the following article.
Walking through the labs and corridors of the Haucke department, you will notice that there are various garbage cans for waste separation and collection bins to recycle plastic. The department’s recent “FMP Green Initiative” is calling on everyone to make a few simple changes in their laboratories to save enormous amounts of waste and energy. Would you like to know how?
What is a green lab?
A green lab is an innovative initiative aimed to create a culture of sustainability by minimizing the enormous environmental impact of biological research.
Why is a green lab initiative important?
Scientists estimate that biomedical research is responsible for around 2% of total plastic production worldwide, which is equivalent to the weight of 67 cruise shipsa year (1).
In our opinion, education is the key. Combined, many simple things can make quite a difference, such as being conscious of switching off the lights before you go home!
When was the idea born? Are there any laboratories on Campus Buch (or elsewhere) as a prototype, or is it your own idea?
The idea of a green lab is not new. In the USA, for instance, Harvard had already adopted a sustainability plan in 2014. As far as we know, there are no other green labs on the campus yet, but we are in close contact with the Max Delbrück Center (MDC), which just appointed an Environmental Officer (Dr. Michael Hinz) to address sustainability issues.
…and the Leibniz Association?
The Leibniz Association is also working on sustainability action: Leibniz Headquarters has re-established the Leibniz Working Group on Sustainability (now called Sustainability Management), and the Leibniz PhD & Post-Doc networks have founded their own working group on Sustainability.
What steps have you already taken?
In our opinion, education is the key. Combined, many simple things can make quite a difference, such as being conscious of switching off the lights before you go home! We therefore have regular scheduled reminders about our eco-guidelines, and we have organized lab tours for new group members to learn about our practices.
Which means exactly?
First, we have implemented a robust waste separation system (2). Second, we have improved the settings on our freezers to save energy. Increasing the temperature by just 10 degrees from -80°C to -70°C can reduce energy consumption by 30 – 40% (3, 4). Another way to limit energy consumption
is to close the sash of fume hoods (5). This simple action can save around €1500 in energy costs per year per hood (a single fume hood uses enough energy annually to power 3.5 households) (6). And finally to cut down on laboratory waste, we have implemented the 3 R’s: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Whenever we can, we now use glass, we avoid single-use plastic utensils and we have created a plastic reuse system. Our goal is to earn the Green Lab Certificate (7), which would recognize the action and measures we are taking regarding sustainability and would make us the first official Green Lab in Germany.
What have you saved? Quantitatively...
We cannot answer this question yet, as this is a very new initiative. But we are planning to make future calculations considering the actions we have already implemented.
Who can other groups from the institute turn to in order to become a green laboratory as well?
We would like to involve more labs at the FMP in our efforts, and hope to have a direct communication channel with FMP’s directorate as well as with health & safety officers of all groups. One of our main goals is that FMP appoints a Sustainability Officer as a single contact person to implement sustainable strategies to environmental challenges throughout the institute. We invite all other interested groups or individuals to contact or join the “FMP Green Initiative” created in the Haucke department; current members are Svenja Bolz, Michael Ebner, Tania López Hernández, Kristine Oevel, Dorien Roosen and Agata Witkowska.
Good luck with your initiative!
Plastics – the biggest impact laboratories can have is to reduce single-use plastics that enters the lab. Yet it is important to separate recyclable non-contaminated plastic waste for down cycling and later reuse.
Waste to be autoclaved – Only contaminated waste has to be autoclaved. Here strict rules are in play. However, prior to our action we noticed that unnecessary products end up in this bin if no appropriate bin is close by.
Waste separation – Waste that is not separated mostly ends up in landfill. This takes hundreds of years to decompose-if at all. In order to reduce this amount we separate waste.