How to clean up R&D in my green laboratory | Green Business

2021-11-25 08:35:37 By : Mr. Michael Liu

My green laboratory is helping scientists solve the huge energy cost of running high-tech laboratories.

Research laboratories around the world are working on solving the world’s biggest problems, including climate change and the coronavirus pandemic. But although these laboratories may seem lifeless, they have a dirty secret: a huge carbon footprint.

The energy consumed per square foot of the laboratory is 5 to 10 times that of the office, and for clean rooms and other professional facilities, this effect may be magnified ten times. For example, Harvard University’s 44% of its energy use comes from its laboratories, and these laboratories occupy less than a quarter of campus space. The laboratory also discharges large amounts of water into the sewer every year and discards disposable plastics that may reach billions of pounds.

James Connelly stated that a unified force is needed to set standards and create space for strategy and best practices. This is what he wants to achieve as the new CEO of My Green Lab, which works with leaders in the life sciences field including AstraZeneca and Agilent.

"How much energy, water, and materials the laboratory space consumes is a surprising fact," Connery said. "The green building community ignores this a bit because it is difficult to solve. So what is unique about my green laboratory is that it was created by scientists to help scientists perform behavioral changes and transformational work. The actual operation of the laboratory and how the science and research are carried out."

In universities and enterprises, solving the problems of emissions and waste in the laboratory can significantly reduce costs and further make sustainable development commitments. According to data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, if half of the laboratories in the United States cut energy use by 30%, the total energy saved would be equivalent to the annual energy use of 840,000 households. 

"My Green Lab is an excellent project because it is committed to changing the behavior and way of thinking of laboratory scientists," said Pernilla Sörme, head of global safety, health and environmental risk management at AstraZeneca. The certification extends its global portfolio to seven locations.

This non-profit organization is the first comprehensive effort to educate researchers on the sustainability of laboratory operations. Its green laboratory certification has marked more than 400 laboratories. Last year, the Colorado Department of Agriculture became the first government laboratory to achieve "green" (the highest of five levels). If this sounds similar to LEED and other green building standards, it is by design: my green laboratory is striving to become the world's leading sustainability advocacy organization in the field of life sciences.

Connery joined this growing organization through the International Institute for Future Living (ILFI), and before he became a vice president, he helped expand it into the world's leading supporter of regeneration, health and equity in architectural design—managing its living buildings Challenges and life product challenges project and strategic growth.

My Green Lab’s 15 partners and sponsors include biotech giants Genentech, MilliporeSigma and USA Scientific. The non-profit organization also cooperated with EPA to bring the Energy Star label from the Department of Energy to ultra-low temperature refrigerators used for COVID-19 vaccine. The label was first applied to equipment sold by Stirling Ultracold, another sponsor of My Green Lab.

My Green Lab also runs the ACT "Ecological Nutrition" label for laboratory equipment. (ACT stands for accountability, consistency and transparency). It was created to help procurement officials and scientists in procurement. The organization works directly with manufacturers, including scientific instrument manufacturer Thermo Fisher, to set benchmarks for product and packaging design.

The label ranks the sustainability of products consumed in laboratories, including equipment such as beakers, pipettes, bottles and autoclaves and chemicals. The ratings represent data from the GreenScreen Safer Chemicals Benchmark, as well as the packaging and product handling details at the end of life. In April last year, Agilent, a leader in diagnostic equipment, signed a contract to become a sponsor of My Green Lab, and its instruments also received ACT certification.

Darlene Solomon, Agilent’s Chief Technology Officer and Senior Vice President, said: “We chose to work with My Green Lab because, like them, we understand the importance of building a more sustainable science industry. “In many cases, sustainability is supported. Product development also reduces laboratory risks. We see the increasing importance and value of our customers for sustainability. My Green Lab's ACT instrument label will help these customers make smarter and more sustainable decisions for their analytical laboratories. "

Since Harvard-trained neuroscientist Allison Paradise founded my green laboratory in 2013, the number of independent laboratory greening work has increased, from about 10 to 90 teams, attracting tens of thousands of scientists from all over the world.

Connery said: “We have seen that through the pandemic, people’s interest and excitement in sustainability is accelerating. This represents the general awakening and awareness of the life sciences industry towards sustainable development, and my green laboratory is indeed gaining momentum. Help catalyze this." "This is important because this is a growing industry, and it will be very important for our future as a society and for managing COVID or other diseases that may arise in the future."

Through certification and education programs, my green laboratory recruits scientists and facility professionals to clean up the carbon impact of the laboratory. Recently, the organization has been promoting ways to green the cold chain of COVID-19 vaccines, which require sub-arctic temperatures. The Laboratory Freezer Challenge has entered its fifth year, and hundreds of laboratory professionals have participated in order to reduce the energy consumption of deep freezers.

Connelly pointed out that more efficient energy systems in the green building industry have not solved the "guts" that really drive energy consumption in the laboratory. “This is something I’m really excited about. I’ll look into it to see how quickly we can influence the operation of these types of buildings that have a huge impact on climate change.”

And because the higher-level sustainability goals of many organizations have not yet entered their R&D laboratories, this means that scientists and their colleagues have a lot of results at their fingertips. 

Famous energy pigs in the laboratory include ultra-low temperature refrigerators, which consume as much energy as a house, and chemical fume hoods for ventilation. The Institute of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation at the University of Glasgow attributed 42% of energy consumption to centrifuges.

As for the excessive use of single-use plastics, the University of Exeter estimates that the plastic waste generated by academic researchers each year is equivalent to 5.7 million 2-liter soda bottles. 

Fortunately, Connery has seen more companies think about how to change the plastic supply chain, produce plastic in a more sustainable way, find ways to reuse or recycle plastic in the laboratory, and change laboratory professionals The way to manage plastics. "There is a lot of innovation happening," he said.

Based on the case study, My Green Lab estimates that its green laboratory certified participants can reduce energy use by 30%, water consumption by 50%, and waste by 10%.

Starting about two years ago, AstraZeneca was one of the first pharmaceutical companies to carry out green laboratory certification in multiple locations. The company has obtained LEED certification in the United States and ISO 14 001 certification in Europe. The leader of its R&D center has discovered a global strategy to guide the sustainable development of the laboratory in My Green Lab.

Reducing waste and energy in the laboratory contributes to AstraZeneca’s sustainability goals released a year ago, which is to achieve zero carbon emissions in operations by 2025 and to achieve a negative impact in its entire value chain by 2030. carbon emission. This includes switching to 100% renewable energy and fully electric fleets.

Sörme said that green laboratory certification created a framework and a new way of working, and became second nature to AstraZeneca scientists. "You start to think, do I really need to use high-grade solvents or can I use more environmentally friendly low-grade solvents?" Scientists can share ideas on global websites, which promotes innovation in product development and employee engagement.

"We still have a lot of interesting activities," she said. “For example, we let our scientists in the UK because they like to do research and do some inventory. They do a day’s work in the laboratory to understand how much plastic they use. This is our state. When you have ideas and want to share."

Each AstraZeneca laboratory site has a green team composed of scientists, facility managers, health and safety managers, and procurement professionals. A survey initiated the green laboratory certification process, involving every scientist, not just the key leader.

Sörme pointed out that there are many best practices to share about new ideas, such as recycling laboratory gloves and reducing water use. The Boston lab may share solutions at the Cambridge site in the UK to adapt to local conditions. Quick-acting practices include annual replacement of refrigeration filters and installation of LED lights. AstraZeneca credited the Green Lab in 2019 for helping it achieve a 97% bio-waste recycling rate at a facility in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and triggered tens of thousands of plastic centrifuge tubes and serological pipettes in Cambridge Recycling.

The company is exploring how to increase the temperature of the ultra-low temperature freezer from minus 80 degrees Celsius to minus 70 degrees Celsius to achieve significant energy savings. In another effort, AstraZeneca won the 2020 Freezer Challenge held by My Green Laboratory and the International Institute of Sustainable Laboratory.

My Green Lab intends to solve systemic problems by creating a project ecosystem, which echoes the approach taken by ILFI. This approach was initially considered aspiring by many in mainstream construction institutions, but has been adopted by Microsoft and Google, etc. Accepted by the company and made progress in Asia and Europe. Connery hopes to see a similar growth trajectory at My Green Lab, which has an ambassador program and certification program under development.

It is worth noting that ILFI was an early advocate of identifying social justice as the root cause of environmental problems. Following the 2012 declaration plan for the “red list” chemicals that are of concern in construction products, ILFI released construction products in 2014 The JUST label behind.

"We want to start incorporating fairness into our plan and elevate it to the same status as efficiency, waste reduction and water reduction," Connery said of my green lab.

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