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The process aims to significantly reduce the environmental impact of laboratories, a key measure of progress towards a zero-carbon future.

Laboratories within the PMBRC (Pharmaceutical and Molecular Biology Research Centre) at South East Technological University (SETU) have begun the process of achieving My Green Lab Certification. They are working to embed green and sustainable practices in their laboratories, building a culture and community of sustainability within the Centre.

United Nations Race to Zero

The My Green Lab Certification process is recognised by the United Nations Race to Zero campaign as a key measure of progress towards a zero-carbon future. This certification process is a proven, scalable programme that helps organisations achieve their sustainability goals. The process offers support and methods rooted in Science to dramatically reduce the environmental impact of laboratories without disrupting the critical work underway. The PMBRC Green lab team are excited to join a community of hundreds of labs that have been My Green Lab certified. 

The PMBRC Green Lab Team

The multidisciplinary PMBRC Green Lab implementation team is a collaboration of academics, technical officers, postdoctoral researchers and postgraduate students. The Green Lab team meet monthly to present findings and proposed plans to introduce new ways to target each certification section. Project Leader Dr Tracey Coady said, “By working together across different functions, we can drive changes in all areas of our labs. Each team member brings different perspectives from areas such as chemistry, biology, and facilities which has really helped us to think of new ways to reduce our environmental impact, from the consumables we purchase to the equipment we use. Our postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers are imperative to our labs achieving the certification.”

Speaking of the importance of the initiative, postgraduate student Sarah May Kernaghan said, “My Green Lab promotes implementing green and sustainable changes that will have a beneficial impact on the environment, us as researchers and for our research project budgets. I find it encouraging that we as students are able to highlight areas for development and then help to facilitate changes and improve practices within the PMBRC, along with communicating these practices to others within the wider department. Through this project we are also aligning ourselves with a culture of sustainable research; something that will enhance our future applications to funding bodies such as the Irish Research Council.”

Resource intensive laboratories

In light of worldwide initiatives to tackle the global climate crisis the PMBRC want to do their part in their own working environment. Laboratories are resource intensive spaces, consuming 10 times more energy and four times more water than office spaces. Research has also shown that the average bench scientist generates over 1000 kg of plastic waste a year (compared to 61 kg for the average Irish person).

My Green Lab certification will help the PMBRC align their laboratories with SETU’s sustainability goals as well as aligning with European green initiatives, rethinking how things have always been done in the laboratory and daily lives, changing mindsets and embedding a culture of sustainability.

Moral imperative to act

According to Centre Manager, Dr Niall O'Reilly, building sustainability into the PMBRC operations will be important in the years ahead. “There’s obviously a moral imperative to act, we can’t pretend that sustainability doesn’t apply to us. However, it also presents opportunities to reduce running costs of the centre such as introducing spectroscopic technologies to replace time consuming and resource-intensive chromatography techniques or replacing organic solvents with green solvents such as supercritical CO2. There is also the opportunity to bring these technologies to our industry partners and help them on their own sustainability journey. Increasingly funding agencies are taking environmental impact into consideration and we have to show how we conform to the ‘Do No Significant Harm’ principles.”

Ambassador programme

Once the labs listed in the pilot program have been certified the PMBRC plans to roll out the initiative to other research and undergraduate labs. Final year students in the Bachelor of Science (Hons) in Pharmaceutical Science will complete the My Green Lab Ambassador programme this year prior to beginning their research project. Following the certification process, the Green Lab team plan to develop a SETU Green Lab Guide/ handbook to showcase all the current sustainable research areas and environmentally friendly practices. 

Photo caption: The PMBRC My Green Lab Team, from Left to Right; Dr Claire Lennon, Dr Niall O’Reilly, Sarah May Kernaghan, Dr Tracey Coady, Dr Mitra Abedini, Dr Orla Watters, Dr Mike Kinsella and Abinash Nayak. Not pictured: Dr Edel Mac Neela and Ali Taha Ozdemir