With pride in all that she’s accomplished (and sadness in seeing her go), My Green Lab is bidding farewell to Rachael Relph as our Chief Sustainability Officer. Since joining the team in 2019, Rachael has been instrumental in supporting My Green Lab’s mission of building a global culture of sustainability in science. Through education, outreach, dedication, and a commitment to sustainability, Rachael has helped numerous organizations and thousands of scientists identify and enact greener practices within their laboratories. One of her many achievements includes helping grow the Green Lab Certification program to over 1,000 engaged laboratories and building an incredible team of passionate experts.
While the entire team will miss working with Rachael, we know she will continue her work as a champion for sustainability in her new role on the Sustainable Product Design Team at MilliporeSigma.
While we are sad to see her go, we celebrate Rachael’s time at My Green Lab. To discuss and reflect on her journey, we sat down to chat with Rachael one final time.
My Green Lab: Can you tell us a bit about your My Green Lab origin story and how you originally got involved?
Rachael Relph: Back in 2013, when I was working on the sustainability team at Life Technologies, I was asked to speak at a meeting held by the procurement group at UCSD to talk about sustainable products. Allison Paradise, My Green Lab’s founder, was also asked to speak and share her vision for My Green Lab. I remember sitting across the table during her talk and being very impressed, but thinking, “Wow, that sounds really cool, but also really hard!”
We connected at the event, and as we kept in touch over the years, I was continually impressed with the impact the organization was having - how it had grown, its momentum, and how, by partnering with various organizations, My Green Lab was really helping to get green labs efforts off the ground.
A few years after we met, we had a conversation over breakfast where she mentioned that she was looking to hire someone to take over the Green Lab Certification and help grow this keystone program. I let her know I was very interested in applying for the job, and then it went from there!
MGL: What stands out about your first years at My Green Lab?
RR: My Green Lab had and continues to have such an emphasis on helping people and supporting organizations to ensure that we are accelerating change and making the biggest impact possible. It feels good to be in the position to help so many different kinds of labs and organizations.
And we are focused on doing all of this while having fun! For many working in science, this is their passion and they love what they’re doing. We want sustainability in science to feel the same. At My Green Lab, we were and continue to be focused on doing high quality work, supporting a wide variety of organizations and individuals, and having fun in the process.
MGL: How has the Green Lab Certification Program evolved since you came on board?
RR: When I came on board, one of the first things I did was spend time talking to everyone involved in the Green Lab Certification program to learn what was working for them, what wasn’t working, and what they would like to see changed or remain. While maintaining the framework of the program and what it achieves, I was able to make rearrangements and changes that strengthened the overall structure. I then spent a lot of time improving the reporting and information we give back to labs to ensure that when they go through the program, this feedback they receive helps identify how they’re going to make changes. I wanted to ensure labs knew not simply that they needed to do something different, but what exactly they can do, and how they can get it done.
The development of resources to support this change and provide participants with examples, templates, and other things that help them take more sustainable actions in their lab, was also one of my biggest priorities in growing the Green Lab Certification Program.
MGL: What are you most proud of during your time at My Green Lab?
RR: I feel incredibly proud of the work I did with AstraZeneca - the first biotech pharmaceutical company we worked with. There is a different expectation for what it’s like to work with a global company of their size versus a smaller organization. Right when we started working with them was during the time I was making a lot of the changes and revisions to the Green Lab Certification program, and they were amazing partners in helping make it an effective program for an organization of that size. Improving how the Green Lab Certification program is administered and the feedback and level of detail on how a lab can go about making changes is something I feel very proud of bringing to My Green Lab. AstraZeneca is now pursuing My Green Lab Certification across their global R&D and QC Operations and have inspired 23 of the top 25 biotech and pharma companies to start Green Lab Certification programs. Last year, in part due to AstraZeneca’s leadership, the UN recognized My Green Lab as a Breakthrough Outcome in the Global Race to Zero Campaign, moving the Green Lab movement from a grassroots movement to mainstream in just few short years.
Secondly - I feel very proud of the team that I’ve built here. We have done a really amazing job of recruiting people who are passionate, knowledgeable, technically skilled, and are similarly driven by the desire to help organizations bring sustainability into the lab. They are amazing people on a personal level and incredible people to work with. I know that they are going to take not only the Green Lab Certification program but all of the My Green Lab programs even further, reach an even broader audience, and have even more impact after I leave. I’m just so proud of them!
MGL: What elements of your time at My Green Lab are you looking forward to bringing to your new role at Millipore Sigma?
RR: One of the things that has been very eye opening for me is the power that engagement and behavior change can have. It is very possible to bring about change within a group by helping them to understand that what they're doing matters, and showing them individual small steps on how they can make lasting change.
When I work with different businesses and their research and development teams, I have to enable and inspire them to make changes on their own, too. I’ve gained a lot of great experience on not only how to inspire people to want to make a change, but helping them through the process of making it. In doing so, they feel confident that they can carry forward the concepts they’ve learned and apply them in new ways. This is a piece I’m really looking forward to bringing to my new role.
MGL: How do you see the future of My Green Lab and sustainability?
RR: My Green Lab is in this wonderful position in the industry where we are working with a lot of the manufacturers of lab products through our ACT Program, and then we’re also partnering with many of their customers and helping them think about how they can be engaged in sustainability in the lab. My Green Lab sits in the middle, in this unique position to help guide the conversations manufacturers and customers are having with one another, working to align the directions that they want to go and the things that they want to improve upon, and to help them find the ways they can get there together.
Collaboration, the theme of our Summit this year, is so important. These are complex problems, and we have to have collaboration across all of the different players within the industry and bring them together towards common goals and solutions. I think My Green Lab is doing a really great job here already, and I hope that continues to grow and that My Green Lab can help facilitate large scale change through collaboration in this industry.
MGL: What will you miss the most about My Green Lab?
RR: I will absolutely miss the people. This is such a wonderful organization with such passionate, driven, and fun people who want to support our partners to go further faster and accelerate their green lab journey. I think of all of these people as my friends, and I will certainly miss our day to day interactions.
MGL: How are you going to remain involved with the My Green Lab community moving forward?
Rachael Relph: It’s been a pleasure for me to be a part of the My Green Lab community. I have been and I want to continue to be a person who can help bridge the conversation between the suppliers and their customers, and to be able to guide them towards common solutions that help us all reach our goals.
As the Green Lab Certification grows, I want to ensure that MilliporeSigma is able to support the organizations who are going through the program with high quality products, services, and information that will advance their sustainability goals. I will also continue to stay active in supporting My Green Lab whether it’s at the annual Summit, through joint-speaking opportunities, and by staying active in the conversation.
Thank you, Rachael, for your hard work and dedication to My Green Lab.
We will miss working with you, but we wish you nothing but the best!
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