The My Green Lab Ambassador Program was designed for scientists and laboratory professionals who are motivated to encourage their lab to be more sustainable. This free, online learning program provides an introduction to lab sustainability and ideas for how sustainable actions can be implemented. Today’s interview highlights Cintia Milagre, Assistant Professor at the Institute of Chemistry at University Estadual Paulista in Brazil.
Cintia is a highly active sustainability advocate within the university and her community. Through the My Green Lab Ambassador Program, she has been able to extend this community and connect with other sustainability-minded individuals.
“[The My Green Lab Ambassador Program] gives me an extra push to move on. Knowing that I am not alone, on the contrary, that there are a lot of passionate, competent, skilled people walking with me, sharing their experiences and helping each other is enriching my sustainability journey.”
Learn more about Cintia and her journey with the MGL Ambassador Program below.
Please tell us a bit about yourself.
I am enthusiastic about sustainability both in my professional and personal life. In my opinion, it should be a commitment to all of us with our planet - our home. My hometown is Itaúna, a tiny city in Minas Gerais state in the countryside of Brazil. I graduated in Pharmacy at Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG) and did my Master and Ph.D. investigations in Organic Chemistry at the Institute of Chemistry at the University of Campinas (UNICAMP).
The goals of my graduate projects were the development of greener organic synthesis methodologies focusing on biocatalytic tools. During my post-doc activities, I spent some months at the Biocatalysis Group in TU Delft-Netherlands, formerly coordinated by Professor Isabel Arends and Roger Sheldon who introduced the concept of E-factor which is now used by companies globally for assessing the efficiency and environmental impact of chemical processes.
In 2012, I joined the Institute of Chemistry at University Estadual Paulista (UNESP). As Assistant Professor, I have duties in four areas including teaching, research, outreach, and administrative work, where I am always concerned about sustainable aspects. I teach Organic and Green Chemistry courses for undergraduate and graduate students and share the coordination of the Milagre Lab with Professor Humberto Milagre where our main research interests are sustainability, green chemistry, and organic synthesis. For the second time, I am the president of the Environmental Ethics Council of our Institute which deals with chemical waste disposal. I also coordinate the Sao Paulo State cities enrolled in “Pint of Science,” a worldwide science festival which brings researchers to the local pubs, cafes, and other public spaces to share their scientific discoveries with the non-academic community. Last but not least, I am the contact person at the Institute of Chemistry UNESP regarding the Green Chemistry Commitment from Beyond Benign and very proud to be a My Green Lab Ambassador.
What drives you to be more sustainable in the laboratory?
It is a pity that the majority of people do not recognize chemistry by its beauty and all the beneficial aspects it brings to our daily lives, such as comfort, relief, and opportunities. After all, chemistry is everywhere… But instead, chemistry is viewed as being responsible for the world’s pollution and correlated environmental and occupational toxic events. I do not blame those people because in the past, the former chemists were not concerned about sustainable aspects and were not even aware of the consequences of their choices as chemistry professionals. However, those days are gone. Nowadays, we have awareness and with it comes the responsibility to be more sustainable not only in our words but most important in our actions. Carrying out and implementing more sustainable practices in the lab is a way to teach and inspire the young chemists so they can make better choices.
What is the most interesting thing you learned while becoming a My Green Lab Ambassador?
There are a lot of small things we can do that turn out to have a huge positive impact. Sometimes we think we must create an outstanding project with difficult and challenging goals to make a difference. Of course, this is important and should be pursued. However, small little things on a regular basis such as turning off the lights on nights and weekends, brushing the frost out of the freezer, powering down and/or unplugging lab equipment during holidays, installing water pressure reducing valves on lab sinks, and scheduling fixed time intervals to turn on the autoclave are awesome initiatives and a good way to start.
How has the My Green Lab Ambassador Program enriched your sustainability journey?
It gives me an extra push to move on. Knowing that I am not alone, on the contrary, that there are a lot of passionate, competent, skilled people walking with me, sharing their experiences and helping each other is enriching my sustainability journey.
What are your 2021 sustainability goals?
To bring at least one of my colleagues and one student to become a My Green Lab Ambassador, and start the implementation of the recently approved project on “Integrated Environmental Management” at the Institute of Chemistry UNESP which has three main goals: urban solid waste management, rational use of water, and improving the chemicals management.
Interested in becoming a My Green Lab Ambassador? Sign up here.
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