This article was originally published in Biocom's Spring 2021 Edition of LifeLines. To read the full article from Biocom, click here.
By James Connelly, CEO, My Green Lab
Right now, the entire world is witnessing the power of scientific research as teams around the globe race to design effective COVID-19 vaccines at mind-bending speed. It has been a monumental effort, but in many ways the work has just begun. Transporting, storing and distributing the vaccine is another massive challenge: it is estimated that the cold chain alone could be 80% of the cost of delivery of the COVID-19 vaccines.
The specialized ultra-low temperature (UTL) freezers necessary for two of the leading vaccine candidates come with an outsized environmental impact. A single ULT freezer needed to keep the vaccines at -70o F can use as much energy as a typical American home. Manufacturers are now ramping up production of these freezers to meet demand, which will have a long-term environmental impact.
This is just one example of the environmental impact of science itself. Science changes the world, but we rarely think deeply about the impact we have while creating that change.
Simply put, research labs are massively resource intensive spaces. Labs use ten times more energy than typical office spaces, and four times more water than typical office spaces. Research labs also produce a stunning 12 billion pounds of plastic waste each year. Overall, biopharma generates 55% more emissions than the automotive industry. Scientific research must be part of the climate change solution. But the scientific community must also do more than that: we must lead by example. My Green Lab’s mission is to create a culture of sustainability through science. As our name suggests, My Green Lab collaborates with scientists and labs around the world to bring awareness and inspire the necessary changes to improve research practices and transform the industry.
At My Green Lab, we offer a number of programs and certifications for labs that want to instill a culture of sustainability within academia, research institutions, life science, and even food and industrial labs. Our Green Lab Certification sets the global standard for environmentally friendly lab practices. The list of participants is rapidly growing, and spans pharmaceutical companies like AstraZeneca, campuses like Johns Hopkins University, and biotech startups like Codexis. We also have a Green Lab Ambassador program that numbers over 265 scientists and lab professionals all around the world that are working to inspire green labs in their school, their work, and their community.
We also recognized early on that in order to have a Green Lab, you must also be able to source and purchase sustainable laboratory products, so My Green Lab has been working to improve the standards of laboratory products and empower scientists and procurement agents to make better purchasing decisions. In fact, My Green Lab worked with the EPA to develop the first Energy Star Certification for ULT freezers that are ubiquitous in research and healthcare environments, and necessary for many of the lifesaving COVID-19 vaccine candidates.
To continue reading this article on Biocom's LifeLines, click here (pages 20-21).