How sustainable is lab work? How much energy does a freezer consume or how many pipette tips do we use?
How we became green
“Climate change is one of the biggest challenges that humanity faces, and therefore we should think and act sustainably in our everyday life. Science is the basis of innovation, and that´s why we believe that, as young scientists, we bear a special responsibility for guiding our society to more sustainability.” -iGEM TU Dresden team member
In November 2016 our team first got together to plan our project for the iGEM Competition 2017. Starting with fundraising, developing project ideas and setting up our lab made us realize how much material and devices we were going to need. For the first time, we were not only students attending a practical course or working in an already equipped lab where everything was prepared. Rather, we had to organize everything by ourselves. By the time we had booked our tickets to Boston, we became aware that flights like these (crossing half of the planet) lead to high greenhouse gas emissions.
It seemed kind of contradictory to develop world-changing biological ideas, while at the same time doing harm to the environment. We thought about ways to compensate for that; such as planting trees and finding ways to reduce greenhouse gas emission during our lab work. That’s where the idea of iGEM goes green started.
Where we started
“Initially, I thought it is going to be a small subproject. It all started with the idea of planting trees as an symbolic act. I liked the idea from the very beginning. In the end, it turned out to be so much more!” -iGEM TU Dresden team member
What seemed like a simple idea initially, became more complicated by trying to find more information about how to reduce the CO2 emissions of a biological laboratory. Due to the high security regulations in biological laboratories it is often not possible to turn off devices and systems (e.g. ventilation) to save energy and the ecological handling of working materials is difficult.
In the beginning, we spent a lot of time investigating options and possibilities for planting trees, getting familiar with CO2 compensation, looking for collaborating partners and support. Therefore, we had to face some problems with university regulations and different opinions about sustainability in our team. Nevertheless, we were a motivated and dedicated group of people to realize our idea of a sustainable iGEM project.
We believe that iGEM goes green has the potential to last longer than one iGEM year and we hope that the idea behind it is carried on throughout the years. Maybe sustainable involvement can even become a medal criterion one day. We want to convince research groups and iGEM teams worldwide that with a small effort research and especially lab work can be organized in a more sustainable and eco-friendly manner. Join the movement and come to the green side!