In our GoGreenGuide we listed various suggestions for actions towards a green iGEM competition. Here are the tasks our team fulfilled:
- Make your lab environmentally friendly
- Organize your meetings and meetups in an environmentally friendly manner
- Track your labs consumption of materials and energy to calculate your teams GHG emission
We created an Excel tool to calculate the carbon footprint of labwork
- We calculated our teams total GHG footprint
- We compensated our teams' flights and our entire emissions.
- Involve the public even more by organizing events
- Help improve the GoGreenGuide by correcting mistakes or even sending us additional ideas or suggestions
We integrated all the feedback we received from teams in a new version of our GoGreenGuide.
- Collect the money to plant a tree.
... and what we can learn from it
“I was not really convinced by this idea. Of course, everything sounded quite nice. Let’s plant some trees, save plastic and natural resources, work green, ... but I think, that being “green” is not compatible with working in the lab”
“I was surprised how contrary people’s thoughts about sustainability and eco-friendlier lifestyle are and I didn’t expect it to be so difficult getting all these different ideas together.”
We started our iGEM goes green adventure with a lot of motivation and enthusiasm. But we immediately had to face a lot of problems that halted our initial euphoria. Here we want to portray that planning and implementing a sustainable project is not always easy going and that bureaucratic obstacles, personal attitude and the lack of money can affect the realization and the efficiency of such project.
Our idea of planting trees was slowed down in the beginning when we figured out that there are many regulations of where, when, and how to plant trees in Germany. Many emails and phone calls were necessary until we finally found a spot for our iGEM tree.
Working in a research group usually means working with the materials that are provided. If you want to change the common habit of what research material is ordered it can be difficult to convince the responsible people to change their ways. Another example was convincing people of the advantages of raising the freezer temperature from -80°C to -70°C to save energy. This topic had to be coordinated between everybody that used the freezer but in the end, the advantages of raising the temperature (power saving and prolonged longevity) convinced everybody.
14 different people – 14 different opinions. As an international and interdisciplinary group of students from different programs, varying in age, experience, and habits it was often difficult to come to a solution everybody was happy with. This became even clearer during the preparations for our German-wide meetup event. Having members with vegan diets and dedicated meat eaters and everything in between amongst our team, the discussion what should be served for dinner was intense and emotional. Having a barbecue for 50 people without providing meat seemed unimaginable for parts of the team but buying big amounts of meat that in the worst case would produce leftovers was inconsistent with our ambitions towards acting sustainably.
In the end, we hosted a Tortilla party with delicious vegetables, handmade spreads, and meat alternatives which reduced the amount of organic chicken required. All of our guests were happy and satisfied afterward – so our final compromise was effective.
Nevertheless, we had to accept that our team reflects the social debate about sustainability. In our opinion, not everybody totally supports the GoGreen part of our project, but there are also people who really want to make changes towards a “greener” lab work and lifestyle.
In the end, we believe that we made iGEM goes green an interesting and successful project! We hit some walls but also achieved some breakthroughs and we all learned that the way to success always requires compromises.