This has been a challenging year. In some ways the pandemic
has required us to take a step back from our drive for sustainability – we’re
throwing away more masks, gloves, nose-swabs, take-out containers, etc. However,
it has also shown us the positive effects of letting the earth rejuvenate, put
a spotlight on the impacts of human behaviour and demonstrated the strength of
Interestingly, it demanded that we find creative alternatives to wasteful norms, e.g. reusing pipette tips due to shortages, moving conferences online due to travel restrictions, and working from home. We proved to ourselves that with the right incentives, we can make tough sustainability changes.
We challenge you to make one new environmentally positive change today. If every lab in the US turned off one piece of equipment at night for a year, it would be equivalent to removing 10,000 cars off the road. Changes don’t always need to be huge. If everyone pitches in, small changes really add up.
Green Your Lab
is actively trying to encourage more conferences to happen virtually. So, thanks for your question.
The carbon footprint of virtual conferences can be greatly reduced. For example, the 2019 Conference of European Astronomical Society with 1200 participants produced 1855 tonnes CO2e. By moving online this year, their 2020 conference with 1700 participants only contributed 582 kg CO2e.
For some back of the envelope calculations, the most significant contribution of a conference’s footprint is the air travel. There are lots of great calculators online. One of my favourites is ICAO. There are other online calculators to help estimate the emissions associated with the meeting portion of the event. For example, Denver City or MyClimate.
Virtual conferences not only significantly decrease a conference’s carbon emissions and help organizations reach their sustainability goals, it provides a wealth of other benefits. An online congress can increase accessibility. The American Chemical Society was able to make their 2020 Green Chemistry Conference completely free of charge. Free conference admission and no travel costs allowed attendees with any level of funding to attend. This stretches research dollars and equalizes the playing field. Not to mention, no more bureaucracy and discrimination from the visa application process. I’ve been chatting to researchers who have been able to speak at up to five virtual conferences this month. Researchers are able to spread their reach further than it was ever possible before without the huge time commitment and sacrifice of their family lives. A virtual conference also allows additional flexibility. Attendees can drop in on topics of interest and have the opportunity to replay talks afterwards. We’re very happy to hear that they are considering moving the International Congress of Mathematicians online for 2022. It’s a wonderful idea and I hope the above information helps.
We challenge you to get into the Holiday Spirit without generating more waste. Get creative and have fun!
Here’s a little inspiration from labs around the world:
Amy Fitzpatrick and team at Teagasc have made their tree out of old pipette tip boxes. Their 2020 tree is a bit lackluster, but that’s because they’ve done a super job at decreasing their pipette tip usage this year. Snaps for putting Green Lab practices to work.
Jordan Raff at University of Oxford presents his lab’s gorgeous reused-fly-vial tree. It catches the light just right.
The Bioimaging Facility (also from the University of Oxford) found a super cute and clever way to reuse electron microscopy resin grids to make their Christmas ornaments.
And who says you need to go shopping to get into the holiday spirit? Take a page from Ben Nicolet from Sanquin by being creative and reuse what you have already. Don't just buy more stuff.
Prof Caroline Ford from UNSW Medicine made a delicious 96-well plate house. We love all of these creative decorations using lab refuse.
Green Labs Initiative at the Neuro gives you some ideas to double your joy of Secret Santa gift giving reuse lab refuse.
Let's not waste this Holiday Season. Celebrate and give your lab refuse a chance to fulfill its Christmas destiny.
#SustainableScience for a #SustainableChristmas
We're sure you've noticed the big changes to our website. We are currently updating. Apologies for the inconvenience. We are in the process of re-uploading our content.
Note: Questions and response may be slightly edited to fit website reading. Original text is kept where possible