It is exciting to see Life Science companies being genuinely interested in healing the planet along with healing patients. For too long company productivity and the quickest way to drug approval and to the market have been dominating drug development. Everything else was considered soft targets, add-ons, nice to have.
Finally, with the global shift towards sustainability, we see our clients having a new understanding that minimizing your impact on the environment is the very thing that helps research labs to be more organized, less wasteful, spend less on infrastructure, use less materials, participate in circular economy and attract the best scientists!
We suggest that every Life Science company implement at least a minimal program – it will grow with your organization and with the continuous education of your employees. Modest, but concrete, goals set up by a small group of motivated passionate people (and every company has them) will help you to stay on track and move to new ones. Sustainability Team can also reach out to a larger community (other tenants, building management run teams) to find efficiencies, best practices, and community engagements like “adopt” a park or a riverbank nearby.
Energy Conservation seems like a daunting task and indeed may require the help of an outside consultant to evaluate possible adjustments in building infrastructure controls. But you do not need an engineering degree to evaluate the possibility of turning off water baths and heat blocks during off hours. Or looking more carefully into the way you employ a large autoclave (Run time per week/ “On” time per week ratio). Can something be done about this? Is there any chance the autoclave you have is too big for your needs? Can a small portable unit do the job? Can you optimize your ultralow freezers energy use, by running them at -70C, defrosting them and/or considering more energy efficient units? Do you think that the electricity bill will go down because of these measures?
Many people join the lab sustainability movement because of the amount of disposable lab plastic that they themselves generate at the bench. Thankfully, there are more and more vendors in our community that are willing to work with your company if you are willing to retrieve nonhazardous waste from your lab waste stream. Our common goal is to make these programs building- or campus-wide. These will allow for solid plastic waste, EPS (Styrofoam), gloves and plastic films to be turned into new products. VFP can help your company to do a waste audit and evaluate your options for a recycling hauler based on the ratio of the materials you are generating.
Another consideration here is increasing operational efficiency by streamlining, organizing, and participating in building wide programs that may include:
- specialized laboratory recycling program (for recyclable materials not accepted by Single Stream Waste Haulers),
- building wide composting program
- building wide shared dry ice stock (new service by Middlesex Gases)
- use of the same gas vendor and preferred delivery days of the week
- use of the same calibration/certification providers; they will be devoting a block of time to the location
- creating a shared list of unused supplies, unused chemicals, available equipment (as simple as a list of available surpluses posted in the loading dock)
- understanding what household equipment (extra freezer space, centrifuge, autoclave) may be available to you in an emergency, courtesy of other building tenants
- taking advantage of any supply centers that vendors are willing to set up
All these measures affect your productivity as well as positively affect the environment – less recyclable waste in the landfills, less energy use, less trucks on the road, less time wasted.
My Green Lab guidelines, resources, education materials and tools, as well as MGL certification process are powerful instruments that we highly recommend (www.mygreenlab.org)
VFP is ready to assist any small biotechnology company in establishing a sustainability program