My Green Lab at LIMS

Traditionally, science labs are heavy users of energy and water resources. But a push for more sustainable lab practices is occurring globally, driven in part by not for profit organisations like My Green Lab, who provide assistance and subsequent certification to laboratories who want to become more “green”.

Liam Hourigan and Dr Eduard Wilms, who spearheaded the adaptation of My Green Lab recommendations, detail the green journey for the Hill Lab.

In August 2021 the Hill Lab at the La Trobe Institute for Molecular Science (LIMS) became the first Australian lab to receive the “green certification” from My Green Lab. This required the implementation of more than 80% of the recommendations made during My Green Lab’s review of our lab’s practices.

The transition through these changes was relatively painless and the differences in our waste production and energy consumption were quickly made apparent. Changes such as establishing recycling habits came quite naturally once the appropriate systems to deal with lab-generated plastics, paper etc. were put in place.

Other changes required even less ongoing effort, yet in many cases they made the biggest difference!

Switching over to thermal beads for our water baths, for example. These beads use significantly less energy than maintaining the temperature of a water bath and they have the added benefit of being less likely to cause contamination issues in cell culturing. The same can be said for installing outlet timers to switch off equipment, LED lighting for the lab, ‘auto sash’ technology to lower fume hood sashes after five minutes of inactivity and low flow aerators on taps. A small amount of time and money spent making these changes can make a difference without even moderating behaviours.

Other more behaviour focused changes can also be easily implemented. Labelling equipment with stickers to remind lab members to shut off equipment after use is a gentle nudge in the right direction. The same can be said for these ‘close the sash’ stickers. There are many smaller ways to ‘reduce or reuse’ in the lab that are often not considered until sustainability is discussed and drawn into focus. For example, replacing plastic weighing boats for powdered reagents with glass funnels, or paper boats, is a tweak that can make a small difference.

It can be fun mental exercise for yourself and your lab to consider these options. There are many common aspects of labs that can be improved by the same sustainable solutions; but many labs may have their own unique areas that can be improved. I’d encourage everyone to have a think about these, failing that you can always get the folks at My Green Labs to help identify them for you!

Read more about what the Hill Lab did with My Green lab to implement sustainable practices.

Written by Liam Hourigan (undertaking his Masters of Biotechnology and Bioinformatics degree) and Dr Eduard Wilms of the Hill Lab
Pictured: Mitch Shambrook (LIMS Hill Lab)