David Willemsen
February 14, 2024 | Molecular Biology

Sample Technologies team receives Platinum My Green Lab certification

My Green Lab certification and sustainable practices

Obtaining My Green Lab certification is a prestigious recognition for laboratories demonstrating outstanding commitment to sustainability and environmental friendliness. Our Sample Technologies lab was proud to achieve the Platinum level, the second-highest certification offered by My Green Lab, marking a significant milestone in our pursuit of laboratory sustainability. This accomplishment underscores our dedication to implementing sustainable practices in scientific research. Following this achievement, we interviewed David Willemsen, one of the project leaders, to learn about the team’s experiences throughout the My Green Lab certification process and to understand the foundational steps they undertook on their journey toward sustainability.

Congratulations on the Platinum certification by My Green Lab.

Thank you very much. We are very happy with our result, and it is great to see how we have been able to improve our sustainable practices in the laboratory.

What was your motivation for working together with My Green Lab?

When I joined QIAGEN in 2022, our department joined the My Green Lab Freezer Challenge and we were very interested in deepening our knowledge of sustainable best practices and improving the environmental footprint of our laboratory. That’s why we decided to join the My Green Lab certification program. We have established a volunteer sustainability group within our department to organize and distribute the tasks ahead.

How did you decide what to focus on?

The program is designed in three phases – the baseline assessment, the implementation phase, and the final assessment. Once the baseline assessment is completed and evaluated, the My Green Lab team helps you identify actionable ways to improve your environmental footprint. With this help, we have focused on the most urgent tasks and prioritized them by potential improvements.

How did you work out how to save the most energy/water/resources?

There were many different sources that showed us how to make the most savings. It was important to find out what information was available. For example, My Green Lab educational content and to talk to other departments, such as our EHS team and purchasing. Sometimes you have to collect the data yourself. So we did a waste audit over a period of time and also looked at the power consumption of some of our laboratory equipment.

Illustration for QIAwave enviromental campaign
Which changes have the most impact?

There are clear showcase examples that have a major impact on the environmental footprint, such as increasing the temperature of the ultra-low temperature freezer from -80°C to –70°C, which can decrease the energy consumption by 30-40%. Another example is replacing ethidium bromide, a very hazardous substance, with more environmentally friendly alternatives. We also participate in a take-back program for pipette tip boxes with one of our suppliers. But I believe it is the sum of all the small actions and the communication and education that make the biggest impact.

We reduced energy consumption by 30–40% by running freezers at –70°C, compared with –80°C.

Did you have to make any compromises?

Sure, whenever you work together as a group, there is a need to communicate and compromise when necessary. We were not able to implement all of My Green Lab's recommendations, but the entire team, not just the small sustainability group, worked on this certification program and came up with solutions.

How do you keep people motivated throughout the change process and beyond?

Many people are also interested in sustainability in their private lives, so there was often no need for extra motivation. We noticed that many best practices are already being implemented by the team and that communication is essential. As a result, we have decided to provide an introduction to our sustainability best practices to new employees in our department as part of our onboarding program.

That’s great, do you have any advice for labs who are just starting on the journey towards having a lower environmental impact?

My advice is to just get started and consider even small steps as successes – they will add up. Information is the key, and you can find great ways to save on energy or resources in the laboratory. For example, you can use the ACT label, the first environmental impact factor label for laboratory products, developed by My Green Lab to make informed decisions about which consumable to buy based on its environmental impact factor. Our QIAwave Kits – developed in our department – are an eco-friendlier alternative to our standard kits and can also be found in the ACT database.

Now that you achieved Platinum, what are your plans for the next two years? Any chance of Green next time?

Our journey doesn't end here. We want to continuously improve and are optimistic about the re-certification in two years. Of course it is nice to be recognized for improvements, but what really counts is making our daily work safer and more sustainable.

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