Commitment to sustainable scientific research

Lights off, refrigerator closed, fume hood sash down – these are simple but very effective measures that can save a lot of energy in a laboratory. Many people are aware of this. And yet the issue of sustainability in research needs momentum so that laboratory work does not consume ten times as much energy and four times as much water as office work – as is currently the case.

A nudge in the direction of sustainable research was given by Kristine Oevel of the Leibniz Research Institute for Molecular Pharmacology (FMB), who gave a talk entitled “What can we do and where can we start?” on May 4, 2023, as part of the RESIST seminar series. Another impulse comes from Franziska Hüsers. The doctoral student at the MHH Institute of Virology has since been meeting once a month with around ten colleagues to bring more sustainability into the lab.

They have already ensured that bacteria for plasmid production are no longer cultivated in disposable plastic tubes, but in rinsable glass tubes. They also have plastic boxes for pipette tips recycled by the manufacturer, as well as media and PBS bottles. Another idea is to autoclave only 20 percent of newly inserted pipette tips, rather than all of them.

“Our next goal is good waste separation, and a solution must also be found for the energy-guzzling cold rooms and cabinets, as well as gloves can be used more than once if they are not contaminated, and documents can be printed out less frequently,” says Franziska Hüsers. Many other employees at the institute are now also thinking about the issue of sustainability, so that the hallway and laboratory lights are switched off more consistently than before after work and on weekends, as are devices and computers that are no longer needed. Once these and other measures have become established, a reward awaits the dedicated team: then the Institute of Virology can adorn itself with the “My green lab certification” certificate from the non-profit organization My green lab – perhaps as a model for others?

The photo shows Franziska Hüsers (bottom) and Birgit Ritter (top) amid the plastic boxes, media and PBS bottles that are now being recycled.