Science Lecture-Protecting Our Research for the Future: How ICR Greened Its Laboratory-Cancer Institute London

2021-11-13 06:40:23 By : Ms. Joey Lin

Prior to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Graham Shaw studied some of the ways ICR researchers can help reduce waste and reduce carbon footprint.

In August, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) issued its sixth assessment report-warning that the narrow window of time we left to avoid the worst effects of climate change is rapidly disappearing. Headlines around the world chanted "Humanity's Code Red".

As a science-led organization, it is our nature to take these warnings seriously. Our laboratory work is carbon intensive: from the energy used to run our buildings and equipment to the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the incineration of laboratory consumables, equipment and clinical waste.

Earlier this year, the ICR announced a climate emergency along with many other organizations in the world. We are well aware that having a positive impact on the environment and society is our sustainability as an organization and our continued success in conducting important research. Base.

At ICR, we have long been committed to understanding our key points and understanding where we can make the most impact. We also use the enthusiasm and expertise of our employees to introduce greener practices into our way of working.

Operating a laboratory sustainably is not without challenges. Our latest carbon footprint data shows that 90% of ICR’s climate impact comes from the goods and services we use every day. 

The hourly energy consumption of small water baths and other equipment is equivalent to that of a dishwasher, while the daily energy consumption of ultra-low temperature refrigerators is equivalent to the daily energy of ordinary households.

Then there is waste. It is estimated that 1.8% of the world’s plastic waste comes only from laboratories. In the past 12 months, ICR produced 218 tons of waste-equivalent to the weight of 55 elephants.

For ICR, the fastest way to reduce the carbon footprint is to use laboratory consumables and equipment more efficiently-for example, to avoid over-ordering, questioning purchasing needs, and avoiding unnecessary waste. Our employees and researchers have always played a key role in introducing good work practices to make their research more environmentally friendly.

Our research relies on tissue culture grown in the laboratory to study cancer. Tissue culture requires food in the form of a nutrient medium solution to grow, but these foods may carry a large amount of plastic packaging and transportation emissions from the nutrient medium solution to our laboratory. One way we reduce waste is to make it ourselves. 

Our technicians can produce more than 100 different media according to requirements, manufactured on site and packaged in glass bottles, and then can be reused.

Compared with the disposable plastic version, cleaning and reusing items such as steel clinical tools can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 75%. It is also cheaper, saving money that can be used elsewhere in our research. 

The ultra-low temperature refrigerator can keep tissue samples in a cold environment at -80°C. They are considered to be the best way to keep biological samples in long-term storage, but not every sample needs to be kept cold to stay viable.

Our researchers will participate in the 2022 Freezer Challenge: a global competition to promote best practices in cold storage management (including energy efficiency). Running the freezer at a slightly higher temperature, -70°C instead of -80°C, usually has no effect on the sample, but the energy consumption is reduced by 40%. And many reagents and samples do not need to be stored at ultra-low temperatures at all. 

For example, DNA can be stored at -20°C, which uses 80% less energy than a refrigerator at -80°C, so storing samples at the right temperature can save a lot of energy. 

Another simple but effective way to save energy is to turn off the equipment when it is not in use, and there are a large number of energy-consuming equipment in ordinary laboratories. 

We encourage labs to label equipment that can be easily turned off when not in use as a very simple way to remind colleagues to save energy.

Some laboratory materials have a short lifespan, so over-ordering may mean that some materials are thrown away before they are used.

ICR researchers are encouraged to check the available materials before purchasing more materials. When delivery is indeed required, the researcher obtains advice in coordination with other team members to reduce packaging and minimize transportation emissions.

Developing a sustainable procurement strategy for laboratories is a huge challenge, but we are happy to accept it. We have adopted ISO20400, an international standard for sustainable procurement, and we will use it as a framework when formulating our strategy. Ultimately, this will be a joint effort by all ICR employees to understand what is the most sustainable option available to us, which will allow us to continue to deliver the same outstanding work with minimal climate impact.

A key focus is how we deal with waste in the laboratory because of the special complexity of scientific waste treatment and its potential to have a significant impact on the environment.

ICR's facility services reviewed our laboratory practices and formed a new waste and logistics team to support research colleagues. Since then, 80% of facility service personnel have also completed IEMA sustainability training, which helps us review the sustainability of the workplace. 

In addition to staff training, the posters around the ICR also encourage colleagues to think about how to deal with waste, reduce energy consumption, and reuse or recycle where possible.

We have established "green" waste management routes, as well as new routes for processing food and glass waste, to ensure that we do not send any waste to landfills. We also replaced all disposable plastic bottles in the cafeteria.

The future of our planet is high in everyone’s consciousness. This year’s sustainability and actions to reduce carbon emissions are one of the five priorities that emerged in our survey of faculty, staff and students. 

To protect our future research and help protect the future of the planet, we must take action-our goal is to be ambitious and continue to challenge ourselves to continuously reduce our environmental impact.

NCRI 2021: Cancer researchers reconvene Britain’s largest cancer conference

Digital Pathology: How Our Scientists Participate in the Revolution of Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment

Protecting our research for the future: how ICR can green its laboratories