Simple Steps for a Greener Life Sciences Lab

Jasmin Bannister, Business Development Manager

The life sciences industry plays a significant role in improving patient lives, but its operations can have a significant environmental impact. Energy consumption in labs is a major contributor and reducing this consumption is crucial for a more sustainable future.

The good news is there are practical steps researchers can take to make their labs more energy efficient. Simple measures like turning off unused equipment and employing energy-star certified options can lead to substantial reductions. Fume hoods, notorious energy guzzlers, can be shut down when not in use to significantly lower energy expenditure.

Have you heard that -70 is the new -80? One Nucleus Partner, My Green Lab, explains that changing the temperature of your ultra-low freezer from -80 to -70oC has two major benefits:

  1. It reduces energy consumption by 30-40%.
  2. It can prolong the life of your freezer.

 

These changes go beyond environmental benefits; lower energy use translates to cost savings, freeing up resources for research and development. My Green Lab published a report with responses from lab managers from around the world to share their experience with changing the temperature of their ultra-low temperature (ULT) freezers.

For example, ‘I couldn’t find any scientific reason why manufacturers decided to produce freezers with -80/-85°C as default temperature. Some years ago I gave researchers in my group a chance to produce evidence that -80/85°C storage was better than -70°C. Nobody came back to me so I changed the temperature of all 18 ULT-freezers to -70°C. We see no indications of a loss of sample integrity.’ John Grist, King’s College London

In 2010, Kathryn Ramirez-Aguilar who manages the University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder) CU Green Labs Program, discovered that there were ~5 ULT freezers on the campus that had always been set as -70°C. Now, ~175 ULT freezers (around half of the campus) are set to -70°C.

A commitment to sustainability can also enhance a company's reputation, attracting environmentally conscious investors and talent. An article by One Nucleus member, CK Group, highlights that not only do sustainable practices attract talent but it also creates a positive workforce. The article references a survey by Cleartrace stating that ‘nearly 70% of Gen-Z respondents said that if a company had a strong sustainability plan, it would impact their decision to stay with the company’.

Leading venture capitalists like Sofinnova Partners are going beyond just writing checks.  They coach their portfolio companies on ESG best practices, providing them with actionable insights to improve their environmental, social, and governance performance.  This focus on ESG isn't a hidden agenda - it's front-and-centre on Sofinnova's website.

Novo Holdings is another investor having demonstrable impact. Their website proudly proclaims their mission: 'Investing to benefit people and the planet.' They aren't just looking for financial returns; they want companies that share their commitment to positive societal impact.

During a One Nucleus BioWednesday Webinar on the topic of "ESG and Life Science Investment", Jason Snape, Global Head of Environment at AstraZeneca, was asked how AstraZeneca can support its partners, collaborators, and biotech counterparts in achieving positive ESG outcomes. He emphasised the importance of having a shared vision and purpose, noting that third-party companies are included in AstraZeneca's carbon targets. Therefore, when deciding to partner with someone, it is crucial that the potential partner is also committed to the journey toward net zero. Jason added that AstraZeneca does not expect their suppliers or partners to achieve this goal alone; they aim to assist small to medium-sized companies in embracing the race to net zero and addressing their broader challenges.

As a member of One Nucleus, companies can take advantage of our negotiated deals with Preferred Suppliers (PSAs) and Support Suppliers (SSAs) in the Group Purchasing Scheme and Member Marketplace, respectively. One Nucleus is increasingly mindful to assess the sustainability credentials when selecting suppliers, wanting to be sure they are as passionate about this topic as we are:

  • Purchasing Scheme: Our Purchasing Scheme has been a popular member benefit since 2000 with an annual member spend exceeding £7million before discount with more than 100 members. It is the longest-running purchasing consortium of its kind in the UK, saving members over £3million per annum. Please note, Gold Members have access to all suppliers listed below and Silver Member have access to selected PSA discounts.
  • Member Marketplace: Our Member Marketplace is a convenient destination to find products and services at discounted rates from One Nucleus members to other members.

Examples of how our PSAs are meeting their environmental agenda include:

Thermo Fisher Scientific is dedicated to developing innovative products while keeping the environment in mind. They design products that help scientists address environmental challenges and are manufactured with minimal environmental impact. Furthermore, they are constantly seeking ways to use renewable energy sources and have set ambitious goals for reducing emissions.

001 are providers of utility savings, green energy audits and can support you reduce your carbon footprint, stand out from competitors and boost your CSR goals. They offer renewable energy alternatives and cost-effective solutions.

Recently Air Liquide, suppliers of industrial gas and services, received  delivery of a complete electrolyzer, with a capacity of 20MW, as part of their commitment to the production of renewable hydrogen.

This month, Air Products announced a joint venture to build the world’s largest green hydrogen plant to produce green ammonia in 2026 with NEOM and ACWA Power. This project will save up to 5 million tonnes of CO2 per year and produce up to 600 tonnes of carbon-free hydrogen per day.

Reducing emissions and decarbonisation is at the heart of BOC’s sustainability strategy. They are leaders in the production, storage and supply of hydrogen for use in transport and off-grid applications. They use their expertise in the supply and application of oxygen to optimise processes and fuel efficiency.

“When you take one step forward in the lab, you should not have to take two steps back where environmental protection is concerned”, says Starlab as part of their Green Mission. Starlab are already achieving great things with their TipOne® pipette tip system, saving plastic.

With Complete, you can consolidate your ‘office supplies’ supply chain and reduce the number of suppliers by up to 80% and simplify your procurement process.

Beyond the suppliers mentioned that can help you run a greener lab, there's another exciting way in which One Nucleus can support you. Our very own lab recycling scheme, managed by Richard Dickinson, Chief Technical Specialist, allows you to source previously used equipment or give new life to your old lab or office supplies. You benefit from potentially lower costs and reduced environmental impact, while others in the network gain access to valuable equipment they might need. It's a fantastic way to promote collaboration and responsible practices within our community.

What next?

  • Check your lab equipment, find out what you do and don’t need, can it be recycled or sold to a good home? If so, please contact richard@onenucleus.com.
  • Register or demonstrate your commitment to ESG by sponsoring the One Region – One Health Innovation Seminar on 16 September.
  • Learn something new with My Green Lab’s accredited professional training courses. One Nucleus have access to a discount, please contact info@onenucleus.com.
  • Consider enrolling your organisation onto the Green Impact programme.
  • If you are interested in discussing opportunities for your organisation to collaborate with One Nucleus around sustainability, please contact jasmin@onenucleus.com, we would be happy to hear your thoughts!

Let's make sustainable practices the norm, ensuring a thriving life sciences industry for generations to come!