For many scientists who see themselves as environmentally conscious, it can be a wake-up call when faced with the scale of their collective carbon footprint. As such, laboratories are under increasing pressure to adopt more sustainable practices to lower their environmental impact and contribute to a cleaner and safer society. But what can be done to make scientific research and industry more eco-friendly?
The equipment laboratories use every day can play a significant part in increasing the sustainability of science. Manufacturers and equipment providers are turning to new methods to help reduce the carbon footprint of science. The latest technologies are enabling the development of reusable labware products made from non-toxic materials and more energy-efficient cold storage, like ultra-low temperature freezers, that utilize sustainable manufacturing practices.
Coupled with these technological advances, important initiatives such as the Accountability, Consistency and Transparency (ACT) program from My Green Lab empower laboratory managers to make better-informed decisions when purchasing products. The aim of ACT and programs like it, is to drive laboratories to develop more environmentally conscious purchasing habits and to adopt greener measures which will make the scientific sector as a whole more sustainable.
The ACT label contains several environmental impact scores for products, instruments and reagents, much like an eco-nutrition label for lab products. The ACT label breaks down each product into several categories, including information about manufacturing (shipping impact and renewable energy use), user impact (like water consumption and product lifetime), and end of life (how recyclable, compostable or biodegradable the product is after disposal). By emphasising the accountability (A), consistency (C) and transparency (T) of the environmental impact of laboratory products, labs can easily compare options and select more environmentally sustainable products when making a purchase. The ACT label also gives manufacturers the opportunity to promote their commitment to sustainability by highlighting the areas where their manufacturing processes are more efficient and sustainable thereby demonstrating their commitment to more eco-friendly science.
While participation in My Green Lab is not compulsory, it benefits the industry by putting pressure on manufacturers to improve the sustainability of their products, helping them to see how customers might value, for example, manufacturing using renewable energy or more recyclable packaging content. The hope is that this sets a precedent for the sector at large, where customers can make environmentally informed choices for hardware and services. In effect, this would put pressure on companies up and down the science equipment, reagent, and services supply chain to increase participating in, and champion, drives to make science more sustainable.
Driven by its commitment to a healthier, cleaner and safer world, Thermo Fisher Scientific, the world leader in serving science, has partnered with My Green Lab to highlight those products which meet the ACT label criteria for sustainable manufacturing. Thermo Fisher’s entire cold storage portfolio of more than 1,200 products will be ACT label-certified, enabling research, pharmaceutical and clinical laboratories using these instruments to meet their sustainability objectives, while preserving the integrity and viability of stored materials.
The first Thermo Fisher cold storage solutions to receive the ACT label were the Thermo Scientific TSX Series Ultra Low Temperature Freezers and the Thermo Scientific Standard Performance (STP) Ultra Low Temperature Freezers, with more than 200 models being awarded certification. These state-of-the-art ULTs facilitate significant energy usage reduction by up to 70% compared with conventional options. Thermo Fisher's ULT freezers were also among the first to be ENERGY STAR® certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The systems are powered by Thermo Fisher's unique V-Drive technology, designed to detect and adapt to changing usage patterns, and adjust compressor speed, offering significant energy savings without compromising performance.
In addition to ULTs, The Thermo Scientific TSX High Performance Laboratory Refrigerators and Freezers are the first refrigerators and freezers in the industry to receive ACT label certification. The new ACT label certification covers all models and sizes of TSX Series High Performance Refrigerators and Freezers including those used for Chromatography, Blood Banking, Plasma Storage, Vaccines and General-Purpose Laboratory use. Similar to the ThermoFisher Scientific ULTs, the TSX Series high performance refrigerators and freezers are also ENERGY STAR® certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and offer similar performance and energy saving capabilities as they too are powered by Thermo Fisher’s unique V-Drive technology.
ThermoFisher Scientific has made a commitment to sustainable manufacturing for the entire TSX and STP portfolio families so in addition to utilizing natural hydrocarbon refrigerants, the Thermo Scientific cold storage products use SNAP-compliant, water-blown foam insulation, enabling these products to minimize heat emissions which allows for considerably lower heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) costs. Importantly, the instruments are manufactured in an award-winning, zero waste-to-landfill facility. Care is also taken to maintain more eco-friendly supply chains, purchasing raw materials from sustainable sources even before manufacturing has taken place. For example, TSX Series refrigerators and freezers are shipped in packaging with high recycled and recyclable content, with instructions for customers on how to recycle the packaging materials, as well as being made with increasingly long lifespans. There are programs to dispose at end of life for material repurposing and recycling.
New drives in the industry are helping scientists improve the carbon footprint of their work, with manufacturers placing emphasis on improving sustainability on the whole. Moreover, initiatives like My Green Lab’s ACT standard help customers make purchasing decisions based on a product’s environmental impact, opening up accessibility to greener products and manufacturers. Together, dual approaches in manufacturing more eco-friendly equipment with greener supply chains, coupled with behavioural initiatives in laboratories and purchasing departments, can and must make a difference to the sector’s record on CO2 emissions.
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