An impressive number of attendees and great insights from the speakers, this is the first feedback we got from the very first My Green Lab Europe 2022 Summit, on ‘Zero Carbon Leadership in Life Science’ which occurred last February 10th. More than 700 registrants, with 300 attendees on average steadily connected online for this event jointly organised with Living Future Europe, with a great participation from the United Kingdom, Germany, Ireland, and other European countries, as well as from the USA.

The past two years have demonstrated the incredible potential of science to meet some of the toughest challenges facing humanity. But the fundamental research that makes these and countless of lifesaving and world changing innovations possible, also comes at a massive environmental impact. This was the main topic of the event, alongside with a focus on the carbon emissions life science research and laboratories operations bring with.

When it comes to the zero-carbon issue, the built environment in general has a huge problem – Carlo Battisti, LFE President reminded – above all if we consider that the construction sector is currently building or renovating globally at a dramatic pace of a new New York City every 34 days, according to a report of the Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction (IEA). In particular, the carbon in our buildings comes from both the energy they consume – and the demand this drives – as well as the energy used to produce the materials that make up the building (Operational and Embodied Carbon).

Science has still equally a huge impact on the environment, as it was clearly highlighted by My Green Lab’s CEO James Connelly. A globally relevant initiative, “Race to Zero” is the UN backed global campaign that is committed to rallying global economic sectors to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. They recently published their “2030 Breakthroughs” which outline the actions more than 20 global economy sectors need to take to halve global emissions by 2030, and the My Green Lab certification was featured in the Pharma section, as a 2030 breakthrough outcome when 95% of labs across major pharma and med-tech companies will be MGL certified at the green-level by 2030.

What role can science play in addressing the main challenge of our generation, the climate emergency? How can academia, research institutes, biotech and pharma incorporate sustainability as a daily practice, and a green lab approach into the culture of their labs, their organizations, and their long-term strategy?

The case history presented by our keynote speaker, Dr. Una FitzGerald (Lecturer in Biomedical Science, NUI Galway) was particularly enlightening to this extent. She got first inspired by a the book “No. More. Plastic” by Martin Dorey, then discovered from another scientific paper that in a specific case study, scientists were monitored to produced individually 1 ton of plastic in one year. This was the beginning of an epiphany which brought Una to lead a sustainability program at the University of Ireland in 2019, which ended up with being awarded as the first My Green Lab certified in Europe. Nowadays, also thanks to her icebreaking example, there are more than 60 MGL certified labs in Ireland.

This is the beginning of a movement which was described also in the following session introduced by Rachael Relph, Chief Sustainability Officer at My Green Lab, who moderated a panel including some exemplary green labs case studies from Europe. With different approaches in addressing sustainability, from bottom-up to top-down. Svenja Bolz, PhD Candidate at the Leibniz-Forschungsinstitut für Molekulare Pharmakologie, Berlin, Marianne Due, Specialist Consultant, at the University of Southern Denmark and finally Pernilla Sörme, Risk Management Lead at AstraZeneca, brilliantly presented their initiatives.

From the perspective of leading laboratories in Europe working daily to reduce their environmental impact, we then completely changed angle, addressing how big manufacturing players are transforming their supply chain in order to create less impactful products for laboratories. With the moderation of Raj Patey, ACT & European Green Labs Consultant at My Green Lab, Tim Dillon, European Product Manager and Sustainability Gladiator at Mettler-Toledo Rainin (scales and analytical instruments), Jan-Hendrik Bebermeier, Global Marketing Manager for Cold Storage Systems and Sustainability at Eppendorf SE (devices, consumables, and services), and Andreas Otto, Product Manager HPLC at Agilent Technologies (analytical instruments, software, services, and consumables) enthusiastically presented their case histories.

The final part of the Summit was dedicated to exploring networking opportunities across the life science sustainability specialists and initiatives. A lively groups discussion moderated by Nikoline Borgermann and Valeria Scagliotti (both sustainable research consultants in Europe) in breakout rooms addressed three main questions: major challenges and obstacles researchers typically see in implementing sustainability in their labs and research centres, the type of support they would like to receive to overcome these barriers, and finally an overview on some already existing European initiatives to drive the progress to a greener scenario.

There’s a vibrant community of passionate researchers and practitioners in Europe, willing to provoke a change in the way life science, biotech, academia, and research lead their operations,  to reduce their environmental burden through a number of positive actions and extraordinary commitment. Is the European continent ready to drive this big change and build a culture of sustainability in science? We can be definitely optimistic after this first Europe Summit.

For those of you who were not able to attend the European Summit, the recording is still available upon registration at this link. If you like My Green Lab Summits, don’t miss the opportunity to attend the international online MGL Summit 2022 on ‘Community + Collaboration’ next May 26th, 2022. Registrations will open soon at this link. We are looking forward to seeing you there!