Who we are:
The Molecular Parasitology Lab at NUI Galway, led by Prof John Pius Dalton is a multidisciplinary team of parasitologists, molecular biologists, biochemists and immunologists. The team are working on a Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) funded project researching the interaction between parasites and hosts at a molecular level in order to develop new vaccines, diagnostics and bio-therapeutics for humans and animals.
Research laboratories in third-level institutions are one of the most resource-intensive spaces in any industry. With the increased concern regarding climate change and pollution, laboratories have come under scrutiny for their vast consumption of resources and impact on the environment. Laboratory buildings can consume up to ten times more energy and at least four times more water than office spaces and discard more than five billion kilograms of plastic every year. NUI Galway’s community-based sustainability strategy outlines various measures to ensure an environmentally friendly campus. By encouraging sustainability-friendly research together with the promotion of ‘Green lab’ certification, research laboratories are the focus of a much-needed sustainability culture change.
The Green Lab Certification programme from My Green Lab was chosen by the Molecular Parasitology Laboratory in an effort to limit the environmental impact of the research project. My Green Labs is the world’s leading non-profit organisation dedicated to improving the sustainability of scientific research, has been selected as a key indicator of progress for the UNFCCC High Level Climate Champions’ 2030 Breakthroughs campaign. The program covers 14 topics related to energy, water, waste, chemistry/materials, and provides scientists with actionable ways to make real and impactful environmental changes.
The MPL green team adopted the structured My Green Labs program by working with researchers, research management, and building managers to implement sustainable practices and technologies in the building that houses the research laboratories.
A dual approach implemented successful sustainability actions at both a laboratory level and at a facilities management level. In cooperation, action was taken on areas such as energy, waste reduction and recycling, chemical management, efficient use of equipment, procurement and resource conservation.
The MPL lab participated in the International Laboratory Freezer Challenge 2021 a competition designed to promote best practices in cold storage management read more here www.mygreenlab.org/freezer-challenge.html. The lab saved an estimated 72kWh/day of electricity after implementing the measures advised by the My Green Lab organisation. The team reduced energy consumption by switching off all but essential equipment in the evenings and at weekends including computer screens. Fume cupboard sashes were closed to reduce the airflow being exhausted saving energy. Ultra-low temperature freezers were up-chilled to minus 70oC, defrosted regularly, inventories adopted, filters cleaned. De-ionised water used only when required by a protocol, in many cases for example de-staining protein gels tap water is a less expensive and more sustainable substitute. Single use plastics were cleaned and reused, glassware used as much as possible, plastics, cardboard, tinfoil, batteries, glass were recycled. LED lights were installed in labs and offices. After monitoring bio-hazardous and general lab waste during the period of one month (Fig. 1), a total of 5.15 kg of waste material was diverted from landfill/incineration into the recycling waste stream (Fig 1).
The MPL achieved My Green Lab certification in Spring 2022 and are now enthusiastically implementing further improvements in laboratory sustainability practices. Our future sustainability goals are to assist other laboratories in NUI Galway with their Green Lab journey and to spread the word further afield by delivering green lab talks and engaging with other sustainability organisations. The group’s achievement was featured in a recent national broadcast blog (see below).