grINIM is a volunteer-organized initiative that aims to make research at the Institute of Neuroimmunology (INIM) more sustainable.
As a sub-organization of the BMC Green, we implement relevant local changes that are applicable to the laboratories in our institute. Specifically, we focus on raising awareness and reducing consumption of energy, water, plastic materials as well as toxic reagents. To raise awareness, we introduce a sustainable action of the month (SAM) every month as a means to provide information and offer locally applicable solutions to reduce our consumption. For instance, closing the sashes of biological safety cabinets can reduce energy consumption significantly and prolong the lifetime of the ventilator (further details and other past SAMs are described in the following section). Precisely because research requires tremendous amounts of energy, water and other resources, it is our mission to find alternative solutions to reduce our environmental impact.
Please do not hesitate to contact us if you would like to join our team. We are also grateful for your feedback and suggestions in person. Send Email
July 2021 SAM: Reduce your water footprint
Facts about water consumption: Water is a scarce resource: more than 2 billion people worldwide have insufficient access to clean water. Climate change is coming: the past 3 years have seen extreme droughts all over Germany. A lab like ours consumes 5x more water than an office workplace. Therefore, being aware and decreasing our water consumption will have a big impact on our water footprint.
We would like to propose 3 simple actions to help reduce our water footprint.
1. Use less purified water (where possible).
With purified water, 1L does not always equal 1L. In fact, 5L of tap water is used to produce 1L of ultrapure water (Milli-Q water) by reverse osmosis. 3L is necessary to produce 1L of deionized water. Only with tap water, what you see is what you get. Therefore, re-think which grade of purity is really necessary for your purpose. For example, many buffers may be good enough with deionized instead of ultrapure water. For rinsing and cleaning, use tap water, not deionized water.
2. Run the autoclave less often.
One autoclave run uses approximately 270 liters of water. In an autoclave, water is not only used to create hot steam, but also to cool this steam down after the autoclaving process to prevent heat damage to drain pipes. To save water, run the autoclave only when it is full. Also, re-think which materials really need to be autoclaved. For example, Eppis and pipette tips usually arrive PCR clean and can be used straight from the bag without further autoclaving for many experimental purposes.
3. Report dripping taps, eye showers, etc.
A dripping tap can easily cost you 2L of water per day. Therefore, report any dripping as soon as you notice it, so that the tap, eye shower etc. can be repaired as soon as possible.
May & June 2021 SAM: don´t idle
“To idle” for automobiles means to keep the engine running while the car is not moving. This is commonly done by drivers while they wait for their passengers. Similarly in the lab, we often keep our devices on “stand-by” while we are not actively using it (e.g. centrifuges, shakers, stirrers, cell counters, heaters… etc.). However, these devices do still consume energy because the display and set temperature are maintained.
We are aiming at reducing our energy consumption by switching off devices that are not actively in use.
These are some measures of devices in our lab: W (“Watt”) is the measure of the “rate of energy consumed” = 1 Joule per second. Wh (“Watthour”) is an unit of energy = 1W over 1 hour = 3600 Joules. Some devices consume as much energy as if they were in use, since the function is maintained when idling; for instance, the heater expends energy to keep the device at a set temperature whether the samples are in there or not. Please be aware of the time it takes for heaters to warm up to the set temperature and avoid keeping the heater on for long periods of time. For an average heater, it takes:
Approximately 5-10 minutes to reach 37°C.
Approximately 15-20 minutes to reach 95°C.
Simply close the centrifuge lids between uses to keep the device at the set temperature and avoid additional cooling. Don’t forget to stop the stirrer when the buffers are well mixed. If possible, please share the devices. This also applies to the computers and the room lights. Please remember to turn off all devices and lights at the end of the day. If the computer is not planned to be used for long periods of time, it is also possible to set it in “energy saving mode” or “hibernate”.
Each individual device may not consume a lot of energy alone, but it adds up over time and in mass.
April 2021SAM: use less ≠ useless
Labs produce incredible amounts of waste, of which a large percentage is non-hazardous. A study of the University of Exeter has estimated that a scientist produces over 1000 Kg of plastic waste per year. As a comparison, the plastic waste per person/year in Europe is 174 kg. Following a similar trend, labs also consume large amounts of energy, in which lab equipment constantly connected to the power supply account for 25% of it. By using our resources responsibly we can make a big impact on our waste reduction.
We would like to encourage you to decrease the amount of consumables and equipment usage.
1. Reduce energy and equipment usage.
Autoclaving: try to use clean but non-autoclaved materials whenever possible. Autoclaved labware has an alu-foil on top.
Fridges/freezers: reduce the time their doors are opened and keep them organized. It will decrease the time you need to look for something. Avoid leaving the door open while searching .
2. Re-use consumables whenever possible
Serological pipettes, gloves, Centrifugation tubes (we have reusable tubes for different purposes).
3. Share reagents and equipment.
Use our mailing lists to ask for samples or exchange materials: institute-wide: write to Anja Schmalz. BMC-wide: ask a postdoc to write to the postdoc network. Make inventory lists: Organize your supplies, check and share with members of other groups
March 2021SAM: Save energy
Facts about energy consumption at the BMC: The biomedical center with its 450 employees consumes on average 6.3 Mio kWh per year (Wh -“Watthour”- is an unit of energy = 1W over 1 hour = 3600 Joules). An average German 3-person household consumes on average 3500 kWh per year.This means that we (450 employees) consume as much energy as ~1800 households per year. Therefore, small individual changes can be amplified to make enormous impact on our energy consumption.
One biological safety cabinet or fume hood consumes as much energy as three households. If not in use, please: Switch off biological safety cabinets and close fume hood sash. In addition to saving energy and costs, this also prolongs the lifetime of the devices.
Also, please keep all the doors closed, specially those of rooms with special ventilation systems.-80°C freezer room, 4°C cold room. This will enable more efficient ventilation and cooling in these rooms and thus will save energy.