New SFI programme aims to turn 100 Irish labs green

19 Oct 2023

From left: SFI director of science for society Dr Ruth Freeman, Minister Simon Harris, TD, SFI director general Prof Philip Nolan, DCU sustainability manager Sam Fahy, Irish Green Labs co-founder Dr Una Fitzgerald and SFI deputy director general Dr Ciarán Seoighe. Image: Jason Clarke

The new sustainable laboratory certification will train Irish lab workers and welcome them to a network to reduce the environmental impact of lab research.

Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) is launching a new certification pilot programme to bring the best sustainable research practices into Irish laboratories.

The organisation has partnered with the non-profit organisation My Green Lab to create this national certification programme. My Green Lab is focused on bringing sustainability practices into labs and their products worldwide.

Irish labs that join the programme will participate in the My Green Lab ambassador training programme and will be invited to join the Irish network of the organisation. SFI said it will cover the costs associated with joining the programme.

The SFI said that labs are typically certified within six to nine months of starting the process. The goal is to have 100 Irish labs join the certification programme, with the first 50 joining in November 2023. The second batch are expected to begin their certification journey in early 2024.

The programme was announced today by Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris, TD, who said the certification will make Ireland a “pioneer in sustainable research”.

“We can all play our part in reducing our carbon footprint and this programme demonstrates how fundamental changes made in the lab can have a large impact,” Harris said. “This initiative is an ambitious and progressive move to place sustainability front and centre within the science community and builds upon great work already underway in many of our higher education institutions. I look forward to seeing the results of this programme over the coming months.”

My Green Lab claims that labs are a resource-intensive sector that use 10 times the energy of office spaces and four times the water. The organisation estimates that globally, research labs produce 5.5m tonnes of plastic waste each year.

“At My Green Lab, our goal is to show laboratories how making simple changes in the lab have a large impact in reducing our carbon footprint,” said My Green Lab CEO James Connelly. “We look forward to working with SFI on our mission to build a global culture of sustainability in science and support SFI to lead the world on the launch of a world’s first national green lab programme – and inspire the rest of the world to follow in their footsteps.”

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic