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Sustainability in Science: Moving Towards Green Initiatives

‘The proper use of science is not to conquer nature but to live in it’ Barry Commoner, biologist

In the ever-evolving landscape of scientific research, a notable shift toward sustainability has taken root all over the world.

Sustainability is not just a responsibility, but a driving force for positive change within the world of science. As defined by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation), sustainability science delves into understanding and maintaining balance within the intricate workings of physical, biological and social systems. Under this definition, sustainability extends beyond just theoretical frameworks, moving actively to supporting policies and fostering positive social transformations within these fields. This holistic approach aligns seamlessly with our commitment at Scientifically Speaking to integrate such fields together, weaving sustainability into the fabric of science and the arts.

Examples of Green Initiatives in Scientific Research

  • AstraZeneca's Laboratory Sustainability

AstraZeneca, a global pharmaceutical giant, exemplifies a commitment to sustainability in scientific research. They actively promote a culture of sustainability in their labs, engaging scientists in environmentally conscious practices. Through initiatives like My Green Lab, AstraZeneca has achieved certifications for laboratory sustainability, setting a benchmark for environmentally responsible scientific research. Within My Green Lab, AstraZeneca aim to reduce energy and waste, whilst also innovating their lab processes constantly to reduce usage of materials and solvents.

  • UCL’s Laboratory Initiative

On the academic front, University College London (UCL) has developed a certification scheme called the Laboratory Efficiency Assessment Framework, LEAF. LEAF focuses on improving the sustainability of various laboratories who choose to opt in to the programme. Mainly, reducing the use of energy-intensive equipment, encouraging the reduction of unnecessary travel and improving the correct use of supplies to avoid over-ordering are achieved through this scheme. As an example, University of Bristol has adopted LEAF into all 1000 of their laboratories. 

Growing Momentum for Sustainable Science

This momentum for green labs and sustainable science practice is gaining traction across the globe. There are increasing calls for systemic changes that integrate sustainability into the scientific enterprise, as illustrated with the above examples. These green practice initiatives are emerging as catalysts for much-needed change to ensure that science moves forward sustainably for everyone. From carbon neutrality and powering vehicles with waste, to fully biodegradable water bottles and tackling food waste, these approaches can lead to transformative changes in leading organisations and institutions. By aligning with such initiatives from industry leaders and academic institutions, we envision a world where science not only pushes the boundaries of knowledge but does so with a deep respect for the planet.

Article Key Take Home Messages

  1. Sustainability as a driving force in scientific research.

  2. Growing momentum for sustainable science.

  3. Collaborate and partnership in advancing sustainability in scientific research.


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