JUL 01, 2022 8:00 AM PDT

Avoiding Eco-Fatigue


Written by John Winsor

The scientific industry is massive, with millions of lab workers generating biohazard bags full of chemical and plastic waste. Some studies suggest that labs produce 5.5 million tons of plastic waste every year. Setting and achieving lab sustainability goals can require an abundance of effort and research, stretching limited human resources. The best way to start getting sustainability wins is by sourcing lab supplies from manufacturers and suppliers with validated eco-friendly practices, which reduces the carbon footprint and waste from your lab consumables. But the market for laboratory consumables is saturated with a myriad “eco-friendly” product claims and nature-evoking, feel-good messages about planting trees to offset the carbon emissions of single-use laboratory plastics. With so many competing “green” marketing messages, navigating true product sustainability can quickly result in eco-fatigue for laboratories that want to purchase authentically eco-friendly products. Eco-fatigue is when the constant fight for a better environment has led to sustainability burnout by the subject.

Enter My Green Lab, a global non-profit organization dedicated to helping the global scientific community create a culture of sustainability. My Green Lab helps laboratories overcome eco-fatigue and take immediate action to reduce the environmental impact of their work. My Green Lab’s ACT eco-label program has become the International ‘Gold Standard’ for evaluating the sustainability of laboratory products on the market. Products with ACT Label certification must undergo a rigorous audit that includes verification by an independent third-party. By emphasizing Accountability, Consistency, and Transparency (ACT), ACT-labeled products offer laboratories the opportunity to make smarter, eco-friendly purchases, with clear, third-party verified information that can be used to compare products from different manufacturers.

Individual labs and large scientific organizations can use the ACT label to make and accomplish sustainability goals. Improved lab purchasing via ACT also incentivizes continuous improvement by the lab products manufacturing community towards actual sustainable practices, not just marketing. ACT-scored products are graded on a scale of 1-10 based on three headline environmental impact areas: Manufacturing operations, Product User impact and End of Life recycling and waste management The Environmental Impact Factor (EIF) score is the sum total of all category ratings. The lower the EIF score, the lower the negative impact on the environment, leading to better products. ACT EIF scores empower researchers and organizations to shop with environmental awareness and enable product and manufacturer comparisons. 

Developed by scientists, sustainability directors, procurement specialists, and other industry experts, the ACT Label is the most comprehensive product labeling program for life science products. In addition to the overall ACT scoring, the detailed results of each product audit can be found in each label’s supplementary information in the ACT database.  The ACT database allows you to compare products before you purchase and evaluate the impact of products your lab is already using. Click here to access the global ACT database.

Among the many manufacturers in the ACT database, Labcon receives industry-leading ACT scores for its laboratory consumables. With nearly 600 ACT labels for products offered in the US, EU, and UK markets, Labcon receives the lowest (best) possible rating in Manufacturing Impact due to major energy and material reductions made over the last two decades. The Labcon manufacturing facility in Sonoma, County, California is covered with a massive 870 kW solar array that generates 30% of the total energy used for Labcon’s 24/7 manufacturing operations. An internal recycling program reuses plastic scrap to mold product racks, result in zero plastic resin being wasted. Combined with the use of solar and clean energy, investments in top tier energy-efficient molding machines and air compressors allowed greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced by 89% per case of product. Labcon products receive the best possible score in the chemical management category and a closed-loop water system and the use of waste-free electron beam sterilization further contributes to Labcon’s industry best environmental practices.

Labcon products, including pipette tips, centrifuge tubes and deep well plates are manufactured with 93% clean energy, greatly reducing the carbon footprint of the products. Labcon products incorporate sustainable and innovative materials such as recyclable and recycled plastics, carbon-sequestering bioplastics, and heavy metal-free, solvent-free vegetable-based inks. Choosing Labcon’s ACT-labeled products dramatically improves the sustainability of your scientific research, as reflected in the ACT product scoring. 

As an example of the utility of the ACT label, users can compare one of Labcon’s most sustainable products, the Eclipse™ Refill system for 200 µL Pipette Tips (SKU:1017-260) against Pipette Tips in Traditional Racks from another supplier. As noted, Labcon has the best scores in each Manufacturing Impact category. The innovative Eclipse packaging system uses a recyclable bioplastic stack base and is certified net negative for carbon, sequestering roughly 3 times its weight in CO2, giving Labcon’s product a much better Packaging Impact Score and helping to offset carbon from pipet tip use. Eclipse™ products refill a wide range of tip styles and volumes, are sustainable and simple to use, all while having verifiable Environmental Impact scores up to 53.6% better than competing products.

Bulk SuperClear™ 50 mL Centrifuge Tubes (SKU:3191-870) are another sustainable product scored with the ACT label that can be compared with other Conical Centrifuge Tubes. The caps, tubes and packaging all have recycling identification codes which greatly increases the ease of recyclability. Waste-free molding machines are used to eliminate plastic waste on the manufacturing floor. UV cured inks are used for tube graphics and graduations, preventing the emission of harmful VOCs. SuperClear™ Centrifuge Tubes are offered in sustainable packaging that has been approved for use in some controlled environments like clean rooms and medical labs. Most importantly, Labcon tubes are manufactured domestically within the United States while most suppliers have outsourced production.  Domestic manufacturing without multichain outsources greatly improves the environmental impact of all Labcon products.

Inaccurate and misleading claims were a problem in the food industry before the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990 required verified information to be printed on each package of food. The ACT label looks to bring the same benefits to lab products to improve the sustainability of science.   Each year the push for lab sustainability grows stronger as more life science companies set waste and carbon reduction goals. Without clear guidelines and easily accessible information, eco-fatigue will reduce the effectiveness of green initiatives. To combat fatigue, it’s important to simplify decision making, and the ACT label supports the decision-making process when purchasers want to buy the lab products best for our Earth.

Learn more about the ACT eco-label program at act.mygreenlab.org

About the Sponsor
Labcon North America was founded in Marin County, California in 1959. Our original name was Ways and Means, Inc. The name given to the company then reflected the newness of the plastics industry. We were founded to literally find the Ways and Means" to make plastic products. We made several small toys, vials for salt tablets, contact lense cases, cassette...
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