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i3S recently joined the Porto Climate Pact, an initiative of the Porto City Council that seeks to involve local actors in the implementation of measures that aim to make the city of Porto a national leader in carbon neutrality and climate action. This way, the Institute is formalizing the environmental commitment it committed to two years ago, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and more recently, by joining the National and European networks of Sustainable Laboratories.

Being aware that a health research institute uses a lot of plastic that cannot be recycled and that laboratories use three times more energy than an office building, the i3S Management has outlined its commitment in two strategic lines: supporting the activities launched and suggested by the GreenLab Initiative, created by a group of researchers, and advancing with building energy efficiency measures and mobility support.

“We want to be a more resilient, more aware and more efficient institute”, says Claudio Sunkel, director of i3S. “We are particularly committed to actively contributing to the city of Porto being able to anticipate the carbon neutrality targets set by the European Commission to 2030 and assuming national leadership in this matter”, he adds.

In 2020, specifies Claudio Sunkel, “we implemented an Energy Reduction Plan to be carried out in five years. The objective is to reduce energy consumption, in order to become a Class A building”. In two years, he adds, “despite having increased the number of human resources and equipment, we managed to reduce energy consumption by three percent. And that has to be our annual goal.”

These goals were achieved following very specific measures, namely the replacement of all indoor and outdoor lamps with LED lamps and implementation of a technical management control of lighting in common spaces. i3S has also invested in recycling and using rainwater and groundwater for watering its landscaped areas and for use in flushing toilets.

With the aim of promoting the use of recyclable bottles and reducing the consumption of plastic and other single-use materials, the i3S management made filtered water available on all floors and established a collaboration with the bar to allow everyone to take your own container.

The activities developed by GreenLab, on the other hand, involve initiatives aimed at reusing materials and reducing chemical waste, disposable protective equipment, and plastic materials. “For example, our intervention in the vivarium, which aimed to reduce the consumption of disposable plastic, avoided the disposal of 1640 gowns and 40 000 plastic foot coverings in 2021” highlights João Gomes.

GreenLab members have also invested in raising researchers’ awareness of small gestures in their laboratories that can contribute to reducing the carbon footprint, such as closing hood windows, or raising the temperature of freezer cabinets from -80°C to -70°C.

“Knowing that the i3S Board is with us in this demand for the environmental sustainability of Science gives us extra motivation to move forward with our initiatives. It legitimizes our efforts and means that our goals are also those of the community”, say the members of the GreenLab Initiative.

At the moment, GreenLab researchers are moving forward with projects to recycle laboratory plastic. “On average, an i3S researcher working on the bench discards 0.1 kg of clean laboratory plastic and 1.1 kg of plastic contaminated with biological waste per week”, reveals Cláudia Monteiro. And, currently, “none of these categories is recycled”. In order to promote the recycling of this material, “we managed to get the recent tender for the i3S laboratory waste treatment service to include the collection requirement for recycling clean laboratory plastic, so we expect this service to be implemented soon”. Regarding contaminated laboratory plastic, there is a project with Green Labs Portugal that aims to ensure that this material is also recycled.

i3S mobilizes to reduce its carbon footprint

Luísa Melo

15 April 2022

Luísa Melo

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