Green Lab Associates in Asia – Hokkaido University, Sapporo, Japan
Sapporo - Hokkaido University
Martin Farley met Dr. Maki Ikegami at an EAUC (the UK Environmental Association of Universities and Colleges) conference in the UK this past year, where she and several others presented on environmental networks in Asia. Dr. Maki Ikegami is a specially appointed associate professor at Hokkaido University, Japan. She is responsible for the development of Japan’s Assessment System for Sustainable Campus.
Maki indicated that sustainable practices had yet to be extensively integrated into laboratory practices in Japan but that they had made progress in other areas, so Martin offered to come and give some talks on the topic. Within a few months and helpful emails, Martin arrived in Sapporo where the Hokkaido University is located. As some background Hokkaido is one of Japan’s former Imperial Universities, and has an expansive campus partly known for its beautiful foliage in the autumn. There, Maki kindly facilitated a series of talks and laboratory site visits.
The first 2 talks were to local professors and students, including Professor Hiroto Ogawa and Professor Tatsufumi Okino, both local principal investigators. The talks were well received, and both professors subsequently opened their laboratories for brief site-visits to try and identify potential efficiencies. It should be noted that while sustainability was not explicitly involved in laboratory areas, practices were already quite efficient. Users were diligent in turning equipment off, and labs had not yet moved completely away from using glassware thus avoid excess plastic waste. Martin noted a few recommendations, particularly around central services and support for research, and integrated them into a final talk, again which Maki kindly facilitated with her co-workers Tomohiro Morimoto, Unit Chief of Facilities Department, and Yoko Kawajiri, Sustainable Campus Management officer.
A final symposium was prepared for both internal and external research staff, and live translators provided to ensure full comprehension. The talk looked at why sustainable practices should be integrated into energy intensive laboratories, examples of what’s been done, future directions of the topic, and finally Hokkaido specific recommendations and rationale. Recommendations included considering aligned and sustainable procurement of equipment and consumables, clearer organisation of waste, and reigning in ever-growing needs for cold storage (all similar challenges which UK and US institutions face). We are happy to report that particularly the recommendations for waste and cold storage have triggered Hokkaido University to install new schemes in 2019, call for proposals with financial support for energy saving in labs, and new apps/posters/stickers and bins for waste segregation.
Equally, Martin learned immensely about Japanese funding models, recent sustainability endeavors, and efficient practices were almost naturally integrated in many laboratories. In particular this last point is one the west could learn from. In the west we tend to apply “sustainable” practices in a revisionary sense, which can make efficient methods feel separate or onto their own. In Sapporro and Japan, as by applying efficiency to just about everything, there appeared to be a more natural integration of sustainable practices. There was a definite practicality and minimalism when compared to for e.g. a new research institute in the UK.
We would like to heartfully thank Maki, Tomo, and Yoko for facilitating the talks and site-visits, and all professors in attendance. Their efforts went truly above and beyond as they all were kind, thoughtful, and effective. We would encourage our Japanese colleagues to share their efficient practices, and look forward to hosting them at coming events.