Green*tips at the INT: sharing good laboratory practices in sustainable development

NeuroMarseille is committed to promoting sustainable development and ecological practices in its network of laboratories. To this end, the NeuroGreen working group has been created to take stock of the situation, seek to pool activities and share good practices. In this article, discover the actions of the Institut de Neurosciences de la Timone (INT)!

Estimated reading time : 6 min

The Neuroscience Institute of Timone (INT) also has a group dedicated to sustainable development and ecology. Today, we will focus on the initiatives set up by the group’s referent, Julien Lefevre, to promote eco-responsible behaviours in the laboratory. As we have seen in our previous Green*tips, laboratory staff is generally open to ecological approaches such as recycling or cycling, but what will interest us today is 3 themes that have found a particular echo in Julien’s mind: the specific impact of neuroscience on climate, the reflection induced by current ecological concerns and ecological mobility in the broad sense.

What impact do our neuroscientific activities have on the climate?

This question can lead us to reflect on concrete aspects of daily life. But, by unrolling the thread, the awareness also makes us realize the constraints and difficulties that arise with a change of behaviour.

After being involved in scattered environmental activities, Julien Lefevre, a researcher in computational neuroscience at INT, turned to the climate impact of his laboratory to focus his action. His interest in the carbon footprint of the digital activities related to his function led him to set up a project with a colleague entitled “Which Neuroscience in the Anthropocene?” in response to a call for proposals Amidex-NeuroMarseille.

The study will focuses on constitutive aspects of research, such as justifying its needs in resources and energy. Should the activity of scientists be restricted somehow? According to a positive/negative trade-off, advances in health constitute progress, but the use of artificial intelligence is more questionable in the military or commercial field, for instance. In cognitive neuroscience aspects, the study focuses on the difficulty of understanding the climate-changing phenomenon, its rejection or denial, as well as the individual difficulty in changing behaviour. On an epidemiological level, the project addresses the new problem of eco-anxiety, a specific kind of anxiety.

Readings and reflections

The difficulties posed by the change in behaviour raise questions: how to accept them, integrate them, or even reverse them?

By accepting to change one’s approach to ecology, one opens up to other attitudes to the world, time, and to relationships.
Certain readings, Julien tells us, provide keys. “L’impératif de la sobriété numérique” (Fabrice Flipo, philosopher of politics and science and technology) explains why we should change our relationship with the digital world since it has become a widespread part of our way of life. The behavioural blocks on climate awareness are due to psychological, neuronal, and anthropological causes, we learn from Thierry Ripoll, author of the book “Why do we destroy the planet ?” and professor at the LPC – AMU.
Finally, the solutions involving less consumption, lead to more organization among people, hence the importance of promoting “conviviality”, one of the central themes of the philosopher and author Ivan Illich.

Ecological mobility

These changes make sense when it comes to calculating CO2 emissions in laboratories. At INT, the GHG assessment was done in 2019 (purchasing, lab, mobility). By fall 2021, a 30% reduction in emissions has been made on air travel at the entire laboratory level compared to 2019. Among the flexible approaches considered to reduce emissions, mobility is the one on which there is the most consensus. Following this path, Julien is behind an original initiative to get to the upcoming international OHBM meeting organized in Glasgow, UK: take the train, more precisely, the Neuropoudlard Train! Yes, air travel is 45 times more polluting than the TGV according to the Ademe. So there is a net ecological benefit.
The other side of this trip is to reverse the constraints perceived by this alternative mode of transport. The travel time is longer than with the plane (3 hours instead of about 10), but it is a time that can be used to work serenely. Our modern relationship to time is “minuted”: we tend to work in a hurry, more and more quickly. This attitude is a constraint, which can be reversed by changing our relationship to time. The other advantage of this train trip is the conviviality: the proposal is addressed to all members of NeuroMarseille. A ten-hour journey allows us to privilege the relationships between people and deepen the discussions. It is also an opportunity for a group adventure, another relationship that opens up the operational framework of the professional world.

“Conveying positive values is a method to incline people to change their behaviour”, Julien says, and he is not the only one proposing initiatives on ecological mobility. From the “flightlessprofessors” group, Christopher Summerfield is a serious-amusing example of the university’s awareness of the subject. At the OHBM, a group has also been created to encourage participants to measure their ecological footprint and provide them with resources for this.

More locally and generally, ecological and sustainable transport solutions are being studied at Aix-Marseille University: a community carpooling test was launched in early April and should lead to the registration of this practice at the university. The city of Marseille is also making news in this area, participating in the European Commission’s call for “100 climate-neutral cities by 2030”, highlighting various points, including ecological mobility.

More and more, ecological initiatives are being democratized on a citizen scale but also on scientific and university levels. Different structures exist in Marseille and on the territory, like the associations we talked about in the last Green*tips with Louise Greetham. Notably, in the field of research, the Atecopol initiative, of which Julien is also a member, promotes interactions between science and citizens and reflections on scientific activities.


As usual, we remind you that  NeuroMarseille and its laboratories have the will to get involved in changing behaviour in the face of climate issues. With its new format, Green’tips offers to disseminate information on what is being done, what can be done and raise awareness through the neuroscience community. Come back soon for a new article on good practices in laboratories! To join the NeuroGreen think-tank, write directly to

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