Sustainable Development


The United Nations’ “Sustainable Development Goals” were created to tackle worldwide environmental, social, and economic challenges. During our project, we wanted to battle all three areas and create a product with widespread integrated sustainability in mind. By talking to a broad coalition of stakeholders, we developed a holistic interpretation of how to make a positive impact on the world.

On this page, we will evaluate our project in regard to SDG3 (Good Health and Well-Being), SDG9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure) and SDG12 (Responsible Consumption and Production). We will address how the project will impact the world socially and economically and bring to you the tools we have created and considerations we have made to aid environmental impact. We believe that social and economic development is only possible alongside improvement of the environment and global climate change. With this in mind, environmental considerations were at the heart of our project.

We have created resources that will allow us to collaborate with future iGEM teams to increase international iGEM sustainability and environmental awareness. Throughout every stage of our research, we endeavour to reflect the aims of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, thoroughly and persistently.



Good health and wellbeing are at the core of CathExe. When 381 million people are pushed into extreme poverty, due to out-of-pocket medical payments, decreasing the cost of healthcare is not only essential, but lifesaving.[1] Decreasing poverty is the very first Sustainable Development Goal and, with this in mind, we strive to produce affordable and accessible medical solutions.

By reducing the likelihood of catheter associated UTIs, we aim to decrease unexpected hospitalisation and medication bills to treat unwanted infections. This would allow for catheterisation to be accessible for many individuals who may have avoided this essential healthcare due to economic anxiety. Hospitals in poorer countries would be under less economic pressure as the quantity of patients with catheter associated infections, which are unnecessarily common now, would be significantly decreased. Those who are catheterised, in and outside of hospitals, are already unwell and catheter associated comorbidities significantly impact well-being and recovery time. We aim to increase patient well-being by reducing anxiety and treatment costs.

By reducing infection risk, we aim to limit antibiotic usage in both hospital and home environments, helping to prevent antibiotic resistance. When antibiotic resistance leads to longer hospital stays, higher medical costs and increased mortality, decreasing its prevalence is globally beneficial.[2]

During our project, we spoke to Dr Eleanor Townsend, a microbiologist with research experience in preventing biofilm formation on catheters. She helped us to consider the possible implementation and administration issues, such as storage, shelf life and economic strain on the NHS. We made sure to discuss these unknowns and theorise the possible outcomes of all stages of the project, from cradle to grave. Within our environmental assessment, we analysed how many stakeholders may be affected (including staff, patients and public). Throughout our human practices consideration, we developed integrated two way conversations between experts, our lab and end users.

Click Here To See All Stakeholders


The 9th Sustainable Development Goal relates to building resilient infrastructure, promoting inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and fostering innovation.[3] Through every aspect of our project, promoting sustainable industrialisation and innovation has been of great importance.

Aware of the potential environmental implications of our research process, and synthetic biology in general, we developed a comprehensive environmental analysis template, holistically incorporating economic, environmental, and social factors. We assessed our methods in extreme detail and made choices to decrease our carbon footprint and plastic consumption moving forward. Doing this allowed our project to be more environmentally friendly and, if taken forward, our production process would be as sustainable as possible.

The stakeholders who are able to make the most difference in laboratory plastic waste/energy usage statistics are the lab users themselves. We promoted sustainable industrialisation by speaking to other lab users and placing posters accross our building, addressing ways to increase sustainability. iGEM teams are also significant stakeholders, and we hope to reach other teams in future years. We believe that our assessment could be applied to many iGEM projects and help to reduce the overall carbon footprint of the competition. Increasing awareness of our environmental impact has allowed us to make environmentally conscious decisions throughout our design process, and we hope to inspire other iGEM projects with this contribution.

Click Here To See The Full Assessment and Impact



Within any research project, ethical consumption and sustainable production should be respected. Expanding upon our work to meet SDG9, in which we promoted sustainable industrialisation, we turned our focus towards responsible consumption and production.

Alongside our environmental analysis document, we developed a series of spreadsheets and PDFs documenting our carbon footprint and plastic consumption. For two weeks, we kept track of every plastic laboratory consumable we used to analyse the responsibility of our consumption. From here we could extrapolate a value for our total plastic consumption.

Furthermore, the carbon dioxide emissions for travel of each ordered item into our lab were calculated. This assessment allowed us to reflect upon our consumption and work to reduce unnecessary usage of plastic and electricity. We created a series of posters to educate other lab users on our findings and reduce plastic consumption in our area. We encourage all iGEM teams to follow similar tracking methods to understand their environmental consumption during the project and the implications of production.

At the very beginning of our project, we met with several representatives from StarLabs, Merck and Eppendorf at a university suppliers fair. Through open discussions on sustainability, each company pointed us towards sustainable options for their consumables. From plant-oil-based plastics to high-efficiency water filters and plastic-less packaging, we were made aware of the environmentally conscious choices we should make. We wanted to take the opportunity to reduce our own contribution to climate change and educate others on sustainable consumption throughout our project.

Click Here To See The Full Review

Click here to see the rest of our sustainability journey


  1. World Health Organisation. Antibiotic resistance [Internet]. Geneva: World Health Organisation; 2023 [cited: 2023 August 15].
  2. United Nations. Goal 3 [Internet]. Department of Economic and Social Affairs; 2023 [cited: 2023 August 15].
  3. United Nations. Goal 9 [Internet]. Department of Economic and Social Affairs; 2023 [cited: 2023 August 15].