INTEGRATED HUMAN PRACTICES OVERVIEW
The inspiration for our project was drawn from the previous phase 2 project and we therefore continued carrying the core value of preserving marine life, SDG 14, in our human practice work. Additionally, in the light of the latest IPCC report as well as the upcoming COP 26 in Glasgow, our human practice activities and the project was more important than ever. Through the conduction of stakeholder interviews, our sunscreen surveys, collaborations and educational efforts we integrated our human practices into our project and showcased the significance of our work for the world.
We responded to our human practice work by:
Integrating expert knowledge from our stakeholder interviews into our project and product development
Conducting a survey to assess the general public’s knowledge about issues raised in interviews as well as determining how good of a solution Shinescreen would be for the same issues
Create educational material and deliver lectures to close the knowledge gap in the general public about sunscreens and the impact on the environment
Stakeholder interviews shaped the way we thought about our entrepreneurial work, especially our interview with Rick Babel, CEO of Mama Kuleana and Ingmar Claes, Chief Scientific Officer at YUN cosmetics. Our interview with Dr Miguel Barbosa demonstrated that our project is a vital part of the bigger picture of combating climate change and affected the way we communicated our educational material as well as its development.
Sunscreen case study was used to engage with the general public and what knowledge they had about the topic of sunscreens and coral bleaching. Moreover, we collaborated with local initiatives at the university to raise awareness about coral bleaching.
We also engaged with society through educational activities aimed at primary school children and, mom and baby groups, which was a part of our education and communication programme as well.
Meeting with Ingmar Claes, Chief Scientific Officer at YUN cosmetics
YUN cosmetics is a Belgium based cosmetic company that makes probiotic creams to prevent acne. We met with Ingmar Claes, the Chief Scientific Officer at YUN cosmetics to discuss their production and what challenges they had faced when launching their product. We also asked questions about what we should think about when developing Shinescreen.
Ingmar kindly shared his and the companies experience. He told that one of the major challenges during production was maintaining stability and shelf-life as they were dealing with live bacteria. To solve this, they used a micro-encapsulating method, something that we got a greater insight into during the interview. The method could be something we could adapt later into our project later. We also started looking into other possible methods such as freeze-drying.
In terms of formula, Ingmar urged us to think about how we would achieve a certain SPF factor, for our sunscreen, as European regulations often require sunscreens to have a sufficient SPF level. For example, if we wanted our sunscreen to have a lower SPF factor tailored for daily use or if we wanted to try to achieve a higher SPF factor, which would be more difficult.
The interview also emphasized the importance of biosafety, especially when dealing with live bacteria, making us very conscious of the way we operated in the lab. Moreover, it reiterated the importance of our kill-switch to prevent bacteria from escaping into the environment.
Moreover, he told us about the skin microbiome and that we already have bacteria on our skin and other factors on the skin that we should try to consider.
Another question we asked was about how the public responded to their launch, I.e. if they received any criticism or scepticism when using probiotics. He told us that they expected there to be some criticism but that in the end most people had a very positive attitude towards their product, and they did not face any major backlash that impacted YUN cosmetics. A positive sign for our product.
The interview, therefore, encouraged us to reflect on the sunscreen product and shaped the way we thought about the future development steps of the product. It made us aware of factors in production we have not thought about before such as shelf-life and different SPF factors. This was later incorporated into our entrepreneurial when identifying issues and improvements.
Interview with Rick Babel, CEO of Mama Kuleana
The interview with Rick Babel, the CEO of the marine-friendly sunscreen company Mama Kuleana based in Hawaii, had a more entrepreneurial focus and shaped the way we marketed our product in our hypothetical campaign.
The interview gave us an understanding that from his point of view, the marine-friendly sunscreen market all had a common goal, to protect the environment, making the market relatively non-competitive. It further established that Shinescreen could have a good chance of succeeding if it would be launched.
The interview made us also realise that local communities in for example Hawaii, are very aware of the threats towards the corals and that one of the main sources for their decline is the tourists that visit and who use environmentally damaging sunscreens. Rick continued on suggesting that tourists should be made aware before arriving about the state of the coral's reefs and the importance of environmental-friendly sunscreens. For instance as informational videos on the aeroplane. Therefore we decided to include tourists as their own key customer group in our marketing plan and when making advertisement for our product.
He also mentioned that the only active formula to confer UV protection that is marine friendly, at this time was non-nano- zinc oxide, something we later looked into as a possibility to incorporate into our sunscreen.
Lastly, he gave us advice on being as transparent as possible with the process and use raw products.
Interview with Dr Miguel Barbosa, Marine Biologist and Lecturer at the University of St Andrews
We met with Dr Miguel Barbosa on teams to discuss the importance of our project globally and what we as individuals could. Dr Miguel Barbosa is a marine biologist and lecturer at the University of St Andrews and his main research focus areas are within evolution, ecology and behaviour and how species react to environmental changes. He quickly established that our project is valuable as it is a part of the bigger picture to raise awareness about the threats that the environment faces, but that the big villain to changes in climate and the marine environment is the emissions of carbon dioxide. He continued on explaining that our efforts are good but that in order for us to make more significant change we must change the way we live, for example reduce our consumption of meat and use modes of transport that emits less carbon dioxide. The meeting was very informative and valuable as we learned that increasing temperatures is the biggest threat to the marine environment and corals. The increase in temperatures for example cause algae to stop giving energy to the coral which is vital for the coral’s survival. He also emphasized that there is no one single stressor to the environment, instead it is the sum of all the stressors ,such as temperature, plastics and ocean acidification, that creates a greater detrimental impact than each of them individually. In his opinion, Nano-plastics and microplastics are the most hamful when it comes to plastic due to that it goes up the food chain. When we asked him what he thought we as individuals could do to protect the marine environment he said we need to change our lives and habits, live more sustainably. Moreover, he highlighted that as scientists we should not focus one single solution, instead we should focus on several solutions.
The last thing we spoke to him about was outreach and he made us aware of that there is a fine balance between scaring the general public and raising awareness, something which we thought about when developing our education and outreach program. It also impacted the way we communicated when giving out educational material and presentations. We decided to have a more optimistic tone and focus on possible solutions and raise awareness through that way rather than scare the audience with only dooming data.
The interview made us aware that our project is essential for both the world and individuals as it is a part of a bigger picture to save the world from climate change. However, we need to address the bigger problems such as carbon emission and try to change our lives to minimize the release of these emissions. Furthermore, the interview reiterated the importance of our education and communication to raise awareness to the general public. This prompted us to continue on the sunscreen case study from last year to assess the general public’s awareness and developing educational material.
SUNSCREEN CASE STUDY
In order to engage with the general public to find out their attitude to towards using probiotics in cosmetics and their awareness of the environmental damaging impacts sunscreen can have on the marine environment, we conducted a survey. The name of the survey was “Evaluating public awareness of the effects of toxic ingredients in sunscreens and their effects, attitudes and perception on probiotic sunscreens, and knowledge about synthetic biology”.
From the results of the survey (seen below) we found that there is a lack of knowledge of what effect sunscreens have on the environment and that there is a need for better communication. Consequently, we decided to develop an educational initiative targeting different age groups to close this knowledge gap and accommodate the need for better resources.
We also found that our solution to minimize the effect sunscreens have on corals through Shinescreen could be a viable option, as there was shown to be an interest in purchasing environmental sunscreens as well as probiotics once.
Below the results, the questions asked for the survey is displayed as well as the results. There is also a shorter discussion and conclusion part containing the main findings and how they impact our iGEM project.
Q1 - What age group do you belong to?
Figure 1. What age group the survey takers belonged to expressed as a percentage.
Q2 - Which city are you currently living in?
Figure 2. Visual picture of what city the survey takers lived at the time of taking the survey.
Q3 - How often do you use sunscreen?
Figure 3. Percentage of survey takers using sunscreen daily, weekly, monthly or other.
Q4 - If other please explain when you use sunscreen. (For example, during the summer months or on holidays)
Answers were grouped according to the nature of the response. Answers relating to weather were highlighted purple, answers relating to weather were highlighted blue and answers relating to holidays were highlighted green. Some answers contained two or more sub answers in the different groups, hence they have several parts highlighted in different colors.
Q5 - Which brand of sunscreen do you normally use?
Table 1. Brands people use who took the survey. Some responses included more than one brand.
Q6 - What is the price of your usual sunscreen?
What is the price of your usual sunscreen ?
Q7 - To what extent would you agree with the following statements?
Figure 4. Number of people answering strongly disagree, disagree, somewhat disagree, neutral, somewhat agree, agree or strongly agree when given 3 different statements. Red is “Human activity affects the environment adversely”, Purple is “Coral reefs are declining and their disappearance can be detrimental” and Blue is “The government/organisations effectively communicate about environmental problems and its solutions”.
Q8 - How aware are you of the following statements:
Figure 5. Number of people answering aware, somewhat aware or not aware when given 3 statements.
Q9 - Would you be interested in buying an environmentally friendly sunscreen?
Figure 6. Number of people who would be interested in purchasing an environmental sunscreen.
Q10 - How familiar are you with the following terms:
Figure 7. Number of people who answered not familiar at all, somewhat familiar and very familiar when asked how familiar they are to the terms “synthetic biology” and “probiotics”.
Q11 - How comfortable do you feel about scientific research being carried out via synthetic biology?
Figure 8. Number of people answering very comfortable, somewhat comfortable, neither comfortable nor uncomfortable, somewhat comfortable or very comfortable when asked how comfortable they would be with scientific research carried out via synthetic biology.
Q12 - Please state any concerns you have about synthetic biology
Q13 - Would you purchase consumable products made via synthetic biology? (For example, different types of pharmaceuticals)
Figure 9. Percentage of survey takers that would be would, would not or might purchase consumable products made via synthetic biology.
Q14 - Would you be willing to purchase and use a probiotic sunscreen if they were approved by the relevant medical and governmental bodies / organizations? (Reminder: probiotic means that the sunscreen would contain living organisms)
Figure 10. Percentage of survey takers that would want to or not want to buy a probiotic sunscreen.
Q15- Would you have any concerns about using a probiotic sunscreen? (Such as usage, health, dangers, etc.)
Figure 10. Percentage of survey takers that would want to or not want to buy a probiotic sunscreen.
Q16 - How much would you be willing to pay for it? (In GBP)
Price of normal sunscreen, maybe a bit more at the start
Up to £7
In total, we received 39 responses with the majority living in St Andrews (Figure 2. ) and in the age group 18-25 (Figure 1.).
The survey questions were divided into parts, one part asking general questions about environmental problems and how aware they were of sunscreen's impact on the environment, and the second part about their attitude towards synthetic biology, probiotic sunscreens and sunscreen habits.
The survey revealed to our team that there would most likely be an interest in Shinescreen as all survey takers would be interested in buying an environmentally friendly sunscreen (Figure 6.). The majority would also be interested in buying a probiotic sunscreen (Figure 10.). There is therefore an interest in Shinescreen and it is worth pursuing the idea and project. In addition, based on the answers given when asked when people use sunscreen, most people answered during holidays, which reiterates the need to market environmental sunscreens to tourists as their own target group.
Nevertheless, the majority of survey takers were either uncertain or would not want to buy consumable products made via synthetic biology.
The majority who chose to answer the question if they had any concerns about probiotic sunscreen had no concerns surrounding it, which again is in our favour if we would try to launch the product. The concerns that were expressed were mostly health and skin concerns such as if the sunscreen would provide sufficient protection or if it would cause any side effects, which is something we will think about when we develop our product further after the iGEM competition.
Similarly, there were few concerns regarding the use of synthetic biology when researching, the majority felt very comfortable with synthetic biology research (Figure 8.). However, some concerns were raised, mainly around ethics and if synthetic biology research could impact the ecosystem. We thus thought it was very important to have safety measures when working in the lab and have ethical questions in mind when dealing with the production of Shinorine.
Lastly, we asked the survey takers how familiar they were with different terms and how aware they were about environmental impacts caused by sunscreens. The majority answered either agree or strongly disagree when being given the statement “Human activity affects the environment adversely” and “Coral reefs are declining and their disappearance is detrimental”. However, the majority answered either strongly disagree or somewhat disagree when given the statement “The government/organisation effectively communicate about environmental problems and its solutions” (Figure 4.) When asked if people were aware of the damage sunscreens can have on the environment the majority of the survey takers answered “not aware” (Figure.5). Most survey takers were not aware familiar, or somewhat familiar, with the term “synthetic biology”. Additionally, the majority were familiar or somewhat familiar with the term “probiotics” (Figure. 7). These results show that there is a lack of knowledge when it comes to synthetic biology and the effect sunscreens can have on the environment. There is also an indication that more effective communication about environmental problems needs to be presented.
Our idea of producing educational material arose from our stakeholder interviews with Rick Babel and Dr Barbosa, as both of them highlighted the urgency of raising awareness of the threats to the climate and corals. We also recognized the role of education and communication from last year’s project’s research about the negative effects of sunscreen. In addition, we found through our survey that the majority believed that governments and organisations do not communicate effectively about environmental problems and solutions, and that there is a lack of knowledge about the effect of sunscreen on the marine environment by the general public. Thus we wanted to make our educational material as easily understandable as possible as well as direct to inform people. We, therefore, participated in King College London’s synthetic biology competition called “Biologix” and the University of Manchester’s podcast “The Living Revolution” to teach and discuss the applications of synthetic biology. Biologix was a great opportunity for us to teach about environmental problems and how solutions to them can be found using synthetic biology for high schoolers. High schoolers were a good target age as they are a part of the generation that can help shape the world and solve environmental problems in the future. We also believed that participating in Manchester’s podcast would be a great way to reach the general republic and close the knowledge gap between sunscreens, the negative ways they affect the environment and their solutions.
We made educational material aimed at mom and baby groups and tried to make the graphics and text as simple as possible. It was done in order for the reader to easily understand the issues with sunscreens on the marine environment and how they can be solved. We ended up uploading it on our Facebook as well to spread the message to the general public.
Lastly, we also collaborated with University of St Andrews’ Public engagement department to reach a larger audience with our message about preserving the marine environment. With the help of Calum McAndrew we created an informative animated video about coral bleaching which can be found here: Coral
The main factors which can have both positive and negative impacts on the success of our sunscreen are social factors relating to trends and opinions of the use of GMO and probiotics, Economic factors such as a global recession and household income, and Political factors like bans on other sunscreen ingredients. As these factors are highly variable it is important that we keep tracking them to be aware of the status quo and find the right time to launch Shinescreen, as well as incorporating strategies for them in our business plan and SMART goals.