How to be a Sustainable Researcher

1 December 2020

There are loads of ways in which you can be a sustainable researcher. Communications Officer at Sustainable UCL, Chiara tells us more.

pipette with pipette holder

Do you love your research but are worried about the impact your work might have on the environment? Here are our top tips for being a sustainable researcher:


LEAF is a tool that helps researchers, staff, and students improve the sustainability and efficiency of their laboratories. The LEAF pilot conducted in 2018/19 showed that participants saved a total of 620 tonnes of carbon and 98% of participants said that they would use LEAF again, so what are you waiting for?

Join Green Impact

If you are working in an office, join Green Impact. The Green Impact Scheme is a UCL-wide environmental competition and accreditation scheme that allows students and staff to improve their environmental impact. The scheme is based on an online interactive workbook that gives participants the opportunity to engage in sustainability actions. At the end of the year, your progress is celebrated at a Sustainability Awards Ceremony!

Research sustainability

From researching students’ recycling patterns to Antarctica’s underwater ice sheets, the opportunities for research on sustainability are endless. Almost any field of study can contribute valuable insights. Have a look at UCL’s Institutional Research Information Service (IRIS) to be inspired by researchers and projects. Once you have a research idea, why not take it to campus? UCL has adopted a “Living Lab” approach that actively encourages researchers to use the university campus and operations as a test bed for their research.

Make using big data more sustainable

Working with big data is a powerful research tool, but it also has a high energy use associated with the required computing power.  Learn how to optimise your code to reduce energy use through one of UCL ISD’s research computing courses.

Optimise travel

Connecting with other organisations is an important part of being a researcher. At the same time, organisational travel is the 3rd largest source of carbon emissions for UCL. Consider attending conferences virtually or travelling by train where possible. We have been working with our booking provider, Key Travel, to display information on the carbon emissions of different modes of transport as you make your booking. See our travel resources page for information on how to make a Global Impact without the Global Footprint.

Last revised: 7 September 2021.

Chiara Morfeo, Communications Officer, UCL Sustainability