Sustainable UCL


Clear Lab, Clear Mind

Find out how Raul transformed his Chemistry lab with some simple actions and by implementing efficient systems to avoid unnecessary waste.

Raul clearing out unnecessary equipment

17 February 2020

Labs use a lot of chemicals, equipment, and consumables. Shared laboratory space, along with the high turnover of staff and students in science, can therefore lead to a build-up of old samples and chemicals. If someone is then unable to find the item they need, this can result in double ordering and wastage.

Organised labs can reap many benefits. If a lab knows what materials it has, then they can prevent double ordering and save precious grant money. An efficient lab also makes better use of available space including any cold storage needed. Along with the financial and spatial advantages, organisation is key to running a sustainable space.

When Raul Quesada Cabrera joined his current lab in Chemistry, the lab was full of junk with a fridge stocked with unlabelled ancient chemicals. There were no systems in place for chemical management or recycling, and all waste was being sent for incineration. Seizing the opportunity during a lab refurbishment, Raul and his colleagues got to work purging the lab of any unwanted, unlabelled and broken items. He also used the LEAF programme as a target level of sustainability for when the refurbishment was complete.

Not only did Raul improve the groups waste management by including recycling bins within the lab - but he also implemented some much-needed organisational systems. Users can now quickly find chemicals they need within the lab, which has proved crucial to preventing double ordering. They also have a system to keep track of chemicals when users leave the lab and sustainability as best practice is now ingrained in the user induction. Better booking systems for equipment have also ensured more efficient use of the lab's facilities.

Raul also found that running a more efficient lab led to users performing better and delivering on a higher calibre of scientific investigation. By having a more professional environment, users were encouraged to have more respect for their work and to take it seriously. The organisation of the lab allowed work to run smoothly and efficiently.

Knowing what you have and organising your lab is a key part of LEAF - the sustainable labs framework. If you are a member of UCL staff and you need help to organise your lab space, or wish to engage with LEAF - let us know via our contact page and we’ll be in touch!