Sustainable UCL


New pilot aims to make UK labs greener and more efficient

31 October 2018

A new pilot project aims to help laboratories save time and carbon, by collecting data to make major efficiency savings. The pilot is being led by UCL, and aims to provide a means for sector-wide improvements. 

Image of UCL lab

The LEAF (Laboratory Efficiency Assessment Framework) is going to be piloted in ≈15 UK universities this year, having already been tested at UCL and Kings College London. It’s a tool containing a set of criteria aimed at improving the sustainability and efficiency of research laboratory spaces. Such spaces include typical wet laboratories, science teaching spaces, and IT research laboratories. The framework is aligned with research interests and hopes to be able to produce clear reproducible results in the pilot year.

UCL’s Sustainability Director Richard Jackson said:

“To achieve our sustainability goals as a university, UCL must consider our laboratory research environments. We’re really excited to launch the LEAF tool at UCL and beyond, and hope to set the standard for sustainable research in the future.”

In the test phase at UCL and Kings, the LEAF project indicated that significant savings, both financial and in terms of carbon, could be made. Savings came from reduced energy consumption, reduced procurement/waste, and empowering users to develop their own solutions around sustainability.  Crucially, LEAF produces metrics on savings, thus allowing baselines, targets, and measures to be developed. One day, we hope that such metrics will help funding bodies understand which labs are best able to integrate sustainable practices, in the hope that this facilitates systemic improvements.

Research funds often come with good intent to help cure diseases or tackle large scale problems. With this good intent comes the responsibility of not conducting research in ways that further pollute our environment unnecessarily, and it is for this reason in particular that LEAF is being developed.

If you would like to use LEAF to make your lab more sustainable, please get in touch with UCL's Sustainable Labs Advisor, Martin Farley at m.farley@ucl.ac.uk.