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Sustainable UCL

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Why does science need LEAF?

What is the sustainability challenge for science, and how can LEAF help?

Laboratory based research is fundamental to addressing global challenges, from the climate emergency to pandemics. However, with the growing urgency to mitigate our impact on the natural environment, we must also recognise the significant environmental impacts of laboratory-based research.

Laboratories are resource intensive; utilising significant amounts of energy and water to run equipment and maintain environmental conditions (a typical lab will consume 3-10 times more energy per m2 than standard office spaces). Unlike with Health & Safety regulations, there is a lack of standards in place providing simple guidance on how to make labs more environmentally sustainable.

LEAF has been developed to address this lack of standards. It is user-friendly with low administration, ensuring there is enough time for the science at hand. It is unique in that it combines both research quality with sustainability good practice, in recognition that reproducible research is sustainable research. LEAF’s calculators enable users to estimate their impacts immediately, and its supporting resources provide the technical expertise to take meaningful action.

Crucially, LEAF is user-driven and non-profit – users are encouraged to feedback on how the programme may be improved. No manufacturers, suppliers, or commercial entities have input in LEAF’s contents, process, or materials.

Should the uptake and reception of LEAF be positive, we look forward to generating new versions of LEAF for specialist laboratory spaces, watch this space.

As funders are taking action in driving sustainability into science, and institutions work towards impressive carbon targets, we hope LEAF can serve as a means of getting us where we need to be a bit quicker!

Further reading on green labs