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Green labs go global with LEAF

From Edinburgh to Antarctica, sustainable practices are becoming the norm in labs across the world thanks to the Laboratory Efficiency Assessment Framework (LEAF). UCL sustainable lab specialist Matthew Bennett looks at the secrets of its success.

The Laboratory Efficiency Assessment Framework (LEAF), developed at UCL, is helping to advance sustainable operations and research in laboratories across the globe. Now in use across 55 research organisations, LEAF is quickly becoming the recognised framework for sustainability in laboratories, both in the UK and further afield.

Following the success of our LEAF pilots in UK universities, UCL developed an online software platform to host the framework which we released in February 2021. We now have 34 UK universities and a further 10 UK research organisations using the platform. LEAF has already reached seven EU countries and labs as far as Australia and Antarctica are using the framework to improve sustainability in laboratories.  

Carbon intensive

So why is LEAF proving so popular? We know that labs have a significant environmental impact. They are carbon intensive spaces resulting from high resource consumption. Researchers, facility managers, technicians and sustainability managers alike are looking for ways to minimise the environmental impacts of lab functions to combat the climate emergency.

LEAF provides non-prescriptive specialist guidance allowing users to focus efforts in key areas impacting their lab sustainability performance. Our LEAF calculators crucially allow the impact of actions taken to be estimated, providing data on carbon reduction and financial savings. These tools, coupled with the institutional mapping provided through the online platform, facilitate effective action and assessment, bridging the gap between lab activities and sustainability performance. By broadening access to knowledge of lab sustainability improvements, LEAF is accelerating action to reduce the environmental impacts of laboratory research.

Minimised admin

Throughout our development of LEAF, we have maintained a focus on minimising administration. The tool is designed to support science, share and maximise actions to improve sustainability, and provide key metrics without creating an administrative burden for its users or facilitators. To further assist the growing LEAF community, in 2021, we produced a number of useful guides and brought new features to the platform. We have been working hard on further developments which will be brought to LEAF in 2022, it is an exciting time and rewarding to see the way LEAF is helping our community.  

A major highlight of 2021 was news that the Medical Research Council (MRC) was joining the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) in adopting LEAF in their laboratories. This UKRI article highlights their challenge and how LEAF will be used to support sustainability across MRC institutes.

All seven SES universities are using LEAF to support sustainability in our labs, as described in a previous post. We would love to highlight some further successes so please get in touch to let us know how LEAF is helping you.