The Open Access Laboratory in the Materials Innovation Factory has become the first lab at the University to achieve the prestigious Laboratory Efficiency and Assessment Framework (LEAF) Gold Award Accreditation for its concerted efforts towards creating a more sustainable laboratory.
What is LEAF?
LEAF is a green initiative developed by University College London (UCL) to improve the efficiency and sustainability of laboratories and technical workspaces. In 2021 the University piloted LEAF in 20 labs and since late 2022, LEAF has been adopted as the sustainability standard for all laboratories on campus. LEAF consists of actions which lab users can take to save plastics, water, energy and other resources. The LEAF initiative aligns with the principles and commitments set out in our Climate Plan and contributes to many of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The Open Access Lab (OAL) in the Materials Innovation Factory (MIF) received LEAF Gold Award Accreditation for meeting the 43 distinct criteria organized around specific sustainability themes.
To achieve this prestigious honour, technicians and academic staff demonstrated exemplary practices, including monitoring and analysing energy consumption within the lab. Using a data-driven approach empowered staff to make informed decisions to optimise energy usage and identify inefficiencies, leading to evidence-based improvements in sustainability measures.
Jon Mercer, Programme Director at the Materials Innovation Factory, said: “Securing external funding has allowed us to implement a number of schemes to help reduce our energy use, however we still needed an approach to help engage and empower both our team and MIF users. LEAF fitted this bill perfectly by providing a, tried and tested structure to drive improvement. I am delighted that the efforts of the MIF team have been recognised; being the first on campus to receive this award is a fantastic achievement and celebrates a commitment to making our operations more sustainable.“
The accreditation marks a significant milestone in our journey towards fostering eco-friendly practices and reducing the environmental footprint of the University.
Among the various campus facilities that underwent evaluation, the Central Teaching Laboratory (CTL) also received the Silver Award for its commendable sustainability efforts.
Pilot success report
Laboratory Sustainability Officer, Jenna Lowe took part in the pilot for the Institute of Infection, Veterinary and Ecological Sciences and worked towards completing the framework for laboratories in the Department of Infection Biology and Microbiome, which gained the bronze award in September 2021. Once the pilot was complete, the University signed up to the framework and has been actively encouraging all laboratories and workshops to join, to help drive our sustainability agenda and support the Climate Plan.
In August 2022, Jenna met with the founding director of the National Technician’s Development Centre (NTDC), Terry Croft, to give her personal perspective on the LEAF pilot, talking about her experience and wider engagement. The report titled ‘NTDC/LEAF – Contributing to a Net Zero Campus: A Technician’s Perspective’ includes observations from Jenna, as well as technicians across the other universities that took part in the pilot.
In the report, Jenna praises staff engagement with sustainable practices at Liverpool, but concedes that there is scope to do more, highlighting the goal for all labs in the University to achieve bronze accreditation by September 2023.
Jenna said: “I had been keen to improve sustainable practises in the labs so when the opportunity arose to take part in the LEAF pilot I jumped at the chance. Having the framework available with clear directions and goals to work towards made the process very easy to engage with. When reaching out to other lab users within the University they have all really engaged with the framework and are keen to make changes and share best practises. We only need small changes in behaviour to make a huge impact and I believe that following the steps outlined in the framework will help us get towards the University sustainability goals.”
Jenna has recently taken on a two-year post to manage the LEAF programme and get it implemented in all laboratories and workshops. “In this new role I will be able to dedicate my time to LEAF and it’s roll out across the university and I will also be working with the University Sustainability team to make sustainable changes across the University. I am very honoured to have been given this opportunity and I am excited to see what the next two years hold.”
Find out more
The early success of the LEAF program at Liverpool has inspired many other labs to join the initiative, resulting in all levels of the award now represented in labs within the university. There are still some labs which can still be accredited and are encouraged to sign up for the LEAF program to make a collective impact on sustainability.
Find out more about LEAF, including to begin the accreditation process for your lab.