The Laboratory Efficiency Assessment Framework (LEAF) is a standard set to improve the sustainability and efficiency of laboratories and has recently been adopted by Loughborough University.
A working group of technicians has been convened to support this implementation and quick progress has been made, with three labs already submitting for Bronze accreditation.
The group is piloting a range of new sustainable practices linked to this. For example, the STEMLab and the School of Science have introduced waterless condensers in the synthetic teaching lab to replace traditional water ones, which are estimated to save more than 50,000 litres over the academic year. They have also joined Fisher Scientific’s solvent bottle recycling scheme, and the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences has purchased more efficient freezers.
However, an increasing amount of lab work also takes place on computers, and environmental sustainability needs to be demonstrated here too, with UKRI initiating this as part of their Net Zero 2040 Computing Goals project. Furthermore, the University was recently awarded funding to create a suite of DIGILabs to ensure graduates meet future wants and needs, opening up more opportunities to research areas in Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and more.
As a result of these factors, the University has signed up to a three-month pilot framework associated with LEAF that focuses on ‘dry labs’. This will support opportunities as part of the Carbon Action Planner and the University’s Climate Change and Net Zero strategic theme. They join a group of 11 other labs from across the UK that will work to embed sustainability in digital labs and improve the criteria through their learnings.
Environmental Manager Nik Hunt commented: “This is a great opportunity for Loughborough University to be in at the start of this project and to embed this in our digital labs, particularly as we develop our DIGILabs programme.”
This work supports the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 12 – Responsible Consumption and Production.