Laboratory Efficiency Assessment Framework (LEAF)

LEAF - A Sustainable World Starts in the Lab


The Laboratory Efficiency Assessment Framework (LEAF), is an internationally recognised accreditation that aims to improve environmental outcomes and build a culture of sustainable practice in laboratories around the world. LEAF was developed by University College London and is hosted on an online platform.

LEAF is now used across 15 countries and growing fast, with over 95 institutions registered it has quickly become one of the largest green lab accreditations globally.


In 2021, five laboratories in UNSW Science became the first in Australasia to receive LEAF accreditation as part of the UNSW LEAF pilot program. Following the success of the pilot, a University-wide rollout of LEAF took place in 2022. 22 laboratory groups joined the program with participants from across Engineering, Science, Medicine & Health, as well as the Children’s Cancer Institute and the RNA Institute. On December 1 2022, at the awards ceremony, 18 labs achieved LEAF accreditation, with 14 Bronze Awards and 4 Silver Awards. LEAF teams achieved significant savings in greenhouse gas emissions, water, laboratory expenses, as well as single-use plastics usage.

In 2023, Estate Management (EM) aims to expand LEAF even further by recruiting more laboratory groups from across UNSW faculties and achieving the first Australian Gold LEAF award.

How does it work?

LEAF involves laboratory groups making small, achievable actions to cut down their environmental impact. These can include action on single-use plastic, reducing energy-intensive processes, better management of waste and saving water. To assist in achieving these actions, groups receive support from the EM Environmental Sustainability team.

When laboratory groups are ready, they can submit an accreditation request for an Institution Administrator to review and, if the group meets the award requirements, they will receive a certificate noting the accreditation level. Participating laboratories can progress through the levels from Bronze, through Silver to Gold, or directly apply to the level of their choice.

Using in-software emission calculators, LEAF produces comparable and quantifiable data on efficiency and sustainability. This enables baselines, targets and measures to be developed for each unique lab. Equipment and behaviour data is recorded in the calculators by team members before and after participation, allowing users to see the real-world impact of their hard work.

Where to start?

To take part in LEAF, simply: 

  1. Register on the LEAF website 
  2. Follow the instructions on the user guide to get started 

Once you have registered, you will be supported by the UNSW Estate Management Environmental Sustainability team throughout the program. Contact us via

Current LEAF Awards status

Silver Awards

  • Burns Laboratory – School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences
  • Ferrari Laboratory - School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences
  • Lessio Laboratory – School of Chemistry
  • Microfluidics Laboratory Group – School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering
  • Synbiote – School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences

Bronze Awards

  • Wich Lab – School of Chemical Engineering
  • Children’s Cancer Institute – School of Clinical Medicine
  • Cornsters Laboratory – School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences
  • G005 Teaching Prep Area – School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences
  • Lan Laboratory – School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences
  • Ground floor Teaching Labs 1-4 – School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences
  • Beves / Peeks Laboratory – School of Chemistry
  • Field / Ball Laboratory – School of Chemistry
  • Hunter Laboratory – School of Chemistry
  • Synthetic Teaching Laboratory 262 – School of Chemistry
  • RNA Institute – School of Chemistry
  • Smart Materials and Surfaces Laboratory – School of Chemistry
  • Decision Neuroscience Laboratory – School of Psychology
  • Nanoporous Materials Laboratory – School of Materials Science and Engineering

Laboratories are extremely energy and resource intensive facilities. Laboratories typically use 3-10 times more energy and water per m2 than office spaces. It is also estimated that approximately 2% of the world’s plastic waste originates from life science labs alone.

With over 1000 areas designated as laboratories on campus, the overall potential environmental impact of these laboratories is significant. UNSW is committed to making science more sustainable in our research & teaching laboratories and workshops by rolling out the University-wide LEAF program.

LEAF helps build a culture of sustainability through engagement and collaboration within laboratories and with laboratories internationally. 

In a pilot program of LEAF in the UK involving 235 laboratory groups, LEAF prevented 648 metric tonnes of CO from being emitted into the atmosphere.

Introducing LEAF can also have significant financial benefits. The laboratories introducing LEAF in the UK saved on average $7500 due to their more efficient resource use, energy savings and decreased waste production.

During the 2022 LEAF program teams achieved significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, water and laboratory expenses, as well as a significant decrease in single-use plastics usage.

Registered LEAF groups have also reported improved communication and efficiency, increased staff moral and engagement, as well as the potential for increased success in grant and funding applications.

Anyone working in laboratories or workshops at UNSW can organise a team to take part in the program. LEAF is applicable to dry labs, wet labs and teaching labs. You can cover a research group within a laboratory, a whole laboratory or a group of laboratories.

  • How many people can represent a lab in LEAF?

As many of your team members as you want can participate in LEAF, however we recommend having one or two contacts responsible for data entry. Once your LEAF contacts are registered online, they can download and share the LEAF criteria with the entire team.


  • I don’t have a wet lab – is this tool appropriate?

Yes, dry labs and other workshops are more than welcome! We previously trialled LEAF in dry labs at UNSW and found that the LEAF toolkit is suitable for computer labs and workspaces. Several actions relate to managing large equipment like high-performance computing systems and monitors, as well as actions related to flexible working arrangements for dry labs to cut down on the carbon emissions from the morning commute. Please give it a go, we would love to receive your feedback!


  • The criteria are not relevant to me… what should I do?

You may find that not all the framework’s criteria relate to your work. This is okay! Briefly explaining why the criteria is not relevant to you is okay for receiving LEAF certification. We would also encourage you to make suggestions for new initiatives. You can add new actions under “Step 3, Open Initiatives” so we can track them. If you can think of new improved criteria, please let us know!


  • How does LEAF align with Health and Safety measures?

LEAF aligns with UNSW’s commitment to health and safety. One of the benefits of LEAF is that it is developed by researchers, clinicians, industry users and technicians to align with the best health, safety and biosecurity measures. The LEAF criteria are carefully selected and have been tested and implemented in more than 95 institutions worldwide in over 15 countries. LEAF actions also have relevant UNSW safety guidelines and procedures identified in the toolkit, and we will continue to work with the Health and Safety team to ensure LEAF reflects the latest measures.

Please feel free to check the guidelines and if you still have any concerns, please contact us at or raise the issue in the Teams Channel. We will ensure your concerns are addressed and may be able to find another sustainable alternative to the action.


  • Some of these changes need resources, and I can’t commit them. What should I do?

We do not expect any laboratory group to commit resources to addressing LEAF criteria and we do not want the (un)availability of resources to affect your ability to complete LEAF. If you have any concerns about resources required to complete LEAF, please raise it by contacting or raise it in the Teams channel. We do not expect you to make any cost-bearing changes. Please contact us and we will find a solution.


  • How long will it take to implement LEAF in my lab?

This varies based on the size of the lab and how it is set up. LEAF has been designed to minimise administration, whilst maximising action. Surveyed labs have indicated that they spent approximately 1-10 hours in the first year.


  • How can the EM Environmental Sustainability team support me?

The EM Environmental Sustainability team will support your team throughout the LEAF process. You decide how to organise your team and what style of communication works best for you. We provide toolkits, learning resources, training, presentations and support on request.


Team registration

May - July

Welcome and Q&A sessions

May - June

LEAF online Q&A sessions

June - July

Toolkit submission


Auditing and feedback

October - November

Certification results


Awards ceremony


2023 Feedback & evaluation