Laboratory Efficiency Assessment Framework (LEAF)

LEAF - A new approach to sustainability in laboratories at UNSW

LEAF Logo

The Laboratory Efficiency Assessment Framework (LEAF), is an internationally recognised certification that helps build a culture of sustainability with improved engagement and collaboration in laboratories around the world. The LEAF framework is hosted on an online software platform developed by the University College London to improve sustainability in laboratories. 

LEAF has quickly spread in the higher education sector and is now used across 12 countries and 70 institutions including Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial, University of Exeter, and many more.

LEAF pilot at UNSW 

In 2021, five laboratories in the Faculty of Science at UNSW became the first in Australasia to receive LEAF certification as part of the UNSW LEAF pilot program. Following the success of the pilot, Estate Management decided to expand the program to the entire University.

In 2022, the LEAF certification program will run from July to December with registration now open. The LEAF certificate will include the year it was awarded and depending on the needs of the laboratory, re-certification can be sought every one to three years.  

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.

When laboratory groups are ready, they can submit an accreditation request for an Institution Administrator to review and, if the group is eligible, the system will generate 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.

By using the in-tool calculators, LEAF produces comparable and quantifiable data on efficiency and sustainability, enabling baselines, targets, and measures to be developed. Calculators are completed by team members before and after participation.

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 environmental impact of these laboratories is significant. UNSW is committed to making science more sustainable in our research and teaching laboratories and workshops by rolling out the University-wide LEAF program.

LEAF is an internationally recognised certification that helps build a culture of sustainability with improved 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 CO₂ from being emitted into the atmosphere.

Introducing LEAF can also have significant financial benefits. The laboratories introducing LEAF in UK gained a financial benefit, energy savings, and decreased waste production.By participating you can do the same and be supporting UNSW in achieving its Environmental Sustainability goals. 

Anyone working in laboratories or workshops at UNSW can organise a team that can cover a research group within a laboratory, a whole laboratory, or group laboratories. 

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 EM Environmental Sustainability team throughout the program. You can also contact us here for more information.

  • How many people can represent a lab in LEAF?

As many of your team members as you want can participate in LEAF, but 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?

We are committed to ensuring LEAF aligns with our commitment to health and safety at UNSW. 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 70 institutions worldwide in over 12 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 LEAFlabs@unsw.edu.au 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 (non)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 LEAFlabs@unsw.edu.au 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.

 

Team recruitment

June - July

Welcome and Q&A session #1

25 July

Welcome and Q&A session #2

27 July

LEAF team showcase and Q&A #3

TBC

Toolkit submission

October

Auditing and feedback

October - November 

Certification results

November

Awards ceremony

November

2022 Feedback & evaluation

December