Laboratory Efficiency Assessment Framework (LEAF)

LEAF - A new approach to sustainability in laboratories at UNSW


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.

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


Toolkit submission


Auditing and feedback

October - November 

Certification results


Awards ceremony


2022 Feedback & evaluation