LEAF Lab Grants

Apply for grant funding to implement sustainability initiatives in your lab

LEAF lab grants are available to teams registered in the LEAF program only. Apply for grants of up to $1000 to implement a sustainability initiative in your laboratory that meets the grant criteria. Complete a short proposal form describing your initiative and email it to LEAFlabs@unsw.edu.au. See the 2023 case studies of successful LEAF lab grant initiatives below. 

LEAF lab grant applications are currently open. Download & complete the proposal form. Email the completed form to LEAFlabs@unsw.edu.au. LEAF administration will directly contact applicants with results. The final date to submit a LEAF lab grant proposal is June 30, 2024.

Case studies - 2023

In 2023, 14 LEAF lab grants were awarded to LEAF teams. Read more about these initiatives and their impact below. 

Equipment tap on/off system

LEAF team: Australian National Fabrication Facility

School/unit: Electrical Engineering & Telecommunications

Initiative:

ANFF have invented a tap on/off system, which turns on equipment or tools by tapping a UNSW student/staff card on a RF reader. After use, equipment is turned off by repeating the process. ANFF have used their LEAF grant to build and install 10 more of the tap on/off systems, generally on equipment with screens or a pump. The now system has a summary screen in the ANFF office, displaying the status of all equipment in the tap on/off system. It can also be used to track lab users and hold them accountable for failing to turn equipment off.

Impact:

  • Energy savings are being achieved by ensuring equipment, screens, tool components or tools are turned off when not in use.
  • The life of components is being prolonged through efficient usage. For example, the system extends the life and maintenance cycle of pumps, microscope lamps don't need to be replaced as frequently, etc.
  • Increased visibility and tracking of equipment use.
  • Encourages sustainable lab user behaviour.
tap on off

BABS lab swap day

LEAF team: Teaching labs 11, 12 and prep space

School/unit: Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences

Initiative:

This grant funded the running of a lab swap event on October 19 in the School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences. Leading up to the event, the initiative was advertised and donated equipment and consumables were shipped to a clean PC2 lab for storage. Then, during the lab swap, participants were ferried to the storage room to pick out items they could use in their work. Help was available to transport items and transfer items within Jaggaer.

Impact:

  • A total of 20 different groups within BABS participated in the BABS Lab Swap Day. Post-event there were also additional beneficiaries in SBMS, CVEN and Biomedical engineering.
  • More than $60,000 worth of consumables, reagents and equipment were redirected towards productive uses.
BABS morning tea

 

Contact lens recycling pilot

LEAF team: OPTOM Preclinical Lab

School/unit: Optometry & Vision Science

Initiative:

OPTOM Preclinical Lab partnered with UNSW SMaRT Microrecyling Centre and Optometry Australia to initiate the first worldwide contact lens and packaging recycling pilot. To develop the most efficient and cost-effective recycling system it is essential to understand the components that make up contact lenses and their packaging. This LEAF grant is funding the testing of expired contact lenses in the UNSW Mark Wainwright Analytical Centre using mass spectrometry. Expected to be completed by June 2024, UNSW SMaRT Microrecyling Centre will use this information to devise a recycling protocol that can be upscaled for contact lens wearers to donate lenses and packaging to reduce their environmental impact.

Impact:

  • Substantially contributed to ongoing research devising a scalable, sustainable recycling system for contact lenses and their packaging.

Sustainable changes for Lab 210

LEAF team: Refrigeration and Energy Storage Lab

School/unit: Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering

Initiative:

This grant was used to purchase products and services that improved the sustainability of the Refrigeration and Energy Storage Lab (210), including:

  • A hard drive to free up space in shared equipment computers.
  • Printing signatures, labels and Green Chemistry posters to encourage eco-friendly lab practices.
  • Organising a LEAF workshop and information event within MME to encourage staff interest in sustainability.
  • Replacing single-use plastic tubes with washable glass bottles for electrolyte storage.
  • Purchasing a scanner for chemical storage management.

Impact:

  • Reduced use of single-use plastic consumables.
  • Extended the life and storage capacity of laboratory computers and reduced e-waste.
  • Promoted sustainable lab practices and encouraged more users to consider their environmental impact.
  • 50% of technical staff that attended the workshop are now intending to register for the LEAF program.

School of Chemistry beach clean

LEAF team: Lessio Lab

School/unit: Chemistry

Initiative:

The Lessio lab used their LEAF grant to run a beach clean-up event in the School of Chemistry. The activity was held on November 23 at Coogee beach. The event ran as a rubbish collecting competition with prizes, resulting in a bonding and education opportunity for all involved groups.

Impact:

  • Removed waste and pollution from Coogee beach.
  • Encouraged and rewarded positive environmental custodianship.
  • Helping to develop a community of sustainable lab users in the School of Chemistry.

Sustainable consumable usage in Ferrari Lab

LEAF team: Ferrari Lab

School/unit: Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences

Initiative:

This grant funded multiple small initiatives to reduce the volume of consumables used in the Ferrari lab. Such as:

  • A cabinet to facilitate order unpacking before entering the lab. Allowing easier recycling of packaging material, consolidation of consumables and tracking of consumption.
  • Sterilisation baskets to facilitate the washing of used pipette tips, Falcon tubes, and Eppendorf tubes in the dishwasher. This allows the lab users to reuse single-use plastic items and reduce purchasing.
  • Purchasing BioBased Eppendorf tubes as an alternative to single-use Falcon tubes. These are produced from recycled feedstock, waste from cooking oil production, and used cooking oil.

Impact:

  • Recyclable waste entering the lab has been reduced, particularly cardboard boxes and soft plastics.
  • Improved efficiency in how the lab purchases and tracks single-use materials.
  • Dishwashing consumables rather than manual washing has reduced water usage.
  • Consumable washing has significantly reduced plastic waste generated from the most common lab consumables (pipette tips and tubes).
  • The Biobased tubes (made from 90% renewable resources) have decreased the scope 3 emissions associated with Ferrari Lab's consumables procurement.
Consumables cabinet

Sustainable changes for J17 Solar Lab

LEAF team: Solar Lab

School/unit: Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering

Initiative:

This grant was used to purchase products and services that improved the sustainability of the J17 Solar Lab, including:

  • Wall mounted brochure holders for chemical labels and signs.
  • Calibration of the laboratory's weighing balances.
  • A mesh trolley to collect and transport polystyrene and soft plastics waste from all MME labs to recycling collection points.

Impact:

  • The improved visibility of chemical labels is helping foster a culture of awareness and responsibility among lab users.
  • Correctly calibrated balances are helping ensure a higher standard of accuracy for future experiments and reducing the wasted resources associated with failed experiments.
  • In its first 3 weeks, the trolley has been used to recycle 515g of large polystyrene pieces, 7g of small polystyrene packing peanuts and 677g of clear plastic.

Sample tracking and battery reuse scheme

LEAF team: SEACS

School/unit: Biological, Earth & Environmental Sciences

Initiative:

To improve the sustainability of their research, the SEACS lab have used their LEAF grant to:

  • Set up a battery recharge station, with separate boxes for charged, uncharged and non-rechargeable batteries.
  • Implemented a sample metadata system. This system requires all projects to have completed metadata sheets, containing information on the project, samples and methods used to collect samples. A Brother QL-800 printer was purchased to label each bag/box with a QR code that links this metadata to the labs OneDrive, allowing samples to be reused for other projects.
  • Implemented a sample database for their freezers and formalin store.

Impact:

  • Improved lab efficiency by enabling samples to be reused.
  • Reduced freezer energy usage by lowering the frequency and length of time freezers are opened.
  • Improved labelling is enabling the lab to dispose of unnecessarily stored samples.
  • Have demonstrated a sustainable sample management system for other research groups to implement.
  • Reduced the volume of batteries disposed each year.

Soft plastic collection bin

LEAF team: Kirby Institute

School/unit: Medical Sciences

Initiative:

The Kirby Institute laboratory produces a significant amount of soft plastics waste, through their use of laboratory consumables. They used their LEAF grant to improve their current soft plastics recycling collection point with the purchase of a 240L SULO bin (made form 80% recycled material) and improved signage.

Impact:

  • Allows the laboratory to divert a meaningful amount of clinical waste from landfill and incineration.
  • Encourages sustainable practices with lab staff.

Replacing single use reservoir trays with reuseable alternative

LEAF team: Children’s Cancer Institute

School/unit: Clinical Medicine

Initiative:

CCI was disposing approximately 138kg per year in single use reservoir trays alone. Many of the laboratory research groups were interested in switching to a reusable alternative if they were made available. CCI have used their LEAF grant to replace single use plastic reservoir trays in the lab with reusable reservoirs trays that are washed and sterilised between uses.

Impact:

  • Reduced the volume of laboratory waste heading to landfill or incineration.
  • Allowed for transition to reusable autoclavable bags instead of paper bags, reducing the purchasing of single use consumables.
  • Promoted sustainable practices with lab users.

Replacing plastic labware with reuseable alternatives

LEAF team: SOVS - PC2 Microbiology Lab

School/unit: Optometry & Vision Science

Initiative:

This LEAF grant funded the purchasing of re-usable lab consumables to replace single use plastic petri-dishes and inoculating loops within the School of Optometry and Vision Science’s PC2 microbiology lab. These alternative products are now sterilised and reused instead of being disposed as waste.

Impact

  • Reduced plastic waste to landfill and incineration.
  • Reduced purchasing of single-use consumables.
  • Promoted sustainable practices to lab users.

TerraCycle trial in UNSW Stores

LEAF team: UNSW Stores

School/unit: Deans Unit (Science)

Initiative:

This grant was used to trial the installation of two TerraCycle All-In-One - Zero Waste Boxes. A zero-waste box was placed at both campus Stores (upper and lower), to serve as a drop-off point for hard to recycle laboratory waste, such as rigid lab plastics, PPE and packaging material. Both boxes were advertised at the Laboratory Trade Expo, via email and through word of mouth. Once filled, both boxes were taken by TerraCycle for sorting and recycling. Stores now have a clearer understanding of which lab waste products need to be targeted and are pursuing further recycling options with TerraCycle.

Impact:

  • Reduced the volume of laboratory waste to landfill or incineration.
  • Instilled good waste management behaviours in laboratory users.
  • Encouraged sustainability discussions between lab users leading to further sustainable actions.

TerraCycle trial in Psychology

LEAF team: Decision Neuroscience Laboratory

School/unit: Psychology

Initiative:

This LEAF grant funded a glove recycling trial using 3 nitrile glove "zero-waste" boxes from TerraCycle. 90% of DNL gloves are uncontaminated and only used for animal handling but their collection is refused by cleaners. Therefore, gloves are collected in clinical waste bins marked for incineration. This trial let DNL estimate the cost of implementing and maintaining such a recycling initiative per year and the results will be presented to the lab and the School of Psychology. If cost effective, it will be permanently implemented and applicable to many more animal labs in the School.

Impact:

  • In under 2 months approximately 15 boxes of gloves have been diverted from incineration.
  • Instilled responsible waste management behaviours in laboratory users.
  • Gave the DNL lab an understanding of the cost-benefit of implementing TerraCycle boxes permanently.

TerraCycle trial in BEES

LEAF team: BEES ground floor teaching labs

School/unit: Biological, Earth & Environmental Sciences

Impact:

The BEES school trialed the implementation of 4 TerraCycle boxes. The ‘Safety Equipment and Protective Gear Zero Waste Boxes’ have been set up in two research labs, one teaching lab and teaching prep area. The program also includes educational material to assist lab users to better understand their recycling responsibilities.

Impact:

  • Reduced waste to landfill.
  • Improved circularity as single use plastics are converted into raw materials used for manufacturing.
  • Promoted sustainable practices in lab users.
  • Gave the BEES school an understanding of the cost-benefit of implementing TerraCycle boxes permanently.