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LEAF status for all Exeter labs

All eligible laboratories at the University of Exeter have now achieved Laboratory Efficiency Assessment Framework (LEAF) accreditation.

Published 7th March 2022

Exeter labs began applying for LEAF status in February 2021, and the awards mean that all labs are officially greener and more sustainable than 12 months ago.

This makes Exeter just the second institution in the LEAF programme to reach this 100% milestone.

LEAF, created by University College London, aims to help labs become more efficient, thus reducing costs, waste and carbon emissions.

This is important for the whole institution to become sustainable, as laboratories are naturally significant consumers of energy, water and plastic materials

The University recently brought forward its carbon net zero target to 2030.

“We thought it would be a tall order to achieve the 100% completion milestone, but we underestimated the dedication and enthusiasm of Exeter staff to sustainability,” said Daniela Farina, LEAF Project Manager.

“The support has been universal – academics, students and technical staff rolled up their sleeves and made it happen.

“Thanks to this initiative, we have saved energy, reduced waste and saved money over the last year.

“We will continue to make further sustainable changes as more and more labs plan to go for silver and gold certification.”

Lab spaces must first apply for Bronze status, which is achieved by implementing basic sustainability measures, such as having appropriate recycling facilities, ensuring cold storage is regularly cleaned and maintained, and placing signage to encourage users to switch off equipment when not in use.

All eligible areas at the University of Exeter have now reached this level, and the roll-out will expand further as LEAF adapts to encompass a wider variety of work spaces.

Lab units can then upgrade to Silver or Gold by further increasing their sustainability measures. 12 Exeter labs now have Silver status, while three have progressed to Gold.

Andy Seaman, Energy Manager at the University of Exeter, said: “Ensuring the University’s research activities and labs spaces address the climate emergency is a key requirement for the University to meets its ambitious net zero 2030 target.

“The swift action and collaboration from the research and professional service staff in achieving LEAF accreditation in such a short time frame shows the whole community approach required to address the environment and climate emergency.”

UCL’s Martin Farley, who manages the LEAF project, said: “It’s truly an incredible effort to get 100% of Exeter’s laboratories achieving sustainable lab practices through LEAF.

“It’s a pleasure to support an institution with such a dedication to the cause.”

Applications are handled by local “LEAF champions” for each lab unit, whose expertise allows them to propose sustainability measures suited for their facility, while ensuring top-quality research can still take place.

The university has created a lab sustainability website to provide information about LEAF and showcase the progress being made in labs across the Exeter and Cornwall campuses.

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