What is LEAF?
LEAF, the Laboratory Efficiency Assessment Framework was developed as a green lab standard to improve the sustainability and efficiency of laboratories. It is a self-assessment tool targeted for use at research, teaching, and medical labs.
LEAF contains a variety of actions which enables lab users to reduce plastic, water, energy, and other resource usage. This in turn will help reduce the overall carbon emissions created by the lab in question and help to support an environment that champions quality research. There are 3 different levels of interventions labs can introduce to reduce their impact: Bronze, Silver, and Gold. Each step is increasingly more ‘sustainable’.
What is LEAF:
1. The Framework: This is an online tool that guides users through the sustainability actions. Although, in UCC we are currently providing this information in an excel spreadsheet, and then this is uploaded to the online server by the Green Labs team.
2. The Online Calculator. This is a tool that helps you to estimate how sustainable your lab is right now, and to measure or quantify the improvements you have made. Scientists love to see actual results!
3. The Toolkit and Resources: Containing everything you need to know to implement the suggested changes to your lab. Including LEAF guides on everything from sustainable lab equipment and consumables to an induction and exit process for lab users. This contains a wealth of information, and it is highly recommended if you would like any additional information.
4. User Engagement and Training: This helps when you to get started. The LEAF programme offers each new institution a tailored training workshop to engage the lab staff and potential students on sustainable science and introduces LEAF.
How LEAF works
Labs/lab users will be provided with the bronze self-assessment framework from the Green Labs team. This is an excel sheet containing the sustainable activities as well as additional information on how to complete these actions, needed to achieve each rating. Each lab will then self-assess their progress. Once they feel they have completed everything necessary and applicable, the Green Labs Community will complete an audit of the lab and award it Bronze, Silver or Gold depending on the actions that have been undertaken.
One benefit of the LEAF programme is it is multifaceted and covers not only direct environmental aspects (e.g. waste management, equipment efficiency, chemical management etc.) but also targets areas such as business travel, research quality and procurement.
The final step involves the LEAF calculators. These allow LEAF users to quantify the ‘actual’ environmental and financial savings achieved through the actions implemented. This allows people to contextualise often abstract ‘green’ savings.
Benefits of Leaf
• Reduced costs, through reduced usage, including utilities, inventory and machinery.
• Reduced overall environmental footprint.
• Increased research efficiency and reduced waste.
• Enables a ground-up and community supported sustainability movement.
• Helps to integrate different labs and departments from across UCC and enables the sharing of ideas and new ways of working together.