Geography Laboratories awarded Gold LEAF certification for sustainability and efficiency action

The University of Manchester’s Geography Laboratories have been certified as operating to a Gold standard in the Laboratory Efficiency Assessment Framework (LEAF).

The University is committed to environmental sustainability goals as set out in the Environmental Sustainability Strategy 2023-2028 . This includes driving efficiencies across our laboratory spaces, and one way we measure this is through the Laboratory Efficiency Assessment Framework (LEAF) .

Followed by 85 global institutions, LEAF is a standard established by UCL to improve the sustainability and efficiency of laboratories. Assessment is across five categories: waste, people, sample and chemical management, equipment and ventilation. Institutions can achieve Bronze, Silver or Gold certification depending on how many sustainability actions they take.

"As a Geography lab, where much of our work is environmental study, we feel it’s important to lead by example in respect of efficiency and environmental impact" commented Jon Yarwood, Geography Laboratory Technician. "Through the audit we’ve worked through our Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) to see where we can improve our reduction, reuse and recycling of chemicals and equipment and tested methods where we felt it could be appropriate, and in turn we’ve found where we can improve efficiency of processes".

Sustainability has also been a key consideration for equipment choices and supplier selection in the Geography Lab, and environmentally conscious users also play an important role. "We’re fortunate to have very environmentally aware users who often discuss where they feel methods might feel particularly wasteful. They are very engaged with the lab induction and SOP training when it comes to good lab practice, such as in the use of fume hoods and waste disposal streams, and by asking questions about the possibility of re-use and recycling. Through these and interactions through the TEaM [Techincal Excellence at Manchester] network, we’ve also found ways we can improve", said Jon.

This is a fantastic achievement, building on work around environmental sustainability that colleagues in the lab were already doing before LEAF. The University of Manchester’s aim is for all’its laboratories to achieve a LEAF award (minimum Bronze, with a target of 25% achieving Silver) and adopt the 6R "responsible plastics protocol’ by August 2025. Jon and the team are leading the way and we’re very proud of their work.

Dr Anke Bernau, Associate Dean for Environmental Sustainability (ES), Faculty of Humanities at the University