Successful pilot labs push for department wide lab environmental impact accreditation

Successful pilot labs push for department wide lab environmental impact accreditation

Four groups in the Department have become the first to achieve environmental impact accreditation under the Laboratory Efficiency Assessment Framework (LEAF) and now hope to see the scheme rolled out department wide. 

Accreditation of the pilot labs comes just days before the Departmental Committee Meeting on 14 October 2020, where Dunn School Green Group representatives, Dr Ulrike Gruneberg and Professor Anton van der Merwe, will be pushing for the framework to be adopted throughout the department.  

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Here members from the pilot labs explain what is involved applying for LEAF accreditation and why it is important:  

Group Leader, Anton van der Merwe: 

“LEAF requires laboratories to explain how they meet several criteria. There are 16, 32 and 41 criteria for bronze, silver and gold accreditation, respectively. 

Members of the lab complete form and submit it for assessment, which involves a 30 minute meeting with an assessor from Oxford’s excellent Environmental Sustainability team.

Our lab (the Molecular Immunology Group) was one of the 4 that were awarded LEAF accreditation earlier this month along with the Raff, Gruneberg and Gluenz labs. 

The amount of time involved is fairly modest (it took the MIG lab three hours to complete the form for silver accreditation). 

The criteria are sensible and attainable and there is excellent information made available on why they are considered important and how one can meet them. Apart from criteria that relate obviously to environmental impact (increasing recycling and energy efficiency of equipment, and reduce packaging) there are many criteria which represent excellent scientific practice. Completing these forms allows labs to improve their science as well as their sustainability.

Of all University activities, it is research laboratories that have by far the biggest environmental ‘footprint’. Because of this we  have a special responsibility to become more efficient.

The Green Group is very keen to get all laboratories in the Department accredited and will provided support to any labs trying to complete the form. Our goal is to become the first Department to achieve this and then encourage the whole University to do so. “

 

Saroj Saurya, Lab Manager Raff Lab:

The LEAF workbook for the silver award was very straight forward to fill-in and submit. We were following most of the workbook criteria in the Raff lab and the department anyway. 

We already have suitable bins in place for recycling and different waste, the workshop regularly defrost freezers and clean freezer filters, we return polystyrene boxes, tip boxes and Winchesters to various suppliers, our pipettes and balances are calibrated every year, we share reagents and equipment among Dunn School scientists and we have a system in place for computer data backup etc. 

To be fully compliant we just had to make a few reagent lists, put up suitable signage for all our bins, put up switch on and off and shut the sash stickers (that we received from the University Environmental Sustainability Team), create and share common lab protocols, request the workshop install freezer alarms and assess how the Raff lab could reduce plastic waste by recycling plastic or choosing glass alternatives. 

One criterion was that the Lab must have shared sustainable practices with other groups/labs/departments and /or had taken part in a sustainability audit. I am a member of the department’s Green Group and a member of the Lab Managers Group therefore fulfilled this criterion for the Raff Lab. The Green Group uses the department wide email list and newsletter and has its own Twitter account. Also, the group ran a climate awareness week (21 -25 September 2020) to promote the sustainable practices labs can adopt. Also, the Raff lab holds weekly lab meetings where we talk about lab business and we can discuss how we can recycle or reduce laboratory waste.

After submitting the workbook, there was a one-hour audit. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, this took place online this year. The audit was very friendly and constructive, and we received our silver award shortly after. We are now proudly advertising it on our Raff lab website, Twitter and in grant proposals.

I am very excited and delighted to gain silver award accreditation for the Raff lab. The award has motivated me to continue to work harder to make the Raff lab and the world more environmentally friendly for the present and for future generations to come. 

Professor Jordan Raff has told me he is very proud to have achieved LEAF silver accreditation. He is very pleased that the Raff Lab has participated in an initiative to conduct science using environment sustainable practices.” 

 

Sophia Fochler, Graduate Student Gluenz Lab 

“Most practices were in place already for bronze level, we just optimised bin usage and recycling possibilities and started having conversations in labs about things that can be changed/equipment that can be switched off etc. We also started using the 'switch off' stickers around the lab.

Filling out the 16 relevant fields on the spreadsheet for our bronze level accreditation was pretty straight forward, there were only a few categories that were not applicable for our lab set up.

Myself and my lab members are shortly going to help set up a new lab at the University of Glasgow and will be using the LEAF framework as a guideline to establish silver accreditation by next year! For now it is really nice to know that our current practices are worthy of bronze accreditation, and we look forward to the challenge of pushing this further.”

 

 

 

Tuesday, October 13, 2020 - 12