Under the white coat is a green heart

Under the white coat is a green heart

The Dunn School’s actions against climate change are recognised with 13 LEAF Awards

The status quo that high quality research is energy-intensive and requires high levels of consumption is now being challenged by conscientious Dunn School researchers. Typically, to ensure samples are well preserved and uncontaminated, scientists are trained to dispose of gloves, reagents, and consumables frequently and perhaps casually. Can scientists undertake cutting-edge research without this environmental cost? The decision to address this problem has earned the Dunn School 13 LEAF (Laboratory Efficiency Assessment Framework) Awards (find the full list of awardees at the end of this article). Laboratories and facilities at the Dunn School participated in the LEAF programme, which aims to encourage research laboratories to save plastics, water, energy, and other resources, so that carbon emissions can be reduced and research performed in a more sustainable way. Laboratories that successfully meet the LEAF criteria are accredited by the LEAF Programme certification.

As a leading biomedical research institute, the Dunn School is concerned about the potential impact of its research activities on climate change, particularly as laboratories consume 3-10 times more energy than non-laboratory areas. “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.” Group leader at the Dunn School Prof. Anthon van der Merwe said. Out of concern for our deteriorating environment, last year Prof. van der Merwe founded the “Dunn School Green Group”. He commented “The Green Group is very keen to get all laboratories in the Department accredited. Our goal is to become the first department to achieve this and then encourage the whole University to do so.” This sparked interest among many like-minded people in the Dunn School and impressive progress has been made this year, with 13 labs at the Dunn School obtaining LEAF accreditation out of a total of 23 labs within Oxford University recognized this year.

Since the foundation of the Green Group, labs have been encouraged to switch off idle machines and lights to save energy. Other initiatives successfully implemented include recycling uncontaminated gloves and masks. Dr. Saroj Saurya, the current chair of the Green Group, has also introduced new initiatives to reuse consumables such as 15mL and 50mL centrifuge tubes, Qiagen Columns, and plates. This was only possible after the careful development and testing of protocols to properly clean these consumables. Dr. Saurya added “I am also a lab manager of the Raff Lab. I want to show everyone that sustainability can be achieved in our lab. I put up ‘Switch on and off’ and ‘Shut the sash’ stickers (that we received from the University Environmental Sustainability Team), create and share common Raff lab protocols, request workshop to install freezer alarms, and assess how the Raff lab could reduce plastic waste by recycling plastic or choosing glass alternatives.” Since 2020, with the goal of raising awareness of these issues, the Green Group have also organised and participated many group activities, including seminars and Climate awareness weeks.

The Dunn School always tries to encourage everyone to have a can-do attitude, not only in science but in different aspects of department life. This is clearly demonstrated by the efforts of everyone who has participated in this green movement. Congratulations to all the labs who have been awarded LEAF accreditation this year, and we hope to see even more labs joining in the coming years. We can all play our part to protect our only home, the Earth.


The awardees of LEAF accreditation this year:

Bronze award: Light Microscopy facility, Cook lab, and Ivan Ahel lab

Silver award: Bharat lab, Carvalho lab, Cell bank/Washroom, Dunn School Workshop, James lab, Lea Lab, and Sanyal lab

Gold award: Freeman Lab, Hassan Lab, and Raff Lab

The members of Dunn School Green Group:

Saroj Saurya, Jo Peel, Philip Cobden, Wayne Swan, Marcus Bottomley, Ulrike Gruneberg, Anton van der Merwe, Timothy Walsh, Lindsay Stimson, Sophia Fochler, Lilli Hahn, Emile Roberts, Isabel Leitch, Josephine Groslambert, Samantha Knight, Anne Hedegaard, Caroline Moussa, Kirsty Sands, Charlotte Gray-Hammerton and Clemence Levet. The past members are William James, Iona Manley, Rebecca Moore and Claire Hill.


Written by Isaac Siu-Shing Wong (Raff Lab) @ISiuShingWong. Edited by Ruth Ketley (Gullerova Lab).

Tuesday, December 14, 2021 - 08