The University of New South Wales (UNSW) has taken a pioneering step in Australasia by integrating the Laboratory Efficiency Assessment Framework (LEAF) into their sustainability practices. This initiative is aimed at significantly reducing the environmental impact of their laboratories, which are known to consume considerable resources. The LEAF program, developed by University College London, offers a structured approach to enhancing sustainability through a digital platform that includes a framework, online calculators, toolkits, and accreditation processes. Since its inception in 2018, LEAF has gained significant popularity and is now utilised in 15 countries, by more than 95 institutions, making it one of the largest green lab accreditation systems worldwide. UNSW now has 42 LEAF accredited laboratories and excitingly, has the first laboratory in Australasia to receive a Gold LEAF accreditation.

How does the initiative relate to the University’s sustainability strategy?

The LEAF program at UNSW aligns with the university’s broader sustainability goals by targeting laboratory practices for greener operations, emphasising resource efficiency and minimising environmental impacts.

The UNSW suggests that incorporating the LEAF program into university laboratories offers several benefits:

  • Reduces Environmental Impact: By focusing on sustainable practices, universities can significantly lower their carbon footprint and resource consumption in labs.
  • Cost Savings: Implementing energy-efficient and waste-reducing strategies leads to considerable cost reductions in laboratory operations.
  • Promotes Sustainability Awareness: It educates and engages staff and students in sustainable practices, fostering a culture of environmental responsibility.
  • Enhances Reputation: Achieving LEAF accreditation can improve a university’s image as a leader in sustainability and innovation.

What challenges has this initiative navigated?

Implementing LEAF involved overcoming resistance to change, managing logistical challenges of adapting existing lab practices to more sustainable ones, and ensuring broad participation from staff and students.

Despite the challenges, the adaptation of the LEAF program at UNSW earned them a Highly Commended at the 2023 Green Gown Awards Australasia and serves as a testament to the university’s leadership in addressing climate change and underscores the potential for other institutions to follow in their footsteps.

What advice would you give to other organisations looking to replicate this?

For organisations looking to adopt LEAF, fostering a culture of sustainability, securing commitment at all levels, and providing clear guidelines and support for transitioning to sustainable lab practices are key.

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UNSW Leaf Awards - Receiving a Gold accreditation

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